Hot Air Balloons during the Civil War

By Christopher Zuniga

The Union and the Confederate armies both used Hot Air Balloons for spying during the Civil War. The first person to receive an order to build an Hot Air Balloons for the Union army was John Wise. In April of 1861 Murat Hasket wrote a letter to the U.S. treasury Salmon D. that the U.S. should create a balloon corps to use as a spying devise under Thaddeus Lowe’s command. On July 17, 1861 Abraham Lincoln agree to form a balloon corps. During this time the opposing side tried to shoot down the spying balloon. After Lincoln heard that, he ordered Lowe to build four more additional balloons. The balloons that Lowe made were measured to be from 32,000 ft to 15,000 ft and were also able to climb up to 5,000 ft into the air. One of Lowe balloons was shot down on November 16, 1861. Lowe was not keeping orders so he resigned from balloon corps on May 8, 1861. By August 1861 the corps disbanded. Lowe also designed an aircraft carrier that was used to transport hot air balloons and allow them to be used in areas closer to the battles. They would launch a tethered balloon and make observations while the balloon was being towed down the river.

Read more by Christopher Zuniga on hot air ballooning!


Above The Fray  by Kris Jackson

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3 responses to “Hot Air Balloons during the Civil War”

  1. Kris Jackson says:

    Interesting piece, but it needs a few corrections. Most of the balloons used by both sides were hydrogen, not hot air. The Union Balloon Corps actually disbanded in 1863, not 1861. They made over three thousand flights and revolutionized warfare, but were never accepted by the military establishment. Thanks for the link to my book!

  2. Geri says:

    Here is an example of the good and bad of the internet- you can get so much information, but it isn’t always correct-
    This is just another good reason to read your book!

  3. You know it says:

    The confederacy didn’t have balloons they tried but failed.

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