A Confederate airship.The Artis Avis which was to destroy Grant's Army.
A few days ago a person who had been reading an account of an experimental trip of Count Zeppelin's airship remarked that in a few more years people will travel in the air instead of on the solid earth.  Iron and steel rails will lose their value, because railroads will go out of use. The new mode of travel will be more pleasant, for there will be no dust, and, by rising higher, as necessity may require, the happy traveller may keep cool. Travelling in the air by means of balloons is not of very remote date. The first successful experiments in this line were made in France, about 1783, when the balloon sailed across the Seine and a part of Paris, remaining in the air twenty-five minutes. A balloon was used for military observation at the battle of Fleurus, fought in 1794. A great deal concerning aerostation can be found in books and newspapers, but there is one experiment that seems to have escaped the notice of the curious In the winter of 1864-‘65, General Robert E. Lee and his army were defending Petersburg, Va. The troops were stretched out along the lines perhaps at the rate of one to every one hundred yards. McGowan's Brigade held the works not far from battery forty-five (or the Star Fort), and near where the great dam was built. One cold, raw day the brigade was called out, without arms, to hear a speech from a scientific personage, who was introduced as ‘Professor’ Blank. The old soldiers crowded around and took their seats on the ground and he unfolded his scheme for demoralizing and driving away Grant's army. He had just invented an airship. In shape it was something like a bird, and for that reason he had called it ‘Artis Avis,’ or, ‘The Bird of Art,’ which was the meaning of the two Latin words. The frame was made of hoop-iron and wire. It was covered with white-oak splints. It was to be run by a one-horse-power engine, and one man to each bird would be sufficient. The engine was to be in the body of the bird and to furnish power for keeping the wings in motion. A small door at the shoulder was opened or closed to control the direction of the Bird of Art. A door under the throat was opened when it was desirable to descend and a door on top of the neck when the operator wished to go higher. There was machinery by which the tail could be spread out or closed. In the body of the bird there was room for a number of shells, and the operator, by touching a spring with his foot, could drop them upon the enemy from a safe distance. The ‘Professor’ said that he had completed one bird and made a test of its speed and how it would work. He tied it to a flat-car, which was coupled to a fast engine. It was attached to the flat-car  with a long, strong rope. The word was given, and the railroad engine started off at great speed. The Bird of Art did the same, and had no trouble in keeping up with the iron horse without pulling on the rope. The ‘Professor’ concluded his remarks by saying he needed a little more money to make birds enough to destroy Grant's army, and asked the old soldiers to contribute one dollar each to the cause. Many of them did, and the ‘Professor’ moved on and disappeared. No doubt many of the survivors have forgotten this incident, but not long ago the writer met John W. Butler, a commercial traveller, who belonged to the 14th South Carolina Volunteers, and asked him: ‘Did you ever hear of the Artis Avis?’ He replied: ‘I certainly have heard of it, for I gave a dollar to it.’ —Charleston News and Courier.