Acclaimed Historian Portrays Civil War Balloonist at Civil War Roundtable, Sept. 11

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The Southern Maryland Civil War Roundtable’s inaugural meeting will feature acclaimed Civil War historian Kevin Knapp as Thaddeus Lowe, chief aeronaut of the Army of the Potomac’s Balloon Corps at 7 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the College of Southern Maryland’s La Plata Campus, Center for Business and Industry (BI) Building, Chaney Enterprises Conference Room (Room 113), 8730 Mitchell Road, La Plata.

 Knapp, a retired Army officer, is a professional balloon pilot serving on the Balloon Federation of America Board and is a Civil War Balloon Corps enthusiast. He has owned and operated the modern army balloon since 1993. In 2006, Knapp was the co-pilot for the winning team of the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race flying from Albuquerque, N.M. to Citra, Fla., a distance of 1,478 miles, with a time of 60 hours and 45 minutes.

Portraying Thaddeus Lowe, Knapp has been featured at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, as well as at various National Park Service venues. He was also a contributor to The History Channel’s “Man, Moment and Machines” segment on Civil War ballooning called “Lincoln’s Flying Spy Machine.”

Balloons were used for surveillance and reconnaissance during the Civil War by the Union Army from 1861 through 1863 and by the Confederate Army in 1862. The North made more than 3,000 ascensions with seven balloons and the South made less than 10 ascensions with two balloons. Southern Maryland played a major role in Civil War ballooning as Lowe made his first ascension in Charles County in 1861 when he made reconnaissance of the Confederate positions along the Potomac River in Virginia.

            The program is open to the public. For additional information, contact Southern Maryland Roundtable President Dr. Brad Gottfried at or 301-934-7625.

The roundtable will host monthly meetings, the second Tuesday of every month from September through May, and will feature a guest speaker, usually an author or historian, who will present an aspect of the Civil War followed by group discussion. Attendees with an interest in the Civil War will be asked to join the Roundtable for an annual fee of $30 to defray the cost of speakers, newsletters and field trips.