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Balloons in the American Civil War


Monday, November 11, 1861

In a joint military and private venture, Professor Thaddeus Lowe likely created the United States Air Force 150 years ago.

Lowe tirelessly sought to prove to Union officials that the aircraft he’d developed would be a valuable boom to the military. Near Fort Monroe, he launched his invention calling it a “balloon-boat”. Towed by Navy steamer Coeur de Lion, Lowe wrote that he had, “…on board competent assistant aeronauts, together with my new gas generating apparatus which, although used for the first time, worked admirably.”

He was accompanied by General Sickles and others in his observations. “We had a fine view of the enemy’s camp-fires…and saw the rebels constructing new batteries at Freestone Point.”

Lowe continued to provide tactical hourly reports on Confederate movements during the siege of Yorktown, Virginia and in late April 1863 at Fredericksburg. At the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, Lowe was able to transmit continual information of enemy troop positions. Balloon observations enabled the Union army to pull out a crucial victory.

Susan Macatee sets her stories of romance during and just after the American Civil War. Her passion for this period in American history also extends to the paranormal. You’ll find time travelers, ghosts, and vampires in the mix.

Her interest in the period stems from her years spent as a civilian Civil War reenactor, alongside her husband, who did the military side, with the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment for about ten years.

Visit Susan’s website for info on her stories of romance during and after the war.



  1. Someone had a great imagination to come up with this idea. Maybe it helped shorten the war. Great post Susan.

  2. Thanks, Paisley! My research leads me to all kinds of fascinating facts during the Civil War.

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