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Old September 7, 2004, 11:54 PM   #12
4V50 Gary
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Join Date: November 2, 1998
Location: Colorado
Posts: 16,847
Anti-aircraft, Confederate style and (II) Confederate airpower

While it has been said that the Civil War was the first modern war, many of the "innovations" had been tried before. The camera was first popularized during the Crimean War. Ironclads were first used by the Koreans to defend themselves against the Japanese. Balloons were used by the French and allowed them to manuever to a position of advantage against their enemy in one battle. Despite their success, the French abandoned the balloon because it was relatively immobile as it required a huge train to support it.

So, during that past unpleasantry when Professor Lowe ascended in his balloon to watched the "damned rebels", the Confederates would pay their compliments with artillery fire to force him down. Well, one unit didn't have artillery but it didn't discourage the boys from giving Professor Lowe a good scare.

The enemy, not being able to discover by their scouts what we were doing - what movements we were making, or what force we had, resorted to the use of balloons. On one occasion our people fired at a balloon with cannon shot, and down came the balloon. A short while after this, the balloon was up again, when our boys concluded to at lest give the man in the basket, Professor Lowe - a scare; so, rigging up the rear gears of a wagon with a stovepipe, ran the improvised artillery to the hilltop, in full view of the aeronaut, pretending to load. The Professor descended quickly, only to appear again at a safer distance.

Now, it would have been really remarkable if some Confederate had loaded the stovepipe with a rocket and made the first recoiless rifle in history.

Since this is a rambling thread, let's ramble on with another Confederate story. It takes place during the Siege of Petersburg before the explosion of the Crater. At or near this time there appear on our lines a man representing himself to be a citizen of Alabama, who proposed then to do what could not be done, but in some degree has since been accomplished - to build a machine to navigate the air, carry shells and drop them on the Northern armies, and in their cities. He requested donations from each of the soldiers of a dollar, and of the officers five dollars each to enable to build his machine. We concluded he was a crank, refused to contribute and the man departed. This fellow was only a little ahead of his time. (Johnston, D. 203)

Here's another soldier's diary entry of possibly the same fellow: "Sunday-Tuesday, Jan. 8-10 (Rain), 1865. Petersburg.... I have just returned from listening to a lecture given by "Bird" Davidson, who is trying to collect money from the soldiers to build 500-600 balloons to drop 100-lb. bombs on the enemy. In 6 days, he says, the Yankees could be defeated. On the 7th day, they would surrender." (Dobbins, A. 228)

He conceived of tactical aviation and terror bombing bordering on strategic airstrikes. The demoralization and panic it would have caused is almost immeasurable. However, people would learn to cope then as we do now and once the initial panic is over, things would be as they were.
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