An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce

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Why was Peyton Farquhar hanged?

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In Section II of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," the scout who is posing as a Confederate soldier tells Peyton Farquhar:

"The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order."

The Union officers know they are in enemy territory. There were many Southern civilians like Farquhar who were trying to help the Confederate cause by committing sabotage or even bushwhacking Union troops. That is why the order is posted everywhere. The South was a huge place and the Union forces were surrounded by hostile civilians. The commandant posted the order quoted by the scout because he had good reason to fear attacks from self-appointed guerrillas, all of whom owned rifles and hated the invaders.

Peyton Farquhar just happened to be one of the Southern activists who got caught. He was hanged from the bridge mainly to set an example. No doubt his body...

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