The youth "wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage". Why?
Up to this point in the novel, the youth has been obsessed with the question of whether or not he would run or stay and fight in battle. During his first encounter with the enemy, the youth is able to stay and fight. However, after the enemy regroups and charges again, the youth runs. After this, he wishes that he had some kind of wound, something that he could show others that would make them fight. He runs into a tattered solder who asks him where he is hit. It is at this moment that the youth wishes he had a "red badge of courage" or some kind of battle wound because he is in the middle of a group of severely injured soldiers who obviously stayed and fought the battle. Ironically, he will get a wound, but he will suffer it at the hands of one of his own soldiers, who is also running. But this will give him an excuse to go back to his unit and everyone will think he was wounded in battle.