The Red Badge of Courage

How did Henry lead the electrifying assault in chapter 23?

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The officers from behind the line run up to the regiment, yelling that they must charge. Upon hearing this, the youth makes some rough calculations of the distance between them and the enemy. He suspects that they will have to be coaxed into charging, but instead the men quickly fix their bayonets and leap forward, running in a fever of haste. Henry keeps the colors up near the front, waving and shrieking. Henry does not question or reflect. He merely goes forward with savageness and speed.

Up ahead, he sees a fence, which he is sure hides the bodies of the men in gray. He expects to hear a great concussion when the two groups collide. However, this does not happen. The men in gray begin to turn and run. One part of the line, however, stands firm. Their flag waves over them and their rifles.

Henry fixes on the sight of the enemy flag. Capturing it would fill him with pride, and he races toward it, swearing to himself that it will not escape. The Union army stops, fires, and keeps running at the Rebels. Through the haze, Henry can make out four or five men stretched out on the ground, with their color sergeant tottering over them. He has obviously been hit and is fighting to stay upright. His wounds make him stumble.

The youth's friend, Wilson, jumps at the enemy flag like a panther and wrenches it free from the dead man, who falls on the grass, bleeding. The men yell and wave in ecstasy. They have won.