The Red Badge of Courage Chapters 19-24 Summary

In chapter nineteen the regiment moves reluctantly forward. They can hear the yell of the enemy. Henry feels extremely focused as though he sees even minute details in front of him. As they continued to move, they lost more and more men until suddenly the remaining men were frozen by the sight of their comrades dying around them. The lieutenant had to swear at them to wake them out of their stupor and get them firing again. Once more they reached a point where they stopped, and the lieutenant directed them to cross a field and head for the flag. The remaining men focused on the red and white flag. The color sergeant grabbed it just ahead of Henry, but was shot and killed trying to take it. Henry and another man had to yank it free, and as they did so, the dead man's hand landed on Henry's shoulder.

Chapter twenty continues with Henry and his friend still holding the flag arguing over who should continue to carry it. Henry offers. The regiment had shrunk and slowed. Many men were injured or gone. Henry glared at the man who had called them mule drivers, silently blaming him for the losses, wanting to take revenge. Instead, Henry stood alongside the officer in charge and urged the troops not to give up. When they saw a crowd of men in gray coming, the firing started again until smoke filled the area. When it lifted, it looked as though Henry's side had emerged victorious.

The wearied men continue marching in chapter twenty-one. They pass another group, sitting against some trees, who mock them asking if they're heading home. When Henry looks back, he realizes that he had barely covered any ground and much less time had passed than he imagined. It just felt as though a great distance had been covered and much time had been spent. Again the officer who had called them "mule drivers' appeared, and pulled his horse next to the colonel of the troops. He berated the man, named MacChesnay, for stopping short of a true victory. The colonel blew off the criticism saying the men did the best they could. The soldiers overheard this whole conversation, and it made them feel weak. Wilson whispered to Henry that it's not encouraging to fight for people who don't appreciate the effort. Wilson claimed, however, that some soldiers had been talking about how hard he and Henry fought, and he knew they did a good job. Then several men ran up to Wilson and Henry to tell them that they had just overheard the lieutenant talking to the colonel about how Henry and Wilson held the flag up at the front. The colonel announced that the two men deserved to be made major generals. Although Henry and Wilson denied that such a thing could have been said, they were secretly beaming with pride.

In chapter twenty-two, they begin as spectators, watching the fighting around them, but eventually they are pulled in. When the bullets come toward them, they lift up a yell and begin fighting without the command of the lieutenant. Henry continues to bear the colors. The lieutenant screamed expletives, as usual. The regiment endured many wounds, including the sergeant who was shot through the cheek. Henry kept an eye out for his friend as the noise dwindled due to the loss of life.

Chapter twenty-three begins with the colonel encouraging a charge. The men rally with Henry carrying the colors in front. He notices the enemy's flag. Then after a volley of bullets, he sees the man carrying it has been injured. He tries clinging to the precious flag as he staggers until Wilson leaps upon it and wrenches it free. Henry's regiment gathers the remaining four prisoners, which consist of one injured man, one good-natured, one morose and one silent and ashamed. Henry finds a spot in the grass to rest along the fence, which supports his flag, so Wilson joins him with his as they congratulate one another.

The last chapter, twenty-four, has the men rejoin their brigade then make the long march home with more men joining as they go. Henry reflects on his experiences during the war, worried that his mistakes will outshine his triumphs, but by the end he has found peace and feels victorious in his endeavor.

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