War of the Rebellion: Serial 124 Page 0257 UNION AUTHORITIES.

Search Civil War Official Records

to give place to the other balloon, and ceased all further efforts until I was informed on Sunday, that the competing had proved a failure, and then being urged by several patriotic individuals, and hoping still to render some service to the army at Centerville or Manassas, I commenced on Sunday morning to make preparations for inflating and transporting my balloon, and on the evening of the same day started with it for Virginia. In this enterprise I was aided by the liberality of Colonel Small, who furnished me with his command for the purpose. Unfortunately, when we arrived at Falls Church I was informed of the retreat of the army, and thinking it useless to attempt to go farther, I concluded to remain there, even after all the troops had passed by and the midst of a drenching rain, with the hope that I might be of service in giving information as to the approach of the enemy; but as the pickets were withdrawn, I started again at 4.30 on Monday afternoon to return to Arlington, the rain continuing to fall in torrents, the wind against us, and arrived at Fort Corcoran at 8 o"clock the same evening with the balloon fully inflated after having been transported against a wind of considerable force, through a distance in all of about twenty miles, the latter half of which was in a violent rain-storm. I remained with the balloon at Fort Corcoran until Wednesday morning, and them, taking advantage of the favorable wearther, I ascended at 7.30 o"clock with an ascensional power of 500 pounds beyond the weight of the balloon itself. I obtained an altitude of about three and one- half miles and had a distinct view of the encampments of the enemy, and observed them in motion between Manassas Junction and Fairfax.

From the facts I have stated it must be evident to every one that the balloon can be rendered of essential service in the art of war, and that I have accomplished all I have undertaken without a single failure, with very imperfect means and with scarcely any aid from the Government.

Having thus given an account of what has been accomplished, I now proceed to furnish a statement of what might or can be done if proper facilities are afforded.

First. It is a very probable that balloons will be wanted for some time to come in the vicinity of Washington and Alexandria to watch the movements of the enemy and prevent a surprise. For this purpose the balloon now in my possession will answer very well until another can be procured. With it, almost every day or two, ascents can be made to a great altitude, affording an opportunity for several officers at the same time to observe, with good glasses, the position and movements of the enemy in perfect security, without risk of life or property.

Second. While the army is making preparation for another movement a lighter balloon, with portable apparatus, can by constructed in time to move with the troops, and be ready before and during an engagement to furnish the means of observations of the greatest importance.

Having made the necessary inquiries, I find that the required apparatus can be constructed by mechanics now in the Government employ in Washington; that the whole weight of material to inflate the balloon for several days" use will not exceed four tons, and can be carried in two or three wagons, and that the whole expense for inflating, aside from the apparatus, will not exceed $300, including transportation. a

It will not be necessary to use this method of inflation, excepting at a distance from was works too great to move an inflated balloon.

The same apparatus can also belong will probably be much wanted at Fortress Monroe, Norfolk, and Richmond, and many other places.

Should the Government conclude to adopt the above methods, and desire my services, I will give my plans in detail, and shall be pleased to carry them out. I can truly say that I have not, in my endeavor to introduce balloon observations into use in our Army, been governed by a desire for pecuniary gain, but I have been actuated by a wish to increase my reputation and advance the art to which I have devoted my life, by demonstrating its importance to the country in its present critical condition.

Hoping that if my services are further required, I may receive as early a notice as possible.

I remain, very truly, your obedient servant,

T. S. C. LOWE,


aNOTE.-Since the portable gas generators have been introduced, the whole cost of materials for inflation does not exceed $75. The gas can be generated wherever it is wanted, much less time is required for inflation, and the balloon can be kept inflated for a month or much longer.