The Irving Bacheller newspaper syndicate published the novel in abridged form in 1894 in The Philadelphia Press and other newspapers. Appleton & Company published the work in book October 1895.
The action takes place in the spring of 1863 in the northern Virginia countryside near the Rappahannock River. But it is clear from his descriptionsand from a specific mention of the Rappahannock Riverthat he is writing about the Battle of Chancellorsville.
This thought gnaws at him all through his months of training, during which the tedium of drilling and listless waiting dulls his appetite for war.
After rumors spread that his regiment will soon engage the Confederates, he asks two men he befriends, a tall man named Jim Conklin and a loud man named Wilson, how they think the regiment will do.
Later, a fleeing Union soldier holding his rifle high accidentally runs into Henry. With his red badge of courage"the head injury Henry has a war wound to show his comrades and becomes a changed young man.
The Loud Man (Wilson): Braggart who is really cowered by the prospect of war.When he does focus on one soldier, he often abstracts him into an impressionistic image.Thus, Jim Conklin becomes the tall soldier; Wilson, the loud soldier"; and Fleming the youth." There are countless nameless men, including the lieutenant," the colonel," and the tattered soldier," each part of the Union armys anatomy rather than separate beings with separate personalities.Nevertheless, what the youth knew about the conflict between the Blue and the Gray had thrilled him, and he resolved to be a part of it. But when it was time for him to leave, she bade him farewell with this advice: If so be a time comes when yeh have to be kilt or do a mean thing, why, Henry, don't think of anything 'cept what's right, because there's many a woman has to bear up 'ginst sech things these times, and the Lord 'll take keer of us all."What is right, of course, is to stand and fight, come what may.But once in the Union camp, he worries that in the face of enemy fire he might run and, in so doing, disgrace himself.The book focuses on the character development of a young soldier after he enlists in the Union Army in 1863, during the American Civil War.The novel presents a realistic portrait of the youth and the battle he fights with the enemy and with himself.Historically, that locale is where Union forces under General Joseph Hooker fought Confederate forces under General Robert E. Author Crane never mentions Hooker, Lee, Chancellorsville, or even the U. Henry Fleming: New York state farm boy who enlists in the Union Army in the belief that war is a glorious adventure.His first taste of military living, with its constant drills and the monotony of camp life, disillusions him.After his first battle, he transforms into a different man: quiet, kind, brave.He becomes Henry Fleming's fiend and captures the enemy flag while Henry fights at his side.