Balloons for Army Use

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#1
From the Richmond Dispatch, 6/18/1862, p. 1, c. 7

Balloons for Army Use. – Professor James C. Patton, of Petersburg, Va., has been authorized by the Government to construct, immediately, for army use, a balloon on the most approved principles. – Mr. Patton has had a great deal of experience in this department of human industry, and no doubt will be able to do considerable good to our cause by his observations in the air. It was Patton who first suggested to the Government of the late U. S. the use of iron-clad or bomb-proof vessels, and it promised to give him $100,000 is they ever used his invention, which, as things now stand, they will no doubt do – in a horn.
 

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#2
This is a purely ignorant question, but I'm here to learn, so I guess there are no bad questions. And my question is: What was used for a lifting gas in the observation balloons of the mid- 1860s? Did they know how to capture Hydrogen gas back then? Or were they restricted to hot air? Thanks in advance for your answers.
 
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#3
From the moment scientists realized hydrogen was significantly lighter than air, inventors believed they had found the perfect medium to develop into a form of transportation. Using over 4,000 gallons of sulfuric acid poured over 1,000 pounds of iron, the first hydrogen balloon in history was filled with over 1,200 cubic feet of hydrogen. In August of 1783, this balloon was launched from the spot in Paris where the Eiffel Tower now stands. This single invention would fuel a race to the skies that to this day continues as mankind seeks to travel further into.
 
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#5
This is a purely ignorant question, but I'm here to learn, so I guess there are no bad questions. And my question is: What was used for a lifting gas in the observation balloons of the mid- 1860s? Did they know how to capture Hydrogen gas back then? Or were they restricted to hot air? Thanks in advance for your answers.
You ask a very good question.
You may find this thread on Civil War balloons interesting.
http://civilwartalk.com/threads/civil-war-ballooning.88305/
 

M E Wolf

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#7
There was a gas works on what is the Washington Mall, in D.C. They had gas lamps in the White House/Executive Mansion, installed by President Poke in 1846 --swapping out oil lamps and candles.
Other White House improvements were:

Jackson's 2nd term, replaced wood pipes for iron ones, in 1833;
VanBuren put a basement reservoir with a double forcing pump around 1876; consisting of water closets, water tubs, connecting 2,000 gallon capacity using the attic cistern installed by Jefferson in addition to the basement reservoir;
Filmore in 1850 introduced the first kitchen stove in the White House;
Pierce in 1853, adds a central furnace with 'coal' which provided hot water, hot air system for heat.


M. E. Wolf
 

M E Wolf

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#8
O.R.--SERIES III--VOLUME I [S# 122]
CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, REPORTS, AND RETURNS OF THE UNION AUTHORITIES FROM NOVEMBER 1, 1860, TO MARCH 31, 1862.(*)--#12
SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, June 21, 1861.
Hon. SIMON CAMERON:
DEAR SIR: In accordance with your request, made to me orally on the morning of the 6th of June, I have examined the apparatus and witnessed the balloon experiments of Mr. Lowe, and have come to the following conclusions:
First. The balloon prepared by Mr. Lowe, inflated with ordinary street gas, will retain its charge for several days.

Second. In an inflated condition it can be towed by a few men along an ordinary road or over fields in ordinarily calm weather from the places where it is filled to another twenty or more miles distant.

Third. It can be let up into the air by means of a rope in a calm day to a height sufficient to observe the country for twenty miles around and more, according to the degree of clearness of the atmosphere. The ascent may also be made at night and the camp lights of the enemy observed.

Fourth. From experiments made here for the first time it is conclusively proved that telegrams can be sent with ease and certainty between the balloon and the quarters of the commanding officer.

Fifth. I feel assured, although I have not witnessed the experiment, that when the surface wind is from the east, as it was for several days last week, an observer in the balloon can be made to float nearly to the enemy's camp (as it is now situated, to the west of us), or even to float over it, and then return eastward by rising to a higher elevation. This assumption is based on the fact that the upper strata of wind in this latitude is always flowing eastward. Mr. Lowe informs me, and I do not doubt his statement, that he will on any day which is favorable make an excursion of the kind above mentioned.

Sixth. From all the facts I have observed and the information I have gathered I am sure that important information may be obtained in regard to the topography of the country and to the position and movements of an enemy by means of the balloon, and that Mr. Lowe is well qualified to render service in this way by the balloon now in his possession.

