Once upon a time the young narrator Henry had regarded battles as "bloody marks on the pages of the past". Though he'd dreamed of battles all his life and had always been utterly fascinated by them, there was a point when he thought that the time of wars had disappeared forever. As such, he never thought he'd get the chance to participate in battle himself.
However, his attitude changes when he hears tales of great movements shaking the land. The Civil War is well underway, and to this impressionable young man it all seems rather glorious. He avidly reads reports in the newspapers about all the marches, advances, and battles; he desperately wants to be a part of the violence. His imagination gets the better of him. Soon he's fantasizing about performing heroic, breathless deeds. Young Henry wants to be a hero and to prove his manhood, and he's convinced that the field of battle is just the place to do it.
His mother tries hard to talk him out of signing up. She sits him down and calmly states hundreds of reasons why he should stay at home on the farm. But Henry's made his mind up; he's going to enlist. Stories in the newspapers, the talk of the village, and his own fond imaginings have excited him to an uncontrollable degree.