Lincoln's Flying Spies: Thaddeus Lowe and the Civil War Balloon Corps

Overview


On June 1, 1862, Thaddeus Lowe floated above a fierce Civil War battle in a silk hydrogen balloon. From the wicker basket dangling a thousand feet above ground, he telegraphed a message to Northern generals on the ground: Union troops were finally driving back the Confederate forces. Lowe's message was transmitted to the War Department in Washington, where President Abraham Lincoln read his flying spy's good news with relief. For two years during the Civil War, a corps of balloonists led by Thaddeus Lowe spied ...
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Overview


On June 1, 1862, Thaddeus Lowe floated above a fierce Civil War battle in a silk hydrogen balloon. From the wicker basket dangling a thousand feet above ground, he telegraphed a message to Northern generals on the ground: Union troops were finally driving back the Confederate forces. Lowe's message was transmitted to the War Department in Washington, where President Abraham Lincoln read his flying spy's good news with relief. For two years during the Civil War, a corps of balloonists led by Thaddeus Lowe spied on the Confederate army. They counted rebel soldiers, detected troop movement, and directed artillery fire against enemy positions. Lowe and his aeronauts provide valuable intelligence to the Union army, even after the balloons became targets of Confederate shooters and saboteurs. Using Civil War photographs and primary sources—including Lowe's papers in the Library of Congress and the writings of Confederate and Union soldiers—Jarrow reveals the dangers, personality clashes, and other challenges faced by the nation's first air force in this Voice of Youth Advocates Nonfiction Honor List book.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Engaging. . . . [Offers] readers rich insight into a little-known dimension of the Civil War. (timeline, source notes, bibliography, further reading and websites, index)" --Kirkus Reviews

"A solid introduction to an intriguing aspect of Civil War history." --Booklist

"Forgotten bits of history often make the most interesting stories, as is the case with this account. . . . Filled with rare photographs and drawings, and embellished with highlights of both famous and less well known people and events of the period, this book will tie in seamlessly with readings and discussions about the Civil War while also leading readers to new insights and paths of inquiry." --Library Media Connection

Children's Literature - Greg M. Romaneck
The American Civil War was the source of several technological innovations. One such innovation was the use of observation balloons to track the actions of opposing forces during battle. In this illustrated look at the Union Army's efforts to make use of a balloon corps, readers will encounter a little known aspect of a heavily researched war. In the person of Thaddeus Lowe, the father of the Union balloon corps, readers will also learn about a brilliantly innovative thinker whose efforts were not fully appreciated by his supervisors. As Jarrow points out in this fascinating book, observation balloons had been used in warfare in the past. However, what Thaddeus Lowe was responsible for was the refinement of the technology necessary to create durable balloons that were linked to the ground via telegraph wires. In addition, Lowe spearheaded the use of aerial observation in ways that greatly outdistanced anything the Confederacy could accomplish. Unfortunately, like so many innovations that stumble upon the ignorance of leaders resistant to change, Lowe's balloon corps only existed for the first half of the war. Then, as Jarrow notes, the Union Army discontinued its use and closed the book on aerial observation. Thaddeus Lowe always felt that his balloon corps could have accomplished far more if only he and his men had been given a chance. By telling the story of Lowe and his efforts at instituting change, Jarrow has combined a compelling story with sound research and writing. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up—Born in 1832, Thaddeus Lowe grew up interested in science and mechanics and wanted to build a flying machine. Studying the works of aeronaut John Wise, he set up his own factory in 1856 and planned to travel across the Atlantic in a balloon. This trip never came to fruition, but Lowe received a great deal of publicity, as well as more knowledge about flying. By the outbreak of the Civil War, he knew that he could serve the Union cause by using his balloons to spy on the Confederate forces. President Lincoln, who had a keen interest in new technology, met with Lowe and encouraged the army to utilize his services. By September 1861, Lowe and his Balloon Corps were spying on Confederates in Virginia; in 1862 they traveled with General McClellan and participated in the Peninsular Campaign; and in 1863 the Balloon Corps made observations around Fredericksburg. In later years, Lowe worked as an inventor and built an electric railway in California. This volume presents Civil War history and highlights this extraordinary man. Photographs, drawings, reproductions, and sidebars appear on almost every page.—Patricia Ann Owens, Illinois Eastern Community Colleges
Kirkus Reviews
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590787199
  • Publisher: Highlights Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2010
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 725,072
  • Age range: 9 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 1060L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Gail Jarrow is the author of Robert H. Jackson: New Deal Lawyer, Supreme Court Justice, Nuremberg Prosecutor and The Printer's Trail: The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press, as well as other award-winning books for children and young adults. Her articles and stories have appeared in various children's magazines, including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Muse, Spider, Cobblestone, and Faces.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2011

    Highly Recommended!

    I found Lincoln's Flying Spies to be a compelling read, appropriate for adults and young adults alike. This is more than just a character sketch of an intriguing historical figure. As we follow Thaddeus Lowe and his balloons, we're given a front row seat to watch the Civil War unfold. An engaging and fresh way to learn about an important time in the history of the United States, this book is sure to capture the attention of Civil War enthusiasts, teenagers in school, and even just casual readers looking for an interesting read. Jarrow's clear and succinct language is accessible for young adults, while the content and historical insight is engaging enough for an older reader. Well-chosen historical documents and photos spice up the read. You'll even find gems in the captions, such as information about Abe Lincoln's patent and the origin of sideburns. I definitely recommend this excellent book!

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