Chapter 12 Notes from The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 12

The same ranks of men that the youth had perceived as so great came tumbling back in retreat as soon as they hit the battle line. The youth was horrified; he threw aside his philosophical anguish and watched as the fight was lost. The youth found himself in the middle of the retreating ranks. The youth yelled questions at the men as they ran past, but no one heard. Finally the youth grabbed a running man by the arm and wheeled him around. The man screamed to let him go, and the youth tried to ask him what had happened. The man responded by swinging his rifle around and crushing it against the youth's head. The youth's legs collapsed from under him. He struggled up several times only to fall again, before getting to his hands and knees. He crawled, looking for a secluded spot like the Tall Soldier had. His head was covered in blood. He heard scattered officers screaming oaths at the infantry, and artillery blasted in the background.

It was now dusk, and the youth went on amid the clutter of overturned wagons and dead horses. His wound didn't hurt much any more but he moved slowly nonetheless for fear of pain. He concentrated on his wound and decided that the absence of pain was worse than the pain itself; he imagined invisible fingers clutching at his brain. He began to think once again of home - his mother's cooking, the kitchen at home, swimming in a pond in the summer with friends. He became weary, and debated whether he should lie down. Suddenly, the youth heard a man with a cheery voice behind him, who offered to help him on his way to the rear. The two began to walk together. The man talked incessantly of the day's battle, and how jumbled up the regiments had become. He spoke of his friend, a sergeant name Jack, who had been distracted in his vigil for the Confederate troops by a soldier asking directions. When Jack turned to tell the man off, he got shot in the side of the head.

The youth's companion wound them through the forest and asked questions of guards and patrols to find the youth's regiment. The youth remained exhausted, his chin on his chest. When they found the youth's regiment, the youth felt the man's hand clasp his shoulder and bid him farewell. The youth realized that he hadn't seen the man's face.

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