Discussion 160 Years Ago ~ First Air To Ground Telegraph!

TSCLowe

Corporal
Joined
Sep 14, 2012
Location
Redding, CA
160 Years Ago. June 18, 1861 . . . .

Thaddeus Lowe tethered his balloon "Enterprise" near the Columbia Armory (today the site is occupied by the National Air and Space Museum). He ascended 500 feet into the air, with a telegraph set and two passengers: George McDowell, an official of the American Telegraph Company; and Herbert C. Robinson, a local telegrapher who would use the telegraph set to send Lowe's first message. The telegraph line was connected to the War Department and the White House. Soon, Lincoln received the following message:

"To the President of the United States

"Sir:

"This point of observation commands an area nearly fifty miles in diameter. The city, with its girdle of encampments, presents a superb scene. I take great pleasure in sending you this first dispatch ever telegraphed from an aerial station, and in acknowledging my indebtedness to your encouragement for the opportunity of demonstrating the availability of the science of aeronautics in the military service of this country.
T.S.C. Lowe"

Shortly thereafter Lowe's balloon, with himself and his passengers still in the basket, were hauled closer to the ground. Then, the whole thing was walked several blocks from the Columbia Armory to the ground of the Executive Mansion. It was safely staked to the South Lawn, and the President examined the contraption from a second-story window. Afterward, Lowe was invited to spend the night in the White House, where he and the President discussed Lowe's proposal further. Soon thereafter, the Aeronautical Corps of the Union Army was born.

The picture on the left is that of Lowe's original message.
The pictures on the right are from our 'reenactment' of this historic event 150 years later in 2011.

Use this link to see all of the pictures from my recreation of this historic event:

Respectfully Submitted,

TSC Lowe, Aeronaut
Civil War Balloon Corps Living History


Lowe Telegraph 1861.jpg

 

TSCLowe

Corporal
Joined
Sep 14, 2012
Location
Redding, CA
Were there other aerial to ground telegraph messages sent during the War?
Yes, there were. This event, and his discussions with Thaddeus Lowe in the White House that evening and night convinced President Lincoln to direct General Scott to use balloons for aerial observation.

Given the situation the larger balloons could carry a military observer and a telegrapher in the basket providing “instant messaging“ of the time. Balloons that did not take a telegrapher aloft would slide a message down the tether line, shout their observations to the ground (not during battle), or descend and send the message by a runner or by horseback as depicted in the picture below

Respectfully Submitted,

TSC Lowe, Aeronaut

3AE91A18-C40F-461C-8F62-A85546EB57F0.png
 
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