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Tells story of flying machine of Confederacy. From Richmond, Va., news leader, September 22, 1909.

Was designated by Richmond inventor and partly built, scheme was to drop explosives from air into Washington—Destroyed by Gale.

Inspired by recent pictures and articles published in The News Leader regarding the flying machine being built by George Bebout, of this city, the following letter has been received, which throws light upon a little known incident of the Confederate war:

The notice of the aeroplane of Mr. Bebout given in a late issue of your paper reminds me of the trite saying that there is nothing new under the sun. At the same time we hope that Mr. Bebout will not feel badly under the circumstances when he is informed that he is not the first projector of a flying machine in Richmond.

During the war between the States a machine was commenced which was to take President Davis and his cabinet, together with some ordnance officers, to the upper air of Washington.

The officers were to be supplied with an abundance of large hand grenades, and when these argonauts of the air were at a point immediately over the top of the White House, perchance during a session of Lincoln's cabinet, combustibles, as if aerolites, were to be dropped.

It would then proceed to the upper air in the neighborhood of the capital during a session of congress and compel incontinent adjournment. Needless to write that if the mortars in Washington could not have been successfully trained upon this new power in the air, before the executive and legislative branches had been killed or demoralized, the North would have petitioned for peace. [303]

The yard in which this early flying machine was in progress of manufacture was at the east corner of Seventh and Main Street, a lumber yard. No modern war engine can compare with the potentialities for destruction which was to have been possessed by the Confederate device. Hence, during its construction many spectators observed it.

It is not known to the writer whether these persons saw only the model, or the parts of the final machine. There was an extensive framework composed of rectangular bars of light, white pine. So far as my recollection goes no canvas for wings or balloon appointments were seen; no motor and no wheels to furnish the machine with a start.

Doubtless wheels were sufficiently numerous in the inventor's head.

I regret that I do not know the name of the would-be inventor. For one of its purposes the machine was an eminent success, even before it was completed, for it was made to fly. Indeed it flew into pieces. One night a strong wind came up and relieved the inventor of all embarrassment. There was a rattling of pine bars of an inch in diameter, and splinters filled the air, and thus fled the hope of the Confederacy to appeal to Washington from high heaven.

It is improbable that President Davis encouraged such diabolism as was intended to be carried out by the promoters of that enterprise.

In return of the idea the people in Richmond often surveyed the heavens at night and sometimes thought they saw a Yankee balloon ready to drop explosives on the city.

Had invention progressed as far as it will in the near future, the Federal government of the sixties would not have hesitated to have used air machines for the destruction of the South, or until it should have surrendered. This it would have sought to have justified by the well-worn plea of “war measure.”

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