The Red Badge of Courage HTML version

Chapter 3
When another night came, the columns, changed to purple streaks, filed across two
pontoon bridges. A glaring fire wine-tinted the waters of the river. Its rays, shining upon
the moving masses of troops, brought forth here and there sudden gleams of silver or
gold. Upon the other shore a dark and mysterious range of hills was curved against the
sky. The insect voices of the night sang solemnly.
After this crossing the youth assured himself that at any moment they might be suddenly
and fearfully assaulted from the caves of the lowering woods. He kept his eyes
watchfully upon the darkness.
But his regiment went unmolested to a camping place, and its soldiers slept the brave
sleep of wearied men. In the morning they were routed out with early energy, and hustled
along a narrow road that led deep into the forest.
It was during this rapid march that the regiment lost many of the marks of a new
The men had begun to count the miles upon their fingers, and they grew tired. "Sore feet
an' damned short rations, that's all," said the loud soldier. There was perspiration and
grumblings. After a time they began to shed their knapsacks. Some tossed them
unconcernedly down; others hid them carefully, asserting their plans to return for them at
some convenient time. Men extricated themselves from thick shirts. Presently few carried
anything but their necessary clothing, blankets, haversacks, canteens, and arms and
ammunition. "You can now eat and shoot," said the tall soldier to the youth. "That's all
you want to do."
There was sudden change from the ponderous infantry of theory to the light and speedy
infantry of practice. The regiment, relieved of a burden, received a new impetus. But
there was much loss of valuable knapsacks, and, on the whole, very good shirts.
But the regiment was not yet veteranlike in appearance. Veteran regiments in the army
were likely to be very small aggregations of men. Once, when the command had first
come to the field, some perambulating veterans, noting the length of their column, had
accosted them thus: "Hey, fellers, what brigade is that?" And when the men had replied
that they formed a regiment and not a brigade, the older soldiers had laughed, and said,
"O Gawd!"
Also, there was too great a similarity in the hats. The hats of a regiment should properly
represent the history of headgear for a period of years. And, moreover, there were no
letters of faded gold speaking from the colors. They were new and beautiful, and the
color bearer habitually oiled the pole.