Genesee Country Village & Museum’s Civil War-era balloon replica, launched in 2012 during the Civil War Sesquicentennial, became the subject of a made-for-television documentary.
The Intrepid: Discovering Lincoln’s Balloon Corps recounts the birth—and eventual demise—of the Union Army Balloon Corps and the effort of the museum to build a working replica of what was once the corps’ largest balloon.
The production, narrated by Peter Coyote, is the work of local filmmakers Matthew and Malcolm Spaull for Northlight Productions.
It is available in the museum gift shop and on line.
Conceived by Professor Thaddeus Lowe, the idea of a balloon corps immediately caught Abraham Lincoln’s fancy in 1861 and proved a critical advantage to the North during the Civil War, as the pilot telegraphed information on troop movements, artillery instructions, etc., to the ground.
With historical guidance from GCVM and a team of prominent advisors including Smithsonian senior curator Tom Crouch; NASA’s Jim Green, a balloon enthusiast; and Civil War Trust director Rob Shenk, the museum entrusted the construction of the balloon to AeroBalloon Inc. of Hingham, Mass.
Separate builders were located to re-create the basket and the intricate webbing that fastens it to the balloon. Southern Virginia muralist Todd Price gave the balloon its signature portrait of then-popular Gen. George McClellan.
While historically balloons were inflated with hydrogen, the modern Intrepid uses the safer helium. Just two weeks before its inaugural flight, the Intrepid looked like it would be grounded due to a world-wide helium shortage. But Macy’s, the nation’s second-largest user of the gas, delivered a last-minute miracle—50,000 cubic feet of helium.
So on July 4, 2012, on the 150th anniversary of the initial flight of the original Intrepid, GCVM successfully launched its 72-foot replica.
Eventually, the balloon documentary is expected to be broadcast nationally.
Except for special events,
GCVM is now CLOSED
for the season and will
re-open May 13, 2017.