Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/43

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

Balloon Used 'for Scout Duty in C. S. A. 39

and that General Johnston was very anxious to ascertain in what direction the move was to be made, and whether their troops were advancing- upon more than one point. It was at this time near the full moon and the nights were as bright, almost as day. As soon, therefore, as the balloon was inflated I jumped into my bas- ket, feeling quite at ease, as I had already made two ascensions, and as this was to be a night trip, I had but little fear of discovery and of being fired on, especially as the enemy were now in motion, and when marching could not so well arrange for this artillery serv- ice. But there was a still greater danger upon which I had never calculated. The Confederate troops, almost to a man, had never seen a balloon, and each time that I went up they crowded around the balloon squad to watch this novel performance, and amused themselves by making many and varied remarks, which were not very complimentary upon the whole business and myself in par- ticular. On this occasion the balloon, shining in the bright fire- light, attracted a larger crowd than usual, and the crew in charge had great difficulty in keeping them back out of their way, so they could properly perform their work. I therefore entered the basket and gave the signal to rise, feeling, as- 1 have said, unusually com- fortable, and I had ascended about two hundred feet when, all at once, without any warning, the balloon was jerked upward as if by some great force for about two miles, so it seemed to me. I was breathless and gasping, and trembling like a leaf from fear without knowing what had happened beyond the surmise that the rope which held me to the earth had broken. What had actually occurred I afterwards found was this: One of the soldiers who was drawn by curiosity to see the balloon ascend had crowded, with the others, too near, and had unwittingly stepped into the coil of rope, one end of which was attached to the balloon, which, before he could step out again, tightened around his leg and be- gan pulling him up to the windlass, whereupon he screamed loudly, and one of his friends seized an axe and cut the rope, re- leasing him, but also releasing me. Now, there I was, feeling as if I was a couple of miles up in the air, absolutely helpless, with no idea of how to manage my runaway steed, and with every prospect that I would eventually very reluctantly land in the enemy's lines, which meant a long term of imprisonment, or else that my balloon would come down in the Chesapeake Bay, with no means of my regaining the shore, which perhaps meant being