Posted by: ushistoryfiles | June 28, 2012

Up, Up, and Away

I discovered a new living history museum this week and they are doing something really cool.  The Genesee Country Village & Museum is a 700 acre village with 68 historic structures located in New York State (in Mumford, NY to be exact – not too far from Rochester).  After looking through their website I am adding them to the “I’ve got to go there soon” list.

What brings this particular museum to my attention is that they have built a Civil War manned balloon replica.  Beginning on July 4 they are going to be offering flights to visitors. The balloon will rise 400 feet (32 stories) above the museum grounds near carrying up to four passengers at a time in addition to the pilot.

The replica being inflated.

They replica that they have built is of the Intrepid, one of several that were built during the U.S. Civil War.  The science of aeronautics was in its infancy at the time of the war.  A scientist/inventor by the name of Thaddeus Lowe was working on ballooning through the 1850s.  He even aspired to attempt a transatlantic flight.  In 1861, Lowe was introduced to President Lincoln and given a chance to show how balloons could be used for aerial reconnaissance.  Lincoln was impressed and the Balloon Corps was born.  The Corps would eventually build a fleet of balloons such as the  Constitution, Eagle, Washington, and others.

The Intrepid at Gaines Mill

The Intrepid would be the largest of the balloons and was used during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign.  On a related note, this week marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gaines Mill where the Intrepid saw use, so the timing of launching the replica couldn’t be better.

The Intrepid will be rising thanks to a donation of helium from Macy’s – the folks who support the Thanksgiving Day parade.  Macy’s donated 50,000 cubic feet of helium to get the project off the ground (pun intended).

For more information check out:

http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Lighter_than_air/Civil_War_balloons/LTA5.htm

and

http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/civil-war-ballooning/ballooning-during-the-seven.html

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