On June 25 my husband, Ray Sheen, gave a presentation to the 16th South Carolina Volunteers, SCV Camp 36, entitled Aeronautics During the War for Southern Independence. Ray cataloged the progress of ballooning as a military technology during the war era.
One of the most famous balloonists prior to the war was Thaddeus Lowe who had done a number of experiments with balloons. Lowe had a theory that there was a strong prevailing east wind at higher altitudes above the ground-level westerly currents. He decided to try his theory out by riding his balloon from Cincinnati, Ohio, to wherever the balloon might take him. He left Cincinnati at 3:30 a.m. one morning and landed at Pea Ridge, South Carolina, only 9 hours later!
After this presentation about ballooning, camp member Buck O’Shields approached Ray and told him that he had grown up with stories about Thaddeus Lowe landing near where he lived as a child. He said there was actually a marker out where Lowe had landed and told Ray who to contact in order to find the marker. Several days later, we took a day trip out to Union to meet museum director Mrs. Ola Jean Kelly at the Union County Museum to get directions to the marker. After enjoying her informative tour of their excellent museum, we took off in quest of the marker.
Sure enough, about 10 minutes outside of town on the front lawn of a masonic lodge, there is a newly-replaced marker stating that Thaddeus Lowe had landed his balloon. Once again, South Carolina has a unique place in history!
If you would like to learn more about this little-known aspect of the war, check out the following books: War of the Aeronauts, by Charles M. Evans, and Military Ballooning During the Early Civil War, by F. Stansbury Haydon.