The Confederate Army wanted to build this helicopter during the Civil War.

It was an idea so crazy it just might work. Or not. During the Civil War an engineer in Alabama wanted to counter against Union blockades by building helicopters. The idea never got off the ground, as it were, but he did build this incredible model.


From the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum:

In 1862, most of the ports of the Southern states were completely blockaded by Union naval forces, choking off much needed supplies and commerce. William C. Powers was an architectural engineer living in Mobile, Alabama, and personally saw the effects of the Northern blockade. Powers knew that the southern states did not have enough ships to break the blockade with naval power, and going through the blockade was full of risks. William Powers saw another way to crush the blockade – attack it from the air.

Below you can read more about the plans for this crazy Confederate helicopter that never was.

Imagine If This Crazy Confederate Helicopter Had Actually Been Able to Fly

Back in the 1860s, repeating rifles were a pretty new development. There was a still a lot of horse-riding and open field-fighting. And the Ashokan Farewell played under everything. But the south had a high tech trick under its sleeve. A good old-fashioned whirlybird.


Developed by engineer William C. Powers, who lived in Mobile Alabama, this 1860s beast was intended to fly over the Union Navy and give them a pummeling Confederate ships just couldn't pull off. Like the concept of Da Vinci fame, the airship would have relied on Archimedean screws (four, in fact) to provide lift and thrust, with a rudder for steering

The idea was plagued with problems though, from the lack of a thorough understanding of aerodynamics to the absence of an engine powerful enough to take it off the ground. As such it never made it past model form. The National Air and Space Museum has more on the 'copter, including some of the early plans. You are now excused to go write your historical fiction. [The National Air and Space Museum via Slate]

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