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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/616

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

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.