This is a question that all soldiers ask themselves at one time or another, and it is of prime interest to The Youth in Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. The Youth has his own doubts about himself. When he discusses it with The Tall Soldier, he gets an honest answer.
Well", said he profoundly, "I've thought it might get too hot for Jim Conklin in some of them scrimmages, and if a whole lot of boys started and run, why, I s'pose I'd start and run. And if I once started to run, I'd run like the devil, and no mistake. But if everybody was a-standing and a-fighting, why, I'd stand and fight. Be jiminey, I would. I'll bet on it."
When The Youth brings up the subject with The Loud Soldier, he gets a self-assured response. The regiment will "thump 'em!" There is little doubt in The Loud Soldier's mind that his unit will be victorious, "fiery in his belief in success."
"I don't know. I s'pose I'll do as well as the rest. I'm going to try like thunder." He evidently complimented himself upon the modesty of this statement.
"How do you know you won't run when the time comes?" asked the youth.
"Run?" said the loud one; "run?--of course not!" He laughed... "I'm not going to skedaddle. The man that bets on my running will lose his money, that's all." He nodded confidently.
"Oh, shucks!" said the youth. "You ain't the bravest man in the world, are you?"
"No, I ain't," exclaimed the loud soldier indignantly; "and I didn't say I was the bravest man in the world, neither. I said I was going to do my share of fighting--that's what I said. And I am, too."
It is a brash display of cockiness from a soldier who has never been in combat, so it should not be given much credence. Later in the novel, we find out the truth about The Loud Soldier and a secret that he, too, shares.