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‘The soldiers cluster round the blaze’ As if made for Gorden McCabe's poem, this photograph shows vividly a group of pickets in winter. Pickets were the ‘eyes’ of the army, to observe all movements made by the enemy and to give warning of the approach of any force from the direction of his lines. The particular picket here is a soldier who, after lonely outpost duty on the hilltop just beyond his companions, has returned to warm his hands over their fire. ‘It was fortunate for these boys,’ remarked a veteran, ‘that they had a little hill between themselves and the enemy so that a fire might be made without observation.’ In general, when facing the foe, pickets upon the outer lines were allowed no fires of any kind. The utmost vigilance was required, no matter what the state of the weather. In many instances during the war soldiers were found frozen to death at their posts of duty, leaning against trees, or as they had fallen while marching on their beats.


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Gorden McCabe (1)
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