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Aircraft of the American Civil War Era.

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Wingknut

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Hi folks,
Noting a few discussions of flying machines / balloons for offensive ops. of the era of the American Civil War / War Between The States, I thought I’d try to group a few references and images into one thread. See also thread on Powers 1862 rotorcraft: http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,27181.0.html

i) Charles Perley, New York: Bomb-dropping Balloon Patent (1863):
http://www.google.com/patents/US37771#v=onepage&q&f=false

"Bomb-Dropping Balloons
The Union and Confederate armies both used balloons for spying on the enemy during the U.S. Civil War, with pilot-observers onboard. At least one person—Charles Perley of New York City—imagined that they could also be used to deliver weapons. His patent dated February 24, 1863 calls for a “divided basket” which would open like a clamshell when a timed fuse expired, thereby releasing a bomb. “A balloon can be made to pass over any object, and…any-sized bomb or missile of destruction can be carried up over the place to be destroyed,” he wrote."
http://www.airspacemag.com/photos/a-brief-history-of-unmanned-aircraft-174072843/

ii) Finley Hunt’s Flying Machine, image from: http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/finley-hunts-flying-machine-93170974/?no-ist
“Dr. R. Finley Hunt's invention of a flying machine which he offered to Confederate President Jefferson Davis in 1863 and 1864”, quote from:
http://www.rrauction.com/past_auction_item.cfm?ID=3242344

iii) Richard Ogelsby Davidson’s ‘Artis Avis’.
National Geographic have a video and booklet entitled ‘Confederate Flying Machine’, which is not fully accessible from the U.K. (where I am), but which seems to be copiously illustrated with pictures of Henson’s Aerial Steam Carriage for some reason:
http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/videos/davidsons-proposal/
http://reads.lib.overdrive.com/CC3E2F9B-BB43-48E2-A4B3-9AED4379672B/10/50/en/ContentDetails.htm?id=4E15C70F-AABC-4106-9F29-0D6E35D42071
“With backing from the Confederate government, could Davidson have achieved that most ancient of human dreams … powered flight?” (Nope. Not even with backing from Darth Vader, baby … What with this and ‘Stealth’ Horten stuff, I am really not mad keen on National Geographic’s aviation history right now …)
Low-res. version of Davidson Machine from:
http://civilwartalk.com/threads/confederate-airship-the-arvis-avis.101871/
Imagine of Davidson Machine (and others) from:
http://www.inparkmagazine.com/program-reminder-confederate-flying-machine-tonight-at-800-pm-on-national-geographic-channel/

iv) Richard Ogelsby Davidson and the ‘Great Steam Duck’:
“Colonel Asbury Coward, a Citadel graduate and commander of the 5th South Carolina Infantry, Field’s (formerly Hood’s) Division, recalled Davidson’s presentation of “A miraculous invention based on the mechanism of bird flight…As an example he used the flight of the wild duck.” Coward skeptically noted that Davidson had only the vaguest of answers to his detailed questions, particularly about the power capacity of the steam engine and its ability to actually lift the device. When pressed, Davidson resorted to obfuscation, claiming that the mechanical action of the device emulated the motions of a bird. While the wings flapped, the “The stretching out and retraction of the neck overtipped this [gravity’s] balance…the result was forward motion.” Davidson offered to describe the operation of Artis Avis to Coward in detail, in the privacy of Coward’s tent, should the Colonel only subscribe funds.

Davidson had been trying to fund his invention since 1861, when he “sent a memorial to the Provisional [Confederate] Congress, then in session at Montgomery, asking assistance in behalf of my invention, with the view of employing it against our enemies…At a subsequent period a similar application was presented to that body, then assembled in [Richmond]…At a later period still another memorial was handed to a member of the House of Representatives of the Confederate States Congress, but which never was presented to that body.””
http://www.beyondthecrater.com/news-and-notes/research/individuals/the-great-steam-duck-artis-avis-and-a-nineteenth-century-con-man/

All best, ‘Wingknut’.
 

