June 18, 1861

June 18, 1861 Encouraged by Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry, balloonist Thaddeus S. C. Lowe makes a number of ascents from the future site of the National Air and Space Museum, and from the Smithsonian and White House grounds, to demonstrate usefulness of balloons for military reconnaissance, by using the telegraph to communicate between aerial balloons and the ground. Henry, who served as President Abraham Lincoln’s scientific advisor witnesses these ascents and helps Lowe become appointed to organize a balloon corps within the Union Army.

The image shows Lowe’s balloon test of the “Intrepid.” Lowe’s balloon was used for reconnaissance for the Union Army during the Civil War. Using a telegraph the driver could send a message about Confederate camps and troop movements to soldiers below who then gave the information to Union generals.

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives

Posted: 18 June 2012
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