barbed missiles of ridicule hurtful cutting remarks; insults.
battery a set of heavy guns; cannons.
beams of crimson the flashes of rifle fire.
bedraggled train the last image which the reader gets of Henry's Union division as it returns from all the battles in which it has participated.
besplashed charger an officer's beautiful, paint horse.
black looks critical facial expressions.
black words between officers the possible verbal confrontation between the general and the colonel is of great interest to the listening regiment.
bleach of death Henry's view of the face of the Confederate color bearer just as he is mortally wounded.
bleating plaintively whining.
bludgeon of correction Henry's guilt regarding his treatment of the tattered man and the actions he needs to take to alleviate that guilt.
blue demonstration the perception that, at this point, the regiment is preparing for a protest rather than for a battle.
brigade a unit of the U.S. Army comprising two or more regiments.
bushwhacker a name given to Confederate soldiers by Union soldiers.
captain an officer ranking above a first lieutenant and below a major.
cavalry mounted troops.
charnel place a place where corpses are deposited.
chin music pointless talking.
clogged clouds Henry's mental confusion as he reviews his behavior in combat.
colonel a high-ranking military officer ranking below a brigadier general.
colonel's manner changed from that of a deacon to that of a Frenchman the colonel's initial response to the general's criticism of the regiment's efforts was "to defend with vigor" (a deacon's response) the regiment's actions; instead he chooses "to respond diplomatically" (a Frenchman's response).
color sergeant the sergeant in charge of carrying the flag for a unit.
the colors the flag.
company a body of troops, specifically, the lowest administrative unit, as of infantry, normally composed of two or more platoons and a headquarters.
company wags humorous soldiers; jokesters.
composite monster the enemy army.
congregation of horses a string of horses tied up.
corporal the lowest-ranking noncommissioned officer, just below a sergeant.
cowled man a hooded man.
crone stooping an ugly, withered old woman.
dark blue lines/the blue curve the Union troops.
dark-hued masses/the lighter hued regiments the Confederate troops.
depleted band the condition of Henry's regiment on returning from the offensive.
dilapidated regiment Henry's regiment after the assault on the fence line.
doomed to greatness an oxymoron for Henry's convoluted thinking that the behavior which doomed him may now be his salvation.
dregs bitter-tasting particles of solid matter that settle to the bottom of a bottle of wine.
dusty blue lines other Union regiments returning to their lines after participating in battles.
elfin thoughts of or like an elf; here, meaning that Henry realizes on his return to his lines that the regiment really had not accomplished very much. What they had done they had exaggerated (fantasized — "elfin, fairy-like") into something more than what was actually accomplished.
emaciated regiment/grunting bundles of blue/the robust voice ... growing rapidly weak the current status of the 304th regiment (Henry's regiment).
engine of annihilating power Henry's rifle.
facings the trimmings, collar, and cuffs of their military coats.
flaming wings of lightning the vision seen by Henry after he is struck over the head.
fresh fish a derogatory term for new soldiers.
gauntleted hand a gauntlet is a long glove with a flaring cuff covering the lower part of the arm.
generals the highest-ranking officers, above the colonels.
gilded images of memory Henry's thoughts as he thinks of his heroic deeds in battle.
gods of traditions behaviors that are expected with certain activities.
great ruck of men and munitions a large quantity of soldiers and munitions.
haversack a canvas bag for carrying rations, generally worn over one shoulder.
heart of the din the front line.
heraldic wind of the day a morning breeze which will be the harbinger of the things that will transpire on this day.
