A Horseman in the Sky

Carter Druse Character Analysis

The protagonist of the story, Carter Druse is a private in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Carter Although he fights for the Union, Druse was raised in Virginia, a Confederate State. He was born to a life of privilege and refinement, which he willingly gave up to follow his conscience regarding the Civil War, and joined a Union Regiment. This creates a tension between him and his father, for although they both respect each other, they now find themselves fighting for opposing armies and ideals. Druse is frequently described as noble and courageous. After leaving the home of his childhood, he earns the commendation of his comrades and superiors through his bravery and strength of character. Druse spends the entirety of the story (aside from the flashback to the morning that he left his family home) lying in a thicket, posted as a sentry to guard several Union Regiments in a precarious position. His respect for his father and sense justice and morality come to a head when Druse’s father, who is doing reconnaissance for the opposing Confederate army, discovers the Union regiments that Druse is supposed to be protecting. Druse is forced to make a decision between upholding his duty as a soldier (by killing his father) or letting his father live, thus failing in his duty and risking the lives of his fellow men. Druse chooses to kill his father, and in doing so he is becoming his own man. Killing the horseman signals the end of one generation of Druse’s family also marks the end of an era of slavery.

Carter Druse Quotes in A Horseman in the Sky

The A Horseman in the Sky quotes below are all either spoken by Carter Druse or refer to Carter Druse . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of A Horseman in the Sky published in 1994.
Part 1 Quotes

He was asleep at his post of duty. But if detected he would be dead shortly afterward, death being the just and legal penalty of his crime.

Related Characters: Carter Druse
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

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No country is so wild and difficult but men will make it a theatre of war; concealed in the forest at the bottom of that military rat-trap, in which half a hundred men in possession of the exits might have starved an army to submission, lay five regiments of Federal infantry … In case of failure, their position would be perilous in the extreme; and fail they surely would should accident or vigilance apprise the enemy of the movement.

Related Characters: Carter Druse
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2 Quotes

The sleeping sentinel in the clump of laurel was a young Virginian named Carter Druse. He was the son of wealthy parents, an only child, and had known such ease and cultivation and high living as wealth and taste were able to command in the mountain country of western Virginia. His home was but a few miles from where he now lay.

Related Characters: Carter Druse
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“Well, go, sir, and whatever may occur do what you conceive to be your duty.”

Related Characters: Druse’s Father (speaker), Carter Druse
Related Symbols: The Horseman
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

The duty of the soldier was plain: the man must be shot dead from ambush—without warning, without a moment’s spiritual preparation, with never so much as an unspoken prayer, he must be sent to his account.

Related Characters: Carter Druse , Druse’s Father
Related Symbols: The Horseman
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Druse withdrew his eyes from the valley and fixed them again upon the group of man and horse in the sky, and again it was through the sights of his rifle. But this time his aim was at the horse … Duty had conquered; the spirit said to the body: “Peace, be still.” He fired.

Related Characters: Carter Druse , Druse’s Father
Related Symbols: The Horseman
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 4 Quotes

“Did you fire?” the sergeant whispered.
“Yes.”
“At what?”
“A horse. It was standing on yonder rock—pretty far out. You see it is no longer there. It went over the cliff.”
The man’s face was white, but he showed no other sign of emotion. Having answered, he turned his eyes away and said no more. The sergeant did not understand.
“See here, Druse,” he said after a moment’s silence, it’s no use making a mystery. I order you to report. Was there anybody on the horse?”
“Yes.”
“Well?”
“My father.”
The sergeant rose to his feet and walked away. “Good God!” he said.

Related Characters: Carter Druse (speaker), The Sergeant (speaker), Druse’s Father
Related Symbols: The Horseman
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Carter Druse Character Timeline in A Horseman in the Sky

The timeline below shows where the character Carter Druse appears in A Horseman in the Sky. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
On an autumn afternoon in 1861, next to a small road in western Virginia, a young soldier is asleep in a bush. He is lying flat on his stomach, stretched out, with... (full context)
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
The bush that the soldier is concealed in sits next to a road that leads downward into a forested valley.... (full context)
Part 2
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
Sons vs. Fathers Theme Icon
The sleeping soldier is revealed to be Carter Druse. Druse is the only son of wealthy Virginians whose childhood was the definition of privilege... (full context)
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
Sons vs. Fathers Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Civil War Theme Icon
The narrator recalls the moment in which Druse announced that he would be fighting for the Union: he stood from breakfast table and... (full context)
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
Sons vs. Fathers Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Civil War Theme Icon
Druse’s father solemnly replied, “Well, go, sir, and whatever may occur do what you conceive to... (full context)
Sons vs. Fathers Theme Icon
Druse leaves his parents’ home to become a soldier. By his bravery and strength of character... (full context)
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Civil War Theme Icon
Even so, exhaustion overcame willpower and Druse fell asleep. Now, though neither sound nor touch has disturbed him, Druse awakes and takes... (full context)
Sons vs. Fathers Theme Icon
Druse spies a figure standing against the cliff’s edge, a horse and rider. The rider’s face... (full context)
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
The horse moves very slightly and brings Druse back to the reality of the situation. Druse knows that he must kill the horseman... (full context)
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
Sons vs. Fathers Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Civil War Theme Icon
The horseman turns his head so that Druse can see his face, though the horseman cannot see Druse. Though Druse knows he is... (full context)
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
Sons vs. Fathers Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Civil War Theme Icon
Druse regains his composure, sure that he must kill the horseman. He knows that he cannot... (full context)
Part 4
Duty, Morality, and Justice Theme Icon
Sons vs. Fathers Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Civil War Theme Icon
Carter Druse, having taken his shot, reloads and carries on his sentry duty, never having gotten up... (full context)