A different kind of balloon…

The study of meteorology crosses several disciplines. And through the years, many military applications have developed from scientific research. One of the most intriguing examples is the Union Army Balloon Corps in the 1800’s. Formed shortly after a formal meeting between professor Thaddeus Lowe and President Abraham Lincoln, the Corps made use of tethered balloons to spy on Confederate Army positions during the Civil War.

After a successful series of test maneuvers during early engagements in August & September of 1861, the corps expanded to include a total of 7 balloons- the “Intrepid”, the “Constitution”, the “United States”, the “Washington”, the “Eagle”, the “Excelsior”, and the original balloon, the “Union”. For the first time in American history, troop movements were accurately observed from the air, and the Union took hold of the opportunity.

But the cumbersome size of the balloons, coupled with the constraints of the tethers, limited overall effectiveness. By 1863, the budget for the program was trimmed back, further limiting reliability. Rumors of financial impropriety within the program would eventually lead to a swift demise, but this rather unique chapter in American History was secured.

 Chief Meteorologist Jerry Jackson

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