Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/37

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Balloon Used for Scout Duty in C. S. A. 33


The story is given as told by Captain Bryan. He says:

"I was a young man at the time the events here mentioned tran- spired, and was serving as clerk in the Adjutant-General's office and acting as aide-de-camp to Major-General J. B. Magruder, then commanding the Army of the Peninsula, near Yorktown, Va. In the spring of 1862, when jGeneral McClellan, of the Union Army, decided to make his advance on Richmond by the Peninsu- la route, with his two flanks guarded by gun-boats, he found Gen. Magruder entrenched across the Peninsula at Yorktown, from the York to the James river. Hardly had McClellen made his ap- pearance when General Johnston, with the Army of Northern Vir- ginia, came to the relief of Magruder, who with but a few thousand men. was holding the Union army in check. The line across the Peninsula was an irregular one, being made to follow the contour of some streams and mill dams which greatly strengthened their posi- tions. Magruder's headquarters were at Yorktown, while Joseph E. Johnston took up his headquarters at Major Lee's house, nearer the James River, some miles farther along the line from York riv- er. General Johnston had brought down with him from Richmond what I believe to be the first balloon used for millitary service during the war. It was nothing but a big cotton bag, coated over so as to make it air-tight, and intended to be inflated with hot air, as gas was a thing not to be had in those days and in those places. After being on the Peninsula for some days, General Johnston wrote to General Magruder, requesting him to detail some one who was thoroughly acquainted with the country, and who was capable of forming a correct opinion as to the number and character of the troops in front of him, in order that he might be assigned to do duty with General Johnston. This order, coming from General Johnston's headquarters, passed through my hands, as I was chief clerk in Magruder's Adjutant- General's office, and being young, and, I fear, of a dare-devil spirit, and supposing that an assignment to this duty would bring me prominently into notice, and probably offer some opportunity for distinguishing myself (for since child- hood I had been thoroughly familiar with all that section of country, and felt myself competent as to the other requirements). I therefore at once asked that I might be detailed for this service."