The Red Badge of Courage

How does Henry react during his first battle? What is the outcome of the battle?


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The fight is about to begin. Before he himself is ready or even consciously decides, he lowers his rifle and fires the first shot of the battle. Henry then loses concern for himself, and becomes "not a man but a member." Whatever he was part of, it was in a critical state; and he was part of its desire. What it did then was blast loudly. The noise of the firing reassures Henry in a certain way.

The furious haste and noise make the atmosphere even more confusing‹sweat blisters, his eyes are hot, and the blasts burn in his ears. He is not fighting the enemy men so much as the swirling battle phantoms that surround him. He hears men speak around him as if he were sleeping.

No one has a heroic pose. They are moving as fast as they can, reloading and then firing almost at random in the smoke in front of them. The lieutenant of the company encounters a soldier fleeing in terror and beats him back into the ranks. Men occasionally drop from being hit.

Eventually the firing recedes, and the men begin to rejoice. They have driven back the enemy. They attempt to recollect themselves. It takes Henry some moment to come back to his senses. He realizes the grime and smoke makes him choke. He looks at the men still standing and simply enjoys being able to look around. On the ground there lay a few contorted bodies. A battery still throws shells over the troops towards the enemy. Henry looks around and takes in the whole scene, moving horses, wounded men, and flags. Henry feels these flags look like beautiful birds that have lasted a storm. Then he looks and notices the beautiful blue of the sky.