“Find Out Where Your Enemy Is”

“THE ART OF WAR is simple enough,” wrote Ulysses S. Grant. “Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can and as often as you can, and keep moving on.”

Finding “where your enemy is” was best accomplished through espionage.

Confederate Spies Give South Advantage

When the Civil War began, neither the Union nor the South had much of a formal intelligence network. But theConfederacy managed to establish the Secret Service Bureau, an arm of the Confederate Signal Corps, which operated a spy network in the federal capital of Washington, DC, early on in the war.

Washington happened to be home to many southern sympathizers.

Battle of Shiloh Reveals Need for Reliable Spies

Grant had not realized the need for a reliable spy system until the Battle of Shiloh when a Confederate force surprised the Federals and stormed through their camps forcing a Union retreat.

During the two weeks before the battle, Grant hadn’t bothered to dispatch any spies or scouts because—according to the facts as he knew them—Confederates were camped at least twenty miles away.

But, the general had relied on information from dispirited Confederate deserters.

Grant and his troops eventually drove the Confederates back, and his actions helped shape his reputation as an effective field commander. But the Battle of Shiloh resulted in the killing or wounding of more than ten-thousand Union soldiers.

Underpinning of Future Military Intelligence

It was after this battle that Grant began to grasp the value of espionage, and helped forge what would be called the Bureau of Military Information.

The bureau utilized around 70 field agents during the war, ten of whom were killed. In addition to field agents, information was gathered through interrogation of prisoners of war, as well as refugees. Agents also combed through newspapers, and documents left on the battlefield by Confederate officers who has retreated or been killed.

War Within a War

Overall, the Union had better success at espionage and counterintelligence. The Confederacy,on the other hand, excelled at covert operations. Both succeeded at conducting a secret war within America’s civil war.

Ultimately, the efforts of both sides set the foundation for the future of military intelligence.

It’s against this backdrop that Grant Bonner, the spy featured in my novel, Last Stand at Bitter Creek, emerges from three years behind enemy lines to face his own future.


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