Seventh. The balloon which Mr. Lowe now has in Washington can only be inflated in a city where street gas is to be obtained. If an exploration is required at a point too distant for the transportation of the inflated balloon, an additional apparatus for the generation of hydrogen gas will be required. The necessity of generating the gas renders the use of the balloon more expensive, but this, where important results are required, is of comparatively small importance.

For these preliminary experiments, as you may recollect, a sum not to exceed $200 or $250 was to be appropriated, and in accordance with this Mr. Lowe has presented me with the inclosed statement of items,(*) which I think are reasonable, since nothing is charged for labor and time of the aeronaut.

I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH HENRY,
Secretary Smithsonian Institution.
-----
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XVIII [S# 26]
MARCH 6-10, 1863.--Expedition from New Berne to Trenton, Pollocksville, Young's Cross-Roads, and Swansborough, N.C.
No. 1.--Report of Brig. Gen. Henry Prince, U.S. Army, commanding Expedition.
HDQRS. FIFTH DIVISION, EIGHTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
New Berne, N.C., March 11, 1863.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report that the reconnaissance in force, which I was directed to make by your letter of the 5th instant, was completed last evening by the return to New Berne and distribution to former quarters and commands of all the parts of my column. The instructions I received have been entirely carried out and the objects of the expedition fully accomplished.
[extensive excerpt]

On the opposite side of the river there was a steady light of a small camp bearing southwest by the compass. I could not tell whether it was a bright camp light 5 miles off or a lesser one a mile. The train did not come up till 2.30 o'clock in the night, owing to holes wearing in the road over which the howitzer and caisson charged with the cavalry. One of my permanent orderlies, who happened to be stationed to show the way that the wagons should turn out, reports seeing, during the hour of intensest darkness (perhaps 7 o'clock), previous to the coming up of the infantry, bearing southwest, a light, probably a fire balloon, which rose and stood awhile, dipped several times, moved horizontally back and forth several times, then descended. Presuming from all these indications that a picket guard of the enemy intended to annoy the constructors of the bridge which I had to make here, I did not commence it till I had crossed a regiment, which I did soon after daylight in the morning.

[extensive excerpt]
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HENRY PRINCE,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.
Lieut. Col. SOUTHARD HOFFMAN,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Eighteenth Army Corps, New Berne, N.C.
-----------------------------------
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/2 [S# 40]
Correspondence, Orders, And Returns Relating To Operations In Northern Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, And Pennsylvania, From January 26 To June 2, 1863.
UNION CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.--#11

BALLOON EAGLE, OPPOSITE FREDERICKSBURG,
April 29, 1863.
Professor LOWE:
SIR: In accordance with your order, Lieutenant Libby took the balloon in tow along the river bank. When I was opposite south end of the city, I could plainly see heavy earthworks, and well supported by a large force. These earthworks were nearly southwest, in a thin wood. Some movements of army wagons; nothing more.
Yours, respectfully,
E.S. ALLEN.
----------------
M. E. Wolf
 

major bill

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#9
The Union made fair use of balloons. The Confederacy used balloons, but were hampered by not having any portable hydrogen generators. The Confederacy did capture some Union portable generators, but do not appear to have used them
 
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#10
Just read an article in today's newspaper about the government is in the planning stages of tethering surveillance balloons along certain cities on the east coast (Baltimore, for one) to detect in-coming missiles. Their maxmum range is 375 miles. Doesn't sound like a lot of time to bamboose. One hiccup is that the ACLU is claiming that these will amount to an invasion of privacy to private citizens. They just don't get it. I'd wager that most of these people who complain about losing their privacy live in cookie-cutter houses in huge developments with neighbors on every side.
 
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#11
The Union made fair use of balloons. The Confederacy used balloons, but were hampered by not having any portable hydrogen generators. The Confederacy did capture some Union portable generators, but do not appear to have used them
The lack of money to support a balloon program and an Aeronaut with the with the drive and passion similar to Lowe's hampered the Confederates more than a lack of portable hydrogen generators. Most of the available Aeronauts of the time were from the North and already working for Lowe.

The first balloon used by the Confederates was "nothing but a big cotton bag coated over as to make it airtight". It was the ONLY fire or Montgolfier (hot air) balloon used during the Civil War. When it went aloft for the first time on April 13, 1863 just north of Yorktown, Lowe amusingly commented, "it neither has the shape nor buoyancy" and he predicted it would burst or fall apart after a week . . . Not having an Aeronaut to to go aloft in the balloon Magruder's aide-de-camp, John Randolph Bryan, volunteered (which I'll discuss in a separate response) and the balloon was damaged beyond repair after it's 3rd ascent.

