Chapter 19 Notes from The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 19

Unaware of the chain of command which made it happen, the regiment seemed to gasp as it began to move forward. After the moment it took to comprehend, The Youth began to run with the rest. He believed the charge to be a simple matter of getting an unpleasant necessity out of the way quickly. As the regiment emerged from the woods, the other side of the clearing erupted in gunfire. The regiment ran as one until the underbrush broke it up into small, detached clusters of men. Shells and bullets from the enemy left a trail of bodies in the regiment's wake. The youth was painfully alert - he perceived everything, mechanically, save the logic of events that had brought him there. The charge and the death made the men into delirious, raging hordes. Soon, though, the oncoming bullets slowed the rushing regiment like a wind; the barbarians became men again.

As the regiment slowed to a stop, the fire of the enemy roared louder. The lieutenant bellowed at the men to move. He swore at the uncomprehending men. Suddenly, Wilson dropped down and fired a shot at the woods. This spurred the men, and they began to fire, then move forward again. The regiment came to a final open space and stopped again in the preceding trees, while the lieutenant bellowed oaths again. In his screaming, he addressed himself to the youth, grabbing and pulling him by the collar while telling him to come on. The youth shook him off, then followed the lieutenant down the front line. They were both trying to spur the men on. The regimental flag moved forward and the men followed hesitantly, then scurried to reach the opposing woods before bullets could find them. The youth ran low like an insane football player.

"Within him, as he hurled himself forward, was born a love, a despairing fondness for this flag which was near him. It was a creation of beauty and invulnerability. It was a goddess, radiant, that bended its form with an imperious gesture to him. It was a woman, red and white, hating and loving, that called him with the voice of his hopes. Because no harm could come to it he endowed it with power. He kept near, as if it could be a saver of lives, and an imploring cry went from his mind." Chapter 19, pg. 108

Suddenly, the color sergeant, who carried the flag, crumpled to the ground. The youth and Wilson grabbed the flag simultaneously and tried to wrench it from the corpse's grip. For a moment, the corpse seemed to pull back, unwilling to relinquish the flag; in an instant they had it, but the dead man's arm landed heavily on Wilson's shoulder as if in protest.

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