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Wingknut

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Civil-War-era flying machines, from Harper’s Weekly, January 2nd 1864:

Text description:
“The illustration includes no less than ten concepts for flying machines. One Hot Air Balloon is pictured tethered to the ground. Another is the famous Teisol system which features birds pulling the balloon along. The upper right balloon is a dirigible style system including a propeller. In the center is the Petin system which features a number of balloons connected together, holding a large observation platform aloft. People are pictured walking around the large platform. Most unusual is the Nadar system which features upward pointing propellers with no balloon at all.”
http://www.sonofthesouth.net/WEB%20Pics/flying-machines.jpg

Larger monochrome version here: http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1864/january/flying-machines.htm

Larger colour version here: http://www.printsoldandrare.com/airplanes/036air.jpg

More on the individual designs can be found here (lower right hand-hand column):
For example, on no. 9: "Nadar's "Helicoptere" is composed of two screws placed horizontally on a vertical axis",
http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1864/january/history-flying-machines-balloons.htm
 

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Wingknut

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And there's this: Edward Wellman Serrell's Reconnoiterer (or 'Reconoiterer').

"The machine would be lifted into the air by twin rotary wings set above and below the fuselage, and driven forward by propellers at the front and rear. Two large flat copper plates, each measuring nine feet in span and 45 feet, 8 inches long, were to be positioned on either side of the shell. The two plates were connected to a crank running through the fuselage, so that the crew could incline or depress the wings up to six degrees above or below the horizontal to provide additional lift.

Plans called for the fuselage to be a cigar-shaped copper shell measuring 52 feet long, with landing runners on the underside. A chamber at the bottom of the shell would serve as a reservoir for the boiler water, with a second chamber above it for the coal. A light-weight, high pressure vertical steam engine with a vertical boiler were housed in the rear of the shell. A series of moveable balls were to be used to balance the Reconnoiterer. The designer estimated the total weight at take-off, with a crew of three on board and enough water and fuel for an eight-hour flight, at 8½ tons."

http://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/multimedia/detail.cfm?id=4537

Rotor detail here:
http://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/multimedia/detail.cfm?id=4574

Attached text from: Astride Two Worlds: Technology and the American Civil War, edited by Barton C. Hacker,
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=o4NpCgAAQBAJ&dq=Astride+Two+Worlds:+Technology+and+the+American+Civil+War&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Serrell seems to have been inspired in part by this 1861 'Aerial Car' patent from Mortimer Nelson: http://www.google.com/patents/US32378
 

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Wingknut

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Luther C. Crowell Helicopter, Massachusetts, patent granted June 3rd 1862, with ideas for military applications no less:
“Crowell worked out his helicopter design just as the American Civil War was getting under way, which undoubtedly influenced his thoughts concerning possible uses for his flying machine. He suggested that it could be used for bombing purposes. "When it is desired to employ this aerial machine as an engine of war, it could be elevated, loaded with shell, and when arrived over the desired spot the shell could be discharged," he commented”,
Text and image from http://www.aviastar.org/helicopters_eng/crowell.php
Enhanced images plus more patent text here:
http://todayinsci.com/C/Crowell_Luther/CrowellLuther-Patent35437.htm

EDIT: Original patent image attached - patent here: http://www.google.com/patents/US35437
 

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Below, snapshot (from 21 seconds in) from this extract from National Geographic 'Confederate Flying Machine', showing a reconstruction of Davidson displaying a model of his flying machine to some (rather unimpressed-looking) Confederate troops. (The same extract shows a rather imaginative modern-day replica of what Davidson's machine may have looked like ...) Source:
https://vimeo.com/36905038
 

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hesham

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Re: Aircraft of the American Civil War ’66.

Very nice work my dear Wingknut.
 
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Wingknut

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Thank you very much, Hesham.
Sorry but looking again at the image I labelled ‘Davidson Flying Machine (Low Res)’ it now seems clear to me that it is the very same design shown at the bottom right of the image I labelled ‘Davidson Flying Machine (Top Right Maybe)’.
If they are the same designs top right and bottom right in the latter image and they are both due to Davidson, then great, we have two images (plan and profile) of Davidson’s machine rather than just the one (plan) but then Davidson seems just to have been one more bird-obsessive with an idea for a (pretty lousy) ornithopter. This seems to have been the general view of Davidson, I gather, which makes the National Geographic reconstruction seem even more fanciful (nay ‘steampunk’) than I thought. The talk of Davidson’s proposing an ‘Artis Avis’ (or ‘Artificial Bird’) may have been closer to literal truth than I had assumed – see below.

