TWT logo

Together We Teach
Reading Room

Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.

| Home | Reading Room The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage
An Episode of the American Civil War
by Stephen Crane

< BACK    NEXT >




THE ragged line had respite for some min-

utes, but during its pause the struggle in the

forest became magnified until the trees seemed to

quiver from the firing and the ground to shake

from the rushing of the men. The voices of the

cannon were mingled in a long and interminable

row. It seemed difficult to live in such an atmos-

phere. The chests of the men strained for a bit

of freshness, and their throats craved water.

There was one shot through the body, who

raised a cry of bitter lamentation when came this

lull. Perhaps he had been calling out during

the fighting also, but at that time no one had

heard him. But now the men turned at the woe-

ful complaints of him upon the ground.

"Who is it? Who is it?"

"It's Jimmie Rogers. Jimmie Rogers."

When their eyes first encountered him there

was a sudden halt, as if they feared to go near.

He was thrashing about in the grass, twisting his

shuddering body into many strange postures.

He was screaming loudly. This instant's hesita-

tion seemed to fill him with a tremendous, fantastic

contempt, and he damned them in shrieked sentences.

The youth's friend had a geographical illusion

concerning a stream, and he obtained permission

to go for some water. Immediately canteens

were showered upon him. "Fill mine, will

yeh?" "Bring me some, too." "And me, too."

He departed, ladened. The youth went with his

friend, feeling a desire to throw his heated body

onto the stream and, soaking there, drink quarts.

They made a hurried search for the supposed

stream, but did not find it. "No water here,"

said the youth. They turned without delay and

began to retrace their steps.

From their position as they again faced to-

ward the place of the fighting, they could of

course comprehend a greater amount of the bat-

tle than when their visions had been blurred by

the hurling smoke of the line. They could see

dark stretches winding along the land, and on

one cleared space there was a row of guns mak-

ing gray clouds, which were filled with large

flashes of orange-colored flame. Over some foli-

age they could see the roof of a house. One win-

dow, glowing a deep murder red, shone squarely

through the leaves. From the edifice a tall lean-

ing tower of smoke went far into the sky.

Looking over their own troops, they saw

mixed masses slowly getting into regular form.

The sunlight made twinkling points of the bright

steel. To the rear there was a glimpse of a dis-

tant roadway as it curved over a slope. It was

crowded with retreating infantry. From all the

interwoven forest arose the smoke and bluster

of the battle. The air was always occupied by

a blaring.

Near where they stood shells were flip-flap-

ping and hooting. Occasional bullets buzzed in

the air and spanged into tree trunks. Wounded

men and other stragglers were slinking through

the woods.

Looking down an aisle of the grove, the

youth and his companion saw a jangling general

and his staff almost ride upon a wounded man,

who was crawling on his hands and knees. The

general reined strongly at his charger's opened

and foamy mouth and guided it with dexterous

horsemanship past the man. The latter scram-

bled in wild and torturing haste. His strength

evidently failed him as he reached a place of

safety. One of his arms suddenly weakened, and

he fell, sliding over upon his back. He lay

stretched out, breathing gently.

A moment later the small, creaking cavalcade

was directly in front of the two soldiers. An-

other officer, riding with the skillful abandon of a

cowboy, galloped his horse to a position directly

before the general. The two unnoticed foot sol-

diers made a little show of going on, but they

lingered near in the desire to overhear the con-

versation. Perhaps, they thought, some great

inner historical things would be said.

The general, whom the boys knew as the com-

mander of their division, looked at the other

officer and spoke coolly, as if he were criticising

his clothes. "Th' enemy's formin' over there for

another charge," he said. "It'll be directed

against Whiterside, an' I fear they'll break

through there unless we work like thunder t' stop them."

The other swore at his restive horse, and then

cleared his throat. He made a gesture toward

his cap. "It'll be hell t' pay stoppin' them," he said shortly.

"I presume so," remarked the general. Then

he began to talk rapidly and in a lower tone. He

frequently illustrated his words with a pointing

finger. The two infantrymen could hear nothing

until finally he asked: "What troops can you spare?"

The officer who rode like a cowboy reflected

for an instant. "Well," he said, "I had to order

in th' 12th to help th' 76th, an' I haven't really got

any. But there's th' 304th. They fight like a

lot 'a mule drivers. I can spare them best of any."

