An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Questions and Answers
by Ambrose Bierce

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge book cover
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What information does the Federal scout bring to Farquhar?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the second section of the short story, Bierce writes that a Union spy disguised as a Confederate soldier arrives at Peyton Fahrquhar's estate to ask for a drink of water. The Union spy then informs Peyton that the Yankees are repairing railroads in the south to prepare for another attack. He then tells Peyton that the Union troops are stationed at the Owl Creek Bridge and have built a stockade on the north bank. The Yankees have also issued an order declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be hanged. The spy proceeds to tell Peyton that the Owl Creek Bridge is thirty miles away and that there is only one sentinel posted at the end of the bridge. He goes on to tell Peyton that a civilian may be able to overcome the sentinel and set fire to the dry driftwood, which would destroy the Owl Creek Bridge and hinder the progress of the Union forces. Essentially, the Union spy informs Peyton that there is a possibility that he could help the Confederacy by sneaking past the sentinel in order to burn the Owl Creek Bridge.

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Federal scout tells Peyton Farquhar that the Union army is repairing the railroad to get ready for another advance into the South.  He says that they've gotten as far as Owl Creek Bridge (about thirty miles away from Farquhar's home) and that the commandant has announced that anyone who interferes with the railroads or bridges will be hanged.  This lets Farquhar know how important the railroad lines are to the Union war effort as well as how much damage he could inflict by damaging this particular bridge.  

Further, the scout also tells him that last season's flood pushed a great deal of driftwood up against part of the wooden bridge, and -- if lit -- it would burn the whole bridge down.  So, the scout gives him both the motivation and the means by which he can seriously injure the Union's ability to make inroads in this part of the South, and, as a slave owner and secessionist, Farquhar cannot seem to resist this opportunity.  (He obviously doesn't realize that the man telling him this is a Federal scout and not a Confederate soldier.)

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