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[186]

Outposts and cavalry pickets.

An army on the march is protected from surprise and annoyance by advance, rear, and flank guards, or by independent cavalry scouting far to the front until contact with the enemy is established. When it halts, its security is maintained through outposts, instructed to observe the front and flanks while it sleeps, and to act as a barrier to the entrance of patrols and spies, or to resist strenuously any sudden and unexpected advance of a hostile force.

Outpost duty, therefore, is most important, not alone as a protective measure, but because deductions from many campaigns have shown that troops which suffer continuously from many night alarms either lose nerve or become indifferent, so that, in either case, discipline and efficiency suffer.

In the Federal armies, outpost or picket duty in the presence of their enterprising adversaries was ever fatiguing, nerveracking, and dangerous. Organizations went on picket for twenty-four continuous hours, and, in the cavalry, horses at the advanced posts remained saddled and bridled for hours at a time, ready for instant use. Except by the supports and reserves, the lighting of fires and cooking of food, when in close contact with the Confederates, were forbidden, but many a strip of bacon and occasionally a stolen chicken were fried surreptitiously in a safe hiding-place. Although a farmhouse was oftentimes available, horses and troopers were usually without shelter, and this, in rainy or freezing weather, made outpost duty an uncomfortable, if not a thrilling, experience.

The nervous period for the vedette was between midnight

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