The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 20
After the altercation with the flag, Wilson and the youth turned to see their crumbling regiment slowly retreating. Officers screamed at them. The two friends fought over possession of the flag, wishing to declare themselves fit to put themselves in the way of further harm. The youth finally pushed his friend away and took the flag. The regiment fell back to the trees, then started slowly forward and met with horrendous fire. The men seemed stunned and broken by an impenetrable wall. There were apparent feelings of betrayal against the officers. At the back of the regiment, however, men continued to shoot toward the enemy line. The lieutenant had his back to the enemy and was closest to the enemy line. He had been shot in the arm and swore in pain when he forgot his arm and tried to gesture with it.
The youth had thought of a glorious revenge on the officer who had called his regiment a lot of mule drivers, but he saw that it would now do no good - the regiment had faltered at the clearing and the current retreat was one of shame. He consoled himself by keeping the flag erect, and with the lieutenant, beseeched his fellow men not to give up. It was to no avail: the few men with resolve to fight were disheartened by the many men slipping quickly back in retreat, and by the cries of the wounded left behind. At one point, the men at the head of the retreat turned against their comrades, screaming they were being fired upon from the rear. This created a horror-stricken panic in the men, who ran about looking for a route of escape, while men continually dropped from enemy bullets. The youth walked serenely and assumed the role of color-bearer, though he trembled uncontrollably. Wilson came up to him and dejectedly told him it was the end. The youth called him a damn fool and told him to shut up. The youth noticed that the lieutenant was standing motionless, using his sword as a cane. He was no longer swearing.
Suddenly, the lieutenant cried out that the enemy was charging. The enemy was so close now that the youth could see their features. Their uniforms were light gray and new looking. The enemy had been moving forward cautiously, and at the lieutenant's words, the Union regiment had opened fire. The two bodies of men then began to exchange volleys of bullets like boxers. The Union line was firing in desperate revenge. The youth sat down in despair with the flag between his knees. His only consolation was that if the regiment was to be overrun, he would have be taken with bristles forward. Eventually, to the youth's surprise, the enemy grew weak and retreated. Men danced and shouted with joy. The odds, at one time having seemed stacked against them, no longer seemed impossible.
"The impetus of enthusiasm was theirs again. They gazed about them with looks of uplifted pride, feeling new trust in the grim, always confident weapons in their hands. And they were men." Chapter 20, pg. 115