Part 1 out of 4
Note: I have tried to retain the inconsistent renderings of
contractions as joined or separate, e.g., "we 'll" or "we'll."
I have made the following changes to the text:
PAGE PARA. LINE ORIGINAL CHANGED TO
18 3 3 estabiish establish
40 3 2 skirmish skirmish-
78 4 4 a air an air
130 2 recognzied recognized
130 4 12 could a' could 'a
139 2 4 not began not begun
193 2 16 illusions to allusions to
The Red Badge of Courage
by Stephen Crane
An Episode of the
American Civil War
THE cold passed reluctantly from the earth,
and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched
out on the hills, resting. As the landscape
changed from brown to green, the army awak-
ened, and began to tremble with eagerness at the
noise of rumors. It cast its eyes upon the roads,
which were growing from long troughs of liquid
mud to proper thoroughfares. A river, amber-
tinted in the shadow of its banks, purled at the
army's feet; and at night, when the stream had
become of a sorrowful blackness, one could see
across it the red, eyelike gleam of hostile camp-
fires set in the low brows of distant hills.
Once a certain tall soldier developed virtues
and went resolutely to wash a shirt. He came
flying back from a brook waving his garment
bannerlike. He was swelled with a tale he had
heard from a reliable friend, who had heard it
from a truthful cavalryman, who had heard it
from his trustworthy brother, one of the order-
lies at division headquarters. He adopted the
important air of a herald in red and gold.
"We're goin' t' move t' morrah--sure," he
said pompously to a group in the company
street. "We're goin' 'way up the river, cut
across, an' come around in behint 'em."
To his attentive audience he drew a loud
and elaborate plan of a very brilliant campaign.
When he had finished, the blue-clothed men
scattered into small arguing groups between the
rows of squat brown huts. A negro teamster who
had been dancing upon a cracker box with the
hilarious encouragement of twoscore soldiers
was deserted. He sat mournfully down. Smoke
drifted lazily from a multitude of quaint chim-
"It's a lie! that's all it is--a thunderin' lie!"
said another private loudly. His smooth face was
flushed, and his hands were thrust sulkily into his
trousers' pockets. He took the matter as an
affront to him. "I don't believe the derned old
army's ever going to move. We're set. I've
got ready to move eight times in the last two
weeks, and we ain't moved yet."
The tall soldier felt called upon to defend
the truth of a rumor he himself had intro-
duced. He and the loud one came near to fight-
ing over it.
A corporal began to swear before the assem-
blage. He had just put a costly board floor in
his house, he said. During the early spring he
had refrained from adding extensively to the
comfort of his environment because he had felt
that the army might start on the march at any
moment. Of late, however, he had been im-
pressed that they were in a sort of eternal camp.
Many of the men engaged in a spirited debate.
One outlined in a peculiarly lucid manner all the
plans of the commanding general. He was op-
posed by men who advocated that there were
other plans of campaign. They clamored at each
other, numbers making futile bids for the pop-
ular attention. Meanwhile, the soldier who had
fetched the rumor bustled about with much
importance. He was continually assailed by
"What's up, Jim?"
"Th' army's goin' t' move."
"Ah, what yeh talkin' about? How yeh know
"Well, yeh kin b'lieve me er not, jest as yeh
like. I don't care a hang."
There was much food for thought in the man-
ner in which he replied. He came near to con-
vincing them by disdaining to produce proofs.
They grew excited over it.
There was a youthful private who listened
with eager ears to the words of the tall soldier
and to the varied comments of his comrades.
After receiving a fill of discussions concerning
marches and attacks, he went to his hut and
crawled through an intricate hole that served it
as a door. He wished to be alone with some
new thoughts that had lately come to him.
He lay down on a wide bank that stretched
across the end of the room. In the other end,
cracker boxes were made to serve as furniture.
They were grouped about the fireplace. A pic-
ture from an illustrated weekly was upon the log
walls, and three rifles were paralleled on pegs.
Equipments hunt on handy projections, and some
tin dishes lay upon a small pile of firewood. A
folded tent was serving as a roof. The sunlight,
without, beating upon it, made it glow a light
yellow shade. A small window shot an oblique
square of whiter light upon the cluttered floor.
The smoke from the fire at times neglected the
clay chimney and wreathed into the room, and
this flimsy chimney of clay and sticks made end-
less threats to set ablaze the whole establishment.
The youth was in a little trance of astonish-
ment. So they were at last going to fight. On
the morrow, perhaps, there would be a battle, and
he would be in it. For a time he was obliged
to labor to make himself believe. He could not
accept with assurance an omen that he was about
to mingle in one of those great affairs of the earth.
He had, of course, dreamed of battles all
his life--of vague and bloody conflicts that had
thrilled him with their sweep and fire. In visions
he had seen himself in many struggles. He had
imagined peoples secure in the shadow of his
eagle-eyed prowess. But awake he had regarded
battles as crimson blotches on the pages of the
past. He had put them as things of the bygone
with his thought-images of heavy crowns and
high castles. There was a portion of the world's
history which he had regarded as the time of
wars, but it, he thought, had been long gone over
the horizon and had disappeared forever.
From his home his youthful eyes had looked
upon the war in his own country with distrust.
It must be some sort of a play affair. He had
long despaired of witnessing a Greeklike struggle.
Such would be no more, he had said. Men were
better, or more timid. Secular and religious
education had effaced the throat-grappling in-
stinct, or else firm finance held in check the pas-
He had burned several times to enlist. Tales
of great movements shook the land. They might
not be distinctly Homeric, but there seemed to
be much glory in them. He had read of marches,
sieges, conflicts, and he had longed to see it all.
His busy mind had drawn for him large pictures
extravagant in color, lurid with breathless deeds.
But his mother had discouraged him. She
had affected to look with some contempt upon
the quality of his war ardor and patriotism. She
could calmly seat herself and with no apparent
difficulty give him many hundreds of reasons
why he was of vastly more importance on the
farm than on the field of battle. She had had
certain ways of expression that told him that her
statements on the subject came from a deep con-
viction. Moreover, on her side, was his belief
that her ethical motive in the argument was
At last, however, he had made firm rebellion
against this yellow light thrown upon the color of
his ambitions. The newspapers, the gossip of the
village, his own picturings had aroused him to
an uncheckable degree. They were in truth
fighting finely down there. Almost every day
the newspapers printed accounts of a decisive
One night, as he lay in bed, the winds had
carried to him the clangoring of the church bell
as some enthusiast jerked the rope frantically to
tell the twisted news of a great battle. This
voice of the people rejoicing in the night had
made him shiver in a prolonged ecstasy of ex-
citement. Later, he had gone down to his
mother's room and had spoken thus: "Ma, I'm
going to enlist."
"Henry, don't you be a fool," his mother had
replied. She had then covered her face with the
quilt. There was an end to the matter for that
Nevertheless, the next morning he had gone
to a town that was near his mother's farm and
had enlisted in a company that was forming there.
When he had returned home his mother was
milking the brindle cow. Four others stood
waiting. "Ma, I've enlisted," he had said to her
diffidently. There was a short silence. "The
Lord's will be done, Henry," she had finally
replied, and had then continued to milk the
When he had stood in the doorway with his
soldier's clothes on his back, and with the light of
excitement and expectancy in his eyes almost
defeating the glow of regret for the home bonds,
he had seen two tears leaving their trails on his
mother's scarred cheeks.
Still, she had disappointed him by saying
nothing whatever about returning with his shield
or on it. He had privately primed himself for a
beautiful scene. He had prepared certain sen-
tences which he thought could be used with
touching effect. But her words destroyed his
plans. She had doggedly peeled potatoes and
addressed him as follows: "You watch out,
Henry, an' take good care of yerself in this here
fighting business--you watch out, an' take good
care of yerself. Don't go a-thinkin' you can
lick the hull rebel army at the start, because yeh
can't. Yer jest one little feller amongst a hull lot
of others, and yeh've got to keep quiet an' do what
they tell yeh. I know how you are, Henry.
