Monday, June 15, 2009

Civil War Steampunk

Starting my day off with various news and tales from around the world I stumbled upon an interesting story at the not very steampunk site called CNN that truly captured my imagination before my delectable java brew had even set in! The article is 7 Civil War stories your teacher never told you and while I had honestly known no less than five and one quarter of them, the three quarters of the one tale I'd not heard saw me crank up the Anomaly Obscura Engine and set off for an early morning jaunt into the æthyr for more information.

Here's the abbreviated tale from CNN:
The Union used hot air balloons and submarines

The balloons, directed by aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe, were used to spot enemy soldiers and coordinate Federal troop movements. During his first battlefield flight, at First Bull Run, Lowe landed behind Confederate lines, but he was rescued.

The Union Army Balloon Corps got no respect from military officials, and Lowe resigned when he was assigned to serve, at a lower pay grade, under the director of the Army Corps of Engineers.

In all, the balloonists were active for a little under two years.

In contrast, the paddle-powered Alligator submarine saw exactly zero days of combat (which is why it can't officially be called the U.S.S. Alligator).

It suffered from some early testing setbacks, but after some speed-boosting tweaks, it was dispatched for Port Royal, South Carolina, with an eye towards aiding in the sack of Charleston. It was to be towed south by the U.S.S. Sumpter, but it had to be cut loose off of North Carolina on April 2, 1863, when bad weather struck.

Divers and historians are still looking for the Alligator today.

Did you know Aeronauts served in the Civil War!? Aeronaut was their actual rank in fact. The good captain was shocked! Shocked I tell you. And of course, being the gentleman that he is, our captain has returned from the æthyr with more to share than just this, for he has found dagguerotypes as those daring Aeronauts and their amazing balloons in action!

Civil War AeronautsThaddeus Lowe in the Federal observation balloon Intrepid

The Union Army Balloon Intrepid being inflated from the gas generators for the Battle of Fair Oaks

Finally, an illustration of the submarine Alligator courtesy of the Philadelphia Independence Seaport Museum, as to the best of my investigative knowledge no known images of it exist.

Simply fascinating is it not. To think, during the Civil War the orders could have conceivable been issued, "Aeronauts, man your airships and get to the skies!"

My heart flutters at the very thought....

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