Thaddeus Lowe, one of the first and best known aeronauts for the Union army, rises from the ground in Intrepid, the largest balloon in the Federal inventory. This photograph, taken on May 31, 1862, near Fair Oaks, Virginia, shows Lowe standing in the basket beneath his inflated balloon. Union soldiers below are holding onto the tethers that keep Lowe's balloon from drifting away.
Thaddeus Lowe was reportedly quite the self-promoter. He regularly invited photographers and journalists to visit his camp and to see his balloons in action. It didn't hurt that Lowe ensured that his camp was stocked with the best food and ample forage for visiting horses. Nevertheless, information gathered from Union balloons during the Seven Days campaign was sought after by Army of the Potomac generals. Reaching altitudes of 1,000 feet, aeronauts in balloons like the Intrepid could see all the way into Richmond itself, more than seven miles from this position.
When placed into a special viewer, popular during the Civil War, viewers could see images like this famous Fair Oaks balloon image in 3D.