"I've knet yeh eight pair of socks, Henry, and
I've put in all yer best shirts, because I want my
boy to be jest as warm and comf'able as anybody
in the army. Whenever they get holes in 'em, I
want yeh to send 'em right-away back to me, so's
I kin dern 'em.
"An' allus be careful an' choose yer comp'ny.
There's lots of bad men in the army, Henry.
The army makes 'em wild, and they like nothing
better than the job of leading off a young feller
like you, as ain't never been away from home
much and has allus had a mother, an' a-learning
'em to drink and swear. Keep clear of them
folks, Henry. I don't want yeh to ever do any-
thing, Henry, that yeh would be 'shamed to let
me know about. Jest think as if I was a-watchin'
yeh. If yeh keep that in yer mind allus, I guess
yeh'll come out about right.
"Yeh must allus remember yer father, too,
child, an' remember he never drunk a drop of
licker in his life, and seldom swore a cross oath.
"I don't know what else to tell yeh, Henry,
excepting that yeh must never do no shirking,
child, on my account. If so be a time comes when
yeh have to be kilt or do a mean thing, why,
Henry, don't think of anything 'cept what's right,
because there's many a woman has to bear up
'ginst sech things these times, and the Lord 'll
take keer of us all.
"Don't forgit about the socks and the shirts,
child; and I've put a cup of blackberry jam with
yer bundle, because I know yeh like it above all
things. Good-by, Henry. Watch out, and be a
He had, of course, been impatient under the
ordeal of this speech. It had not been quite what
he expected, and he had borne it with an air of
irritation. He departed feeling vague relief.
Still, when he had looked back from the gate,
he had seen his mother kneeling among the po-
tato parings. Her brown face, upraised, was
stained with tears, and her spare form was quiver-
10 RED BADGE OF COURAGE.
ing. He bowed his head and went on, feeling
suddenly ashamed of his purposes.
From his home he had gone to the seminary
to bid adieu to many schoolmates. They had
thronged about him with wonder and admiration.
He had felt the gulf now between them and had
swelled with calm pride. He and some of his
fellows who had donned blue were quite over-
whelmed with privileges for all of one afternoon,
and it had been a very delicious thing. They had
A certain light-haired girl had made vivacious
fun at his martial spirit, but there was another and
darker girl whom he had gazed at steadfastly, and
he thought she grew demure and sad at sight of
his blue and brass. As he had walked down the
path between the rows of oaks, he had turned his
head and detected her at a window watching his
departure. As he perceived her, she had im-
mediately begun to stare up through the high
tree branches at the sky. He had seen a good
deal of flurry and haste in her movement as she
changed her attitude. He often thought of it.
On the way to Washington his spirit had
soared. The regiment was fed and caressed at
station after station until the youth had believed
that he must be a hero. There was a lavish ex-
penditure of bread and cold meats, coffee, and
pickles and cheese. As he basked in the smiles
of the girls and was patted and complimented by
the old men, he had felt growing within him the
strength to do mighty deeds of arms.
After complicated journeyings with many
pauses, there had come months of monotonous
life in a camp. He had had the belief that real
war was a series of death struggles with small
time in between for sleep and meals; but since his
regiment had come to the field the army had done
little but sit still and try to keep warm.
He was brought then gradually back to his old
ideas. Greeklike struggles would be no more.
Men were better, or more timid. Secular and
religious education had effaced the throat-grap-
pling instinct, or else firm finance held in check
He had grown to regard himself merely as a
part of a vast blue demonstration. His province
was to look out, as far as he could, for his per-
sonal comfort. For recreation he could twiddle
his thumbs and speculate on the thoughts which
must agitate the minds of the generals. Also, he
was drilled and drilled and reviewed, and drilled
and drilled and reviewed.
The only foes he had seen were some pickets
along the river bank. They were a sun-tanned,
philosophical lot, who sometimes shot reflectively
at the blue pickets. When reproached for this
afterward, they usually expressed sorrow, and
swore by their gods that the guns had exploded
without their permission. The youth, on guard
duty one night, conversed across the stream with
one of them. He was a slightly ragged man, who
spat skillfully between his shoes and possessed a
great fund of bland and infantile assurance. The
youth liked him personally.
"Yank," the other had informed him, "yer a
right dum good feller." This sentiment, floating
to him upon the still air, had made him tempo-
rarily regret war.
Various veterans had told him tales. Some
talked of gray, bewhiskered hordes who were
advancing with relentless curses and chewing
tobacco with unspeakable valor; tremendous
bodies of fierce soldiery who were sweeping
along like the Huns. Others spoke of tattered
and eternally hungry men who fired despondent
powders. "They'll charge through hell's fire an'
brimstone t' git a holt on a haversack, an' sech
stomachs ain't a-lastin' long," he was told. From
the stories, the youth imagined the red, live bones
sticking out through slits in the faded uniforms.
Still, he could not put a whole faith in veter-
ans' tales, for recruits were their prey. They
talked much of smoke, fire, and blood, but he
could not tell how much might be lies. They
persistently yelled "Fresh fish!" at him, and were
in no wise to be trusted.
However, he perceived now that it did not
greatly matter what kind of soldiers he was going
to fight, so long as they fought, which fact no one
disputed. There was a more serious problem. He
lay in his bunk pondering upon it. He tried to
mathematically prove to himself that he would
not run from a battle.
Previously he had never felt obliged to wrestle
too seriously with this question. In his life he had
taken certain things for granted, never challeng-
ing his belief in ultimate success, and bothering
little about means and roads. But here he was
confronted with a thing of moment. It had sud-
denly appeared to him that perhaps in a battle he
might run. He was forced to admit that as far as
war was concerned he knew nothing of himself.
A sufficient time before he would have allowed
the problem to kick its heels at the outer portals
of his mind, but now he felt compelled to give
serious attention to it.
A little panic-fear grew in his mind. As his
imagination went forward to a fight, he saw hide-
ous possibilities. He contemplated the lurking
menaces of the future, and failed in an effort to
see himself standing stoutly in the midst of them.
He recalled his visions of broken-bladed glory,
but in the shadow of the impending tumult he
suspected them to be impossible pictures.
He sprang from the bunk and began to pace
nervously to and fro. "Good Lord, what's th'
matter with me?" he said aloud.
He felt that in this crisis his laws of life were
useless. Whatever he had learned of himself was
here of no avail. He was an unknown quantity.
He saw that he would again be obliged to experi-
ment as he had in early youth. He must accumu-
late information of himself, and meanwhile he re-
solved to remain close upon his guard lest those
qualities of which he knew nothing should ever-
lastingly disgrace him. "Good Lord!" he re-
peated in dismay.
After a time the tall soldier slid dexterously
through the hole. The loud private followed.
They were wrangling.
"That's all right," said the tall soldier as he
entered. He waved his hand expressively. "You
can believe me or not, jest as you like. All you
got to do is to sit down and wait as quiet as you
can. Then pretty soon you'll find out I was right."
His comrade grunted stubbornly. For a mo-
ment he seemed to be searching for a formidable
reply. Finally he said: "Well, you don't know
everything in the world, do you?"
"Didn't say I knew everything in the world,"
retorted the other sharply. He began to stow
various articles snugly into his knapsack.
The youth, pausing in his nervous walk, looked
down at the busy figure. "Going to be a battle,
sure, is there, Jim?" he asked.
"Of course there is," replied the tall soldier.
"Of course there is. You jest wait 'til to-morrow,
and you'll see one of the biggest battles ever was.
You jest wait."
