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[196]

This assumption of the Confederate uniform, giving these soldiers the character of spies, caused Sheridan's scouts to be more or less disliked by the Cavalry Corps, and it has been stated on good authority that they were frequently fired upon deliberately by their own side, under the pretense of being taken for the foe. These scouts literally took their lives in their hands, and it required all their ready wit to escape being killed or captured by either the one side or the other. But the independence of the service, its constant risk, as well as patriotic impulses in the case of many, fascinated and appealed to a certain class of men, and they kept Sheridan well informed at all times.

The specially selected scouts of the Federal armies usually were mounted on the best available horses, and were furnished fresh remounts whenever occasion required — or they helped themselves to what the country afforded. The best scouting was done by cavalry troopers working in pairs, on the principle that two pairs of eyes are better than one pair. So in case of surprise, at least one scout might escape.

Sheridan's scouts were usually excellent pistol shots, and were encouraged to carry several revolvers in their belts or saddle holsters. They carried no sabers lest the rattle of scabbards or the gleam of bright metal attract the attention of the Southern scouts and betray their presence. The most experienced scouts traveled light. Many times they were forced to ride for their lives, and an extra pound or two made a difference in the weight-carrying speed of their horses. They usually left their grain and clothing in the headquarters' wagons, and managed to live off the country.

Sheridan's disguised scouts became expert in picking up the stragglers of the opposing army and in questioning them, and even went to the extent of riding around the Confederate columns and wagon trains. If detected, their fleet horses usually put considerable distance between them and their pursuers, but they were ever ready to shoot, and instances have been recorded of one of their number holding off four men.

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Philip Henry Sheridan (4)
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