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The Word! "
You are what you
"Take time to read. It is the
fountain of wisdom."
Room | The
Red Badge of Courage
Badge of Courage
An Episode of the American Civil War
THE youth awakened slowly. He came grad-
ually back to a position from which he could re-
gard himself. For moments he had been scruti-
nizing his person in a dazed way as if he had
never before seen himself. Then he picked up
his cap from the ground. He wriggled in his
jacket to make a more comfortable fit, and kneel-
ing relaced his shoe. He thoughtfully mopped
his reeking features.
So it was all over at last! The supreme trial
had been passed. The red, formidable difficulties
of war had been vanquished.
He went into an ecstasy of self-satisfaction.
He had the most delightful sensations of his life.
Standing as if apart from himself, he viewed that
last scene. He perceived that the man who had
fought thus was magnificent.
He felt that he was a fine fellow. He saw
himself even with those ideals which he had con-
sidered as far beyond him. He smiled in deep
Upon his fellows he beamed tenderness and
good will. "Gee! ain't it hot, hey?" he said
affably to a man who was polishing his stream-
ing face with his coat sleeves.
"You bet!" said the other, grinning sociably.
"I never seen sech dumb hotness." He sprawled
out luxuriously on the ground. "Gee, yes! An'
I hope we don't have no more fightin' till a week
There were some handshakings and deep
speeches with men whose features were familiar,
but with whom the youth now felt the bonds of
tied hearts. He helped a cursing comrade to
bind up a wound of the shin.
But, of a sudden, cries of amazement broke
out along the ranks of the new regiment. "Here
they come ag'in! Here they come ag'in!" The
man who had sprawled upon the ground started
up and said, "Gosh!"
The youth turned quick eyes upon the field.
He discerned forms begin to swell in masses out
of a distant wood. He again saw the tilted flag
The shells, which had ceased to trouble the
regiment for a time, came swirling again, and ex-
ploded in the grass or among the leaves of the
trees. They looked to be strange war flowers
bursting into fierce bloom.
The men groaned. The luster faded from
their eyes. Their smudged countenances now
expressed a profound dejection. They moved
their stiffened bodies slowly, and watched in sul-
len mood the frantic approach of the enemy. The
slaves toiling in the temple of this god began to
feel rebellion at his harsh tasks.
They fretted and complained each to each.
"Oh, say, this is too much of a good thing! Why
can't somebody send us supports?"
"We ain't never goin' to stand this second
banging. I didn't come here to fight the hull
damn' rebel army."
There was one who raised a doleful cry. "I
wish Bill Smithers had trod on my hand, in-
steader me treddin' on his'n." The sore joints of
the regiment creaked as it painfully floundered
into position to repulse.
The youth stared. Surely, he thought, this
impossible thing was not about to happen. He
waited as if he expected the enemy to suddenly
stop, apologize, and retire bowing. It was all a mistake.
But the firing began somewhere on the regi-
mental line and ripped along in both directions.
The level sheets of flame developed great clouds
of smoke that tumbled and tossed in the mild
wind near the ground for a moment, and then
rolled through the ranks as through a gate. The
clouds were tinged an earthlike yellow in the
sunrays and in the shadow were a sorry blue.
The flag was sometimes eaten and lost in this
mass of vapor, but more often it projected, sun-
Into the youth's eyes there came a look that
one can see in the orbs of a jaded horse. His
neck was quivering with nervous weakness and
the muscles of his arms felt numb and bloodless.
His hands, too, seemed large and awkward as if
he was wearing invisible mittens. And there was
a great uncertainty about his knee joints.
The words that comrades had uttered previous
to the firing began to recur to him. "Oh, say,
this is too much of a good thing! What do they
take us for--why don't they send supports?
I didn't come here to fight the hull damned rebel army."
He began to exaggerate the endurance, the
skill, and the valor of those who were coming.
Himself reeling from exhaustion, he was aston-
ished beyond measure at such persistency. They
must be machines of steel. It was very gloomy
struggling against such affairs, wound up perhaps
to fight until sundown.
He slowly lifted his rifle and catching a
glimpse of the thickspread field he blazed at a
cantering cluster. He stopped then and began
to peer as best he could through the smoke. He
caught changing views of the ground covered
with men who were all running like pursued
imps, and yelling.
To the youth it was an onslaught of redoubt-
able dragons. He became like the man who lost
his legs at the approach of the red and green
monster. He waited in a sort of a horrified,
listening attitude. He seemed to shut his eyes
and wait to be gobbled.
A man near him who up to this time had been
working feverishly at his rifle suddenly stopped
and ran with howls. A lad whose face had borne
an expression of exalted courage, the majesty of
he who dares give his life, was, at an instant,
smitten abject. He blanched like one who has
come to the edge of a cliff at midnight and is sud-
denly made aware. There was a revelation. He,
too, threw down his gun and fled. There was no
shame in his face. He ran like a rabbit.
Others began to scamper away through the
smoke. The youth turned his head, shaken from
his trance by this movement as if the regiment
was leaving him behind. He saw the few fleeting forms.
He yelled then with fright and swung about.
For a moment, in the great clamor, he was like a
proverbial chicken. He lost the direction of
safety. Destruction threatened him from all points.
Directly he began to speed toward the rear in
great leaps. His rifle and cap were gone. His
unbuttoned coat bulged in the wind. The flap of
his cartridge box bobbed wildly, and his canteen,
by its slender cord, swung out behind. On his
face was all the horror of those things which he imagined.
