Lincoln’s special forces battled Mosby’s Confederate Rangers with bravery and brains

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As Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have proven, insurgencies are very difficult to defeat. If the insurgents have the support of the local population, they are nearly impossible to vanquish. Countering them requires individuals with special skills who utilize every resource, from intelligence to a kind word with a gun. American counterinsurgency was born from a forgotten company of Ohio’s Confederate manhunters: Blazer’s Scouts. 

“Make sure your piece is in condition for use” — the hushed command went down the line as a disciplined lieutenant halted his men, ensuring they were ready for action. The Union Scouts had awakened before dawn and “were again threading the mountain by-paths in silence — no word above a whisper dared any man to speak,” acting as guerrillas and applying the unconventional skills of the very men they hunted deep behind Southern lines in the crags of West Virginia’s Appalachia.  

Thirty-four-year-old Lieutenant Richard Blazer and his Scouts would emerge as some of the war’s most unlikely heroes. The Ohioan had no martial bearing, with “a faraway look in one eye, and a nearby sleepy look in the other.” He sported a disheveled look: his vest improperly buttoned, coat

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