Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 30, 1861 (Friday): Professor Lowe Surveys Munson's Hill By Air

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(The Confederate works at Munson's Hill were just to the west of Bailey's Cross Roads on the map).

Fort Corcoran, August 29, 1861.

Prof. T. S. C. Lowe:
The general desires you to be here at 3 a.m. tomorrow morning to make an ascension before daybreak to examine camp-fires and ascend again as soon as it may be light enough to watch for movements of any bodies of men. Should I not be present please write the observations and send them to me by express at Arlington.

Captain, Topographical Engineers.

These orders were complied with, and during my observations I discovered the enemy for the first time building earth-works on Munson’s Hill and Clark’s Hill, and also saw their movements along the entire line. In the afternoon I moved the balloon to Ball’s Cross-Roads and there took several observations, during which the enemy opened their batteries on the balloon and several shots passed by it and struck the ground beyond. These shots were the nearest to the U. S. capital that had been fired by the enemy, or have yet been, during the war.

Series III, Vol. 3, Page 260.

Munson’s Hill was a point of considerable interest to Union planners. Today it is the area outside of Washington known as Seven Corners, prime real estate covered by every conceivable sort of homes and businesses. Munson’s Hill was also graded at the top in the 1950’s and is no longer quite the towering presence it was in 1861 when it afforded spectacular views of Alexandria and the capital (barely five miles distant). The presence of the rebel flag in the works at Munson’s Hill, visible from the capital, was an affront to the Union, as well as exciting fears of an attack from rebel forces so close at hand. Lowe’s mission was to get a better view of the Confederate works and give advance warning of any threatening movements from that direction.

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