Army Scout

The Army scout is a stock character in Western fiction. Armies maneuvering in pursuit of Indians or enemy forces (such as during the Mexican and Civil Wars) commonly relied on local auxiliaries with knowledge of the area to scout in advance of their arrival. These scouts generally were either cavalry soldiers operating in small groups, or civilians hired on a temporary basis. Indians were often hired due to their extensive knowledge of fieldcraft and their familiarity with local languages and customs.

Due to his need to move swiftly, the scout carries little equipment and is a Fragile Speedster.

See also Ranger, Mountain Man, Cavalry Officer and Scarily Competent Tracker.


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     Comic Books  

     Fan Fiction  

  • In The Urthblood Saga, Urthfist, the brother and mortal foe of the titular character, regularly uses squads of three Long Patrol hares to scout out the area around his home mountain of Salamandastron, to be on the lookout for his brother's return. There is also a special squad consisting of only a single hare called Traveller whose job is to go father afield to spy on Urthblood and his army.


  • In The Outlaw Josey Wales, the title character is pursued by scouts.
  • Gettysburg depicts Civil War scouts performing several functions.
  • The Burrowers includes a Native American scout who cannot accurately translate another Indian's language. When the imprisoned Indian taunts him, he tortures the prisoner.
  • In the last scenes of the Ford's cavalry trilogy Rio Grande several Navajo scouts are given commendations. This is likely something of an Author Appeal in gratitude to his Navajo employees.
  • The boy Ivan in Ivan's Childhood acts as one for the Soviet Army in World War II. Taking advantage of his small size, he proved successful on reconnaissance missions.


  • Last of the Mohicans depicts several Native Americans being used for this purpose.
  • Abbu, the bedouin light cavalryman in the Roman army in the Belisarius Series. The forces led by Rana Sanga have Pathans serving the purpose, with the titular general using knowledge of that to mislead them during their pursuit of Belisarius.
  • Invasion of Kzarch has Sergeant Javer and the s-squad, a group of marines dedicated to scouting.
  • Used as Loophole Abuse in The War Against the Chtorr, when the protagonist pisses off one-too-many people and gets thrown out of the army, the Uncle Ira Group reenlists him under an old law as an 'Indian Scout'.

     Live Action Television  

  • Deadwood includes Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane, both of whom served as scouts for General Custer. This fact is repeatedly mentioned in the series.
  • Immortal of the week Kearne in Highlander, who led a massacre on the group of Lakota Duncan was living with, killing Mac's lover, Little Deer, and her son Kiani. Duncan beheaded him much later with a spear.

     Video Games  

  • Red Dead Revolver includes the Buffalo Soldier character, who is representative of an Army scout.
  • While it generally comes down to how and with whom you are playing, Arma multiplayer scenarios with too many players or large areas of operations usually encourage (or require) that at least one player be assigned to this role. How you do it depends on the scenario, but it can be from taking a walk and looking around, to UAVs or just being parachuted behind enemy lines sometime before the operation begins.

     Real Life  

  • Jack Kirby pulled this duty when he was a private in World War II when an officer learned he was an artist. This meant that he had to be the first to enter hostile territory alone and draw maps of it. It was only time he regretted his calling while trying to survive that dangerous posting.
  • One of the first modern wars where Army Scouts were formalised was the Peninsular War, where not only the British could rely (sorta) on local guerilla, but also established a corps of native-born scouts under Maj. George Scovell (codebreaker, founder of the British military police, military theorist, and general badass). Cavalry and Staff officers who were specially trained in drawing maps were responsible for scouting French positions and potential battlefields, alone or in pairs.
  • During the American Civil War, the Confederacy was actually extremely wary of lone Union cavalry scouts; they were often equipped with Henry or Spencer repeaters, and could get off either seven (Spencer) or fourteen (Henry) rounds without reloading in an era where one-shot rifled muskets armed most infantrymen; this was usually enough to allow them to blast a hole in the trap and escape. There are recorded instances of a Henry-armed scout gunning down an ambush party of ten men as they struggled to reload after their first volley missed.
  • It was common in the Indian Wars to use scouts from tribes that were cobeligerent with The Government for reasons that often predated the White's arrival on the scene and would simply consider scouting a way of carrying on their own tribe's particular war. As the tribes that gave the toughest resistance would be the ones who were most powerful and therefore the ones who had gained enemies along the way that makes reasonable sense. Aside from their wilderness skills making them valueable in that area, Indians disliked regimentalization to much to be recruited on the same terms as other colonial forces so they were recruited as scouts rather then units.
    • Because the Nez Perce had bad blood with the Sioux, several army scouts were Nez Perce in the Sioux wars. Given Chief Joseph's famous retreat it shows that history is always more complex on closer examination. And that politics is convoluted.