PROFESSOR THADDEUS LOWE
THE CIVIL WAR YEARS
Lowe Defending Against False Statements from Dismissed Aeronaut - 1862/1863
The Eagle Aloft, pages 360-361
Drummed out of the service for cowardice, gambling, and a variety of other crimes, Freno created severe problems for the Balloon Corps. After several months of good behavior, he suffered a lapse, and Lowe was finally forced to dismiss Freno "for repeated absence without leave, for expressing disloyal sentiments, opening a faro bank for the purpose of gambling, and for the demoralizing effect which he had upon subordinates.
Nor was this the end of Lowe's problems with Freno. In March 1863 the disgruntled ex-aeronaut broke into Lowe's Washington storage area and vandalized the balloon Constitution. Freno evaded capture by federal officials and sent a series of wild charges and accusations against Lowe to the provost marshall general's office.
War of the Aeronauts, pages 271-272
From within Lowe's own ranks came one individual whose act of betrayal was a source of serious damage to the Corp's reputation. Jacob C. Freno, who had served reasonable well with Lowe during most of the Peninsular Campaign, began to fall back into the old criminal habits that had prompted his dismissal from the 66th Pennsylvania Infantry the previous year. When the Balloon Corps returned to Washington following the army's withdrawal from Virginia, Freno began operating an illegal faro bank operation that efficiently fleeced enlisted men.
Gambling was nothing new in the ranks of the army. Illegal gambling halls sprang up in various camps as a way to relieve the monotony of army life. More often than not, these gambling operations were rigged in favor of whoever represented the house and Freno's faro bank was no exception. It wasn't long before Freno's card game was exposed as a money pit for unsuspecting enlisted men to part with their money.
Lowe - who abhorred anything that might taint the Balloon Corp's reputation - moved quickly to dismiss Freno in December, 1862. But the trouble with Freno had only just begun. He began to circulate a number of serious and unsubstantiated charges against Lowe. Freno alleged that Lowe's father, Clovis, was ill and convalescing in Philadelphia, although the Corp's chief aeronaut kept him on the government payroll.
Freno also alleged that Lowe had stolen government property, including an entire balloon outfit for his own commercial purposes. He also maintained that Lowe stole scarce military food rations and lavished them on influential news reporters in the field in order to curry favorable publicity for himself. And perhaps one of the most outlandish charges of all came when Freno accused Lowe of misappropriating military carriages and drivers for pleasure excursions around Washington, D.C., with his wife Leontine.
Lowe was forced to answer each of the allegations. The charge that he had stolen a balloon was simply not true. The craft in question was a small, experimental aerostat intended as an unmanned signaling device that had been taken from the Columbia Armory to Philadelphia for repairs. As for Lowe's father, the old man was far from being a convalescent, having served nearly nonstop since Lowe's appointment as chief aeronaut. And as for carriage rides around the capital with Leontine, Mrs. Lowe had remained in Philadelphia since October, 1861.
Even when his charges were proved unfounded, Freno did not refrain from continuing his spiteful campaign. While the balloon Constitution was undergoing repairs in the Columbia Armory, Freno gained access to it and maliciously slashed out a large portion of its silken envelope. In the aftermath of the incident Lowe pressed charges against his former assistant, but the Washington provost marshal's office failed to bring the elusive Freno to justice.
BEFORE THE WAR
CIVIL WAR YEARS
INVENTIONS AND INDUSTRY
NORRISTOWN PENNSYLVANIA YEARS
PASADENA CALIFORNIA YEARS
MOUNT LOWE RAILWAY
AFTER THE RAILWAY
BOOKS ABOUT LOWE
EVENTS AND REUNIONS
ARTIFACTS AND HISTORY
ACCLAMATIONS AND AWARDS
LINKS TO OTHER THADDEUS LOWE WEBSITES