Lincoln's Air Force← Previous Page
Construction of the first official military balloon began on August 2. On August 29 the military balloon “Eagle” was completed and Lowe was ordered to bring it to Fort Corcoran, where General George McClennan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, was currently stationed.
Lowe flew on regular reconnaissance flights for several weeks in September near Fort Corcoran and gave General McClennan daily reports on the Confederate troop movements. On September 24 Lowe ascended in his balloon near Falls Church, Virginia with a telegrapher so he could give another reconnaissance report to the general. When they were aloft, Lowe realized that the Union artillery were not shooting their targets accurately. Lowe signaled corrections to the General and helped the troops direct the ground fire towards enemy lines. This was the first time in American history that ground fire had been directed from the air. Army officials were so impressed with Lowe that they authorized him to build four more balloons for the Union.
Lowe’s importance with the Union Army grew when the Navy heard of the Confederate’s plans to try to blockade the Potomac River and thus prevent the shipment of vital shipping supplies. Lowe and General Hooker took a flatboat and loaded it with the balloon “Constitution” and a new portable generator and set off down the Potomac on a spying expedition. They tethered the balloon to the boat and launched it from the river. While aloft General Hooker made rough sketches of the enemy’s movements.
By the end of 1861 Thaddeus Lowe and his balloon corps had gained the respect of the United States military.
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