Yes, the they did capture two hydrogen generators during critical action of the Seven Days when the Confederates advanced and Lowe abandoned them on the field to use their wagons to transport wounded soldiers. Their "trophies" were later paraded through the streets of Richmond and you can see one of its valves at the Tredegar Museum in Richmond, VA today.



image.jpg
 
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#12
The First Confederate Balloon

The first balloon used by the Confederates was "nothing but a big cotton bag coated over as to make it airtight". It was the ONLY fire or Montgolfier (hot air) balloon used during the Civil War. There are no known pictures or drawings of the balloon, but it would have looked similar to the picture below. When it went aloft for the first time on April 13, 1863 just north of Yorktown, Lowe amusingly commented, "it neither has the shape nor buoyancy" and he predicted it would burst or fall apart after a week . . . It was destroyed beyond repair after it's 3rd ascent.

image.jpg


Not having an Aeronaut to operate and go aloft in the balloon General Johnston requested that Magruder furnish him with someone familiar with the area to "scout" McClellan's forces. The assigned soldier was to be capable of distinguishing the character and number of troops on his front in addition to being very familiar with the the surrounding country side. Magruder's 21 year old aidede-camp, John Randolph Bryan, intercepted the message as it came across his desk. Having grown up in the area he became excited thinking he could see some "action". Convincing General Johnston that he was familiar with the area through a map recon, imagine his surprise when Johnston ordered him to report to the balloon!!

You can read John Randolph Bryan's thoughts about the adventure in volume 33 of the Southern Historical Papers beginning on page 32:

http://books.google.com/books?id=tA...epage&q="Balloon used for scout duty"&f=false
 
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#13
Thanks, Reb! Sounds like a dangerous way to release hydrogen gas, doesn't it? YIKES!
Many are surprised, shocked, and scared to learn hydrogen was used to inflate Civil War Balloons. Hydrogen had been used as a lifting gas for flight since 1783 and was preferred over heated air because you could stay aloft longer and the balloon was easier to control. The Union made over 3,000 incident free ascents . . . and the average person's first thoughts go automatically to one incident - one incident: the Hindenburg tragedy . . . Oh, the humanity!

To qualify my statement, when I mention I personally have many incident free hours flying hydrogen balloons . . . The listener's first thought goes, you guessed it, to theHindenburg. I could use a balloon filled with hydrogen to perform a public demonstration in Europe eight days a week; I can't even associate the word hydrogenwith a public demonstration in the U.S. without lawyers getting involved and knowing their response will be HELL NO!!

Hydrogen as a lifting gas for balloon operations, then and now, is safer than most people think. I am center preparing for a hydrogen balloon flight in the picture below

image.jpg
 
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#15
I once researched a Navy story about the Chesapeake Bay, and discovered the balloon was put on a barge and towed to the Mattawoman River for enemy observation looking for masked batteries at Freestone Point. General Dan Sickles went along, using members of his Army as volunteers. This was in September to November in 1861, and they used the captured boat George Washington Custis to tow the barge.
Lubliner.
 
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#16
George Washington Parke Custis.jpg


@Lubliner: The captured George Washington Parke Custis was the barge. It was either pushed on the water by poles or pulled by a tug. Here is a link that includes your reference:

Early in the morning of 10 November 1861, steamer Coeur de Lion towed George Washington Parke Custis out of the Navy Yard and down the Potomac River.

While not the first sea going vessel to transport a tethered balloon the George Washington Parke Custis is recognized by the U.S. Navy as their FIRST dedicated aircraft carrier:

Navy History and Heritage Command: George Washington Parke Custis . . .
 
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#17
View attachment 291792

@Lubliner: The captured George Washington Parke Custis was the barge. It was either pushed on the water by poles or pulled by a tug. Here is a link that includes your reference:

Early in the morning of 10 November 1861, steamer Coeur de Lion towed George Washington Parke Custis out of the Navy Yard and down the Potomac River.

While not the first sea going vessel to transport a tethered balloon the George Washington Parke Custis is recognized by the U.S. Navy as their FIRST dedicated aircraft carrier:

Navy History and Heritage Command: George Washington Parke Custis . . .
Thank you for clearing this up for me, @TSCLowe. When I review some of my own postings I find my memory has switched certain facts with others. I attempt to be clear but this skippage could lead astray if I was to be called a 'bona fide' source, and the times I am called to prove a source, justifiable. I remember when I am told, and can verify your post as being correct. Thank you for that!
Lubliner.
 

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