Learn about the Civil War Balloon Corps through a free, living history program at Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site on April 28.
The Union Army staged several military balloon ascensions in the West End of Alexandria early in the Civil War, according to the Office of Historic Alexandria. Learn about this little known aspect of Alexandria’s history from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The program is weather dependent.
In 1861, a civilian Balloon Corps attached to the U.S. Army was organized to gather information on Confederate positions and movements from the sky. Aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe was appointed chief aeronaut to command the Balloon Corps, but his competitor John La Mountain was responsible for conducting several balloon ascensions from Alexandria beginning in October 1861.
Fort Ward’s program will feature a reenactor portraying Lowe, who will discuss the use of aerial balloons for military surveillance during the war and the local history of La Mountain’s balloon ascensions.
The program includes a 19,000-cubic-foot netted gas balloon similar to those used during the Civil War. Reenactors portraying telegraphers and members of the signal corps will display equipment and present demonstrations as well as interpret how technology at the time was used to advance military communications.
Visit the Fort Ward website for more information.