Peyton Farquhar has been working in service of the South to disrupt the Northern war effort. In Part II of the story, a Federal scout stops at Farquhar's plantation, and Farquhar, of course, does not realize that this man dressed as a Confederate is really a Union soldier. This man tells Farquhar the Yankees are fixing the railroads and already made it to Owl Creek Bridge; he also says that the commanding officer of that regiment has ordered the hanging of anyone who interferes with these fixtures. This allows Farquhar to understand how important they are and how much damage he could do to the Northern effort if he disrupted the railroad line on this bridge. He asks, "Suppose a man. . . should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel. . . what could he accomplish?" The soldier informs him a recent flood washed a great deal of wood against the bridge, and it is now dry and very flammable. We can assume, then, that this is the crime for which Farquhar is being hanged at the beginning of the story, and his attempt to burn the bridge was the "service" he tried to perform because he is "ardently devoted to the Southern cause" in the war.