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Home > Civil War Sesquicentennial > Joseph Wilson Transcript

Joseph Wilson Transcript

Prof.Lowe’s Balloon
Richmond

June 15, 1862

Dear Father& Mother:

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well, and hope that these few lines will find you and the rest of the family enjoying the same great blessing. I will try to give you an idea of the duty that we have to do here on the balloon, and as you wished to know if I was exposed any more danger here than I should be in Regiment #3, I will just say that we are not, although we are in some danger. It consists of bomb shells. We very often get a few shells from the Rebs when the balloon is up, but as yet, they have not done any danger.

When we first came to the place where we now are, for the first two nights we were outside of our pickets, but everything was quiet, Now I will try and give you an idea of what we have to do and how we manage.

In the first place, we are encamped in the edge of a grove and near by is a deep gulch where we keep the balloon anchored down with 35 bags of sand that weight 50 to 75 pounds apiece, and when it is calm we take her and carry her up on the hill near by and unhook the bags and attach 4 ropes, a thousand feet long, which are coiled down in tubs and then slack away on them, and up she goes. Sometimes higher than others, but never over a thousand feet.

The day of the battle of Fair Oaks, she was up fifteen times, and then there has to be a guard kept over the Prof's tent and another over the Balloon which consists of one man at a time, which stands an hour apiece, Now I suppose you would like to know how we manage to make gas. Well we have two tanks which will hold twenty hogsheads and they are all on wheels, so we can move them where ever we want to and as we have to use considerable water we set them near some stream and move the Balloon within 20 feet of them, and have gutapercha (sic) pipe leading from one to the other. Then we put in iron blueings (sic) which they get from the foundries and then we put in a lot of water and then we put in oil of vitriol which makes the gas. Well as I have to go on guard, I will close for the present.

Well, I have just come off guard, so I will finish my letter. It generally takes four to six hours to inflate the Balloon. Well, as there isn't much more room, I will have to bring this letter a close, and please give my love to all and accept the love of your son,

J.B. Wilson