"Thunder!der!" said the youth.
"Oh, you'll see fighting this time, my boy,
what'll be regular out-and-out fighting," added
the tall soldier, with the air of a man who is
about to exhibit a battle for the benefit of his
"Huh!" said the loud one from a corner.
"Well," remarked the youth, "like as not this
story'll turn out jest like them others did."
"Not much it won't," replied the tall soldier,
exasperated. "Not much it won't. Didn't the
cavalry all start this morning?" He glared about
him. No one denied his statement. "The cav-
alry started this morning," he continued. "They
say there ain't hardly any cavalry left in camp.
They're going to Richmond, or some place, while
we fight all the Johnnies. It's some dodge like
that. The regiment's got orders, too. A feller
what seen 'em go to headquarters told me a little
while ago. And they're raising blazes all over
camp--anybody can see that."
"Shucks!" said the loud one.
The youth remained silent for a time. At last
he spoke to the tall soldier. "Jim!"
"How do you think the reg'ment 'll do?"
"Oh, they'll fight all right, I guess, after they
once get into it," said the other with cold judg-
ment. He made a fine use of the third person.
"There's been heaps of fun poked at 'em because
they're new, of course, and all that; but they'll
fight all right, I guess."
"Think any of the boys 'll run?" persisted the
"Oh, there may be a few of 'em run, but
there's them kind in every regiment, 'specially
when they first goes under fire," said the other
in a tolerant way. "Of course it might happen
that the hull kit-and-boodle might start and run,
if some big fighting came first-off, and then again
they might stay and fight like fun. But you can't
bet on nothing. Of course they ain't never been
under fire yet, and it ain't likely they'll lick the
hull rebel army all-to-oncet the first time; but I
think they'll fight better than some, if worse than
others. That's the way I figger. They call the
reg'ment 'Fresh fish' and everything; but the
boys come of good stock, and most of 'em 'll fight
like sin after they oncet git shootin'," he added,
with a mighty emphasis on the last four words.
"Oh, you think you know--" began the loud
soldier with scorn.
The other turned savagely upon him. They
had a rapid altercation, in which they fastened
upon each other various strange epithets.
The youth at last interrupted them. "Did
you ever think you might run yourself, Jim?" he
asked. On concluding the sentence he laughed
as if he had meant to aim a joke. The loud sol-
dier also giggled.
The tall private waved his hand. "Well," said
he profoundly, "I've thought it might get too hot
for Jim Conklin in some of them scrimmages, and
if a whole lot of boys started and run, why, I
s'pose I'd start and run. And if I once started to
run, I'd run like the devil, and no mistake. But
if everybody was a-standing and a-fighting, why,
I'd stand and fight. Be jiminey, I would. I'll
bet on it."
"Huh!" said the loud one.
The youth of this tale felt gratitude for these
words of his comrade. He had feared that all of
the untried men possessed a great and correct
confidence. He now was in a measure reassured.
THE next morning the youth discovered that
his tall comrade had been the fast-flying messen-
ger of a mistake. There was much scoffing at
the latter by those who had yesterday been firm
adherents of his views, and there was even a lit-
tle sneering by men who had never believed the
rumor. The tall one fought with a man from
Chatfield Corners and beat him severely.
The youth felt, however, that his problem was
in no wise lifted from him. There was, on the
contrary, an irritating prolongation. The tale
had created in him a great concern for himself.
Now, with the newborn question in his mind, he
was compelled to sink back into his old place as
part of a blue demonstration.
For days he made ceaseless calculations, but
they were all wondrously unsatisfactory. He
found that he could establish nothing. He final-
ly concluded that the only way to prove himself
was to go into the blaze, and then figuratively to
watch his legs to discover their merits and faults.
He reluctantly admitted that he could not sit
still and with a mental slate and pencil derive an
answer. To gain it, he must have blaze, blood,
and danger, even as a chemist requires this, that,
and the other. So he fretted for an opportunity.
Meanwhile he continually tried to measure
himself by his comrades. The tall soldier, for
one, gave him some assurance. This man's se-
rene unconcern dealt him a measure of con-
fidence, for he had known him since childhood,
and from his intimate knowledge he did not see
how he could be capable of anything that was
beyond him, the youth. Still, he thought that
his comrade might be mistaken about himself.
Or, on the other hand, he might be a man here-
tofore doomed to peace and obscurity, but, in
reality, made to shine in war.
The youth would have liked to have discov-
ered another who suspected himself. A sympa-
thetic comparison of mental notes would have
been a joy to him.
He occasionally tried to fathom a comrade
with seductive sentences. He looked about to
find men in the proper mood. All attempts
failed to bring forth any statement which looked
in any way like a confession to those doubts
which he privately acknowledged in himself.
He was afraid to make an open declaration of
his concern, because he dreaded to place some
unscrupulous confidant upon the high plane of
the unconfessed from which elevation he could
In regard to his companions his mind wa-
vered between two opinions, according to his
mood. Sometimes he inclined to believing them
all heroes. In fact, he usually admitted in secret
the superior development of the higher qualities
in others. He could conceive of men going very
insignificantly about the world bearing a load of
courage unseen, and although he had known
many of his comrades through boyhood, he be-
gan to fear that his judgment of them had been
blind. Then, in other moments, he flouted these
theories, and assured himself that his fellows
were all privately wondering and quaking.
His emotions made him feel strange in the
presence of men who talked excitedly of a pro-
spective battle as of a drama they were about to
witness, with nothing but eagerness and curiosity
apparent in their faces. It was often that he sus-
pected them to be liars.
He did not pass such thoughts without severe
condemnation of himself. He dinned reproaches
at times. He was convicted by himself of many
shameful crimes against the gods of traditions.
In his great anxiety his heart was continually
clamoring at what he considered the intolerable
slowness of the generals. They seemed content
to perch tranquilly on the river bank, and leave
him bowed down by the weight of a great prob-
lem. He wanted it settled forthwith. He could
not long bear such a load, he said. Sometimes
his anger at the commanders reached an acute
stage, and he grumbled about the camp like a
One morning, however, he found himself in
the ranks of his prepared regiment. The men
were whispering speculations and recounting the
old rumors. In the gloom before the break of
the day their uniforms glowed a deep purple
hue. From across the river the red eyes were
still peering. In the eastern sky there was a yel-
low patch like a rug laid for the feet of the com-
ing sun; and against it, black and patternlike,
loomed the gigantic figure of the colonel on a
From off in the darkness came the trampling
of feet. The youth could occasionally see dark
shadows that moved like monsters. The regi-
ment stood at rest for what seemed a long time.
The youth grew impatient. It was unendurable
the way these affairs were managed. He won-
dered how long they were to be kept waiting.
As he looked all about him and pondered
upon the mystic gloom, he began to believe that
at any moment the ominous distance might be
aflare, and the rolling crashes of an engagement
come to his ears. Staring once at the red eyes
across the river, he conceived them to be grow-
ing larger, as the orbs of a row of dragons ad-
vancing. He turned toward the colonel and saw
him lift his gigantic arm and calmly stroke his
At last he heard from along the road at the
foot of the hill the clatter of a horse's galloping
hoofs. It must be the coming of orders. He
bent forward, scarce breathing. The exciting
clickety-click, as it grew louder and louder,
seemed to be beating upon his soul. Presently a
horseman with jangling equipment drew rein be-
fore the colonel of the regiment. The two held
a short, sharp-worded conversation. The men in
the foremost ranks craned their necks.
As the horseman wheeled his animal and gal-
loped away he turned to shout over his shoulder,
"Don't forget that box of cigars!" The colonel
mumbled in reply. The youth wondered what a
box of cigars had to do with war.
A moment later the regiment went swinging
off into the darkness. It was now like one of
those moving monsters wending with many feet.
