Oct 22, 2015 - Sale 2394

Sale 2394 - Lot 17

Price Realized: $ 688
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,000 - $ 1,500
"I WAS THE FIRST TO . . . HAVE THE BALLOON BROUGHT INTO USE IN 1861" PORTER, FITZ-JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed, to E.T. Lawsing, describing his experiences using a gas-filled balloon to conduct reconnaissance during the Civil War [especially the Peninsula Campaign during the spring of 1862]. 5 pages, 4to, "Fire Department Headquarters" stationery, ruled paper, written on rectos only. (TFC) New York, 27 July 1888

Additional Details

". . . I was the first to give a 'lift' to Professor Howe in his efforts to have the balloon brought into use in 1861 when before Washington. My experience . . . satisfied me that the balloon used by a skillful reconnoitereur can be of inestimable value to ascertain the character of the country over which an army is to operate--its roads, its timbers, its streams, marshes &c &c & of the nature of the obstacles interposed by an enemy--together with his location, works, movements &c. . . .
On the day of the battle of Fair Oaks, an observer in balloon reported the enemy moving up stream--the Chicahominy. . . . A personal examination showed the enemy going down stream to the field of battle. . . .
"From Fort Corcoran, opposite Washington, I observed mushy broken ground west of the Seminary near Alexandria. So long as the balloon was up, there was no enemy to be seen--but . . . in the interval the broken surface increased. I notified Gen. McClellan by telegraph that the enemy were creating field works opposite Gen. Franklin south west of the Seminary. . . . The next day the works were found and if I am correct in memory they were on Upton's Hill.
"McCall's movements to Drakesville on a reconnaissance were all seen by me and the movements of the enemy in opposition.
"At Yorktown I ascended to observe the works of Yorktown & report on . . . the Naval vessels passing up the York River & taking position so as to prevent the enemy escaping on the narrow roadway--while our army stormed Yorktown & the other works along the Warwick. The balloon broke loose, and I rose very rapidly to an upper current which carried me so far over Yorktown that I had a comple[te] view of all its works & the camps of the enemy. The passage into York River by the enemy's works could have been made . . . . The Navy would not undertake it, and the siege was continued.
"At this time . . . when I saw myself going over into the enemy's country . . . I let off the gas & descended to the lower current & came back to our own camp. This was told in the papers of the time. . . .
". . . I do not know how long after these events the balloon was used, as my career in the army was cut short & I had other cares . . . which took all my attention and time."