PROFESSOR THADDEUS LOWE

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES

A Civil War aerial adventure in a New Hampshire balloon
Manchester Examiner (NH) - Sunday, June 5, 2011

Visitors to the Fitz John Porter Civil War exhibit at Strawbery Banke Museum -- and his statue in Haven Park, Portsmouth (just a block away) will learn an unusual fact: Gen Fitz John Porter was an avid advocate for aerial surveillance and went aloft in a hot air balloon more than once to observe enemy troop formations and their movements.

Porter’s own field glasses, borrowed from the museum at Manassas Battlefield National Park, are displayed in the exhibit and one of his ascents, field glasses in hand, is depicted in one of the bronze panels at the statue’s base.

The story of this incident is that Porter had climbed in the basket, deployed at the front at Yorktown and the tether line broke, sending him aloft and over Confederate lines. As snipers sought his range, he was able to climb the rigging to close the hot air valve and bring the craft back to earth. The Salem, New Hampshire native behind this state of the art platform was Thaddeus Lowe. The Mongolfier brothers in France are credited with being the first to have the idea of using hot air balloons for aerial observation. They made the first human flight on October 15, 1783; and by November 19, 1783 their first free flight had an army officer aboard.

Thaddeus Lowe undoubtedly worked from their inspiration -- and 100 years ago June 5, 1861, Lowe arrived in Washington for an appointment with Secy of the Treasury Salmon Chase. He would demonstrate his fine-tuned aerial surveillance capability to Lincoln on June 18, 1861, taking a telegraph with him. His message to Lincoln from aloft read: "To the President of the United States Sir: This point of observation commands an area of nearly 50 miles in diameter. The city with its girdle of encampments presents a superb scene. I have pleasure in sending you this first dispatch ever telegraphed from an aerial station and in acknowledging indebtedness for your encouragement for the opportunity of demonstrating the availability of the science of aeronautics in the service of the country." The next day Lowe had a letter from Lincoln and was authorized to form a balloon corps for the use of the army.

Not only Porter but another Portsmouth-born solider Amiel Weeks Whipple (who had lived in the house now open to the public as Warner House) is recorded to flown in Lowe 's balloons during the Civil War. Capt. Whipple was one of the officers to make aerial observations over Falls Church VA and found the new devise so useful he began contractual discussions with Lowe for the implementation of balloon surveillance.

INDEX PAGE

BEFORE THE WAR

CIVIL WAR YEARS

INVENTIONS AND INDUSTRY

NORRISTOWN PENNSYLVANIA YEARS

PASADENA CALIFORNIA YEARS

MOUNT LOWE RAILWAY

AFTER THE RAILWAY

LOWE FAMILY

BOOKS ABOUT LOWE

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES

EVENTS AND REUNIONS

ARTIFACTS AND HISTORY

ENCYCLOPEDIA BIOGRAPHY

ACCLAMATIONS AND AWARDS

LINKS TO OTHER THADDEUS LOWE WEBSITES