The sound of a train was used to deceive enemy troops.(This image is from a Confederate $50 note.)
‘In the conditions of real war, the feeling of uncertainty is magnified, and this makes the opponent much more sensitive to crafty deception – so that even the most threadbare ruse has succeeded time after time.’
– Sir Basil Liddell Hart
Here’s how two Confederate commanders fooled their enemy during the American Civil War.
Desperate times require desperate measures, and in warfare few are more cunning – or dangerous – than the desperate. Although the Federals did manage to pull off their fair share, it was the Confederates who were responsible for the majority of the hoaxes that were perpetrated during the Civil War. This stands to reason considering the South’s predicament. Desperately lacking in both men and materiel, Rebel commanders were often forced to resort to correspondingly desperate measures, such as deception, in order to mask or offset those deficiencies.
How did John B. Magruder’s 13,600 men hold off 55,000 Union soldiers? Maj. Gen. Erasmus Keyes could see columns of men moving across the woods, and decided he must know more before his troops could attack the Confederates.
"In truth, most of what Keyes had seen or heard had been nothing more than a grand illusion, compliments of Magruder. The defenses that stretched along the entire 14-mile length of the river had been real enough, but due to a lack of sufficient troops, most were only lightly manned. To throw off the Federals, a handful of Magruder’s men had been kept marching from one location to another. Arriving at a designated scene, the soldiers-turned-actors would then go about entertaining their Yankee audience with a staged setting depicting a strongly garrisoned position. Once satisfied that the onlooking Federals were suitably impressed, the troupe would then proceed to the next position and put on a new show. Keyes was oblivious to the fact that many of the enemy columns he had observed filing through those various gaps were often the same units, which had simply doubled back under concealment of the woods."
A sound deception masked a retreat. P.G.T. Beauregard’s Yankee opponent, John Pope, said:
"The enemy is re-enforcing heavily, by trains, in my front and on my left. The cars are running constantly, and the cheering is immense every time they unload in front of me. I have no doubt, from all appearances, that I shall be attacked in heavy force at daylight…"
Contrary to Pope’s belief, the Army of Mississippi had not been reinforced the previous night but was instead withdrawn from Corinth in a prescribed and orderly fashion. To mask the evacuation, Beauregard had arranged for an empty train to be run back and forth along the Memphis & Charleston tracks. It was also he who had instructed the men to cheer every time it rolled in, thereby giving the impression reinforcements were arriving.
Hoodwinked During America’s Civl War: Confederate Military Deception, Civil War Times>>