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"Napoleon's balloon corps?" Topic

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green beanie21 Feb 2021 6:19 a.m. PST

I recently found out that the French in 1794 had a balloon corps and used them in combat in Belgium. I have searched the web and found drawings of the balloons used but not the equipment to inflate them. Were wagons used like the Union army had for their balloon corps? Were a grounded unit inflate them? I could use your help and if you know of drawings of what inflated them, please let me know. As always, thanks in advance for the help.

Prince of Essling21 Feb 2021 7:27 a.m. PST

Les aérostiers militaires
Author: Espitallier, Georges
Publisher Paris, H. Lecéne et H. Oudin
Publication date 1889



Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2021 5:10 p.m. PST

Nice link, PofE. I really like the Courcelle print.

Thanks for sharing.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2021 2:16 a.m. PST

If you search "Balloon" as a title in TMP you will find much to help.

I asked about this years ago and learnt much;

TMP link

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2021 4:07 a.m. PST

In 1814 Lazare Carnot when defending Antwerp as a recently promoted general of division, 'had a balloon manufactured' which allowed the defenders 'to look down on the [allied] lines.'

It was also Carnot who changed the French engineer arm from a staff organization to a combat arm in October 1793 by creating twelve battalions of sapeurs du genie and transferring the miners from the artillery to the engineers.

While defending Antwerp, Bernadotte sent his adc under a flag of truce in an attempt to have Carnot surrender. Carnot's reply was a blunt refusal with the added comment directed at Bernadotte: '…a prince, born a Frenchman, who knows so much about the standards of honorable conduct.'

Davout was not the only French commander who distrusted Bernadotte and held him in contempt.

von Winterfeldt22 Feb 2021 5:47 a.m. PST

Nabulieone had a balloon corps with him in Egypt, but I am unaware that he had those in his French empire days.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2021 6:21 a.m. PST

The balloon in Antwerp was Carnot's, not Napoleon's.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2021 9:47 a.m. PST

Interesting plate.

Green Tiger22 Feb 2021 11:15 a.m. PST

A balloon called Entrepenant was used at Fleurus in 1794. The French general Jourdan reported that the information it provided was utterly useless – perhaps that is why the unit was disbanded?

Oliver Schmidt Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2021 11:18 a.m. PST

A French balloon named Intrépide was taken by the Austrians in 1796 near Würzburg:


Prince of Essling22 Feb 2021 1:24 p.m. PST

Les aérostiers militaires en Egypte: Campagne de Bonaparte, 1798-1801
by Marc Villiers du Terrage, baron de
Publication date 1901
Publisher G. Camproger
PDF link

raylev322 Feb 2021 6:28 p.m. PST

Bottom line is the French Army had a few balloons early in the revolutionary period, but Napoleon didn't use them.

Napoleon sped up the pace of warfare and the set up time for the balloons was too much; essentially they couldn't keep up with what was going on on the ground. They might have worked for that more static battles and sieges in earlier periods.

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