Huns a warlike Asiatic people who, led by Attila and others, invaded eastern and central Europe in the fourth and fifth century A.D.; here, a reference to the rebel forces made by veteran Union soldiers to frighten the new recruits.
imbecile line Henry's assessment of his comrades who did not flee.
impetus of enthusiasm the regiment has regained its confidence and enthusiasm for battle.
incapable of checking itself before granite and brass the enthusiastic charge of the regiment would not be stopped by even the hardest of objects (granite and brass), let alone by enemy soldiers.
indefinite cause the unknown force which caused Henry to run.
iron gates of the impossible the effect on the regiment of the decision to charge the enemy even though the troops are exhausted.
its faded and jaded condition the condition of the regiment prior to its charging the fence behind which the enemy is hiding.
jangling general refers to the jangling noise that a general's sword and medals make as he rides on horseback.
jim-dandy a person who is top-notch.
Johnnies Confederate soldiers.
the lieutenant an officer ranking above a second lieutenant and below a captain; here, a first lieutenant.
light-footed soldiers smaller men who are able to move quickly.
little ones the tattered soldier's wounds.
lurid lines the regiment's view of the enemy's rifles as seen through the haze of the battlefield.
machinery of the universe nature's plan for the destiny of all creatures.
mothlike quality the force which kept Henry near the battle (the moth is attracted to the flame).
Napoleon Bonaparte 1769-1821; French military leader and emperor of France (1804-1815); here, Wilson's sarcastic response to Henry for questioning his courage.
omen a thing or happening supposed to foretell a future event, either good or evil; augury.
order arms to bring the rifle to an upright position with its butt on the ground beside the right foot, and remain at attention.
out among the dragons Henry's facing the enemy in battle.
perambulating veterans strolling troops.
philippic a bitter verbal attack.
pickets soldiers stationed at an outpost to guard the troops from surprise attack.
private an enlisted man of the two lowest ranks in the U.S. Army.
the Question the question which all soldiers face: What will death be like?
ragamuffin interest the soldiers' uniforms were tattered and torn (a ragamuffin appearance), yet the soldiers still had a keen interest in overhearing the conversation between the colonel and the general.
ragged line the regiment's condition after repelling the enemy's charge.
rebel army the Confederate Army.
the rebs rebels, Confederate soldiers.
red eyes (also described as red blossoms) the campfires of the enemy as seen across the river.
red rage great anger.
red speeches Henry's angry arguments with nature.
Regiment a military unit consisting of two or more battalions and forming a basic element of a division. (U.S. Army A battalion is a tactical unit made up of three or more companies, batteries, or analogous units: it is normally commanded by a lieutenant colonel and is the basic building unit of a division. Mil. A division is an army unit larger than a regiment and smaller than a corps, to which various numbers and types of battalions can be attached as required.)
returning with his shield or on it a reference to the ancient Greek idea that the only honorable way to return from battle is to be holding your shield or to be carried back on it .
Richmond the capital of Virginia and of the Confederacy.
sagacious things wise decisions (Henry's assessment of his own actions).
shirking child a child who neglects an obligation.
skirmish/skirmishers a brief fight or encounter between small groups of troops/ the troops who take part in a skirmish.
slang phrase Henry's name, like a slang phrase, would be used derisively. He has become an object of contempt.
small weapon Henry's holding of Wilson's letters.
so much devilment the chaos of war.
soldier's bath the act of yawning and stretching at daybreak.
storm banshee in folklore, a banshee is a female spirit believed to wail outside a house as a warning that a death will occur soon in the family; here, it refers to the shrieking sound of the artillery shells coming in over the heads of the troops.
sultry nightmare Henry 's overcoming of all his doubts and shortcomings in his transformation into a brave, courageous soldier.
swad a large number.
swash of the fragrant water the splashing of water.
symmetrical act Henry is trying to justify his running from battle as being no worse than the army's retreat from battle.
that mighty blue machine the Union Army.
they drank his recitals Henry imagines that the two women will be held spellbound by his war stories and will regard him as a hero.
to chant a paean to sing a hymn of thanksgiving and praise.
valor of a gamin the courage (needed for survival) of a street urchin.
Yank a Yankee, a Union soldier.
yellow tongues the smoke and fire emanating from the rifle barrels of the enemy.