Before a formal Air Corps was conceived by the US military, the Union Army came up with the idea of utilizing air balloons during the American Civil War. Although they had not fully utilized the capabilities of air space in terms of gaining an advantage over enemies, they managed to use the balloons as a primitive means of forward observers and reconnaissance. The birth (and death) of the Balloon Corps would be the base of what soon would become the Air Force that we know.

Chief Aeronaut

The idea of using balloons during the American Civil War came from highly educated and respected scientist and inventor Thaddeus Lowe. Before the war broke out in 1861, he was making use of his time in preparing for a transatlantic crossing with the use of a balloon. When the Civil War ensued, Lowe thought these balloons could be utilized on the battlefield. He shared the idea, and US President Abraham Lincoln saw the balloons’ potential and gave it a green light.

This, however, was not the first time that balloons would be used for military purposes, as the French also used them during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792.

At that time, a formal Air Corps was still around 50 years away, and the US government had not dealt with anything like that yet, so they decided it would be best to combine all related activities into a specific unit to be led by someone who had vast knowledge and plenty of experience in the field. This, of course, was Lowe.