Anyway, here are a few more Civil War bits and bobs - the first two are just post-war (July and September 1865) but close contemporaries:

i) Scientific American July 1865. Steam Helicopter
“A flying machine of novel form is now in the process of construction at Hoboken, N.J., for the United States Government. A fan with blades of 20 feet diameter, revolving at a certain rate of speed, would raise six tons, and have considerable power to spare. It is only a child's toy upon a large scale. We see every day in the streets toy vendors who give a quick twirl with a string to a little fan upon a stick, and lo! it shoots into the air to a height of 20 or 30 feet, and descends slowly, still revolving as it comes down. The government toy—as some persons will probably call it—is a cigar-shaped canoe, built of copper, with iron ribs. The weight of the whole, fully equipped and manned, is about six tons.”
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/railways-and-subways-building-the-new-mass-transit/

And the sequel:
Scientific American September 1865 ‘Trial of the New Jersey Flying Machine.’
"We are informed that the flying machine which has been in process of construction in Jersey City, and which has been incorrectly called the Government
flying machine, as the Government had nothing to do with it, has been completed and tried. It of course failed as every body of any judgment knew that it would. They could not get it off the ground."
https://archive.org/stream/scientific-american-1865-09-23/scientific-american-v13-n13-1865-09-23_djvu.txt


ii) Scientific American September 1865 ‘A Natural Flying Machine’
“I have drawn the figure to admit the use of ten birds, estimating that each could carry twenty pounds, as it is stated that eagles often carry off lambs and kids in their talons. The circle could easily be enlarged, or another circle could be added on the outside
Baltimore, Aug. 30, 1865.”
Text from: https://archive.org/stream/scientific-american-1865-09-23/scientific-american-v13-n13-1865-09-23_djvu.txt
Image from: http://www.cornellpubs.com/Newsletters/2-16.html

iii) More on Davidson’s ‘Artis Avis’, ‘The Rebel “Bird of Art”’:
“Now, let it be supposed that this number (one thousand) of these Birds of Art were stationed at the distance of five miles from a hostile military camp, fortification, or armada of war-vessels; that each Artis avis was supplied with a fifty-pound explosive shell, and being started singly, or two or three abreast, going out and dropping those destructive missiles from a point or elevation beyond the reach of the enemy's guns, then returning to the place of departure and reloading, and thus continuing the movement at the rate of one hundred miles per hour. It will be seen that within the period of twelve hours, one hundred and fifty thousand death-dealing bombs could be thus rained down upon the foe, a force that no defensive art on land, however solid, could withstand even for a single day, while exposed armies and ships would be almost instantly destroyed, without the least chance for escape.”
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:2001.05.0093:chapter=41&highlight=artis%2Cavis

“As envisioned by Mr. Davidson, the Artis Avis, or "Bird of Art," would be a wood and wire-hoop contraption bearing some semblance to a bird. It would be powered by a one-horsepower engine and be flown by one man.
The engine was to be in the body of the bird and to furnish power for keeping the wings in motion.
A small door at the shoulder was opened or closed to control the direction of the Bird of Art. A door under the throat was opened when it was desirable to descend and a door on top of the neck when the operator wished to go higher.
There was machinery by which the tail could be spread out or closed.
In the body of the bird there was room for a number of shells, and the operator, by touching a spring with his foot, could drop them upon the enemy from a safe distance”, Source:
http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2011/07/visions-civil-war-flying-machines-drive-story-petersburg-national-battlefield8447

More on Davidson (and Powers) here:
“None of these machines were likely to fly; Davidson published his design in 1840, apparently lifting it whole from an 1833 drawing by H. Straight, another inventor, called “The Great Steam Duck.” Davidson’s fraud – and the impracticality of the original - was outed in 1841, but must have hoped no one would remember that detail a quarter-century later”, http://www.avalanchepress.com/CSAHelo.php

Extract attached from ‘In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat’ by Earl J. Hess, page 242
https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/In_the_Trenches_at_Petersburg.html?id=oTyqgowD06UC&redir_esc=y

iv) While I’m here, attached is the only image of one of Serrell’s own drawings I can find, which seems to show details of the ‘fan’ (whether meant for propeller, rotor or both I cannot tell) of the Reconnoiterer (source as above for Serrell images). I think the Reconnoiterer was effectively a compound helicopter i.e. one with separate lift and propulsion systems – as was the Powers 1862 Archimedean screw machine. Whereas the Crowell 1862 patent (if I read it aright) was designed to have tilting rotors / propellers (and interlocking ones at that) whose axes could be aligned vertically for take-off/landing or horizontally for flight, and was therefore a very early design for a convertiplane.