The youth and his friend exchanged glances

of astonishment.

The general spoke sharply. "Get 'em ready,

then. I'll watch developments from here, an'

send you word when t' start them. It'll happen

in five minutes."

As the other officer tossed his fingers toward

his cap and wheeling his horse, started away, the

general called out to him in a sober voice: "I

don't believe many of your mule drivers will get back."

The other shouted something in reply. He smiled.

With scared faces, the youth and his compan-

ion hurried back to the line.

These happenings had occupied an incredibly

short time, yet the youth felt that in them he had

been made aged. New eyes were given to him.

And the most startling thing was to learn sud-

denly that he was very insignificant. The officer

spoke of the regiment as if he referred to a

broom. Some part of the woods needed sweep-

ing, perhaps, and he merely indicated a broom in

a tone properly indifferent to its fate. It was

war, no doubt, but it appeared strange.

As the two boys approached the line, the lieu-

tenant perceived them and swelled with wrath.

"Fleming--Wilson--how long does it take yeh

to git water, anyhow--where yeh been to."

But his oration ceased as he saw their eyes,

which were large with great tales. "We're goin'

t' charge--we're goin' t' charge!" cried the

youth's friend, hastening with his news.

"Charge?" said the lieutenant. "Charge?

Well, b'Gawd! Now, this is real fightin'." Over

his soiled countenance there went a boastful

smile. "Charge? Well, b'Gawd!"

A little group of soldiers surrounded the two

youths. "Are we, sure 'nough? Well, I'll be

derned! Charge? What fer? What at? Wilson, you're lyin'."

"I hope to die," said the youth, pitching his

tones to the key of angry remonstrance. "Sure

as shooting, I tell you."

And his friend spoke in re-enforcement. "Not

by a blame sight, he ain't lyin'. We heard 'em talkin'."

They caught sight of two mounted figures a

short distance from them. One was the colonel

of the regiment and the other was the officer who

had received orders from the commander of the

division. They were gesticulating at each other.

The soldier, pointing at them, interpreted the scene.

One man had a final objection: "How could

yeh hear 'em talkin'?" But the men, for a large

part, nodded, admitting that previously the two

friends had spoken truth.

They settled back into reposeful attitudes

with airs of having accepted the matter. And

they mused upon it, with a hundred varieties of

expression. It was an engrossing thing to think

about. Many tightened their belts carefully and

hitched at their trousers.

A moment later the officers began to bustle

among the men, pushing them into a more com-

pact mass and into a better alignment. They

chased those that straggled and fumed at a few

men who seemed to show by their attitudes that

they had decided to remain at that spot. They

were like critical shepherds struggling with sheep.

Presently, the regiment seemed to draw itself

up and heave a deep breath. None of the men's

faces were mirrors of large thoughts. The sol-

diers were bended and stooped like sprinters be-

fore a signal. Many pairs of glinting eyes peered

from the grimy faces toward the curtains of the

deeper woods. They seemed to be engaged in

deep calculations of time and distance.

They were surrounded by the noises of the

monstrous altercation between the two armies.

The world was fully interested in other matters.

Apparently, the regiment had its small affair to itself.

The youth, turning, shot a quick, inquiring

glance at his friend. The latter returned to him

the same manner of look. They were the only

ones who possessed an inner knowledge. "Mule

drivers--hell t' pay--don't believe many will get

back." It was an ironical secret. Still, they saw

no hesitation in each other's faces, and they nod-

ded a mute and unprotesting assent when a shag-

gy man near them said in a meek voice: "We'll

git swallowed."



Top of Page

< BACK    NEXT >

| Home | Reading Room The Red Badge of Courage





Why not spread the word about Together We Teach?
Simply copy & paste our home page link below into your emails... 

Want the Together We Teach link to place on your website?
Copy & paste either home page link on your webpage...
Together We Teach 






Use these free website tools below for a more powerful experience at Together We Teach!

****Google™ search****

For a more specific search, try using quotation marks around phrases (ex. "You are what you read")


*** Google Translate™ translation service ***

 Translate text:


  Translate a web page:

****What's the Definition?****
(Simply insert the word you want to lookup)

 Search:   for   

S D Glass Enterprises

Privacy Policy

Warner Robins, GA, USA