Balloons & Generals in War

Week 8: Balloons & Generals in War


Read K – 3: Runaway Balloon by Burke Davis*

4 – 6:  Runaway Balloon by Burke Davis* & Read “NOTE” (see below)

7 – 8: Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War by Thomas B. Allen & Roger MacBride Allen (Read only: Chapter 5 “Riding the Wing of Battle”, & Read “NOTE” [see below])

* Unfortunately this book may be hard to find.  You may need to request it through interlibrary loan.

NOTE: “3 Important Generals”

  1. McClellan led the Union (Northern) army during the first part of the Civil War.  Strengths: He was known for organizing highly disciplined troops and his soldiers loved him. Weaknesses: Did not think highly of Abraham Lincoln.  Made poor judgements regarding the sizes of enemy armies.  Seemed reluctant to pursue battles against his enemy.  If he had been more aggressive with his troops, the Civil War may have ended years sooner.  Abraham Lincoln stated “If General McClellan does not want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a time.”  He was later removed from his position by Lincoln.  During the course of the Civil War, he ran against Lincoln for the Presidency.
  2. Robert E. Lee led the Confederate (Southern) army during the Civil War.  He was against succession. (Meaning, he was against the Southern states pulling away from the United States to start their own country.)  President Lincoln offered him command of the Federal Forces because of his excellent reputation as one of the finest officers in the country, but Lee believed he could not fight against his own state, so when he was offered a general’s position in the Confederate army, he accepted.  He also served as military adviser to the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis.  Strengths: His army became the most successful of all the Southern armies, engaging and defeating enemy troops much larger than themselves.  Weaknesses: Made poor military decisions during the battle of Gettysburg.  Despite his overall excellent military tactics, the Union army eventually wore his army down in numbers, weapons, food, clothing, etc.
  3. Ulysses S. Grant led the Union (Northern) army during the second part of the Civil War.  He became famous for his victories at Fort Donelson and Vicksburg.  In 1864 Lincoln gave him command of the entire Union army.  Grant met Lee in battle several times over the course of the next year.  Eventually Lee surrendered to Grant in 1865 at the Appomattox court house.  Strengths: Great military commander.  He became known as “Unconditional Surrender” (U.S.) Grant.  Reputation for never giving up.  Popular with the people.  He eventually became president of the United States.  Weaknesses: He was known for being a drinker.


  • Why were hot air balloons used during the Civil War? (to spy on the enemy)
  • What were some advantages of using a hot air balloon? (Could see how large enemy army was, where it was stationed, where it was moving to.)
  • What were some disadvantages of using a hot air balloon? (Balloon could be shot down; balloon could blow off course, get caught in trees, etc.)
  • Why was it harder for the Confederates to make and use balloons? (Didn’t have all the materials they needed to make them.)
    Questions for Grades 4 – 8:
  • Who was McClellan? (General of Union army during beginning of Civil War)
  • Name his strengths? (Organized disciplined troops; soldiers loved and followed him)
  • Name his weaknesses? (Reluctant to pursue battles; made poor judgements regarding the sizes of enemy armies)
  • Who was Robert E. Lee? (General of Confederate army during Civil War)
  • Name his strengths? (Most successful southern army)
  • Name his weaknesses? (Made poor military decisions during battle of Gettysburg; eventually could not beat larger, better supplied Northern army)
  • Who was Ulysses S. Grant? (General of Union army during second half of Civil War)
  • Name his strengths? (known for “Unconditional Surrender”; never giving up)
  • Name his weaknesses? (had an alcohol problem)
    Questions for Grades 7 – 8:
  • How did balloonists often communicate with their army down below? (telegraph lines)
  • Who urged Union generals to use balloonists to help in the war? (Lincoln)
  • Describe what happened when McClellan was given military information by his balloonists? (They reported the size of Confederate units and provided drawings and reports of enemy positions but he didn’t believe their information was accurate.)

Activities: K – 3:  Make own hot air balloon craft using a balloon, yarn, tape, and construction paper and these instructions from Youtube:
4 – 6: Write a short essay on the following: If you had the opportunity to fly in a hot air balloon as a soldier during the Civil War, would you have wanted to do it? Why or why not?
7 – 8: Read this internet article about General George McClellan and the quotes by and about him after the article:
Then complete the attached “McClellan” worksheet by clicking here: McClellan

Copyright February 26th, 2015 by Gwen Fredette

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Filed under Charlotte Mason, Civil War Era

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