Seizing the Highest Ground:

  • 2014

Seizing the Highest Ground:

The Union Army Balloon Corps
Author:
Kevin Gould
Abstract:

Hydrogen balloons provided a technologically advanced platform for Union commanders to observe enemy troop positions and to target artillery fire during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, the capture of Island Number Ten, the Port Royal-Savannah campaign, and the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. The Union Army possessed an immense potential advantage limited only by the imaginations of its commanders and aeronauts. Despite their great potential, balloons made no revolutionary contributions to tactical intelligence collection because their operators did not always report clearly.

This capstone demonstrates the technological innovation of the balloons by discussing their construction and inflation methods using portable hydrogen generators. The paper also details balloon missions during the Civil War. Finally, this essay reapportions responsibility for the collapse of the Balloon Corps.