Crane's Fiction and Crane's Research
In the autumn of 1862, Henry Fleming had withdrawn from school and, defying his widowed mother's arguments, left their New York dairy farm to enlist in the company forming in a nearby town. On the morning of May 2, 1863, he finds himself in a line of battle advancing through the part of northern Virginia known as the Wilderness of Spotsylvania. Alongside him on this May morning are two other fictional enlisted men from that company, John Wilson and Jim Conklin, with whom he has shared a hut during the army's winter encampment. The terrain through which they are now advancing is dense in underbrush, saplings, and second-growth pine, matted unevenly with marshy "runs," traversed by few roads, and giving few vistas.
Fleming, Wilson, and Conklin are private soldiers in a center company of their regiment. Their company's second in command is the fictional Lieutenant Hasbrouck. The name of the captain commanding the company is not given. He will be dead in a matter of hours.
The company is one of ten comprising the fictional 304th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, under the command of fictional Colonel MacChesnay. The 304th is one of the regiments in the fictional "Grandpa" Henderson's brigade. It is raw and untested, but at least two of Henderson's other regiments are veterans (RBC 205).
The number of the division to which Henderson's brigade belongs is not given, nor is the name of the general commanding it, although these private