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Thaddeus Lowe and the Civil War Balloon Corps

by Gail Jarrow

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-59078-719-9
Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

The use of surveillance balloons in the Civil War has been chronicled to some extent in such books for young readers as Thomas B. and Roger McBride Allen's Mr. Lincoln's High-Tech War (2009) and Paul Janeczko's Dark Game (2010), but none has covered the subject with as much depth and detail as this engaging story of how the enterprising Lowe, already famous as an aeronaut at the outbreak of the Civil War, convinced President Lincoln of the value of using balloons to spy on the Confederate army. For two years, Lowe led a corps of balloonists who counted rebel soldiers, monitored troop movements and directed artillery fire against enemy positions. The effectiveness of the corps prompted the Confederates to make the balloons targets of sharpshooters and page saboteurs. Using Civil War photographs, other archival images and a variety of primary sources, Jarrow reveals the clashes Lowe had with high-ranking Union officers, dangers the balloonists faced and the value of the intelligence the corps provided, thus offering readers rich insight into a little-known dimension of the Civil War. (timeline, source notes, bibliography, further reading and websites, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)