Eye in the Sky
On June 18, 1861, Thaddeus S. C. Lowe transmitted the first telegraphic message ever sent from his balloon Enterprise during a test at the Columbia Armory, Washington, D.C. The message was sent to President Abraham Lincoln and said in part:
"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."
In July 1861, Lowe was appointed Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army Balloon Corps, charged with making reconnaissance ascensions. The Balloon Corps included several balloons equipped with mobile hydrogen gas generators and a band of men Lowe instructed in the methodology of military ballooning. In December 1861, Lowe established a base at Edwards Ferry to monitor Confederate movements across the river by hot air balloon.
In this May 1862 photo, Lowe and Union soldiers are pictured inflating the balloon Intrepid from portable gas tanks to reconnoiter the Battle of Fair Oaks, May 31-June 1, 1862.
Our 9 best-selling history titles feature in-depth storytelling and iconic imagery to engage and inform on the people, the wars, and the events that shaped America and the world.