What is a Scout?
The Formation of Blazer’s Scouts
Here in Xenia, Ohio there was brigade consisting of the 9th West Virginia Infantry and the 12th and 91st Ohio Infantries. Captain John White Spencer of the 9th WVA was chosen to command the scouts and Lieutenants Harrison Gray Otis of the 12th Ohio and Richard Blazer of the 91st Ohio were also assigned as well. There was no shortage of volunteers for the unit. Harrison Otis spoke not only for himself but many of the other men when he wrote, “I suffered nothing from the lethargy of garrison life, but had free play to indulge my penchant for doing audacious things in war.” Assertions in the Mosby accounts that these men took on the designation “Legion of Honor” almost certainly have no basis in fact. Not one of the men assigned ever used this term in an article, pension record or had it attributed to them in their obituaries. They were proud to be “Independent Scouts” or call themselves “Blazer’s Scouts” after the man who would command them in 1864.
General Orders No. 2
The regimental commanders of this division will select one man from each company of their . . . regiments to be organized into a body of Scouts . . .
Officers will be particular to select such persons only as are possessed of strong moral courage, personal bravery, and particularly adept for this kind of service.
Now the scouts were composed of the best men from the 5th, 9th, 13th and 14th WVA Infantries, 2nd West Virginia Cavalry and the 12th, 23rd, 34th and 36th Ohio Infantries. Blazer’s hand-picked men played important roles in the Dublin Raid on the Tennessee and Virginia Railroad and on Hunter’s Lynchburg Raid, where they made the front pages of many newspapers with their exploits.
On the 5th of September, 1863, he issued the following order:
Three (3) Lieutenants, eight (8) Sergeants, eight (8) corporals and one-hundred (100) privates will be received as volunteers to form an independent Scouting Company for this brigade.
The company will be relieved from guard, fatigue and other camp duties during the continuance of its organization. At least one half of the company will be expected to be on the scout all the time. Its headquarters will be in the woods. None but experienced woodsmen and good shots will be accepted. Commanders of regiments are directed to receive and report the names of suitable men volunteering for this service.
The brigade consisted of the 9th West Virginia Infantry and the 12th and 91st Ohio Infantries. Captain John White Spencer of the 9th WVA was chosen to command the scouts and Lieutenants Harrison Gray Otis of the 12th Ohio and Richard Blazer of the 91st Ohio were also assigned as well.
The scouts were always aggressive–“to light down upon ’em like a hawk on a chicken or like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky.” They had become a “besom [broom] of destruction” surprising the Confederates behind their lines time after time and keeping rebel commanders “constantly confused and perplexed.” After scouting one such guerilla camp one of Blazer’s men noted the result. Blazer “made quick work of it and first sending a volley into their camp, he charged them with a yell, and capturing many prisoners, several horses and all their camp outfit, with which he returned to Fayetteville, and once more entering into his own camp not having lost a man or sustained a scratch.” The men returned to their units and “told the marvelous tales that caused all to wonder, and to invest Blazer with a character hitherto unsuspected.”
Most of Blazer’s men returned to their families, farms and businesses and did not glorify their part in the war. As the Xenia Scouts, our organization aims to honor and play as the Blazer Scouts honored and defended our country.