Smithsonian recounts balloon flights of Civil War

AP News
Posted: Jun 10, 2011 12:32 PM
Smithsonian recounts balloon flights of Civil War

The National Air and Space Museum is commemorating the nation's first attempt at an air force during the Civil War 150 years ago _ decades before the first airplane flight.

In June 1861, Thaddeus Lowe flew 500 feet above the National Mall in a gas-filled balloon to show President Abraham Lincoln how balloons could be used to spy on the Confederates.

Curators say Lowe's balloon remained tethered to the ground. His flight led to the creation of the Union Balloon Corps and the start of aerial espionage. The idea came when his balloon once floated into South Carolina.

On Saturday, the museum will inflate a similar balloon and host re-enactors portraying Lowe and Lincoln, with presentations on Civil War ballooning. The events run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.