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Chapters 11-13 of The Red Badge of Courage deal with Henry's flight from battle and his re-emergence among a throng of wounded and retreating men. Seeing the battle-weary men made his guilt at running grow even stronger.
Again he thought that he wished he was dead. He believed that he envied a corpse. Thinking of the slain, he achieved a great contempt for some of them, as if they were guilty for thus becoming lifeless. They might have been killed by lucky chances, he said, before they had had opportunities to flee or before they had been really tested. Yet they would receive laurels from tradition. He cried out bitterly that their crowns were stolen and their robes of glorious memories were shams. However, he still said that it was a great pity he was not as they. (Chapter 11)
In Chapter 12, he tries to elicit some information from one of the retreating soldiers, but instead, the dazed soldier retaliates.
The youth, after rushing about and throwing interrogations at the heedless bands of retreating infantry, finally clutched a man by the arm. They swung around face to face.
“Why—why—” stammered the youth struggling with his balking tongue.
The man screamed: “Let go me! Let go me!” His face was livid and his eyes were rolling uncontrolled. He was heaving and panting. He still grasped his rifle, perhaps having forgotten to release his hold upon it. He tugged frantically, and the youth being compelled to lean forward was dragged several paces.
“Let go me! Let go me!”
“Why—why—” stuttered the youth.
“Well, then!” bawled the man in a lurid rage. He adroitly and fiercely swung his rifle. It crushedupon the youth's head. The man ran on. (Chapter 12)
In Chapter 13, Henry locates his regiment and discovers that his flight from battle had gone unnoticed. He quickly concocts a story to cover his true actions.
The youth found that now he could barely stand upon his feet. There was a sudden sinking of his forces. He thought he must hasten to produce his tale to protect him from the missiles already at the lips of his redoubtable comrades. So, staggering before the loud soldier, he began: “Yes, yes. I've—I've had an awful time. I've been all over. Way over on th' right. Ter'ble fightin' over there. I had an awful time. I got separated from th' reg'ment. Over on th' right, I got shot. In th' head. I never see sech fightin'. Awful time. I don't see how I could a' got separated from th' reg'ment. I got shot, too.” (Chapter 13)
His head wound, received from the terrified Union soldier in Chapter 12, was believed to be a battle wound by his astounded comrades. His cowardly actions had been erased, and he settled down to sleep.
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