Friday, September 23, 2011

September 23, 1861 (Tuesday): T. S. Lowe-Forward Air Controller

Professor Lowe and His Baloon
CAMP ADVANCE, September 23, 1861.
General F. J. PORTER:
At about 8.30 to-morrow morning I wish to fire from here at Falls Church. Will you please send the balloon up from Fort Corcoran and have note taken of the position reached by the shell, and telegraph each observation at once.

Official Records, Series III., Vol. 3, Part 1, Page 262

The Civil War was the origin of many innovations in the art of war.  In this memo, General Smith is asking Professor Lowe's balloon be sent up to function as a forward air controller.  Equipped with a telegraph whose line ran to the ground, Lowe would send back information as to the fall of shells, allowing for correction and more accurate firing.  Although Lowe and his balloon were successful in this role, the Army failed to follow through, quibbling over the cost of Lowe's services. 

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