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[188] and daybreak, when all was still and dark and mysterious. For the inexperienced soldier, with eyes and ears at extraordinary tension, the grunting of a predatory hog or the browsing of a calf was quite sufficient to create alarm.

Again, when the excitement had subsided, and eyes had grown drowsy from lack of sleep, steps among the trees would bring the sharp challenge and colloquy:

Halt! Who comes there?

“A friend.”

“Advance, friend, with the countersign.”

Sometimes the “friend” was an officer, making his rounds of inspection; sometimes a countryman who had never heard of the countersign. Occasionally the answer to the countersign was a rush of feet, a blow, and the driving — in of the outpost by a force of the foe, or by guerrillas.

The tendency of the raw recruit was to see a gray uniform behind every stump, tree, or bush, and in the early period of the Civil War, the rifle-firing by opposing pickets, especially at night, was constant and uninterrupted. Many a time, too, the lone sentinel or vedette was shot down in cold blood.

A member of one of the first organized companies of Union sharpshooters tells a story of creeping with his comrades, in the early morning hours, upon a Confederate outpost. The break of a lovely day was just showing red in the eastern sky. The range to the hostile picket was considerable, but the rifles of the sharpshooters were equipped with telescopic sights.

Through the glass, a tall, soldierly-looking cavalry officer in Confederate gray could be seen through the morning mist, sitting motionless on his black charger, admiring the dawn. The rifles were leveled; the telescopic sights were adjusted on the poor fellow's chest; the triggers were pulled in unison, and although too distant to hear a sound from the outpost, the cavalryman was seen to fall dead from his horse. To the narrator, an inexperienced New England lad, such deeds were wanton murder, and he made haste to transfer to a cavalry command,

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