The Red Badge of Courage

by Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage is an impressionistic novel by Stephen Crane about the meaning of courage, as it is narrated by Henry Fleming, a recruit in the American Civil War. It is one of the most influential American war stories ever written even though the author was born after the war and had never seen battle himself. Crane met and spoke with a number of veterans as a student and he created what is widely regarded as an unusually realistic depiction of a young man in battle.

Source: Crane, S. (1895) The Red Badge of Courage New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons

Chapter 1
Henry reflects on the events surrounding his enlistment in the army. Tales of imminent battle breeds panic in Henry's mind.
Chapter 2
Henry perceives his comrades to all be fearless and is fearful that he is a coward at heart. Henry reflects on his life back at his mother's farm. A conversation with a fellow soldier only amplifies Henry's anxiety.
Chapter 3
The regiment continues moving towards imminent battle. Henry comes across the body of a dead soldier. Wilson, expecting to die in battle, gives Henry a package to take to his family.
Chapter 4
Henry's brigade watches a battle in the distance. Rumors circulate throughout the men concerning the strength of the enemy and the fighting ability of certain regiments. Henry's lieutenant is wounded. Men continue to retreat from an enemy that is yet to be seen.
Chapter 5
The enemy charges Henry's regiment. Henry feels confident in his performance as the enemy retreats.
Chapter 6
The regiment celebrates their first victory. As the enemy regroups and attacks a second time, Henry is overcome with fear. Henry retreats from the front line.
Chapter 7
Henry rationalizes his fear as he continues to run from the battle. Henry finds the dead body of another soldier as he moves through the forest.
Chapter 8
The continuing sounds of the battle prompt henry to return to the front line. On the way back to his regiment, Henry is confronted by a wounded soldier. After being questioned about his wounds, Henry hurries back to the front line shamefully.
Chapter 9
Henry returns to his regiment fearing they know he retreated. Henry sees a dying soldier in the distance. The soldier is Jim Conklin.
Chapter 10
Henry is questioned about the nature of his wound as he walks with an injured soldier. Henry quickly departs the disoriented man's company as he continues to regret his cowardice.
Chapter 11
Henry comes across two groups of soldiers. One group is retreating, while the other moves towards the battle enthusiastically. Henry joins the advancing troops, but still fears his comrades will question his momentary absence from the battle.
Chapter 12
The advancing soldiers are suddenly in retreat. Henry attempt to forcefully question a soldier only to be met with a blow to the head. A disoriented Henry is taken to his regiment by a helpful soldier.
Chapter 13
Henry is stopped by Wilson as he heads towards his regiments campfire. Henry tells Wilson he was shot in the head. Wilson dresses Henry's wound.
Chapter 14
Henry is awakened by the sounds of war. Disoriented, Henry believes the bodies of his fellow soldiers to be corpses. Henry is impressed Wilson's selflessness and self-sacrifice.
Chapter 15
As Henry marches with Wilson he remembers the letters Wilson gave him before the first battle. Henry uses the letters to rationalize his retreat. Henry returns the letters to Wilson.
Chapter 16
Henry's regiment moves to relieve a embattled unit. Henry and the men openly criticize the leadership of the brigade. Henry continues to reflect the previous days events.
Chapter 17
Henry and the other men await the enemies charge. Henry impresses his fellow soldiers while engaging the enemy in battle. Henry rest briefly, knowing that the current victory will be short lived.
Chapter 18
Henry and Wilson hear another is planning another charge. Henry's regiment has been chose for an offensive charge. Henry and Wilson inform the lieutenant of the offensive. The soldiers await the order for the charge anxiously.
Chapter 19
The men charge the enemy quickly, but eventually lose steam. The lieutenant continues to drive the men to fight on. Henry, Wilson, and the lieutenant lead the rest of the regiment toward the enemy position. Henry carries the regiment colors after the color sergeant is mortally wounded.
Chapter 20
The charge falls apart as much of the regiment retreat. Henry assists the lieutenant in regrouping the soldiers for the offensive as the enemy starts their counter attack. Henry manages to organize the regiment around the flag. The regiment repels the enemy assault. The men's confidence is restored.
Chapter 21
Henry's regiment receives little or no praise for their efforts in repelling the enemy. Henry and Wilson defend the regiment's actions. Henry and Wilson are recognized for their gallantry in the battle.
Chapter 22
The enemy makes another charge. As the battle continues, Henry observes that his fellow soldiers are losing their will to fight.
Chapter 23
The officers initiate another offensive on the enemy position, resulting in the capture of the enemy flag and the taking of four prisoners.
Chapter 24
Henry, realizing that the battle has ended for the time being, reflects on the days experiences and feels proud of his actions.
  • Year Published: 1895
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 5.9
  • Word Count: 49,404
  • Genre: Realism
  • Keywords: 19th century literature, american literature
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