Confederate Army's Struggle For Intelligence

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Hot air balloons set the Precedent for Information Collection. Understanding a need for intelligence on the Confederate Army’s strength and disposition President Abraham Lincoln commissioned Thaddeus Lowe to use hot air balloons for surveillance. In 1861, Lowe created the Balloon Corps to provide aerial surveillance of Confederate troops for the Union Army (Gould, 2016). The Balloon Corps flew thousands of surveillance missions in support of the Union Amy until its dismantling in 1863.
The Balloon Corps flew tethered and untethered missions attempting to gain situational understanding of confederate troops and positions. Untethered missions were rare, as flights were unpredictable due to atmospheric conditions. Tethered missions further developed from ground tethers to tethers on naval vessels allowing observers the opportunity to view a larger area. These flights ascended five hundred feet and allowed a fifteen-mile observation radius and depending on conditions, a thirty-mile radius while utilizing telescopes (Knight, 2004).
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The Union Army’s ability to see troop movement miles in advance, figure the approximate disposition of enemy forces, predict avenues of approach gave commanders better situational awareness. The Balloon Corps forced the Confederate Army to attempt to mask movement causing large delays in planned operation (Knight, 2004). However, the hot air balloons were targets for enemy mortar fire. As mortars did not reach the balloons, they fell on the headquarters company that accompanied the balloon in order to disseminate

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