Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Was a Balloon Used in a Trans-Mississippi Campaign?

Recently, I’ve been rereading A Southern Record: The History Of The Third Regiment Louisiana Infantry (1866) by William H. Tunnard. The 3rd Louisiana Infantry assembled a fine combat record at Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, Iuka, Corinth, and the siege of Vicksburg. While reading about the advance of the Confederate army toward Wilson’s Creek in early August 1861, I came across the following puzzling passage:

“The next day [August 4th] was the Sabbath, bright, beautiful, and golden. All remained quiet until nearly noon, when a balloon was discovered hovering over our camp, which sailed eastward in the direction of the enemy. All was bustle and activity, as the troops rapidly assembled in their respective quarters. A report soon prevailed that the enemy had penetrated the left of our position, and the balloon was a preconcerted signal for an advance on our front and flank. It proved a false rumor, and the army reposed in security and quietude” (pp. 46-47). 

After reading this, I checked several other sources but was unable to find any corroborating accounts. So, the appearance of a balloon during a trans-Mississippi campaign makes a great story, but I’m afraid it’s just an “old soldier” tale. Unless, of course, you have some corroboration?

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