The air was heavy, and cold with dew. A mass
of wet grass, marched upon, rustled like silk.
There was an occasional flash and glimmer
of steel from the backs of all these huge crawl-
ing reptiles. From the road came creakings and
grumblings as some surly guns were dragged
The men stumbled along still muttering specu-
lations. There was a subdued debate. Once a
man fell down, and as he reached for his rifle a
comrade, unseeing, trod upon his hand. He of
the injured fingers swore bitterly and aloud. A
low, tittering laugh went among his fellows.
Presently they passed into a roadway and
marched forward with easy strides. A dark
regiment moved before them, and from behind
also came the tinkle of equipments on the bodies
of marching men.
The rushing yellow of the developing day
went on behind their backs. When the sunrays
at last struck full and mellowingly upon the
earth, the youth saw that the landscape was
streaked with two long, thin, black columns
which disappeared on the brow of a hill in front
and rearward vanished in a wood. They were
like two serpents crawling from the cavern of the
The river was not in view. The tall soldier
burst into praises of what he thought to be his
powers of perception.
Some of the tall one's companions cried with
emphasis that they, too, had evolved the same
thing, and they congratulated themselves upon
it. But there were others who said that the tall
one's plan was not the true one at all. They per-
sisted with other theories. There was a vigorous
The youth took no part in them. As he
walked along in careless line he was engaged
with his own eternal debate. He could not hin-
der himself from dwelling upon it. He was de-
spondent and sullen, and threw shifting glances
about him. He looked ahead, often expecting to
hear from the advance the rattle of firing.
But the long serpents crawled slowly from
hill to hill without bluster of smoke. A dun-col-
ored cloud of dust floated away to the right.
The sky overhead was of a fairy blue.
The youth studied the faces of his compan-
ions, ever on the watch to detect kindred emo-
tions. He suffered disappointment. Some ardor
of the air which was causing the veteran com-
mands to move with glee--almost with song--
had infected the new regiment. The men began
to speak of victory as of a thing they knew.
Also, the tall soldier received his vindication.
They were certainly going to come around in
behind the enemy. They expressed commisera-
tion for that part of the army which had been
left upon the river bank, felicitating themselves
upon being a part of a blasting host.
The youth, considering himself as separated
from the others, was saddened by the blithe and
merry speeches that went from rank to rank.
The company wags all made their best endeav-
ors. The regiment tramped to the tune of
The blatant soldier often convulsed whole
files by his biting sarcasms aimed at the tall one.
And it was not long before all the men seemed
to forget their mission. Whole brigades grinned
in unison, and regiments laughed.
A rather fat soldier attempted to pilfer a horse
from a dooryard. He planned to load his knap-
sack upon it. He was escaping with his prize
when a young girl rushed from the house and
grabbed the animal's mane. There followed a
wrangle. The young girl, with pink cheeks and
shining eyes, stood like a dauntless statue.
The observant regiment, standing at rest in
the roadway, whooped at once, and entered
whole-souled upon the side of the maiden. The
men became so engrossed in this affair that they
entirely ceased to remember their own large war.
They jeered the piratical private, and called
attention to various defects in his personal ap-
pearance; and they were wildly enthusiastic in
support of the young girl.
To her, from some distance, came bold advice.
"Hit him with a stick."
There were crows and catcalls showered
upon him when he retreated without the horse.
The regiment rejoiced at his downfall. Loud
and vociferous congratulations were showered
upon the maiden, who stood panting and regard-
ing the troops with defiance.
At nightfall the column broke into regimental
pieces, and the fragments went into the fields to
camp. Tents sprang up like strange plants.
Camp fires, like red, peculiar blossoms, dotted
The youth kept from intercourse with his
companions as much as circumstances would
allow him. In the evening he wandered a few
paces into the gloom. From this little distance
the many fires, with the black forms of men pass-
ing to and fro before the crimson rays, made
weird and satanic effects.
He lay down in the grass. The blades
pressed tenderly against his cheek. The moon
had been lighted and was hung in a treetop.
The liquid stillness of the night enveloping him
made him feel vast pity for himself. There was
a caress in the soft winds; and the whole mood
of the darkness, he thought, was one of sympathy
for himself in his distress.
He wished, without reserve, that he was at
home again making the endless rounds from the
house to the barn, from the barn to the fields,
from the fields to the barn, from the barn to the
house. He remembered he had often cursed the
brindle cow and her mates, and had sometimes
flung milking stools. But, from his present point
of view, there was a halo of happiness about each
of their heads, and he would have sacrificed all
the brass buttons on the continent to have been
enabled to return to them. He told himself that
he was not formed for a soldier. And he mused
seriously upon the radical differences between
himself and those men who were dodging imp-
like around the fires.
As he mused thus he heard the rustle of grass,
and, upon turning his head, discovered the loud
soldier. He called out, "Oh, Wilson!"
The latter approached and looked down.
"Why, hello, Henry; is it you? What you do-
"Oh, thinking," said the youth.
The other sat down and carefully lighted his
pipe. "You're getting blue, my boy. You're
looking thundering peeked. What the dickens
is wrong with you?"
"Oh, nothing," said the youth.
The loud soldier launched then into the sub-
ject of the anticipated fight. "Oh, we've got
'em now!" As he spoke his boyish face was
wreathed in a gleeful smile, and his voice had
an exultant ring. "We've got 'em now. At
last, by the eternal thunders, we'll lick 'em
"If the truth was known," he added, more
soberly, "THEY'VE licked US about every clip up to
now; but this time--this time--we'll lick 'em
"I thought you was objecting to this march
a little while ago," said the youth coldly.
"Oh, it wasn't that," explained the other. "I
don't mind marching, if there's going to be fight-
ing at the end of it. What I hate is this getting
moved here and moved there, with no good com-
ing of it, as far as I can see, excepting sore feet
and damned short rations."
"Well, Jim Conklin says we'll get a plenty of
fighting this time."
"He's right for once, I guess, though I can't
see how it come. This time we're in for a big
battle, and we've got the best end of it, certain
sure. Gee rod! how we will thump 'em!"
He arose and began to pace to and fro excit-
edly. The thrill of his enthusiasm made him
walk with an elastic step. He was sprightly,
vigorous, fiery in his belief in success. He
looked into the future with clear, proud eye, and
he swore with the air of an old soldier.
The youth watched him for a moment in
silence. When he finally spoke his voice was as
bitter as dregs. "Oh, you're going to do great
things, I s'pose!"
The loud soldier blew a thoughtful cloud of
smoke from his pipe. "Oh, I don't know," he
remarked with dignity; "I don't know. I s'pose
I'll do as well as the rest. I'm going to try like
thunder." He evidently complimented himself
upon the modesty of this statement.
"How do you know you won't run when the
time comes?" asked the youth.
"Run?" said the loud one; "run?--of course
not!" He laughed.
"Well," continued the youth, "lots of good-
a-'nough men have thought they was going to do
great things before the fight, but when the time
come they skedaddled."
"Oh, that's all true, I s'pose," replied the
other; "but I'm not going to skedaddle. The
man that bets on my running will lose his money,
that's all." He nodded confidently.
"Oh, shucks!" said the youth. "You ain't
the bravest man in the world, are you?"
"No, I ain't," exclaimed the loud soldier in-
dignantly; "and I didn't say I was the bravest
man in the world, neither. I said I was going to
do my share of fighting--that's what I said. And
I am, too. Who are you, anyhow. You talk as
if you thought you was Napoleon Bonaparte."
He glared at the youth for a moment, and then
The youth called in a savage voice after his
comrade: "Well, you needn't git mad about it!"
But the other continued on his way and made no
He felt alone in space when his injured com-
rade had disappeared. His failure to discover
any mite of resemblance in their view points
made him more miserable than before. No one
seemed to be wrestling with such a terrific per-
sonal problem. He was a mental outcast.
