Visions Of Civil War Flying Machines at Petersburg National Park

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For months, beginning in mid-1864 and continuing on into the following Spring, Union troops tried again and again and again to throttle the Confederacy once and for all and end America's Civil War.

From lines established near Petersburg, Virginia, and with supplies assured via a massive depot near today's Hopewell, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant embarked on a nearly 10-month siege on Petersburg with the end goal of breaking through to Richmond, the Confederate capital. It was a demoralizing time for the Confederate troops, who by February 1865 were outnumbered nearly 2-1.

If nothing else, Roderick Davidson stirred the hopes of at least some of the Confederate troops defending Richmond with his Artis Avis, a flying machine he believed could save the South.

"I was very anxious to see that man stampede the Yankee army," noted one soldier after Mr. Davidson roamed the Rebel lines at Petersburg seeking donations to enable his "bird" to take flight....

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