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The risk taken by the despatch bearers of both armies, when occasion demanded, is well illustrated in the story of the fate of private William Spicer, of the Tenth Missouri Cavalry, who undertook to carry an order through the Confederate lines while Sherman was conducting his campaign in Mississippi. The cavalry of General Smith, numbering nearly seven thousand men, had been detached from the remainder of the army and sent away along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, with orders to join the army near Meridian, on February 10, 1864.

Meanwhile, the main body had marched to Meridian, and there Sherman waited for Smith until the 18th, without receiving any tidings of the missing troopers. Then the remainder of the Federal cavalry, under Winslow, was ordered to scout twenty miles toward the direction from which Smith was expected, and to convey new orders to him. Winslow's forces reached their objective point at Lauderdale Springs, and still no news had been heard of Smith.

Scouts that traveled far into the surrounding country obtained no further news. As Winslow's orders allowed him to go no farther, he abandoned the search, but it was necessary that Smith receive Sherman's orders, and a volunteer was called for to carry the despatch through a country occupied by Forrest's cavalry, and other portions of Polk's army. The messenger would be forced to locate Smith in whatever manner he could, and then to reach him as quickly as possible.

From many volunteers, Private Spicer was finally chosen. He was an Arkansas man, and as many Confederate troops had been enlisted there, he was less likely to be suspected than a man from any of the Northern States. Spicer considered all the features of the case, and his final decision was to risk detection in the gray uniform of a Confederate. The Federals were supplied with uniforms taken from prisoners and captured wagons, which were kept for use in such an emergency

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