He went slowly to his tent and stretched him-
self on a blanket by the side of the snoring tall
soldier. In the darkness he saw visions of a thou-
sand-tongued fear that would babble at his back
and cause him to flee, while others were going
coolly about their country's business. He admit-
ted that he would not be able to cope with this
monster. He felt that every nerve in his body
would be an ear to hear the voices, while other
men would remain stolid and deaf.
And as he sweated with the pain of these
thoughts, he could hear low, serene sentences.
"I'll bid five." "Make it six." "Seven."
He stared at the red, shivering reflection of
a fire on the white wall of his tent until, ex-
hausted and ill from the monotony of his suf-
fering, he fell asleep.
WHEN another night came the columns,
changed to purple streaks, filed across two pon-
toon bridges. A glaring fire wine-tinted the
waters of the river. Its rays, shining upon the
moving masses of troops, brought forth here and
there sudden gleams of silver or gold. Upon
the other shore a dark and mysterious range of
hills was curved against the sky. The insect
voices of the night sang solemnly.
After this crossing the youth assured himself
that at any moment they might be suddenly and
fearfully assaulted from the caves of the lowering
woods. He kept his eyes watchfully upon the
But his regiment went unmolested to a camp-
ing place, and its soldiers slept the brave sleep
of wearied men. In the morning they were
routed out with early energy, and hustled along
a narrow road that led deep into the forest.
It was during this rapid march that the regi-
ment lost many of the marks of a new com-
The men had begun to count the miles upon
their fingers, and they grew tired. "Sore feet
an' damned short rations, that's all," said the
loud soldier. There was perspiration and grum-
blings. After a time they began to shed their
knapsacks. Some tossed them unconcernedly
down; others hid them carefully, asserting their
plans to return for them at some convenient
time. Men extricated themselves from thick
shirts. Presently few carried anything but their
necessary clothing, blankets, haversacks, canteens,
and arms and ammunition. "You can now eat
and shoot," said the tall soldier to the youth.
"That's all you want to do."
There was sudden change from the ponderous
infantry of theory to the light and speedy infantry
of practice. The regiment, relieved of a burden,
received a new impetus. But there was much
loss of valuable knapsacks, and, on the whole,
very good shirts.
But the regiment was not yet veteranlike in
appearance. Veteran regiments in the army
were likely to be very small aggregations of men.
Once, when the command had first come to the
field, some perambulating veterans, noting the
length of their column, had accosted them thus:
"Hey, fellers, what brigade is that?" And when
the men had replied that they formed a regiment
and not a brigade, the older soldiers had laughed,
and said, "O Gawd!"
Also, there was too great a similarity in the
hats. The hats of a regiment should properly
represent the history of headgear for a period of
years. And, moreover, there were no letters of
faded gold speaking from the colors. They were
new and beautiful, and the color bearer habitu-
ally oiled the pole.
Presently the army again sat down to think.
The odor of the peaceful pines was in the men's
nostrils. The sound of monotonous axe blows
rang through the forest, and the insects, nodding
upon their perches, crooned like old women.
The youth returned to his theory of a blue dem-
One gray dawn, however, he was kicked in
the leg by the tall soldier, and then, before he
was entirely awake, he found himself running
down a wood road in the midst of men who were
panting from the first effects of speed. His can-
teen banged rhythmically upon his thigh, and his
haversack bobbed softly. His musket bounced
a trifle from his shoulder at each stride and made
his cap feel uncertain upon his head.
He could hear the men whisper jerky sen-
tences: "Say--what's all this--about?" "What
th' thunder--we--skedaddlin' this way fer?"
"Billie--keep off m' feet. Yeh run--like a cow."
And the loud soldier's shrill voice could be
heard: "What th' devil they in sich a hurry for?"
The youth thought the damp fog of early
morning moved from the rush of a great body
of troops. From the distance came a sudden
spatter of firing.
He was bewildered. As he ran with his com-
rades he strenuously tried to think, but all he knew
was that if he fell down those coming behind
would tread upon him. All his faculties seemed
to be needed to guide him over and past obstruc-
tions. He felt carried along by a mob.
The sun spread disclosing rays, and, one by
one, regiments burst into view like armed men
just born of the earth. The youth perceived
that the time had come. He was about to be
measured. For a moment he felt in the face of
his great trial like a babe, and the flesh over
his heart seemed very thin. He seized time to
look about him calculatingly.
But he instantly saw that it would be impossi-
ble for him to escape from the regiment. It in-
closed him. And there were iron laws of tradi-
tion and law on four sides. He was in a moving
As he perceived this fact it occurred to him
that he had never wished to come to the war.
He had not enlisted of his free will. He had
been dragged by the merciless government. And
now they were taking him out to be slaughtered.
The regiment slid down a bank and wallowed
across a little stream. The mournful current
moved slowly on, and from the water, shaded
black, some white bubble eyes looked at the men.
As they climbed the hill on the farther side
artillery began to boom. Here the youth forgot
many things as he felt a sudden impulse of curi-
osity. He scrambled up the bank with a speed
that could not be exceeded by a bloodthirsty
He expected a battle scene.
There were some little fields girted and
squeezed by a forest. Spread over the grass and
in among the tree trunks, he could see knots and
waving lines of skirmishers who were running
hither and thither and firing at the landscape.
A dark battle line lay upon a sunstruck clearing
that gleamed orange color. A flag fluttered.
Other regiments floundered up the bank. The
brigade was formed in line of battle, and after a
pause started slowly through the woods in the
rear of the receding skirmishers, who were con-
tinually melting into the scene to appear again
farther on. They were always busy as bees,
deeply absorbed in their little combats.
The youth tried to observe everything. He
did not use care to avoid trees and branches,
and his forgotten feet were constantly knocking
against stones or getting entangled in briers.
He was aware that these battalions with their
commotions were woven red and startling into
the gentle fabric of softened greens and browns.
It looked to be a wrong place for a battle field.
The skirmishers in advance fascinated him.
Their shots into thickets and at distant and
prominent trees spoke to him of tragedies--hid-
den, mysterious, solemn.
Once the line encountered the body of a dead
soldier. He lay upon his back staring at the sky.
He was dressed in an awkward suit of yellowish
brown. The youth could see that the soles of his
shoes had been worn to the thinness of writing
paper, and from a great rent in one the dead foot
projected piteously. And it was as if fate had
betrayed the soldier. In death it exposed to his
enemies that poverty which in life he had perhaps
concealed from his friends.
The ranks opened covertly to avoid the corpse.
The invulnerable dead man forced a way for him-
self. The youth looked keenly at the ashen face.
The wind raised the tawny beard. It moved as
if a hand were stroking it. He vaguely desired
to walk around and around the body and stare;
the impulse of the living to try to read in dead
eyes the answer to the Question.
During the march the ardor which the youth
had acquired when out of view of the field rapidly
faded to nothing. His curiosity was quite easily
satisfied. If an intense scene had caught him with
its wild swing as he came to the top of the bank,
he might have gone roaring on. This advance
upon Nature was too calm. He had opportunity
to reflect. He had time in which to wonder
about himself and to attempt to probe his sensa-
Absurd ideas took hold upon him. He
thought that he did not relish the landscape.
It threatened him. A coldness swept over his
back, and it is true that his trousers felt to him
that they were no fit for his legs at all.
A house standing placidly in distant fields
had to him an ominous look. The shadows of
the woods were formidable. He was certain that
in this vista there lurked fierce-eyed hosts. The
swift thought came to him that the generals did
not know what they were about. It was all a
trap. Suddenly those close forests would bristle
with rifle barrels. Ironlike brigades would ap-
pear in the rear. They were all going to be
sacrificed. The generals were stupids. The
enemy would presently swallow the whole com-
mand. He glared about him, expecting to see
the stealthy approach of his death.
