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Army Scout

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The Warm Spring US Indian Scouts in the Lava Beds during the Modoc War

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 is a Fragile Speedster that carries little equipment. This is often translated into poor Hit Points and offensive power, and emphasizes that the scout is not a primary combat unit.

See also Ranger, Mountain Man, Native Guide, Cavalry Officer and Scarily Competent Tracker, with which Army Scout often overlaps.



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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.
  • Major Dundee: One armed mountain man Samuel Potts, Christian Apache Riago, and Paco serve as the scouts for Dundee and his men, venturing ahead to guard for Indians, and having the most knowledge of the area.
  • Jess Remseberg, the hero of Duel At Diablo, although he is on a mission to avenge the death of his wife and has to be cajoled into making a detour to serve as an army scout.
  • Ulzanas Raid: Eldery frontier scout McIntosh is the protagonist, and Native scout Ke-Ni-Tay also serves the group.
  • The Deserter: Natchai and Tattinger, the cavalry captain's best friends.
  • Geronimo: An American Legend: Historical Domain Character Al Sieber, played by Robert Duvall is the chief army scout, being a companion of the main character, and seeing Geronimo as a Worthy Opponent. Several Apache scouts with Conflicting Loyalty also take part in the hunt for Geronimo.
  • In Apache, Chief of Scouts Al Sieber becomes the Inspector Javert to renegade Apache Massai. He assembles an elite squad of Indian scouts who travel light and move fast, including Massai's nemesis Hondo, to accompany him on his manhunt.
  • In The Gatling Gun, Runner (played by Woody Strode) is an army scout accompanying Lt. Malcolm and his cavalry patrol as they attempt to return the stolen gun to the fort.



     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.
  • In XCOM 2, units more specialized in concealment like Rangers work well at scouting the map in search of the mission objective or ADVENT pods, or spotting for their Sharpshooter comrades; with certain skills, their concealment is independent of the rest of the squad, so they can recon even after the others have already engaged. The Reapers introduced in War of the Chosen are even better at it, as the detection range against them is minimal until they start shooting (and doing so is not a guaranteed reveal until at most three shots in), they have several abilities that allow them to wreak havoc without any chance of reveal, their mobility gets a bonus while in Shadow, and with one specific skill, they can innately mark enemy units the same way the limited-use Battle Scanner does.
  • Rangers in They Are Billions are the earliest military units you can get, are extremely fast runners and their bows make no noise, so they don't aggro great numbers of zombies. To compensate, they're the weakest and least powerful human units in the game.
  • Empire Earth II: The Scout is a, well, scout unit with high speed, high visibility, and very low damage available to every civilization. The Americans get a unique variation called a Frontiersman with even better stats (admittedly, that's not saying much) during the first 5 eras.
  • In the Valkyria Chronicles series:
    • Scouts are usually the first class of troop that the player's introduced to. They have a much larger action bar than other units and get a rifle with decent range (although not the firepower of the machine guns shock troopers carry), as well as getting abilities which let them dodge enemy fire better and having much better peripheral vision (making them more likely to shoot at enemy units who move near them during their turn). This is offset by them having much less health and lacking the offensive abilities of other classes.
    • Snipers have much less movement and even worse health, but make up for it with their rifles' long range and high damage, effectively taking the scout's strengths and weaknesses up to eleven (indeed, from the second game onwards, they become a potential upgrade for a scout instead of a separate class).

     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. One notable example included the Tonkawa (when the government started hunting down the Comanche), who served such an integral role in the subjugation of several groups that, when the Civil War broke out, members of the tribe ended up targeting the Tonkawa reservations and massacring them. The tribes that gave the toughest resistance would be the ones who were most powerful, and therefore were the ones who had gained the most enemies along the way: it made sense to recruit from the Native Americans' existing foes (the Spanish did this, too, against the Aztecs, who weren't very popular among their neighbors excluding those who were part of the Aztec alliances). Aside from their wilderness skills making them valuable in that area, Indians disliked regimentalization too much to be recruited on the same terms as other colonial forces so they were recruited as scouts rather than units.


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