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Whimsical. Colorful. Recreational. Quaint. If you've only encountered balloons in modern contexts, you may struggle to imagine one striking fear in a soldier's heart. But in fact, balloons were a formidable presence for a few years of the Civil War, used for surveillance and reconnaissance primarily by the Union but also by the Confederacy. Here are nine things you need to know about this surprising military technology.
Sawbones. Crazy Bet. Killer Angel. These are just some of the names of beers that today bear names inspired by the Civil War. Along with historical names, breweries throughout the nation have also chosen Civil War inspired locations or recipes, and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine has even teamed up with a brewery to create its own unique, history-themed beer. It is tempting to think that this easy relationship between beer and these people and places dates back to the war itself.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the colony, and later state, of Virginia was dominated socially, economically and politically by the owners of large tobacco plantations. It was from among this class of American aristocrats-wealthy (though often in debt), slave owning, ardently anti-British-that the leaders of the American Revolution, and ultimately, four of the first five U.S. presidents came.
By many measures — duration, geographic spread of the fighting, number of troops engaged — Brandywine was the biggest battle of the Revolution. The loss at Brandywine cost the fledgling nation its capital, but it earned new respect for troops determined to fight on to ultimate victory.
Once upon a time, hot air balloons were used as spy vessels, female militias wielded pitchforks, and Southern soldiers battled one another in epic snowball fights. Turns out American history is full of surprises.