The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 18
Although the regiment was given a rest from the fight, the din of battle shook the forest. One man, Jimmie Rogers, was screaming and thrashing on the ground, having been shot through the body. Wilson thought he had seen a stream nearby, and obtained permission to collect water. The men showered their canteens on him, asking him to fill them all. The youth accompanied his friend, wishing to throw his aching body into the supposed stream. The pair went to the site but found no water there; they began to retrace their steps. On the way back they encountered a general, the commander of their division, on his horse; a second officer, riding like a cowboy, came up and spoke to him. Wilson and the youth stood by, as close as possible so as to hear what was said. The officer told the general that the enemy was forming for a charge directed at the Union general Whiterside; he feared the Union line would not hold in its current position. The general asked what troops could be spared to reinforce, and the officer replied that he could only spare the 304th, the youth's regiment, but they fought "like a lot 'a mule drivers." The general assented to the movement, saying the charge would start in five minutes. He said he didn't think many of the "mule drivers" would make it back alive.
"These happenings had occupied an incredibly short time, yet the youth felt that in them he had been made aged. New eyes were given to him. And the most startling thing was to learn suddenly that he was very insignificant. The officer spoke of the regiment as if he referred to a broom. Some part of the woods needed sweeping, perhaps, and he merely indicated a broom in a tone properly indifferent to its fate. It was war, no doubt, but it appeared strange." Chapter 18, pg. 101
The pair found their regiment, and their lieutenant was furious at the amount of time they had taken. He stopped when he saw their expressions; they told him they were going to charge. The lieutenant stammered in disbelief. Several soldiers didn't believe them. The youth announced that he wished to die in the advance. Then they could see the cowboy-riding officer talking to a colonel in their regiment. In a few minutes officers appeared and began tightening the men into a more compact mass. The youth and Wilson looked at each other knowingly; they were the only ones who knew how little the commanders thought of their regiment.