Summary and Analysis
Henry sleeps soundly. He is awakened by the noise of battle. As he awakens, he sees the forms of men lying around him. Not remembering where he is, he thinks that he is surrounded by corpses and that he is resting among them. He soon remembers where he is, and the sound of the morning bugle calls all these "corpses," including himself, back to life. Wilson, the loud soldier, greets him heartily, but Henry responds angrily — especially as he reacts to his throbbing head injury. Wilson, however, persists in helping Henry, and Henry marvels at how Wilson has changed from a boastful, agitated soldier to a veteran who can show compassion and care for a comrade. When Wilson asks Henry to assess the prospects for winning the next battle on this day, Henry responds as if he were a battle-hardened veteran, commenting on the ferocity of yesterday's battle and the tenacity of the rebel forces. Henry also mentions that Jim Conklin has been killed, and Wilson seems genuinely moved by this news.
While Henry and Wilson are talking, three soldiers get into a heated argument, and Wilson tries to calm them down. Henry is impressed with Wilson's strength of character and his willingness to put himself in jeopardy for the good of others. Henry mentions that he recognizes how much that Wilson has changed. Wilson makes light of Henry's remarks, and the chapter closes when Wilson comments that the regiment's numbers are not as low as he had thought because many men are returning from being separated from the regiment, "Jest like you [Henry] done."
In this chapter, Crane shows the reader some interesting reversals in the characters of Henry and Wilson. Wilson, the loud, practical soldier, has become Wilson, the compassionate, caring, veteran soldier. Crane describes the change in Wilson through Henry's thoughts, "Apparently the other (Wilson) had now climbed a peak of wisdom from which he could perceive himself as a very wee thing. And the youth saw that ever after it would be easier to live in his friend's neighborhood."
Henry's reaction to this realization about his friend shows that he too is on the path toward change. Rather than resenting his friend's newfound calm, evidently brought on by confidence gained in battle, or comparing his friend's calm with his own lack of assurance and certitude, Henry simply accepts that his friend has changed, and he seems happy for him. Henry also remembers to tell Wilson about Jim Conklin's death, showing that he is drawing further away from thoughts about himself and closer to connecting to the other men of his regiment. The reader should remember, however, that Henry's peace of mind is built on a lie, which doesn't bode well for his ability to achieve true honor.