Friday, August 23, 2013

Factoid of the day

 Yes, virginia, there was a confederate air force: part of the little known story of using baloons in the civil war.

Mr. Lincoln's Air Force. video

Abraham Lincoln nursed a life-long fascination with technology and during the Civil War seldom missed an opportunity to investigate new weapons, or to sponsor a useful innovation. With Lincoln's help, balloonist T.S.C.Lowe was able to create and equip the Balloon Corps, which provided improved reconnaissance for the Union Army from 1861 to 1863
 wikipedia article HERE

essentially, they were used to spy behind the enemy lines, and to help the artillary to aim their guns at the right spot: sort of like drones are used today, or the early WWI airplanes were used.

here is an article on their use during the seven pines campaign...

Fair Oaks, Virginia. Prof. Thaddeus S. Lowe replenishing balloon INTREPID from balloon CONSTITUTION - May 1862 (Library of Congress) 
This civil war site says:
Throughout the early to mid 19th century, various other European powers, such as Russia, Austria, and Denmark, used, or at least tried to use, balloons in conjunction with their military forces. For truly expansive use of balloons in time of war, however, we must look to the American Civil War balloons.
During the Civil War, many ballooning "firsts" were established. For example, in 1861 Confederate artillery, under E. P. Alexander, fired on a Union balloon and thus became the first anti-aircraft battery. Union Chief Aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe built the first mobile hydrogen gas generators (above) so that he could fill his balloons anywhere he needed to. The Confederates also devised the first campfire "blackouts" and other means of disguising troop numbers and movements from aerial observation (these tactics were still being used to fool aerial reconnaissance during the World Wars). The Union also used the first aircraft carrier for manned balloon flights, the USS George Washington Parke Custis.
so did the confederates have an air force? yes:
As Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston held back McClellan's Peninsular advance at the siege of Yorktown throughout April and early May 1862, the first confirmed Confederate balloon reconnaissance took place. In an effort to counter the Union's balloon advantage, General Johnston had a rigid Montgolfier style balloon made. The Montgolfier balloon was called a "fire-balloon" or "smoke-balloon" because it was filled with hot air from a fire to provide buoyancy. This technology was not on par with the union gas balloons, but with gas in relatively short supply, it was the best option at the time.

readers of Jules Verne's Mysterious Island know that it starts when some Yankees hijack a balloon and get swept into the unknown.

ah, but do you know that Verne wrote several books about the US Civil war?

Jules Verne wrote two Civil War novels within ten years of the end of the war: The Blockade Runners (1871) and The Mysterious Island (1875), a sequel to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870). Twelve years later, this French admirer of President Lincoln and General Grant published a third Civil War novel, North Against South.
And it includes this factoid: It was on Mysterious Island that Captain Nemo died.

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