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The Picket's Ruse

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Private Joel Snaapeg, of a hard-working, tough-sinewed regiment of Vermont voíunteers, was a good shot nnd a smart soldier. He found greai satitfaction iu pieket duty, and hardly carne iu from a day's excroise in that branch of military without having a report to make to his superior offieer of soino new work discovered, some conversation overheard, somelittle chance oircumstance perceived, that might be of use in gainiug an advantage over the enemy. Joel was a long, lank, yellowhaired fellow, not very soldierly in speech or bearing, but of infiuitoly more. service than many a one of our suug, dapper, well-looking city soldiers. He was frightfully sunburnt, and his face, coarsefeatured and demure, suggestcd good humor and power of endurance, more than courage or discipline. But there was a twinkle about his small gray eyes, whichenlivened them, despite theirseanty and characterless white lashes, and impressed the close,r sort of observer with a wholesomo respect for his courage and intelligence. His nasal voice and drawl, his round shoulders and flat build could not shake this respect so long as one kept those clear, far-seeing eyes in sight, and Joel's comrades prophesied that he had only to behave himself, and keep on in his own way, to gain a pair of epaulettes one fine day. He openlydeclared thit manual labor on the earthworks was distasteful to hin, and his officers, knowinj: his value at pieket duty, evineed enough consideration for kim to keep him at that service. The position he liked best was on the slope of a hill, opposite a similar slope oeeupied by a sentinel of the Confederates This last was quite a high bit of ground whence one might seo a great deal that was going on about the batteriea further down. Joel believed that the sentinel stationed there learned more than was well for our side He accordingly harrassed and aunoyed every one that showed his head on the hill side opposite, and left several adventurous fellows stretched on the turf, one after an other, as a reward for thoir temerity. It was nearly a quarter of a mile off, but as I have said, the long Vermonter was a good shot, and it became really daügerous for the enemy 's pickots to show the.rselves at all, near the forbidden hillside. Tliey soon learned their lesson, and very soon acted upon it. Joel. sauntering down to his pateh one fine afteruoon, heard a sharp report, and feit the wind of a rifle bal! that carne wouderfully near his head. Turning quickly he saw the smokc floating up from a little pile of fresh earth on the hill opposite. The enemy had dug a pit wherein the sentinel could sit at ease, and exposé his head and arms only when he fired Private Smapes hastened with praiseworthy prudence to get out of sight, among some eedars, and walched for some time bcforo fixiiif the location of thefoeman again. Finally discovering the fresh earth once more, and mágiairig that he saw a hat just above it. he took a shot in the direction. Up pegged a tall sentinel, bareheadcd, and returned the fire instantly. He had only been trying the old trick of putting his hat on a ramrod. " This'll never dew," soliliquized Joel. "That cuss has got tew good a berth over vonder. I'll just have to rouse him out." The other sentinel's death warrant was in some sort signed from that moment. The crafty Vermonter's brain was at work on (he problem of dislodging this man thencefrtb. So long as Joel kopt quiet, so i)id his antagonist, but it was presumible that he eould see the battories in proeers of. construction, without exposing liimself, for the earth taken from the pit was carcfully piled upon ihe sido toward Joel. From a thicket at the f not of the two liilis, however, a shot could be got lengtli ways of the trench, and behind this trifling breastwork. To gain the thicket, then, without being too visible on the barren slope, was Joel's idea, The next day Private timapes took witli him a long piece of stout twiue and a revolver, wheu he went out on pickct duty. It was not yet daylight, but the gray and indistinct light of dawn bad begun to palc in the cast. The sentinel, as soou as the guard passed along, hasteued to drive a smoo'th stake iu the ground, and to rest bis nmsket over a fork in a codar tree in front of the stake, the muzzle of the weapon pointmg in the direction of the pit on the further slope. He then eocked the pieco, and fastened one end of the oord to the trigger, beginning stealthily to crawl down the hill on his hands and knees, paying out the line as he went. It was a hazardous experiment, for the thicket, when he gained it, was very sparse, and so near the poiut that the Confedérate sentry, had he suspected Joel's presonce there, could have hardly failed to hit bim. Lying down, howevcr, the Vennonter awaitcd sunrise, and as the shadowe faded away in the midst of morning, he saw the light gleana upon a bayonet pecriug froui the trcnoh of the hillside. " Now for to make him show his pictur ! " said Joel. He pulled the string carefully at first, till it was drawn tight, and then a slight extra tug fired the musket from the large cedars above. He had not ealeulated wrongly. As soon as the rifleman in the pit heard this matinal salutation from the enemy over opposite, as he supposcd, he raised ! self up to return the fiie, and brought his hcad and shouldcrs plaiuly in to sight. The ncxt instant he went heols over head into the trencli again, with a bullet from the uncrring Colt straight through the sido of his hoad. " The darned fooi!" said Private Smapes, " didn't he know a fellow might shoot off a guu without haviug hold of it ? " The Confedérate pickets decidcd thereafterthat this positiou was too exposed to be profitubly oceupied.


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Michigan Argus