He thought that he must break from the ranks
and harangue his comrades. They must not all
be killed like pigs; and he was sure it would
come to pass unless they were informed of these
dangers. The generals were idiots to send them
marching into a regular pen. There was but one
pair of eyes in the corps. He would step forth
and make a speech. Shrill and passionate words
came to his lips.
The line, broken into moving fragments by the
ground, went calmly on through fields and woods.
The youth looked at the men nearest him, and
saw, for the most part, expressions of deep inter-
est, as if they were investigating something that
had fascinated them. One or two stepped with
overvaliant airs as if they were already plunged
into war. Others walked as upon thin ice. The
greater part of the untested men appeared quiet
and absorbed. They were going to look at war,
the red animal--war, the blood-swollen god. And
they were deeply engrossed in this march.
As he looked the youth gripped his outcry at
his throat. He saw that even if the men were
tottering with fear they would laugh at his warn-
ing. They would jeer him, and, if practicable,
pelt him with missiles. Admitting that he might
be wrong, a frenzied declamation of the kind
would turn him into a worm.
He assumed, then, the demeanor of one who
knows that he is doomed alone to unwritten re-
sponsibilities. He lagged, with tragic glances at
He was surprised presently by the young lieu-
tenant of his company, who began heartily to
beat him with a sword, calling out in a loud and
insolent voice: "Come, young man, get up into
ranks there. No skulking'll do here." He mend-
ed his pace with suitable haste. And he hated
the lieutenant, who had no appreciation of fine
minds. He was a mere brute.
After a time the brigade was halted in the
cathedral light of a forest. The busy skirmish-
ers were still popping. Through the aisles of
the wood could be seen the floating smoke from
their rifles. Sometimes it went up in little balls,
white and compact.
During this halt many men in the regiment
began erecting tiny hills in front of them. They
used stones, sticks, earth, and anything they
thought might turn a bullet. Some built com-
paratively large ones, while others seemed con-
tent with little ones.
This procedure caused a discussion among the
men. Some wished to fight like duelists, believ-
ing it to be correct to stand erect and be, from
their feet to their foreheads, a mark. They said
they scorned the devices of the cautious. But
the others scoffed in reply, and pointed to the
veterans on the flanks who were digging at the
ground like terriers. In a short time there was
quite a barricade along the regimental fronts.
Directly, however, they were ordered to with-
draw from that place.
This astounded the youth. He forgot his
stewing over the advance movement. "Well,
then, what did they march us out here for?" he
demanded of the tall soldier. The latter with
calm faith began a heavy explanation, although
he had been compelled to leave a little protection
of stones and dirt to which he had devoted much
care and skill.
When the regiment was aligned in another
position each man's regard for his safety caused
another line of small intrenchments. They ate
their noon meal behind a third one. They were
moved from this one also. They were marched
from place to place with apparent aimlessness.
The youth had been taught that a man be-
came another thing in a battle. He saw his sal-
vation in such a change. Hence this waiting
was an ordeal to him. He was in a fever of im-
patience. He considered that there was denoted
a lack of purpose on the part of the generals.
He began to complain to the tall soldier. "I
can't stand this much longer," he cried. "I
don't see what good it does to make us wear
out our legs for nothin'." He wished to return
to camp, knowing that this affair was a blue
demonstration; or else to go into a battle and
discover that he had been a fool in his doubts,
and was, in truth, a man of traditional courage.
The strain of present circumstances he felt to be
The philosophical tall soldier measured a sand-
wich of cracker and pork and swallowed it in a
nonchalant manner. "Oh, I suppose we must go
reconnoitering around the country jest to keep
'em from getting too close, or to develop 'em, or
"Huh!" said the loud soldier.
"Well," cried the youth, still fidgeting, "I'd
rather do anything 'most than go tramping 'round
the country all day doing no good to nobody and
jest tiring ourselves out."
"So would I," said the loud soldier. "It ain't
right. I tell you if anybody with any sense was
a-runnin' this army it--"
"Oh, shut up!" roared the tall private. "You
little fool. You little damn' cuss. You ain't had
that there coat and them pants on for six months,
and yet you talk as if--"
"Well, I wanta do some fighting anyway,"
interrupted the other. "I didn't come here to
walk. I could 'ave walked to home--'round an'
'round the barn, if I jest wanted to walk."
The tall one, red-faced, swallowed another
sandwich as if taking poison in despair.
But gradually, as he chewed, his face became
again quiet and contented. He could not rage
in fierce argument in the presence of such sand-
wiches. During his meals he always wore an air
of blissful contemplation of the food he had swal-
lowed. His spirit seemed then to be communing
with the viands.
He accepted new environment and circum-
stance with great coolness, eating from his haver-
sack at every opportunity. On the march he
went along with the stride of a hunter, object-
ing to neither gait nor distance. And he had
not raised his voice when he had been ordered
away from three little protective piles of earth
and stone, each of which had been an engineer-
ing feat worthy of being made sacred to the name
of his grandmother.
In the afternoon the regiment went out over
the same ground it had taken in the morn-
ing. The landscape then ceased to threaten the
youth. He had been close to it and become
familiar with it.
When, however, they began to pass into a
new region, his old fears of stupidity and in-
competence reassailed him, but this time he dog-
gedly let them babble. He was occupied with
his problem, and in his desperation he concluded
that the stupidity did not greatly matter.
Once he thought he had concluded that it
would be better to get killed directly and end
his troubles. Regarding death thus out of the
corner of his eye, he conceived it to be noth-
ing but rest, and he was filled with a momen-
tary astonishment that he should have made an
extraordinary commotion over the mere matter
of getting killed. He would die; he would go
to some place where he would be understood.
It was useless to expect appreciation of his pro-
found and fine senses from such men as the lieu-
tenant. He must look to the grave for compre-
The skirmish fire increased to a long chatter-
ing sound. With it was mingled far-away cheer-
ing. A battery spoke.
Directly the youth would see the skirmishers
running. They were pursued by the sound of
musketry fire. After a time the hot, dangerous
flashes of the rifles were visible. Smoke clouds
went slowly and insolently across the fields like
observant phantoms. The din became crescendo,
like the roar of an oncoming train.
A brigade ahead of them and on the right
went into action with a rending roar. It was
as if it had exploded. And thereafter it lay
stretched in the distance behind a long gray wall,
that one was obliged to look twice at to make
sure that it was smoke.
The youth, forgetting his neat plan of getting
killed, gazed spell bound. His eyes grew wide
and busy with the action of the scene. His
mouth was a little ways open.
Of a sudden he felt a heavy and sad hand laid
upon his shoulder. Awakening from his trance
of observation he turned and beheld the loud
"It's my first and last battle, old boy," said
the latter, with intense gloom. He was quite
pale and his girlish lip was trembling.
"Eh?" murmured the youth in great aston-
"It's my first and last battle, old boy,"
continued the loud soldier. "Something tells
"I'm a gone coon this first time and--and I
w-want you to take these here things--to--my--
folks." He ended in a quavering sob of pity for
himself. He handed the youth a little packet
done up in a yellow envelope.
"Why, what the devil--" began the youth
But the other gave him a glance as from the
depths of a tomb, and raised his limp hand in a
prophetic manner and turned away.
THE brigade was halted in the fringe of a
grove. The men crouched among the trees and
pointed their restless guns out at the fields.
They tried to look beyond the smoke.
Out of this haze they could see running men.
Some shouted information and gestured as they
The men of the new regiment watched and
listened eagerly, while their tongues ran on in
gossip of the battle. They mouthed rumors that
had flown like birds out of the unknown.
