Private Fleming at Chancellorsville: The Red Badge of Courage and the Civil War

By Perry Lentz | Go to book overview

Introduction

The subtitle of Crane's famous novel is "An Episode of the American Civil War." Why? Why this subtitle in particular? Why not "An Episode of War"? According to eyewitnesses who in the scholarly world are unanimously considered reliable, Corwin Knapp Linson and R. G. Vosburgh, the only preparatory research Stephen Crane undertook for The Red Badge of Courage was to pore over old copies of the Century Illustrated Magazine containing articles from their series on "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War."1 The September 1886 issue is devoted to the battle of Chancellorsville and contains five major articles and one speculative essay. All of this material is richly illustrated with steel engravings. There are portraits of commanders, line drawings of military equipment, scenes of soldiers either in camp (a Pennsylvania regiment aligned on parade) or on campaign (cavalrymen scouting, infantry columns crossing pontoon bridges at night). Holding pride of place in the magazine are the compelling pictures, steel engravings of defining moments in the battle—vital pictures, convincingly realistic down to the gleam of leather crossbelts and the texture of the uniforms. The primitive state of photography in the 1860s prevented cameramen from recording infantrymen in combat. These engravings are as convincing as photographs but they are even more vivid, because they are rendered by artists in tranquility

1. Stanley Wertheim and Paul Sorrentino, The Crane Log: A Documentary Life of Stephen Crane,
1871–1900,
89, 94.

-1-

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