Friday, June 17, 2011

Thaddeus C. Lowe, Balloonmeister

While Stone was dealing with the Confederate cannon fire on the morning of June 17, President Abraham Lincoln was outside the Columbian Armory that Stone had done so much to protect from secessionists a few months earlier. He was there to meet with Professor Thaddeus C. Lowe, a fellow Ohioan and a friend of his Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase.

Lowe was hoping to convince Lincoln of the military applications for balloons, and was demonstrating it with a hot air balloon of his own design, the Enterprise. Lowe ascended 500 ft with a telegraph operator and sent this message back down to the President:

This point of observation commands an area nearly fifty 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 to your encouragement for the opportunity of demonstrating the availability of the science of aeronautics in the service of the country. T.S.C. Lowe.

Lincoln was suitably impressed and commended Lowe to Brigadier General Irvin McDowell, commander of the troops immediately across the Potomac River.

A reenactment recently took place on the grounds of the Air and Space Museum, the site of the Columbian Armory.

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