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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Mechanicsville in Hanover County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Balloons Over the Battlefield

 
 
Balloons Over the Battlefield Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, August 25, 2010
1. Balloons Over the Battlefield Marker
Inscription. “The view I had of the field of battle from the balloon for the first time that afternoon showed me how serious it was…..I was up half an hour in all, when I saw certain movements of our forces which made me hurry down and gallop up to Genl. McClellan.”
Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys, Union staff officer

From this vantage point the Chickahominy Valley opens in front of you. Before June 27, McClellan’s engineers built 10 different bridges across the Chickahominy River connecting the two wings of the Union army. Porter’s reinforcements crossed three of those bridges: Woodbury’s, Alexander’s, and the more famous Grapevine Bridge. If you had been posted here with binoculars on June 27, you would have witnessed a historical first.

Near the Union headquarters at Trent House, two miles to the south, Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe launched his balloon and observed Lee massing to attack Porter here. Closer to Richmond another balloon could be seen rising above the horizon. In its basket was famed Confederate artilleryman E. Porter Alexander, who reported the crossing of Porter’s Union reinforcements. For the first and only time during the war, both sides used aerial reconnaissance at the same time.

“My first afternoon in the balloon was during the terrible battle of Gaines’s Mill….[and]
Balloons Over the Battlefield Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, August 25, 2010
2. Balloons Over the Battlefield Marker
while I could seldom see the troops, the smoke of the firings gave a very fair idea of the action, & I saw and signalled the crossing of Slocum’s division to reinforce Porter during the action.”
Lt. Col. E. Porter Alexander, Confederate staff officer
 
Erected 2010 by Richmond National Battlefield Park.
 
Location. 37° 34.288′ N, 77° 17.705′ W. Marker is near Mechanicsville, Virginia, in Hanover County. Marker can be reached from Watt House Road 0.7 miles south of Cold Harbor Road (Virginia Route 156), on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. This marker is located on the walking trail along Boatswain Creek in the Gaines' Mill Battlefield unit of the Richmond National Battlefield Park. Marker is at or near this postal address: 6283 Watt House Road, Mechanicsville VA 23111, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mistaken Identity (here, next to this marker); The Cavalry Charge (a few steps from this marker); Watt Farm Road (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Union Rifle Pits (about 600 feet away); Wilcox’s Alabama Brigade, (about 600 feet away); Intensity of Battle (about 600 feet away); Wilcox’s Brigade, CSA (about 700 feet away); Morell’s Division, USA (about 800 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mechanicsville.
 
More about this marker. On the bottom of the panel is an illustration of the Chickahominy River valley showing the locations of several bridges and balloon positions.
 
Also see . . .
1. Old Marker at this Location. This marker replaced an older one at this location titled “The Battle Ends” (Submitted on August 25, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 

2. Richmond National Battlefield Park. (Submitted on August 25, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
3. Gaines' Mill. CWSAC Battle Summary (Submitted on August 25, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 
 
Categories. Air & SpaceWar, US Civil
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 25, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 801 times since then and 31 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 25, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.
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