There is a description of invaluable service, says Benj. F. Taylor in his entertaining letters, requiring the coolest courage, and the clearest head and the quickest wit of any soldierly duty, but which, from its nature, seldom appears in print. I refer, of course, to the achievements of the scout. He passes the enemy’s lines, sits at his camp fire, penetrates even into the presence of the commanding General; he seems a Tennesseean, a Georgian, an Irishman, a German–anything indeed but what he really is; if he falls, no friendly heart can ever know where; his grave is nameless. I might name a soldier from Illinois who has thus gained information of the greatest moment, and whose dangers and daring would make a chapter of romance.
Women not invariably any “better than they should be” have always been employed to persuade information out of unsuspecting, but not unsuspected persons, and they bring a degree of tact and shrewdness into play that hirsute humanity can never hope to equal. Many a wasp has been caught with their honey of hypocrisy. Take an illustration: A subordinate Federal officer in a certain city within this department had been long suspected of disloyalty, but no proof to warrant his arrest could be obtained, and so, as a dernier resort, a woman was set at him. She smiled her way into his confidence, and became his “next best friend;” but finding that ears were of no use,–for he could not be induced to say one word of matters pertaining to his office,–she changed her plan of attack, and turned a couple of curious, and, as I am told, beautiful eyes upon him. Not unfrequently he would ride out of town into the country, be absent three or four hours, and return. For all the hours of the twenty-four, but just these, she could account. Within them, then, lay the mischief, if mischief there was; and she began to watch if he made any preparations for these excursions. None. He loaded his old-fashioned pistol, drew on his gloves, lighted a cigar, bade her a loving good by–“only that, and nothing more.” Was he deep and she dull? Time would show. At last, she observed that he put an unusual charge into the pistol, one day, and all at once she grew curious in pistols. Would he show her some day how to charge a pistol, how to fire a pistol, how to be a dead shot? And just at that minute she was athirst, and would he bring her a lemonade? She was left toying with the weapon, and he went for the drink as requested. The instant the door closed behind him, she drew the charge, for she knew as much of pistols as he, and substituted another. She was not a minute too soon, for back he came, took the pistol, and rode away. No sooner had he gone than she set about an examination of the charge, and it proved to be plans and details of Federal forces and movements, snugly rolled together. The mischief was in the pistol, then, though none but a woman would have thought of it; and so it was that he carried information to his rebel friends with rural proclivities. The woman’s purpose was gained, and when the officer returned, his “next best friend” had vanished like an Arab or a vision, and he had hardly time to turn about before he was under arrest. Admiring the adroitness of the achievement, we cannot help regretting that a woman performed it. The memory of a man’s mother is sacred, and he feels that whoever wears her form unworthily, and debases woman’s graceful gifts, profanes it.
Originally posted 2008-10-16 01:52:18.