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Stan Hutson

Shiloh from the air

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Stan

Impressive effort. Provides a real feel for the heavily wooded expanse, cut by the occasional 20 - 40 acre field, that is Shiloh Battlefield. And, from the visual cues, I would estimate the altitude (AGL) of the light aircraft is 1500 feet. That altitude provides a visual "horizon" of 47 miles (clear air, less than 30% humidity.)

Imagine the possibilities, if General U. S. Grant had been furnished with an observation balloon. Of course, Civil War balloons remained tethered, and only ascended to 500 feet AGL. But from that elevation, the visual horizon is 27 miles (easy to see Corinth from 500 feet above Pittsburg Bluff, on a clear day.)

As it turns out, a balloon and pilot were sent west by General George McClellan in February 1862. After arriving at Cairo, Professor John Steiner telegraphed his availability to Henry Halleck at St Louis... but Halleck could not see the use of a balloon (he also could not see the need for a Signal Corps; and only just saw the need for General Grant.) Halleck was perfectly satisfied with the railroad; the steamboat; the telegraph; and the mounted courier. Every other "new idea" was just hard work, that cost lots of money (a fully equipt balloon operation cost over $20,000 per month, all up.) So Halleck told Professor Steiner, "Thanks. But, no thanks." And then offered the balloon to Flag-Officer Andrew Foote. The Navy saw application for the balloon at Island No.10, so Steiner and his Eagle were loaded aboard a barge, and towed to Island No.8 (where the Navy was anchored, above Island No.10.) In late March 1862, John Steiner made several ascents (with a passenger or two) and reported the "effectiveness of 13-inch mortar shells." Found out, the mortars were firing "long." So, the range was adjusted; and Rebel gunners had to seek better shelter from more frequent shell fragments. 

From all reports, April 5th was blessed with beautiful weather at Pittsburg Landing. A perfect day for a balloon ascent (if one had been available.)

Just a thought

Ozzy

 

Reference: Shiloh was a Sham: the untold story of the iconic Battle of the Civil War, by Mike Maxwell (2016) Martin Samuels P/L

 

N.B. "AGL" is "above ground level."

 

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Jim

I note that today, in Jackson Tennessee, the humidity is forecast to be 45 percent: not ideal, but not causing significant degradation to visibility (such as occurs with 85% or greater humidity.) And, the other factor to consider: a balloon pilot did not have to see all the way to Corinth: just five or six miles from Pittsburg Landing would have been sufficient.

The bigger mystery: Henry Halleck had access to an observation balloon, and decided not to use it.

Cheers

Ozzy

 

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Stan..this is very impressive...it looks "diiferent ' from the air as compared to the trailhead map...and much larger.

 

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1 hour ago, mona said:

Stan..this is very impressive...it looks "diiferent ' from the air as compared to the trailhead map...and much larger.

 

Mona you are right.  Hard to take good images from a small plane, but from the air the battlefield looks massive.  

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11 hours ago, Ozzy said:

Stan

Impressive effort. Provides a real feel for the heavily wooded expanse, cut by the occasional 20 - 40 acre field, that is Shiloh Battlefield. And, from the visual cues, I would estimate the altitude (AGL) of the light aircraft is 1500 feet. That altitude provides a visual "horizon" of 47 miles (clear air, less than 30% humidity.)

Imagine the possibilities, if General U. S. Grant had been furnished with an observation balloon. Of course, Civil War balloons remained tethered, and only ascended to 500 feet AGL. But from that elevation, the visual horizon is 27 miles (easy to see Corinth from 500 feet above Pittsburg Bluff, on a clear day.)

As it turns out, a balloon and pilot were sent west by General George McClellan in February 1862. After arriving at Cairo, Professor John Steiner telegraphed his availability to Henry Halleck at St Louis... but Halleck could not see the use of a balloon (he also could not see the need for a Signal Corps; and only just saw the need for General Grant.) Halleck was perfectly satisfied with the railroad; the steamboat; the telegraph; and the mounted courier. Every other "new idea" was just hard work, that cost lots of money (a fully equipt balloon operation cost over $20,000 per month, all up.) So Halleck told Professor Steiner, "Thanks. But, no thanks." And then offered the balloon to Flag-Officer Andrew Foote. The Navy saw application for the balloon at Island No.10, so Steiner and his Eagle were loaded aboard a barge, and towed to Island No.8 (where the Navy was anchored, above Island No.10.) In late March 1862, John Steiner made several ascents (with a passenger or two) and reported the "effectiveness of 13-inch mortar shells." Found out, the mortars were firing "long." So, the range was adjusted; and Rebel gunners had to seek better shelter from more frequent shell fragments. 

From all reports, April 5th was blessed with beautiful weather at Pittsburg Landing. A perfect day for a balloon ascent (if one had been available.)

Just a thought

Ozzy

 

Reference: Shiloh was a Sham: the untold story of the iconic Battle of the Civil War, by Mike Maxwell (2016) Martin Samuels P/L

 

N.B. "AGL" is "above ground level."

 

Or imagine if Johnston had a balloon at his disposal.  I imagine he would have been more skeptical about launching an attack.

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The Confederacy did have access to balloons: the most noted pilots, John R. Bryan and Edward Porter Alexander, were based at Richmond, and conducted their ascensions there. The biggest problem with balloons, and moving them long distances (not flying, but as cargo) is the requirement for massive amounts of hydrogen gas, to permit an ascent. John Steiner and Thaddeus Lowe, for the Union, had specialized equipment, that was transportable; and allowed production of hydrogen, anywhere. I believe Confederate hydrogen production was the limiting factor that kept balloons close to Richmond (the gas production equipment was not transportable.)

Could General Johnston have made use of a balloon? Perhaps, but the mere appearance of "a floating orb, just to the south of Federal camps" would have given the game away. No chance of such an apparition not being investigated. Possibly the most significant intelligence to be acquired by Albert Sidney Johnston: the actual size of Stuart's Brigade, on the Union left.

Cheers

Ozzy

Reference: SDG topic "Civil War Balloon may yet Fly" by WI16thJim of 2 JUN 2012, post of 13 JAN 2016.

 

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