"They say Perry has been driven in with big
"Yes, Carrott went t' th' hospital. He said he
was sick. That smart lieutenant is commanding
'G' Company. Th' boys say they won't be
under Carrott no more if they all have t' desert.
They allus knew he was a--"
"Hannises' batt'ry is took."
"It ain't either. I saw Hannises' batt'ry off on
th' left not more'n fifteen minutes ago."
"Th' general, he ses he is goin' t' take th' hull
cammand of th' 304th when we go inteh action,
an' then he ses we'll do sech fightin' as never
another one reg'ment done."
"They say we're catchin' it over on th' left.
They say th' enemy driv' our line inteh a devil of
a swamp an' took Hannises' batt'ry."
"No sech thing. Hannises' batt'ry was 'long
here 'bout a minute ago."
"That young Hasbrouck, he makes a good
off'cer. He ain't afraid 'a nothin'."
"I met one of th' 148th Maine boys an' he ses
his brigade fit th' hull rebel army fer four hours
over on th' turnpike road an' killed about five
thousand of 'em. He ses one more sech fight as
that an' th' war 'll be over."
"Bill wasn't scared either. No, sir! It wasn't
that. Bill ain't a-gittin' scared easy. He was
jest mad, that's what he was. When that feller
trod on his hand, he up an' sed that he was willin'
t' give his hand t' his country, but he be dumbed
if he was goin' t' have every dumb bushwhacker
in th' kentry walkin' 'round on it. Se he went t'
th' hospital disregardless of th' fight. Three
fingers was crunched. Th' dern doctor wanted
t' amputate 'm, an' Bill, he raised a heluva row, I
hear. He's a funny feller."
The din in front swelled to a tremendous
chorus. The youth and his fellows were frozen
to silence. They could see a flag that tossed in
the smoke angrily. Near it were the blurred and
agitated forms of troops. There came a turbulent
stream of men across the fields. A battery chang-
ing position at a frantic gallop scattered the
stragglers right and left.
A shell screaming like a storm banshee went
over the huddled heads of the reserves. It landed
in the grove, and exploding redly flung the brown
earth. There was a little shower of pine needles.
Bullets began to whistle among the branches
and nip at the trees. Twigs and leaves came
sailing down. It was as if a thousand axes, wee
and invisible, were being wielded. Many of the
men were constantly dodging and ducking their
The lieutenant of the youth's company was
shot in the hand. He began to swear so won-
drously that a nervous laugh went along the regi-
mental line. The officer's profanity sounded
conventional. It relieved the tightened senses of
the new men. It was as if he had hit his fingers
with a tack hammer at home.
He held the wounded member carefully away
from his side so that the blood would not drip
upon his trousers.
The captain of the company, tucking his sword
under his arm, produced a handkerchief and
began to bind with it the lieutenant's wound.
And they disputed as to how the binding should
The battle flag in the distance jerked about
madly. It seemed to be struggling to free itself
from an agony. The billowing smoke was filled
with horizontal flashes.
Men running swiftly emerged from it. They
grew in numbers until it was seen that the whole
command was fleeing. The flag suddenly sank
down as if dying. Its motion as it fell was a
gesture of despair.
Wild yells came from behind the walls of
smoke. A sketch in gray and red dissolved into
a moblike body of men who galloped like wild
The veteran regiments on the right and left of
the 304th immediately began to jeer. With the
passionate song of the bullets and the banshee
shrieks of shells were mingled loud catcalls and
bits of facetious advice concerning places of safety.
But the new regiment was breathless with hor-
ror. "Gawd! Saunders's got crushed!" whis-
pered the man at the youth's elbow. They
shrank back and crouched as if compelled to
await a flood.
The youth shot a swift glance along the blue
ranks of the regiment. The profiles were motion-
less, carven; and afterward he remembered that
the color sergeant was standing with his legs
apart, as if he expected to be pushed to the
The following throng went whirling around
the flank. Here and there were officers carried
along on the stream like exasperated chips. They
were striking about them with their swords
and with their left fists, punching every head
they could reach. They cursed like highway-
A mounted officer displayed the furious anger
of a spoiled child. He raged with his head, his
arms, and his legs.
Another, the commander of the brigade, was
galloping about bawling. His hat was gone and
his clothes were awry. He resembled a man
who has come from bed to go to a fire. The
hoofs of his horse often threatened the heads of
the running men, but they scampered with sin-
gular fortune. In this rush they were apparently
all deaf and blind. They heeded not the largest
and longest of the oaths that were thrown at
them from all directions.
Frequently over this tumult could be heard
the grim jokes of the critical veterans; but the
retreating men apparently were not even con-
scious of the presence of an audience.
The battle reflection that shone for an instant
in the faces on the mad current made the youth
feel that forceful hands from heaven would not
have been able to have held him in place if he
could have got intelligent control of his legs.
There was an appalling imprint upon these
faces. The struggle in the smoke had pictured
an exaggeration of itself on the bleached cheeks
and in the eyes wild with one desire.
The sight of this stampede exerted a floodlike
force that seemed able to drag sticks and stones
and men from the ground. They of the reserves
had to hold on. They grew pale and firm, and
red and quaking.
The youth achieved one little thought in the
midst of this chaos. The composite monster
which had caused the other troops to flee had
not then appeared. He resolved to get a view
of it, and then, he thought he might very likely
run better than the best of them.
THERE were moments of waiting. The youth
thought of the village street at home before the
arrival of the circus parade on a day in the
spring. He remembered how he had stood, a
small, thrillful boy, prepared to follow the dingy
lady upon the white horse, or the band in its
faded chariot. He saw the yellow road, the
lines of expectant people, and the sober houses.
He particularly remembered an old fellow who
used to sit upon a cracker box in front of the
store and feign to despise such exhibitions. A
thousand details of color and form surged in his
mind. The old fellow upon the cracker box ap-
peared in middle prominence.
Some one cried, "Here they come!"
There was rustling and muttering among the
men. They displayed a feverish desire to have
every possible cartridge ready to their hands.
The boxes were pulled around into various posi-
tions, and adjusted with great care. It was as if
seven hundred new bonnets were being tried on.
The tall soldier, having prepared his rifle, pro-
duced a red handkerchief of some kind. He was
engaged in knitting it about his throat with ex-
quisite attention to its position, when the cry was
repeated up and down the line in a muffled roar
"Here they come! Here they come!" Gun
Across the smoke-infested fields came a brown
swarm of running men who were giving shrill
yells. They came on, stooping and swinging
their rifles at all angles. A flag, tilted forward,
sped near the front.
As he caught sight of them the youth was
momentarily startled by a thought that perhaps
his gun was not loaded. He stood trying to
rally his faltering intellect so that he might rec-
ollect the moment when he had loaded, but he
A hatless general pulled his dripping horse to
a stand near the colonel of the 304th. He shook
his fist in the other's face. "You 've got to hold
'em back!" he shouted, savagely; "you 've got
to hold 'em back!"
In his agitation the colonel began to stammer.
"A-all r-right, General, all right, by Gawd! We-
we'll do our--we-we'll d-d-do--do our best, Gen-
eral." The general made a passionate gesture
and galloped away. The colonel, perchance to
relieve his feelings, began to scold like a wet
parrot. The youth, turning swiftly to make
sure that the rear was unmolested, saw the com-
mander regarding his men in a highly regretful
manner, as if he regretted above everything his
association with them.
The man at the youth's elbow was mumbling,
as if to himself: "Oh, we 're in for it now! oh,
we 're in for it now!"
The captain of the company had been pacing
excitedly to and fro in the rear. He coaxed in
schoolmistress fashion, as to a congregation of
boys with primers. His talk was an endless
repetition. "Reserve your fire, boys--don't
shoot till I tell you--save your fire--wait till
they get close up--don't be damned fools--"
Perspiration streamed down the youth's face,
which was soiled like that of a weeping urchin.
