How S.-carried off a Federal field-officer.
I have not yet done with S-, the scout.
Still another adventure of his comes back to my memory, and this also shall proceed to be narrated.
The chosen field for the operations of the scout fraternity was, as I have said, the county of Fauquier
--not only because the enemy frequented habitually that region, but from its great adaptability to partisan manoeuvres.
Behold now, in this bloody year 1863, our friend the scout making a little excursion into the Chinquepin Territory
in search of information, adventure, spoils --whatever is calculated to charm the heart of the free ranger of the woods.
Mounted on a good fresh horse, with pistols at side, and a good stout heart to back the ready hand, the scout joyfully set forth all alone on his journey, trusting to Providence
to guide him, and to his own skill and courage for the result.
The country swarmed with the enemy; and to find out all about them, their strength, position, and probable designs, was the main object of S-in going on his scout.
If, however, any opportunity of striking a blow presented itself, he intended to avail himself of the “opening.”
As will be seen, such opportunity did present itself, and was promptly improved.
The scout reached, without adventures, the vicinity of Warrenton
, and was riding through a thick body of woods, when all at once, on turning a bend in the winding bridle-path, he
came suddenly upon a Federal Colonel
, followed by two orderlies.
The undergrowth was so thick, and the earth so soft, that he was entirely unaware of the vicinity of his foes, until the horses' heads were almost touching.
For a moment the opponents gazed upon each other motionless and in silence.
and his escort seemed to have a dim impression that the silent man before them was a foe
, and S- soon gave them good reason fbr becoming confirmed in this opinion.
His hand darted to his pistol, but for some moments he was unable to draw it. The Colonel
was busy doing the same; and, meanwhile, something like the following dialogue took place between the opponents:
.-“You are a guerilla?”
.-“Yes, I am.”
.-“What do you want?”
And with these words S-- banged away with his pistol, missing his aim, but causing the two orderlies to beat a sudden and complete retreat.
fired his pistol, and then turned his horse's head to retreat, but S-- was too quick for him. In an instant he was beside his man, and ordered him to drop his pistol and surrender.
This command was doggedly obeyed; but S— had no sooner achieved his object than he saw himself threatened with a new danger.
Horses' hoofs were heard upon the road behind him; and looking through an opening in the trees, he saw a party of Federal cavalry, who had no doubt been attracted by the report of his pistol, and were now approaching the spot at a rapid gallop, evidently bent on ascertaining the cause of the firing.
Not a moment was to be lost.
S— saw his prize about to be snatched from him, and was called upon to act with rapidity and resolution.
Cocking his pistol, which he held in his right hand, he ordered his prisoner to refrain from any outcry on peril of instant death; and then seizing the Colonel
's bridle in his left hand, he put spur to his horse and set off at a tremendous gallop — the prisoner's horse galloping beside his own.
Thus commenced the race for life.
The pursuers had evidently
described him and comprehended his intention, for they uttered loud shouts, calling on him to stop or they would fire.
The scout laughed his grim laugh.
It was probable that such a threat would influence him!
He had long cultivated a contempt for bullets issuing from carbines levelled by cavalry; and if the coolest and most experienced marksmen, firing from a rest, had menaced him, the effect would have been the same with him. Even if his soul had not scouted the thought, surrender
was out of the question; and, instead of slackening his gait, he put spurs to his horse, flying even faster, and carrying along with him the Colonel
, whose bridle was still grasped in his inexorable hand.
The pursuers howled with rage and followed like wolves upon his track.
Every moment they seemed gaining on him, and the Colonel
's countenance began to indicate a lively anticipation of rescue.
But to aid his friends seemed hopeless.
S— had him completely in his power.
Whenever he turned his eyes toward the scout as they sped on, the grim muzzle of a pistol met his view; and the expression of the scout's countenance but too plainly proved that he would hesitate at nothing.
If anything was certain, this was, that S— had determined to bring him out of the lines a prisoner, or leave him dead; and the Colonel
, like an intelligent man, did not venture to raise his hand, or make any open efforts to assist his friends and effect his release.
The pursuers still thundered on the track of the scout and his prisoner; and the two horsemen continued to fly at headlong speed.
They passed out of the woods across an open space, and into the woods again.
All trace of a road, except a narrow bridlepath, was now lost, and the trunks of the trees grew so close together that it was difficult for the pursuers to follow them except in single file.
This it was soon obvious they were doing, for the shouts were again close upon the track of the fugitives; and the near approach of his friends induced the prisoner to undertake a ruse
on his own part, to assist them in their exertions.
This he proceeded to do as follows.
The wood, as I have said, was very dense, and the trees so close together as to make it difficult for S and his companion to pass along the narrow bridle-path abreast between the trunks.
