Hot Air Ballooning
June 17 marked another interesting anniversary in regard to the Civil War. On that date in 1861, Thaddeus Lowe demonstrated the hot air balloon to President Abraham Lincoln. His plan was to use it as a reconnaissance tool to spy on the Confederate army. He came up with the plan when, in April, his balloon accidentally landed in South Carolina on a flight from Cincinnati, Ohio.
On June 5, 1783, the first documented hot air balloon flight took place. It was conducted by the Montgolfier brothers from Annonay, France. Three months later, on September 19, 1783, the first hot air balloon to fly with passengers took place in Versailles. Those brave souls rode in a basket suspended beneath the balloon. A year later, on June 24, 1784, a thirteen-year-old boy named Edward Warren was the first American to ride in a hot air balloon. This event took place in Baltimore.
Both the Confederate and Union armies used hot air balloons to spy on each other. Balloons were able to climb up to 5,000 feet. The Union balloon corp, consisting of five balloons, only lasted until the fall of 1861, when it was disbanded. Another interesting fact: George Armstrong Custer, who obtained fame during the War Between the States as the youngest man to achieve the status of general, and later met his demise at Little Big Horn, was one of the first test pilots for the newly-established reconnaissance operations using hot air balloons.