He frequently, with a nervous movement, wiped
his eyes with his coat sleeve. His mouth was
still a little ways open.
He got the one glance at the foe-swarming
field in front of him, and instantly ceased to de-
bate the question of his piece being loaded. Be-
fore he was ready to begin--before he had an-
nounced to himself that he was about to fight--
he threw the obedient, well-balanced rifle into
position and fired a first wild shot. Directly he
was working at his weapon like an automatic
He suddenly lost concern for himself, and for-
got to look at a menacing fate. He became not a
man but a member. He felt that something of
which he was a part--a regiment, an army, a
cause, or a country--was in a crisis. He was
welded into a common personality which was
dominated by a single desire. For some mo-
ments he could not flee no more than a little
finger can commit a revolution from a hand.
If he had thought the regiment was about to
be annihilated perhaps he could have amputated
himself from it. But its noise gave him assur-
ance. The regiment was like a firework that,
once ignited, proceeds superior to circumstances
until its blazing vitality fades. It wheezed and
banged with a mighty power. He pictured the
ground before it as strewn with the discom-
There was a consciousness always of the pres-
ence of his comrades about him. He felt the
subtle battle brotherhood more potent even than
the cause for which they were fighting. It was a
mysterious fraternity born of the smoke and dan-
ger of death.
He was at a task. He was like a carpenter
who has made many boxes, making still another
box, only there was furious haste in his move-
ments. He, in his thought, was careering off in
other places, even as the carpenter who as he
works whistles and thinks of his friend or his
enemy, his home or a saloon. And these jolted
dreams were never perfect to him afterward, but
remained a mass of blurred shapes.
Presently he began to feel the effects of the
war atmosphere--a blistering sweat, a sensation
that his eyeballs were about to crack like hot
stones. A burning roar filled his ears.
Following this came a red rage. He devel-
oped the acute exasperation of a pestered animal,
a well-meaning cow worried by dogs. He had a
mad feeling against his rifle, which could only be
used against one life at a time. He wished to
rush forward and strangle with his fingers. He
craved a power that would enable him to make a
world-sweeping gesture and brush all back. His
impotency appeared to him, and made his rage
into that of a driven beast.
Buried in the smoke of many rifles his anger
was directed not so much against the men whom
he knew were rushing toward him as against the
swirling battle phantoms which were choking
him, stuffing their smoke robes down his parched
throat. He fought frantically for respite for his
senses, for air, as a babe being smothered attacks
the deadly blankets.
There was a blare of heated rage mingled with
a certain expression of intentness on all faces.
Many of the men were making low-toned noises
with their mouths, and these subdued cheers,
snarls, imprecations, prayers, made a wild, bar-
baric song that went as an undercurrent of sound,
strange and chantlike with the resounding chords
of the war march. The man at the youth's elbow
was babbling. In it there was something soft and
tender like the monologue of a babe. The tall
soldier was swearing in a loud voice. From his
lips came a black procession of curious oaths. Of
a sudden another broke out in a querulous way
like a man who has mislaid his hat. "Well, why
don't they support us? Why don't they send
supports? Do they think--"
The youth in his battle sleep heard this as one
who dozes hears.
There was a singular absence of heroic poses.
The men bending and surging in their haste and
rage were in every impossible attitude. The steel
ramrods clanked and clanged with incessant din
as the men pounded them furiously into the hot
rifle barrels. The flaps of the cartridge boxes were
all unfastened, and bobbed idiotically with each
movement. The rifles, once loaded, were jerked
to the shoulder and fired without apparent aim
into the smoke or at one of the blurred and shift-
ing forms which upon the field before the regi-
ment had been growing larger and larger like
puppets under a magician's hand.
The officers, at their intervals, rearward, neg-
lected to stand in picturesque attitudes. They
were bobbing to and fro roaring directions and
encouragements. The dimensions of their howls
were extraordinary. They expended their lungs
with prodigal wills. And often they nearly stood
upon their heads in their anxiety to observe the
enemy on the other side of the tumbling smoke.
The lieutenant of the youth's company had en-
countered a soldier who had fled screaming at
the first volley of his comrades. Behind the lines
these two were acting a little isolated scene. The
man was blubbering and staring with sheeplike
eyes at the lieutenant, who had seized him by the
collar and was pommeling him. He drove him
back into the ranks with many blows. The sol-
dier went mechanically, dully, with his animal-
like eyes upon the officer. Perhaps there was to
him a divinity expressed in the voice of the other
--stern, hard, with no reflection of fear in it. He
tried to reload his gun, but his shaking hands pre-
vented. The lieutenant was obliged to assist him.
The men dropped here and there like bundles.
The captain of the youth's company had been
killed in an early part of the action. His body
lay stretched out in the position of a tired man
resting, but upon his face there was an astonished
and sorrowful look, as if he thought some friend
had done him an ill turn. The babbling man was
grazed by a shot that made the blood stream
widely down his face. He clapped both hands
to his head. "Oh!" he said, and ran. Another
grunted suddenly as if he had been struck by a
club in the stomach. He sat down and gazed
ruefully. In his eyes there was mute, indefinite
reproach. Farther up the line a man, standing
behind a tree, had had his knee joint splintered
by a ball. Immediately he had dropped his rifle
and gripped the tree with both arms. And there
he remained, clinging desperately and crying for
assistance that he might withdraw his hold upon
At last an exultant yell went along the quiver-
ing line. The firing dwindled from an uproar to
a last vindictive popping. As the smoke slowly
eddied away, the youth saw that the charge had
been repulsed. The enemy were scattered into
reluctant groups. He saw a man climb to the
top of the fence, straddle the rail, and fire a part-
ing shot. The waves had receded, leaving bits of
dark debris upon the ground.
Some in the regiment began to whoop fren-
ziedly. Many were silent. Apparently they were
trying to contemplate themselves.
After the fever had left his veins, the youth
thought that at last he was going to suffocate.
He became aware of the foul atmosphere in
which he had been struggling. He was grimy
and dripping like a laborer in a foundry. He
grasped his canteen and took a long swallow of
the warmed water.
A sentence with variations went up and down
the line. "Well, we 've helt 'em back. We 've
helt 'em back; derned if we haven't." The men
said it blissfully, leering at each other with dirty
The youth turned to look behind him and off
to the right and off to the left. He experienced
the joy of a man who at last finds leisure in which
to look about him.
Under foot there were a few ghastly forms
motionless. They lay twisted in fantastic contor-
tions. Arms were bent and heads were turned
in incredible ways. It seemed that the dead men
must have fallen from some great height to get
into such positions. They looked to be dumped
out upon the ground from the sky.
From a position in the rear of the grove a bat-
tery was throwing shells over it. The flash of
the guns startled the youth at first. He thought
they were aimed directly at him. Through the
trees he watched the black figures of the gunners
as they worked swiftly and intently. Their labor
seemed a complicated thing. He wondered how
they could remember its formula in the midst of
The guns squatted in a row like savage chiefs.
They argued with abrupt violence. It was a
grim pow-wow. Their busy servants ran hither
A small procession of wounded men were go-
ing drearily toward the rear. It was a flow of
blood from the torn body of the brigade.
To the right and to the left were the dark
lines of other troops. Far in front he thought he
could see lighter masses protruding in points
from the forest. They were suggestive of un-
Once he saw a tiny battery go dashing along
the line of the horizon. The tiny riders were
beating the tiny horses.
From a sloping hill came the sound of cheer-
ings and clashes. Smoke welled slowly through
Batteries were speaking with thunderous ora-
torical effort. Here and there were flags, the
red in the stripes dominating. They splashed
bits of warm color upon the dark lines of
The youth felt the old thrill at the sight of
the emblem. They were like beautiful birds
strangely undaunted in a storm.