Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

Civil War-era balloon technology still used in battle

Prof. Lowe ascending in the Intrepid to observe the Battle of Fair Oaks. Photo by Matthew Brady

WASHINGTON – During the civil war, the Union Army Balloon Corps performed aerial reconnaissance on the Confederate Army.

Fast forward today and “the U.S. military is deploying balloons in wars zones today,” says John Deperro, balloon enthusiast and Civil War reenactor with the Union Army Balloon Corps.

He says the best you can get out of an unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV is about 36 hours.

“In fact, there is a northern Virginia company that will be deploying a 370-foot balloon next month in Afghanistan to sit in and orbit over Kabul at 20,000 feet for five days at a time,” he says.

Kevin Knapp, another Civil War balloon enthusiast and professional balloon pilot says the Union Army had seven balloons and nine balloonists.

“They were no hot air balloons. Balloons at the time were gas balloons,” Knapp says.

He says the Union Army Balloon Corps formed after Thaddeus Lowe, who became commander of the corps, met with President Lincoln for a demonstration in June 1861.

They used their balloons to perform aerial reconnaissance on the Confederate armies. With the balloons tethered, they could send a telegraph wire down the rope and to the commanders, giving them real time intelligence.

Deperro says ballooning lessons learned during the Civil War have many applications today by American armed forces deployed overseas.

WTOP’s Kathy Stewart contributed to this report.

Apps put Civil War historians on your iPhone

Hank Silverberg,

The first screen of the Fredericksburg Battle App. (Photo Courtesy of iTunes)

WASHINGTON – Have you toured one of the many civil war battlefield’s in the capitol region and wished that you had an historian at your side? There’s now a 21st century way to do that.

If you tour the battlefield at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg or soon, Bull Run, you can download your own historian in the form of an “Battle App” for $1.99.

“It takes you to familiar sites, as well as obscure sites,” says Jim Campi from the Civil War Preservation trust.

The app for Fredericksburg, where Union and Confederate troops fought a fierce battle in December of 1862, takes you through the downtown area where there was considerable fighting, but most people never check out when they view the current battlefield.

“What we are really trying to do is put an historian in your pocket, give you the flavor of going out there with a guided tour,” says Campi.

The applications are all part of an effort to spark more interest in Civil War sites as the 150th anniversary of the conflict moves ahead.

Apps for Fredericksburg and Gettysburg areavailable now. One for Bull Run is coming in July, as the actual anniversary Battle of First Manassas arrives.

There are plans to add Chancellorsville, Ceder Creek, the Wilderness, Petersburg and Malvern Hill in Virginia and Antietam in Maryland.

The money collected from the apps will be used to create more apps and to upgrade them from time to time.

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