PROFESSOR THADDEUS LOWE
THE CIVIL WAR YEARS
Ex-Confederate Praise - 1891
War of the Aeronauts, pages 294-295
However, it is possible that the greatest words of praise lauded upon the work of the Balloon Corps did not emanate from a Union officer, but from the Confederate Edwin Porter Alexander. The erstwhile balloonist, who piloted the "Silk Dress Balloon" Gazelle over Richmond during the peninsular campaign was promoted to ordnance chief in 1863.
From his actual, yet brief, experience as an aeronaut, Alexander probably had a deeper understanding of balloons than anyone in the Confederate army. And as an artillery chief he knew that balloons were capable of carrying observers who could survey a battlefield for miles around. Even though Union balloons were not present at Gettysburg, Alexander noted that he was careful to keep the artillery, "out of sight" near Round Top in the event that an elevated observer was in the area.
Interviewed for a magazine article in 1891, Alexander gave what might have been the greatest compliment bestowed upon the Corps and an insight into the true significance that the Union army's balloons may have had upon the Confederacy's war effort.
"I have never understood why the enemy abandoned the use of military balloons early in 1863 after using them extensively up to that time," said Alexander. "Even if the observers never saw anything they would have been worth all they cost for the annoyance and delays they caused us in trying to keep our movements out of their sight."
If only this fact had been understood by the Union army's decision makers, the fate of the Balloon Corps may have ended on an entirely different note.
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