J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “France”

Hot Air Balloons Are For Spying


On June 17, 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.

Age Old Debate

On this date in 1863, Secretary of State William Seward rejected France’s offer to mediate peace and end the War Between the States. Needless to say, because of his decision, millions more died, and some of the worst battles fought on American soil took place. Some of those battles still hold records today in the number of casualties they claimed.

This brings us to that familiar old adage: What would have happened if the South had won the Civil War? There have been numerous books written on the subject, as well as ongoing blogs and discussions. One thing is for certain, however. If the war had ended at the onset of 1863, millions of American men would have kept their lives.

Seward was criticized for his decision, and despised by some because of it. An accomplice of John Wilkes Booth, Lewis Powell, nearly killed Seward at the same time that Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. After the war, Seward was criticized by the press for purchasing Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million, calling it “Seward’s Folly.” He got the last laugh though, when gold was discovered five years later, in 1872.

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