So thus far, we seem to have:
From the Union side, a convertiplane (Crowell), an automated bombing balloon (Perley) and a compound helicopter (Serrell).
From the Confederate side, a fixed-wing (?) aircraft (Finley Hunt), an ornithopter (Davidson) and a compound rotorcraft driven by Archimedean-screws (Powers).

Cheers, ‘Wingknut’
 

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Wingknut

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Couple more American Civil War aviation nuggets:
i) I strongly suspect this next is a contemporary cartoon on the theme of aerial transport and not a serious design (or even ‘artist’s impression’ of one) but anyway I think it’s the right period: ‘Artillería voladora del General Mac Clellan durante el avance a Richmond’, taken from Antecedentes de operaciones militares con medios aéreos hasta 1865, Eloy Martín, 2016, page 50, on-line at:
http://www.histarmar.com.ar/AVIACION/EloyMartin/Antecedentes-sobre-la-aviacion-militar-embarcada.pdf

ii) Re: the alleged ‘Davidson’ design – compare it with this Thomas Walker design (1810):
http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-ornithopter-1810ndiagram-of-thomas-walkers-ornithopter-95442673.html

iii) Finally, another Union machine: Solomon Andrews’ Flying Ship Aereon: “On August 9, 1862, Dr. Andrews wrote to US President Lincoln suggesting he could produce an aerostat to aid the armies of the Union. Constructed to demonstrate the capabilities of his invention, it was flown four times during the period from June through until September 4, 1963. Motor-less yet able to navigate against the wind using lift force and ballast to ascend and descend while traveling horizontally,” taken from:
http://chezpeps.free.fr/0/pre-1914/06-251_300-copy_paste_Breguet-Pre-1914-Aircraft-Challenge.html
See also: http://thefirstairraces.net/stuff/breguet/images/287.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_Andrews_%28inventor%29
Patent here: http://www.google.com/patents/US43449

Cheers, ‘Wingknut’
 

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Re: Aircraft of the American Civil War Era - Kinsella Rocket Airship, etc.

Few more aeronautical musings plus one (I think interesting) design for a rocket-assisted airship / balloon from the Civil War period in America:

i) A correspondent (signing as ‘Pneumatics’) waxes sceptical (‘Flying Impossible’, Scientific American, 27th August 1864, p. 135):
“The attainment of success in such attempts are at present beyond the reach of man, and it is also beyond the range of probability to suppose that future improvements will ever develop and perfect matters so that a 50-horse engine and appurtenances for flying may be reduced in weight to 150 lbs. It is only a year or two since some of the New York press had a man flying around in the air, down at Perth Amboy, or in that locality, 'and pronounced the thing a complete success-giving the particulars of his flight, stating the enthusiasm of the crowd, etc.; this is only one of the latest attempts for its successful accomplishment. In both the Old and New World much time and money, in the aggregate, has been thrown away in these attempts to accomplish an impossibility, and fresh evidence that the subject is not dead yet has suggested this letter.”

The Editors reply: “According to the above calculation a sand-hill crane that weighs 40 pounds must, in order to make its high flights, have more muscular strength than 4 horses! and 1 horse is certainly stronger than 30 sand-hill cranes. Why should the speed of the fans be limited to 66 feet per second? It is not unusual to run 6 0-inch Jan blowers 3,000 revolutions per minute, which would make the velocity at the periphery 750 feet per second, and as the resistance of the air is in proportion to the square of the velocity, this would give a pressure of 1,268 pounds per square foot, instead of 10 pounds. The subject, however, is of exhaustless interest, and let every one make public every idea which he has in relation to it - Eds”.

ii) James E. Gillespie (Pawtucket, Rhode Island) argues for a steam-driven ornithopter - September 2, 1864 letter to the Scientific American, ‘The True Plan for a Flying Machine’ (October 1864, p. 246).

