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Dead medium: Military Telegraphy, Balloon Semaphore
From: (Bradley O'Neill)
Source(s): French Inventions of the Eighteenth Century by Shelby T. McCloy, Kernel Press, 1952. # T26.F8.M2 1952

page 22

BALLOON SIGNAL CORPS: "Balloons were used for observation in the sieges of Conde (1793), Maubeuge (1794), and Charleroi (1784); in the battle of Fleurs (1794) and Gosselins (1794); and later in the campaign along the Rhine (1795).... In each instance two balloonist officers went aloft in a balloon held captive with two ropes by sixteen men.

"Messages to the ground crew were communicated by the use of red, yellow, and green flags some eighteen inches square; messages to the general were dropped in bags weighed down with ballast and marked by a pennant or streamer. No one might handle these last save one of the Ballooning Corps officers. The balloon made a great impression on the Austrians, who on one occassion attempted with near success to shoot it down, but oddly enough did not attempt to imitate it."

[Author's footnote to page 22 : At Valenciennes (1793) a French balloon was captured by the Allies, and with it a pigeon carrying dispatches. The enemy indulged their humor by eating the pigeon and by firing the balloon back into the town from a cannon.]

Source(s): The Military Telegraph during the Civil War in the United States: with an exposition.... by William Rattle Plum, 1882; Dewey 973.7 P73M. or microfiche (MIC) LAC 22395

(((This book is a real trip! Plum's headspace seems pretty visionary for his time. The first paragraph has all the gushy sweep of an Alvin Toffler book-on-tape or a speech by Labor Secretary Reich:)))

"Ours is an age of rapid achievements. Cultivated aptitude has revolutionized the world. Performance has been reduced to a minimum of time and space to a question of time. Long lives are compassed in an ordinary span: distances are no longer appall: we are making the most of time and least of space...the opinion of the world has become a powerful international factor."

Then Plum takes us through an expository evolution of speed in warfare via several advancements: running, fires, trumpets, reflections, posts, semaphore, balloon, cipher, and telegraph.

(((Of particular historical interest to those of us in DMP:)))


HOT-AIR BALLOON RECON: "In 1794, two companies of French military aeronauts were first deployed in balloons at Fleurs, Maubeage, Charleroi, Mannheim, Ehrenhreitstein, Solferino, and elsewhere...

"They were not used as couriers, but to observe an enemy below, and sometimes flag signals were used to telegraph from [balloon locations]. This was done in the United States Army on the Potomac and during the Peninsular campaign, in the [US Civil War]. On all such reconnaissances, the balloon was held by ropes.

"On several occasions, electrical telegraphic connection was had with the aeronaut in the sky. This was first accomplished June 17, 1861, when the War Department in Washington, was placed in instant communication with Professor Lowe, who, from his 'high estate', caused the operator at his side to telegraph as follows:


Sir: This point of observation commands an area of fifty miles in diameter. The city, with its girdle of encampments, presents a superb scene. I take great pleasure in sending you the first dispatch ever telegraphed from an aerial station, and in acknowledging my indebtedness to your encouragement, for the opportunity of demonstrating the availability of the science of aeronautics in the military service of country.

Yours Respectfully,

T.S.C. Lowe"

(((Note that the Yankee tradition of naming war/exploration machines "Enterprise" even extended to a balloon.)))