Civil War Manned
Balloon, The Intrepid To Take To The Sky
By Jim Douglas
February 2, 2012 - In late 1861, Virginia residents were
shocked to see a manned balloon rise on the horizon,
directing Union Army artillery against Confederate
positions. One hundred and fifty years later, the
Intrepid the first type of aerial vehicle used for
combat in the United States will take flight once again
beginning this summer.
Genesee Country Village & Museum one of the country's
preeminent living history attractions, has begun
building the world's only Civil War manned balloon
replica, with the intent of offering flights to visitors
starting July 4. Rising 400 feet (32 stories) above the
700-acre museum grounds near Rochester, N.Y., the
Intrepid will carry up to four passengers at a time in
addition to the pilot.
"Our launch of the Intrepid brings to life one of the
most unique elements of American history in a manner
never before attempted," said Peter Arnold, chief
executive officer and president of GVC&M.
"As Civil War remembrances occur across the nation
during its 150th anniversary, we believed there was no
better time to undertake this initiative. The balloon
and the planned Civil War encampment surrounding the
launch site further enhance our authentic 19th century
village the third largest collection of historic
buildings in America."
was the Intrepid the predecessor to modern-day military
aviation, but it also foreshadowed the future of military
reconnaissance communications. The pilot would send intelligence
information troop movements, artillery compensation
instructions, and more -- to soldiers on the ground via
telegraph. Conceived by Professor Thaddeus Lowe, the resulting
Union Army Balloon Corps was personally approved by President
Abraham Lincoln in June 1861.
the Genesee Country Village & Museum for taking a lead to insure
that the role of the Aeronautic Corps in the Civil War is fully
appreciated," said Tom D. Crouch, Ph.D., senior curator of
Aeronautics for the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and
Space Museum. "I am certain that your efforts will result in one
of the most memorable activities of the 150th anniversary of the
conflict." Dr. Crouch has chosen to serve as an advisor for the
The Intrepid was a hydrogen gas balloon or aerostat built for use by the Union Army Balloon Corps for aerial reconnaissance purposes during the American Civil War. It was one of seven balloons constructed for the Balloon Corps and was one of the four larger balloons designed to make ascensions to higher elevations with a larger lift capacity for telegraph equipment and an operator.
It was the balloon of choice for Chief Aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe overlooking the Battle of Fair Oaks. The fateful flight over the Battle of Fair Oaks was instrumental in saving the fragmented army of Union Army General Samuel P. Heintzelman from what would have been sure defeat at the hands of the Confederates. The Intrepid undergoing a lengthy inflation was quickly hooked up to the spout of the smaller Constitution by means of a de-bottomed camp kettle by which the gas was transferred in shorter time to make the ascent.
Visitors will have
the opportunity to book 15-minute flights for a nominal cost in addition
to their museum entry fee. More details will be released over the course
of the coming months.
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