iii) W. Main Jr. (of Philadelphia) seems to be one right lines though: ‘A Rolling Wheel and Flying’, October 14th 1864 letter to Scientific American, (29th October 1864, p. 278).
“A man has not the strength of a bird in proportion to his size any more than he has that of a flea, which jumps several hundred times its own length. Let any one try taking a run up the stairs of the Bunker Hill monument, and when he gets to the top he can reflect, if he feels like it, that it would take the same power to fly to that hight, even if he succeeded in applying it as advantageously as nature has done it for us, to say nothing of the weight of the flying apparatus. We must resort, then, to the tireless steam engine, if no other more powerful motor be adopted. It would be necessary to make a nice calculation, based on accurate scientific principles, of the weight of the different parts in relation to the area and speed of the propelling surfaces. If then we combine an engine designed for lightness and the consumption of petroleum, one or more large screw propellers and a pair of fiat, rigid Wings whose inclination might be varied, we will have something which might perhaps contain some of the elements of a successful flying machine.”

iv) Rocket-assisted airship / balloon patent: Arthur Kinsella, (Cascades, Washington Territory), ‘Improvement in Aerial Machines’, (3rd June 1862): http://www.google.com/patents/US35453, summarised in Scientific American (Vol. IX, 29th August 1863, p. 129):
“This invention consists in the employment or use of a gas generator and condenser, connected to a suitable cylinder by means of pipe provided with stopcocks that are alternately opened and closed by the motion of the crankshaft, in combination with fanwheels and discharge pipes passing out at the stern of the rocket-shaped balloon, and with a steering gear in such a, manner, that by the action of the fanwheel the air is forcibly driven out at the stern of the balloon, and the latter is propelled in the same manner as a rocket, and at the same time the course of the balloon can be governed at pleasure.”
https://archive.org/stream/scientific-american-1862-06-21/scientific-american-v06-n25-1862-06-21_djvu.txt

Kinsella in the same issue of Scientific American apparently advertised for contributions to the Washington Aerial Navigation Company, promising an around-the-world navigation system, (heading east) – see pages 110-11 of this "History of Rocketry and Aeronautics" volume:
http://epizodsspace.no-ip.org/bibl/inostr-yazyki/iaa/2015-2/Winter_et_al_Reaction-Propelled_Manned_Aircraft_Concepts_(1670-1900)_I.pdf

Maybe not unlike this “Aerial Machine” for Arctic exploration from 1855: “A design for a flying or aerial machine adapted for the Arctic regions, registered by Arthur Kinsella, Kilkenny, Ireland, May 1855. BT 47/4/669”, http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/inventions-didnt-change-world/
 

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Wingknut

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Just taking this thread back to where it started, i.e. Davidson's 'Artis Avis':
Sorry to sound (again) bad-tempered about National Geographic aviation reconstructions but, if I read it aright, the machine in the image below seems to be being offered as a reconstruction of Davidson’s ‘Artis Avis’ machine. Alas, the reconstruction seems to be a fixed-wing propeller-driven vehicle, whereas Davidson’s machine was an ornithopter. (Seems to me not unlike offering a 1944 Flying Fortress as a ‘reconstruction’ of something by Otto Lilienthal … except that Lilienthal’s gliders actually worked of course.) Now if the thing below is / was meant as a reconstruction of Finley Hunt’s device then it might be a bit nearer the mark … but still, informed opinion seems to have it that the Finley Hunt machine wouldn’t have flown for nuts either.

Anyway, the documentary blurb says: “Mark Ragan, author and project historian of the Hunley (a Civil War submarine), recently discovered shocking new evidence suggesting that both sides of the conflict were struggling to craft steam-powered flying machines, capable of bombing the enemy out of existence.”
http://www.nicosabenorio.com/2012/02/confederate-flying-machine.html
I know folk have to talk-up their product but “Shocking” and “new”? “Out of existence” no less? Say what?

Still, both sides clearly had rotorcraft designs on the drawing board. Finley Hunt’s steam-driven flyer seems not exactly practical but a sight better than Davidson’s flapper and the Powers' rotorcraft too really. Union proposals included a reconnaissance compound helicopter and an attack convertiplane (these two pretty implausible too I suspect), plus automated balloon-bombers, an unpowered but dirigible reconnaissance airship and a rocket-propelled transport airship.
 

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