With reports of UFOs in the United States on the rise for the summer months of 2011, a recent bookstore find has driven interest back toward the history of aviation, and how it might have actually been changed during the American Civil War.
The bizarre find, featured late last week at the news website TheBlaze.com, detailed the curious plans of a Civil War-era dentist who had his eye on the skies... with hopes of turning the tables for the Confederate army. The inventor in question--a man named R. Finley Hunt--never managed to get the project "off the ground." Still, had his invention actually ever worked out, it would have re-written history, predating the Wright Brothers' historic flight by several decades.
At the time, Confederate president Jefferson Davis was said to have taken some interest in Hunt's steam-powered flying machine, but engineers at the time, reviewing Hunt's designs, described it as having a number of flaws. Still, it was apparently a strong consideration for at least a while, since the obvious convenience of flight used for military purposes could have repositioned the Confederate Army for victory. Thus, in addition to big changes in terms of aviation history, the history of the U.S.--where the country might have remained divided until even the present day--becomes a consideration.
But stopping to consider things a bit more, if the first use of modern aviation in armed conflict had occurred during the Civil War, thus breaking the United States into two separate countries, the world today may have been vastly different. This isn't just because of the literal state of the Union, but also the fact that spearheading the use of even crude airplanes and flying vehicles by the middle 1800s could have jump started the progression of future air-oriented innovations.
Taking things one step further, by the time many of the alleged UFO "airship" reports of the late ninteenth century would have begun to occur, Americans would have had flying vehicles already, which by that time would have been in use for decades already. Arguably, this would have reshaped the focus of at least a few of those early UFO reports from the era, thus changing our perception of modern unidentified aerial phenomenon in a variety of ways.
Or just maybe, for all we know, there actually were airships being seen back in those tender days of the ninteenth century "airship" waves... courtesy, perhaps, of inventors who liked to toy with designs for airborne transportation like Hunt did. Whether many of them got off the ground or not is, of course, a different story... but it's fun to imagine how different things might have ended up being nonetheless.