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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/616

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front. The black dots, with pennons, indicate the general position of the vedettes at this point, though, of course, they are continually advancing. The commander has noted on his map a foot path, beginning at *D', leading over the rugged hills. By taking this path a considerable distance could be saved; but it is quite impracticable for the wagons, and the troops, therefore, continue along the high road. The valley is gently undulating, with a gradual slope from the low hills towards the stream.

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The projecting hills near the head of the column form an especially dangerous point. What easier than for an enemy to plant batteries here on either side of the road. A sudden, heavy fire would throw a negligent force at once into disorder; a situation to be taken instant advantage of by a vigorous adversary; a charge of horse concealed behind the hill at c O', and nothing might be left except flight, with great loss of life, and surrender with loss—if not of honor, at least of reputation as a safe leader.

Happily, we shall avoid both alternatives. Our scouts have explored most thoroughly every possible vantage ground. They have not been content with any mere glances; their instructions are to take nothing for granted. That field, marked 'G', looks innocent enough, but the tall, thick rye or corn may cover a skilfully placed battery. The plot marked 'M' may be simply a vineyard; but it does no harm to inquire. The inhabitants of the country are friendly, and, therefore, the chances are not favorable to this sort of surprise; but in war it is often not the likely, but the unexpected that happens; the commander who knows his business guards against the remote possibility.