Summary and Analysis
The charge begins. Henry runs toward a clump of trees, expecting to meet the enemy at that location. As Henry runs, he hears the shouts of the enemy and sees men fall to the ground in agony and death. As the charge continues, the men begin to cheer; however, this pace takes its toll on the soldiers, and the charge begins to slow. The men hesitate.
Suddenly, "the roar of the lieutenant" brings the men back to reality. The lieutenant cajoles and curses the men into action. Finally, Wilson jumps forward and fires a shot into the trees hiding the enemy. This action arouses the other men, and they all commence firing.
Eventually, the regiment reaches a clearing, and the men take up positions behind a row of trees which border the clearing. Again, however, the men appear to lose their resolve. Once more, the lieutenant brings the men back to reality. He shouts directly at Henry when he says, "Come on, yeh lunkhead! Come on! We'll all git killed if we stay here." Henry takes the initiative and begins to run across the field.
The lieutenant and Wilson both join him, and they urge the rest of the men to follow. The men do follow, and as Henry runs, he finds that he is running near the color sergeant who is carrying the flag. Henry feels a great love and pride envelop him as he sees the flag. At that moment, the color sergeant is mortally wounded. As he falls forward, Wilson grabs the flag, and, with Henry's help, they take the flag from the dead soldier whose body falls to the ground.
Crane strengthens the reader's belief in the reality of Henry's character change in this chapter. As the chapter begins, Henry responds without hesitation to the signal to charge. Indeed, he charges with such enthusiasm that he is described as "an insane soldier." But Henry isn't alone in his enthusiasm — the other soldiers are also in a "frenzy," "a furious rush." "They possessed a mad enthusiasm that it seemed would be incapable of checking itself before granite and brass." Henry's enthusiasm infects the other troops, and he is, indeed, the leader of the charge (behind the officers, of course).
Henry's struggle between doubt and duty seems to have disappeared. There is no question that duty is the dominant force now motivating Henry. His actions and behaviors throughout the last two chapters have been courageous, indeed heroic. Henry is becoming the personification of the word duty.
Crane consistently shows the officers to be leaders who have the ability and courage to inspire their troops. Crane is consistent in his characterization of the officers as leaders because the officers must be consistent in their leadership with their troops, and they are. The front-line officers do not hesitate to lead their men into battle. The brigade officers do not hesitate to critique the actions of the battlefield officers in carrying out an overall strategy. Crane is emphasizing leadership within the chain of command. The soldiers recognize this, and, although they may not always agree with the strategy selected, they do follow because they have confidence in their leadership, which has now grown to include Henry.