The Red Badge of Courage HTML version

Chapter 22
When the woods again began to pour forth the dark-hued masses of the enemy the youth
felt serene self-confidence. He smiled briefly when he saw men dodge and duck at the
long screechings of shells that were thrown in giant handfuls over them. He stood, erect
and tranquil, watching the attack begin against apart of the line that made a blue curve
along the side of an adjacent hill. His vision being unmolested by smoke from the rifles
of his companions, he had opportunities to see parts of the hard fight. It was a relief to
perceive at last from whence came some of these noises which had been roared into his
Off a short way he saw two regiments fighting a little separate battle with two other
regiments. It was in a cleared space, wearing a set-apart look. They were blazing as if
upon a wager, giving and taking tremendous blows. The firings were incredibly fierce
and rapid. These intent regiments apparently were oblivious of all larger purposes of war,
and were slugging each other as if at a matched game.
In another direction he saw a magnificent brigade going with the evident intention of
driving the enemy from a wood. They passed in out of sight and presently there was a
most awe-inspiring racket in the wood. The noise was unspeakable. Having stirred this
prodigious uproar, and, apparently, finding it too prodigious, the brigade, after a little
time, came marching airily out again with its fine formation in nowise disturbed. There
were no traces of speed in its movements. The brigade was jaunty and seemed to point a
proud thumb at the yelling wood.
On a slope to the left there was a long row of guns, gruff and maddened, denouncing the
enemy, who, down through the woods, were forming for another attack in the pitiless
monotony of conflicts. The round red discharges from the guns made a crimson flare and
a high, thick smoke. Occasional glimpses could be caught of groups of the toiling
artillerymen. In the rear of this row of guns stood a house, calm and white, amid bursting
shells. A congregation of horses, tied to a long railing, were tugging frenziedly at their
bridles. Men were running hither and thither.
The detached battle between the four regiments lasted for some time. There chanced to be
no interference, and they settled their dispute by themselves. They struck savagely and
powerfully at each other for a period of minutes, and then the lighter-hued regiments
faltered and drew back, leaving the dark-blue lines shouting. The youth could see the two
flags shaking with laughter amid the smoke remnants.
Presently there was a stillness, pregnant with meaning. The blue lines shifted and
changed a trifle and stared expectantly at the silent woods and fields before them. The
hush was solemn and churchlike, save for a distant battery that, evidently unable to
remain quiet, sent a faint rolling thunder over the ground. It irritated, like the noises of
unimpressed boys. The men imagined that it would prevent their perched ears from
hearing the first words of the new battle.