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The Red Badge of Courage
is a war novel
by American author Stephen Crane
. Taking place during the American Civil War
, the story is about a young private
of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound—a "red badge of courage"—to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer
. Although Crane was born after the war, and had not at the time experienced battle firsthand, the novel is known for its realism
. He began writing what would become his second novel in 1893, using various contemporary and written accounts (such as those published previously by Century Magazine
) as inspiration. It is believed that he based the fictional battle on that of Chancellorsville
; he may also have interviewed veterans of the 124th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment
, commonly known as the Orange Blossoms. Initially shortened and serialized in newspapers in December 1894
, the novel was published in full in October 1895
. Several of the themes that the story explores are maturation, heroism, cowardice, and the indifference of nature. Adapted several times for the screen, the novel became a bestseller. It has never been out of print, and is now thought to be Crane's most important work and a major American text.