The Red Badge of Courage Chapters 15-18 Summary

In chapter fifteen Henry realizes that he still has possession of the packet of letters that Wilson had given him before the fighting began. Initially, this realization makes him feel superior as though he has power over his friend. This feeling leads to restored faith in himself and the misguided belief that while others had fled in terror, he had run away with dignity and using discretion. When Wilson comes to ask for the packet back, Henry thinks that he could toy with him, but instead he generously returns it without comment. He decides he will have fine war stories to tell friends and family when he returns home.

Chapter sixteen finds the regiment marched to a trench in order to relieve a command that had been there awhile. The men hunkered down and some fell right to sleep. The remaining men began complaining about their leaders. Henry especially was unimpressed with what he had seen and voiced his displeasure. When someone would laugh, the others would scowl in that direction. They continued to gripe about their treatment until a lieutenant came and yelled at them to shut their mouths and save their energy. As they heard the gunfire coming closer, they froze or flinched in fear.

In chapter seventeen Henry is filled with hate as he awaits the battle. At one point he falls, then he wonders if it's because he has been shot, but he dismisses the idea. The sounds of musketry approached, and Henry began firing. He continued to shoot even after his comrades had stopped. Finally, someone asked him if he knew enough to quit when there wasn't anything to shoot at. Henry realized he had been firing onto a deserted ground. The men inquired about his health, but Henry said he was fine. The lieutenant complimented him, and the men began to feel better about themselves and their regiment.

Chapter eighteen begins with Jimmie Rogers screaming due to a gunshot wound. Wilson offers to get water, so Henry decides to tag along as they take canteens from many of the men in search of a nearby stream. They pass wounded men and other wanderers in the woods, but they don't find any water. Eventually, they come across the commander of their division talking to an officer about how he needs more men. The officer offers him the 304th division, which is Henry's regiment. He says they fight like mule drivers, and the command retorts that he doesn't think many of those mule drivers will make it back. Henry and Wilson are stunned by this lack of care for their lives. They hurry back to tell the others. Wilson shouts out that their division is going to charge just before the men see the colonel headed their way. Henry and Wilson don't mention that it's a death mission, but it's clear that the others sense it anyway as one man whispers "We'll git swallowed" as they're waiting to head out.

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