The Red Badge of Courage | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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The Red Badge of Courage | Chapter 19 | Summary



Henry, being very fast, is unconsciously in the front of the regiment, leading the charge. He is very clear sighted, aware of the blades of grass, the men falling around him, the smoke, and the trees. The men cheer as they rush forward "moblike and barbaric"; there is a "temporary but sublime absence of selfishness."

Then the men lose energy and pause and see their comrades fall and writhe in pain. The lieutenant yells at the men to keep moving, and Wilson is the first to respond, shooting at the enemy. This spurs the soldiers, who start to fire as well as they slowly move forward from tree to tree. The smoke is so intense the soldiers cannot see where they are going; they stop at a clearing in the trees. The lieutenant, Henry, and Wilson spur the men of the regiment to charge across the clearing to the stand of trees.

Henry develops a love for the flag, "a creation of beauty and invulnerability." When the color sergeant is killed, both Henry and Wilson grab the flag from the dead man's hands.


The intense imagery of the scene indicates Henry's awareness of his environment; by keeping his wits about him, he has a greater chance of survival. He isn't struggling internally. Instead, he is aware of everything in nature that could possibly be used to protect him or harm him. Henry displays signs of leadership and works with Wilson and the lieutenant to encourage the other men in the regiment.

Henry's newfound love of the flag makes him realize he is fighting for a cause greater than himself and greater than his individual survival. He is fighting to save the Union. This is the kind of higher purpose the Union army needed to turn the tides on its string of losses.

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