The lieutenant sprang forward bawling. The
youth saw his features wrathfully red, and saw
him make a dab with his sword. His one thought
of the incident was that the lieutenant was a pecul-
iar creature to feel interested in such matters
upon this occasion.
He ran like a blind man. Two or three times
he fell down. Once he knocked his shoulder so
heavily against a tree that he went headlong.
Since he had turned his back upon the fight
his fears had been wondrously magnified. Death
about to thrust him between the shoulder blades
was far more dreadful than death about to smite
him between the eyes. When he thought of it
later, he conceived the impression that it is better
to view the appalling than to be merely within
hearing. The noises of the battle were like
stones; he believed himself liable to be crushed.
As he ran he mingled with others. He
dimly saw men on his right and on his left, and
he heard footsteps behind him. He thought that
all the regiment was fleeing, pursued by these
In his flight the sound of these following foot-
steps gave him his one meager relief. He felt
vaguely that death must make a first choice of
the men who were nearest; the initial morsels for
the dragons would be then those who were fol-
lowing him. So he displayed the zeal of an insane
sprinter in his purpose to keep them in the rear.
There was a race.
As he, leading, went across a little field, he
found himself in a region of shells. They hurtled
over his head with long wild screams. As he
listened he imagined them to have rows of cruel
teeth that grinned at him. Once one lit before
him and the livid lightning of the explosion
effectually barred the way in his chosen direc-
tion. He groveled on the ground and then
springing up went careering off through some bushes.
He experienced a thrill of amazement when
he came within view of a battery in action. The
men there seemed to be in conventional moods,
altogether unaware of the impending annihila-
tion. The battery was disputing with a distant
antagonist and the gunners were wrapped in
admiration of their shooting. They were con-
tinually bending in coaxing postures over the
guns. They seemed to be patting them on the
back and encouraging them with words. The
guns, stolid and undaunted, spoke with dogged valor.
The precise gunners were coolly enthusiastic.
They lifted their eyes every chance to the smoke-
wreathed hillock from whence the hostile battery
addressed them. The youth pitied them as he
ran. Methodical idiots! Machine-like fools! The
refined joy of planting shells in the midst of the
other battery's formation would appear a little
thing when the infantry came swooping out of
The face of a youthful rider, who was jerking
his frantic horse with an abandon of temper
he might display in a placid barnyard, was im-
pressed deeply upon his mind. He knew that
he looked upon a man who would presently be dead.
Too, he felt a pity for the guns, standing, six
good comrades, in a bold row.
He saw a brigade going to the relief of its pes-
tered fellows. He scrambled upon a wee hill and
watched it sweeping finely, keeping formation in
difficult places. The blue of the line was crusted
with steel color, and the brilliant flags projected.
Officers were shouting.
This sight also filled him with wonder. The
brigade was hurrying briskly to be gulped into
the infernal mouths of the war god. What man-
ner of men were they, anyhow? Ah, it was some
wondrous breed! Or else they didn't comprehend--the fools.
A furious order caused commotion in the artil-
lery. An officer on a bounding horse made mani-
acal motions with his arms. The teams went
swinging up from the rear, the guns were whirled
about, and the battery scampered away. The
cannon with their noses poked slantingly at the
ground grunted and grumbled like stout men,
brave but with objections to hurry.
The youth went on, moderating his pace since
he had left the place of noises.
Later he came upon a general of division
seated upon a horse that pricked its ears in
an interested way at the battle. There was a
great gleaming of yellow and patent leather
about the saddle and bridle. The quiet man
astride looked mouse-colored upon such a
A jingling staff was galloping hither and
thither. Sometimes the general was surrounded
by horsemen and at other times he was quite
alone. He looked to be much harassed. He had
the appearance of a business man whose market
is swinging up and down.
The youth went slinking around this spot.
He went as near as he dared trying to overhear
words. Perhaps the general, unable to compre-
hend chaos, might call upon him for information.
And he could tell him. He knew all concerning
it. Of a surety the force was in a fix, and any
fool could see that if they did not retreat while
they had opportunity--why--
He felt that he would like to thrash the gen-
eral, or at least approach and tell him in plain
words exactly what he thought him to be. It
was criminal to stay calmly in one spot and make
no effort to stay destruction. He loitered in a
fever of eagerness for the division commander to
apply to him.
As he warily moved about, he heard the gen-
eral call out irritably: "Tompkins, go over an'
see Taylor, an' tell him not t' be in such an all-
fired hurry; tell him t' halt his brigade in th'
edge of th' woods; tell him t' detach a reg'ment
--say I think th' center 'll break if we don't help
it out some; tell him t' hurry up."
A slim youth on a fine chestnut horse caught
these swift words from the mouth of his superior.
He made his horse bound into a gallop almost
from a walk in his haste to go upon his mission.
There was a cloud of dust.
A moment later the youth saw the general
bounce excitedly in his saddle.
"Yes, by heavens, they have!" The officer
leaned forward. His face was aflame with excite-
ment. "Yes, by heavens, they 've held 'im!
They 've held 'im!"
He began to blithely roar at his staff: "We 'll
wallop 'im now. We 'll wallop 'im now. We 've
got 'em sure." He turned suddenly upon an aid:
"Here--you--Jones--quick--ride after Tompkins
--see Taylor--tell him t' go in--everlastingly--
As another officer sped his horse after the first
messenger, the general beamed upon the earth
like a sun. In his eyes was a desire to chant a
paean. He kept repeating, "They 've held 'em,
His excitement made his horse plunge, and he
merrily kicked and swore at it. He held a little
carnival of joy on horseback.
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Room | The
Red Badge of Courage