On this circumstance the
based his hopes of delaying the flight of himself and S— , and thus giving time to his friends to come up.
They were passing at this moment through a very narrow space; there was scarce room for more than a single horse; and on the side of the Colonel
, that is, the left side, a stout tree-trunk made it necessary to incline his horse's head to the right, and draw in his knee well to the saddle, to avoid scaping against the trunk in passing.
It was the Colonel
's object now to pass to the left
of this tree; and then force S— , as he passed on the right
of it, to loose his hold of the prisoner's bridle, who might then suddenly check his horse, wheel round, and so escape.
No sooner was this ruse
determined on than it was attempted.
By violently turning his horse's head to the left, and digging his right heel into the animal's flanks, the Federal
officer endeavoured to interpose the tree between them, and so accomplish his purpose; but S— was too quick for him. The scout was not one to be outgeneralled by so simple and transparent a device.
No sooner had the Colonel
jerked his bridle to the left, than the scout counteracted his plan by still more violently jerking it toward himself, and forcing the animal to dart by between
himself and the tree, instead of upon the opposite side.
The consequence was, that the Colonel
's knee crashed against the trunk; his foot was dragged out of the stirrup, and his boot nearly torn from his leg, which was painfully bruised and lacerated.
He had no sooner regained his seat in the saddle than the low tones of S— , supported by a levelled pistol, were heard warning him that a repetition of that manoeuvre, or any attempt to escape whatever, would be followed by his instant death.
Having communicated this warning with an accent of voice that satisfied the listener that the speaker was ready, and even desirous to carry out his threat, S— again darted on, still followed by the Federal
No further effort was made by the prisoner to escape, and the pursuers began gradually to relax the ardour of the chase; but all at once a new danger presented itself.
Directly in front of them was a large camp; and to S—‘s rapid questions, the Colonel
replied that the camp before them was his own
. Realize now, reader, the full comedy of the “situation.”
S --was charging at a thundering gallop the camp of a full Federal regiment, with scores of the men lounging about the opening of the tents; and by his side, a prisoner, was the Colonel
of the regiment, charging, somewhat unwillingly, with his captor!
This is not the fancy of a romance-writer, inventing the odd contrasts of comedy for the amusement of his readers, but an occurrence which really took place just as is here stated.
The scout was, however, equal to the occasion.
Not only did he unhesitatingly charge upon
the camp, but through
it. No other course was left; but even if the choice had been possible, this — the boldest — was the safest.
It was necessary to take the enemy completely by surprise; and having informed his prisoner that at the first outcry which he made, a pistol bullet would be sent through his heart, he dug the spur into his horse's side, dragged his companion on, and before the thoughtless loungers of the camp realized the truth, had darted through unopposed, and was racing with his prisoner far beyond pursuit.
Once in the woods again, S- was comparatively safe.
There was no cavalry near, and the slow infantry could not follow the rough rider and his captive.
To the latter S- now coolly turned, and demanded his name and regiment.
The reply was a sullen refusal to give the required information, and the scout saw that “coercion” was absolutely necessary to attain his object.
He accordingly crossed the pistol which he held in his right hand in front of his breast, covered the prisoner's heart, and said politely:
Colonel, I asked you your name, and the number and State of your regiment.
“I refused to give it.”
“If you do not, I will kill you.”
This response admitted of no reply.
The officer looked at his captor, saw that he was quite in earnest, and replied:
My name is Colonel — , and my regiment is the--Pennsylvania.
“All right, Colonel
; I see we understand each other.
wish you would tell me anything you know that will interest me.”
And laughing in his low fashion, the scout rode on with his prisoner, whose good-humour gradually began to return.
To explain this, it may be conjectured that S— had not upon this occasion encountered a very desperate son of Mars
, but a philosopher who contemplated the probabilities of an early exchange, and submitted gracefully to his fate.
In an hour the scout and his prisoner had become quite sociable.
“That was a daring act of yours,” said the Colonel
, “and you have got out of this thing well.”
“I rather think so, Colonel
“I ought to have been more on my guard.
Well done-yes, very well done; especially going through my camp!”
It will be seen that the two had grown quite friendly, and this amicable understanding continued uninterrupted.
S-- had long since returned'to the black leather holster that impolite instrument first directed at his companion's breast, and they rode on together in the friendliest manner imaginable, still keeping in the woods.
Night thus surprised them; and no house being visible, a proceeding took place which will seem to display the entente cordiale
between S— and his companion.
They were both sleepy; they determined to bivouac; and the scout simply took his prisoner's parole not to attempt escape.
Five minutes afterwards they were sleeping side by side.
Rising at daylight, they proceeded on their way, and in a few hours S— was within the Confederate
lines with his prisoner.