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The stillness of the forest is shattered by an incredibly loud noise. The youth begins to run in the direction of the battle he just ran away from, because it sounds so big and so important that he thinks he ought to see it.
The youth is beginning to feel ashamed of his flight. No longer does he defend it to himself as correct and intelligent. He begins to look at the experience with some distance: the engagement was probably not even a major battle, although the soldiers thought they were winning the whole war by themselves. Maybe misguided ideas about becoming a hero serve some purpose, because they keep soldiers from deserting.
Once again Crane uses the metaphor of war as a machine. It grinds out corpses,
and it mangles men's bodies. And once again Crane uses red to mean warlike,
as in the phrases, "crimson roar" and "red cheers."
Nature is still holy, but the references to hymns and devotions in the
opening of the chapter are somewhat ironic.
Finally he came to a road, where he fell in with a crowd of wounded men. One of them, whose shoe was full of blood, hopped up and down like a schoolboy. Another, who seemed about to die, stared straight ahead. An officer cursed the privates who were kind enough to carry him, and yelled at the crowd to make way. One of the bearers bumped heavily into the dying soldier.
This dying man is called the spectral, or ghostly, soldier. Both the man and the word play an important role in the next chapter.
One of the wounded was a man in tatters who was listening with an air of astonishment to a sergeant's tall tales. The sergeant teased him for his lack of sophistication, and the tattered man, embarrassed, shrank back and tried to make friends with the youth. He spoke in a gentle voice, praising the courage of the Union soldiers. "Well, they didn't run t'-day, did they, hey? No, sir! They fit, an' fit, an' fit." Then he asked the youth in a brotherly way, "Where yeh hit, ol' boy?" The youth, horribly ashamed, runs away.
Like the description of the soldiers on the eve of battle several chapters earlier, this scene shows us various types of courage, or lack of it.