Balloons in War.
At the beginning of the Civil War
the telegraphic operations of the army were intrusted to Maj. Thomas T. Eckert
In this connection T. S. C. Lowe
, a distinguished aeronaut.
was employed, and for some time balloons were used with great efficiency in reconnoitring, but later in the progress of the war they fell into disuse.
At the height of 500 feet above Arlington House, opposite Washington
, Mr. Lowe
telegraphed to President Lincoln
in June, 1861: “Sir.
from this point of observation we command an extent of country nearly 50 miles in diameter.
I have pleasure in sending you the first telegram ever despatched from an aerial station, and acknowledging indebtedness to your encouragement for the opportunity of demonstrating the availability of the science of aeronautics in the service of the country.”
After sending the above despatch, Mr. Lowe
was invited to the Executive Mansion
and introduced to General Scott
: and he was soon afterwards employed in the military service.
When in use. the balloon was kept under control
by strong cords in the hands of men on the ground, who, when the reconnoissance was ended, drew it down to the place of departure.
During the Franco-Prussian War
(1870-71) balloons were freely used by both parties, Gambetta
and other French authorities passed successfully over the investing lines of Germans; and captive or observation as well as floating balloons were frequent targets for ambitious sharp-shooters.
In the Santiago
campaign in Cuba
, in 1898, much was expected of an observation balloon, put together and operated by men of the United States
Several successful ascensions were made, and messages describing the situation of the Spaniards were transmitted to General Shafter
It was found that there were large possibilities in the use of balloons for military purposes, but that there were ever-present elements of danger.
balloon rendered good service at a critical time, but was destroyed by a Spanish shot.