The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The colonel orders Henry's regiment to charge: they must retake that fence. To Henry's surprise, the soldiers are not weary, but resolved and ready to go, fastening bayonets to their gun barrels.
Henry has been too self-absorbed to credit the other soldiers. Like the insulting officer in Chapter 21, he also considered them merely "mud diggers."
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The soldiers spring forward with new energy, feeling reckless and unselfish. Henry runs in front of the men of his regiment, carrying the flag and shrieking encouragements.
Soldiers must give themselves to the reckless rush of battle. Henry has become a leader.
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Seeing the mad charge of Henry's regiment, many of the gray soldiers run away. However, a handful of determined enemy soldiers remain behind the fence with their flag waving above them.
To Henry, this final conflict is largely between the opposing flags. Which symbol will endure?
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Henry's regiment stops and fires a devastating volley at close range. Henry sees that the enemy's flag bearer is mortally wounded. Henry wants that flag for himself as a prize. But Wilson leaps over the fence and rips away the enemy's flag from the dying man's grasp. He screams in triumph.
As in chapter 19, a flag is pulled from the hands of a corpse. When the enemy flag bearer dies, his regiment effectively ceases to exist, so the battle ends when Wilson gets the flag.
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Henry's regiment celebrates. They've captured four men: one ignores the blue soldiers; one yells horrible curses at them; another sits in silent shame; and one curious youth eagerly talks of battles and outcomes, yearning for news. Settling down behind the fence with their flags, Henry and Wilson congratulate each other.
The prisoners seem just like Union soldiers. The curious youth is a lot like Henry. The story suggests that all soldiers are humans and are driven primarily by emotions, not military or political affiliations.
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