“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Falls Church, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Taylorís Tavern

Professor Lowe's Balloons

Taylor's Tavern Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 12, 2007
1. Taylor's Tavern Marker
Inscription.  At the beginning of the war, Union commanders were uncertain of Confederate intentions and military capabilities. On June 22, 1861, civilian balloonist Thaddeus S.C. Lowe inflated his racing balloon Enterprise at the Washington Gas Company to demonstrate its potential in obtaining military information about Confederate troop movements. With the assistance of a 15-man army detachment, he walked the balloon to Taylor's Tavern at the edge of Union territory on the Falls Church heights. On June 24-25, Lowe made several tethered ascents, the first aerial reconnaissance in American military history.

Over a 34-day period in late summer, Lowe made 23 flights from Fort Corcoran and Ball's Cross Roads (present-day Ballston). These ascents drew the first rifled artillery fire at a balloon from Confederate positions. In September, he implemented another first when he used signal flags to direct artillery fire from a balloon at the area of Falls Church where Confederate J.E.B. Stuart's troops were celebrating their commander's promotion to Brigadier General. On September 29, the Confederates withdrew to the south and west.

Appointed Chief
Marker inside Fort Taylor Park image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 12, 2007
2. Marker inside Fort Taylor Park
of the newly formed U.S. Army Aeronautical Corps, Lowe commanded seven balloons, eight aeronauts and 12 portable generators used to inflate the balloons. Lowe was replaced in May 1863 and the Corps rapidly disintegrated.
Erected by Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Defenses of Washington, and the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
Location. 38° 52.492′ N, 77° 9.516′ W. Marker is in Falls Church, Virginia. Marker can be reached from the intersection of North Roosevelt Street and East Broad Street (Virginia Highway 7), on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Located inside Fort Taylor Park, and reached by a short, but in places steep, walking trail around the high ground at the east corner between North Roosevelt and East Broad Streets. Marker is in this post office area: Falls Church VA 22046, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Falls Church (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Taylorís Tavern (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Fairfax Chapel (about 500 feet away); Tallwood (approx. 0.2 miles away); Dulin Methodist Church (approx. 0.3 miles away); Fort Buffalo
Seven Corners Today image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 12, 2007
3. Seven Corners Today
This busy Northern Virginia intersection is the site of Professor Lowe's balloon reconnaissance. During the Civil War roads from Arlington, Alexandria, Centreville, and Leesburg converged here forming a strategic intersection. Federals needed to know details of Confederate troop concentrations here and nearby Bailey's Crossroads in order to plan the first movements down the Orange and Alexandria Railroad towards Manassas Junction. The movement lead to the First Battle of Manassas in July 1861.
(approx. 0.3 miles away); Wrenís Tavern (approx. 0.4 miles away); Turnpike Tollgate (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Falls Church.
More about this marker. Three pictures help the marker interpret the site. On the upper left is a photograph of Taylor's Tavern from 1862. The center-right of the marker is a drawing of "Professor Lowe's balloon reconnaissance of the enemy's position near Fairfax, Va." June 24, 1861, from The New York Illustrated News, July 12, 1861. The drawing is complemented by an illustration, based on a 1995 postage stamp, of "Thaddeus Sobieski Coulincourt Lowe, August 20, 1832 - January 16, 1913, Chief, U.S. Balloon Corps, August 1861 - May 1863."
Also see . . .
1. The Balloons With The Army Of The Potomac. Report filed by Professor Lowe later in the war, detailing balloon operations around Richmond in 1862. (Submitted on October 8, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 

2. War of the Aeronauts: The History of Ballooning in the Civil War. by Allan W. Howey, Air & Space Power Journal, Fall, 2003 (Submitted on October 8, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 

3. Professor Lowe Flies High in Falls Church. (Submitted on June 28, 2011, by Steven Berkowitz of Annnandale, Virginia.)
Additional comments.
1. Civil War Innovations
The American Civil War is noted by many historians as introducing many new technologies to military practice. Interesting is the rapid countermeasures and follow on innovation of the balloon. As noted on the marker, shortly after the first balloon assents, the first "anti-balloon" cannons attempted to shoot down the areonauts, as the first anti-aircraft weapons of war. Furthermore, once the advantage of height of the balloon was realized, the platform was used to instruct artillery gunners how to fire upon targets they could not directly see, presaging modern indirect fire methods. Lastly, not mentioned on the marker, Confederates in the area adopted tactics to conceal and mask movements using decoy troop formations, generating dust clouds, or simply moving by night. Similar tactics are still employed today to avoid observation from above.
    — Submitted October 8, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.

Categories. War, US Civil
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Credits. This page was last revised on November 5, 2018. This page originally submitted on October 8, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 3,793 times since then and 39 times this year. Last updated on April 7, 2011, by Jonathan Carruthers of Bealeton, Virginia. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on October 8, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
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