aerostatic reconnaisance at Mainz, 1795.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Watercolour painting by Nicolas Jacques Conte depicting an aerostatic reconnaisance outside Mainz in Germany, before it was besieged by the French army (under Lefebre) during the French Revolutionary Wars (1789-1795) in 1795. Military reconnaisance from the air was first carried out by the French at Mauberge on 2 June 1794. The balloon used in this instance, the 'Entreprenant', was also used at Mainz. The balloon was inflated with hydrogen and held in place by two cables. A 'tent-abri', a portable cover and windbreak, could also be stretched over it and pegged down to provide stability. Napoleon formed two companies of 'aerostiers', which were of both military and psychological value. Military ballooning, particularly for captive observation purposes, has continued ever since.