War of the Rebellion: Serial 124 Page 0254 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

higher clouds always move eastwardly. We are, therefore, from abundant observation, as well as from theoretical considerations, enabled to state with confidence that on a given day, whatever may be the direction of the wind at the surface of the earth, a balloon elevated sufficiently high would be carried easterly by the prevailing current in the upper or rather middle region of the atmosphere.

I do not hesitate, therefore, to say that, provided a balloon can be constructed of sufficient size and of sufficient impermeability to gas, in order that it may maintain a high elevation for a sufficient length of time, it would be wafted across the Atlantic. I would not, however, advise that the first experiment of this character be made across the ocean, but that the feasibility of the project should be thoroughly tested and experience accumulated by voyages over the interior of our continent.

In accordance with the last suggestion made by Professor Henry, and to remove all doubts from the minds of those who voyage too great, I made ascensions from points in the West, and had demonstrated the truth of my propositions, when the breaking out of the rebellion turned the thoughts of all loyal Americans to the State of the country. Feeling assured that I could render essential service to the Government in its time of need, and that my inventions would be appreciated by those who were in authority, I left Philadelphia on the 5th of June, 1861, for Washington, taking with me a new balloon with which I had made a voyage on the 20th of April of the same year from Cincinnati, Ohio, to the coast of South Carolina, from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. of the same day, a distance of over 900 miles, in nine hours.

On arriving in Washington I immediately called on Professor Henry, who at once perceived the importance and value of my proposed operations. He had repeated interviews with the President of the United States, the Secretary of War (Mr. Cameron), and the officers of the Topographical Engineer Corps, and strongly urged the trial of experiments with my balloon to test its adaption to the great work in which we were engaged. Discouragement and difficulty attended every effort, however, to secure attention; but finally, through the influence of Professor Henry, to whose disinterested and persevering support is in a great measure due the introduction of aeronautics into the military service of the United States, I was enabled to make preliminary experiments with the balloon I had brought to Washington.

The balloon was inflated from one of the gas mains in the Armory grounds, and repeated ascensions were made from that place, from the Smithsonian grounds, and from the front of the Executive Mansion. For the first time telegraphic communication was established between a balloon and the earth, and a message was sent to the President of the United States and others while at an elevation of a thousand feet.

For a detailed account of these experiments I have the honor to refer to the followinofessor Henry, rvision they were made:

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION,

June 21, 1861.

Honorable 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 conclusion:

1st. The balloon prepared by Mr. Lowe, inflated with ordinary street ga, will retain its charge for several days.

2nd. 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.