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The Red Badge of Courage from a historic perspective was written in regards to the American Civil war. The American civil war began in 1861 and lasted until 1865. During those five years brothers fought against brothers, fathers against there sons in what would be one of the most dramatic and brutal war ever fought. Not only was the civil war a brutal one where hundreds of thousands of people died but it also was a war that defined the very nature of humanity and the people who called this country their home. Beginning in 1861 America was divided into two sections of states, the northern states and the southern stated.
As a result of the split in our country many people fought against there own family and friends. South Carolina was the first to separate from the union. In the end there were a total of 11 states that quit the union. The Red Badge of Courage describes the conflict and the nature of the war and its battles very well.
It also describes the tactics and the weapons used to show just how deadly this war really was. The cannons or artillery for example were deadly weapons. Having the ability to shoot over a mile became a major tool used in the civil war. Only about six percent of the soldiers in the American Civil War were enrolled in the artillery branch of the service, yet the artillery played a pivotal role in almost every major engagement of the War. From the massed Union batteries at Stones River and Malvern Hill to the intrepid field work of Pelhams horse artillery at Fredericksburg, the big guns were always a factor, and often the decisive one. (Chuck) These cannons fired two major types of projectiles. The first of which was a solid ball of led which would travel a great distance and on impact crush or destroy anything they hit.
Wether it was a brick wall or a complement of soldiers the cannon ball was a detesting weapon. The other type of projectile used was called shrapnel. This type of projectile was used at close range and would shoot hundreds of pieces of sharp and jagged metal. This format of the weapon when fired would tear holes in the approaching army leaving only dead or mangled bodies in its wake.
The book describes what these cannons can do when is says, and shells snarled among the treetops. One tumbled directly into the middle if a hurrying group and exploded in crimson fury. There was an instants spectacle of a man, almost over it, throwing up his hands to shield his eyes. (Courage, 78) The second and what is one of the most common weapon during the civil war was the rifles. The rifles used during the war were single shot mussel loader type gun. They were not very accurate at the beginning of the war but by the end these guns were improved to be very accurate and very deadly. During the beginning of the war these guns would sometimes misfire or explode do to imperfections on the interior of the barrel.
Once the guns were improved thousands of men would line up and shoot them at an approaching army in the hopes to destroy it. The most common Civil War small arms ammunition was the dreadful minnie ball, which tore an enormous wound on impact: it was so heavy that an abdominal or head wound was almost always fatal, and a hit to an extremity usually shattered any bone encountered. In addition, bullets carried dirt and germs into the wound that often caused infection (Shotgun). The book describes the deadly onslaught of bullets when it says Other men, punched by bullets, fell in grotesque agonies.
The regiment left a coherent trail of bodies. (Courage 78) Part of the reason for such a huge death tole was the fact that the doctors had no knowledge or germs and disease that would come from using the same tool on many people. As a result people with what we would consider a minor injury often times became a life threading one. While the average soldier believed the bullet was his most nefarious foe, disease was the biggest killer of the war. Of the Federal dead, roughly three out of five died of disease, and of the Confederate, perhaps two out of three. One of the reasons for the high rates of disease was the slipshod recruiting process that allowed under- or over-age men and those in noticeably poor health to join the armies on both sides, especially in the first year of the war. In fact, by late 1862, some 200, 000 recruits originally accepted for service were judged physically unfit and discharged, either because they had fallen ill or because a routine examination revealed their frail condition. (Shotgun) With the medical aid as primitive as it was during that time thousands of people who could have lived from a simple injury died instead.
As the war raged on supplies like fresh water and beds for the wounded became scarce. When a person was injured he was instead of taken to a place where he could rest and get help many were cast into a field to wait and die. Doctors do to lack of supplies were forced to use beds soaked in someone elses blood to help other people. The most common tools used by the doctors were a large pair of tweezers and a small saw. The tweezers were primary used to remove bullets and shrapnel that were close to the surface while the saw was use to remove body parts like and arm or leg. Often times when a person lost there arm or leg the wound was left open because the doctors had nothing to close the wound with.
Approximately 360, 000 Northerners and 260, 000 Southerners-died in the four-year conflict, a figure that tops the total fatalities of all other wars in which America has fought. Of these numbers, approximately 110, 000 Union and 94, 000 Confederate men died of wounds received in battle. Every effort was made to treat wounded men within 48 hours; most primary care was administered at field hospitals located far behind the front lines. Those who survived were then transported by unreliable and overcrowded ambulances-two-wheeled carts or four-wheeled wagons-to army hospitals located in nearby cities and towns (Shotgun). The Red Badge of Courage describes the lack of medical supplies and treatment by the dead solder in the woods. The corps was dressed in a uniform that once had been blue, but was now faded to a melancholy shade or green.
The eyes, staring at the youth, had changed to the dull hue to be seen on the appalling yellow. Over the gray skin of the face ran little ants. One was trundling some sort of a bundle along the upper lip (Courage, 35). The fighting tactics used in the civil war would not be considered in any way proficient in to-days war techniques. The primary form of attack was two armies lining up and shooting at one another over a small field or break in the trees. This attack would last until one army retreated, regrouped and approached again.
A second form of attack was called the charge. This is where an army would charge with there weapons ready and try to beet down the enemy hand to hand. A regiment that was defending would usually send out 1 or 2 companies to act as skirmishers. Their job was to snipe at officers and do whatever damage they could to the attacking line.
After that, they would either fall back to regroup or would act as flank guards. Usually, 1 or 2 companies would also be kept as reserve in case of a major breakthrough. The rest of the men would be on the main line. Not until the war was halfway over did men begin to realize the benefits of earthworks. The main line would pile up rocks, sticks, or whatever they could find to act as a wall. They would then wait for the attack and if they began to give ground, the reserves would be called in (Beast).
This civil war was a very dramatic time for this country. Some would call it a black spot on a great nation. However others would say that the fight those people made were for what they believed in and that is a very honorable cause. When one takes into consideration the amount of dead and wounded it is with out a doubt a blind battle that horrified some to believe our country had the potential to disunite. It is a frightening issue that is quite unthinkable in society today. Works Sited Crane Stephen: The Red Badge of Courage.
New York: Dover Publications inc, 1895 Parenthetical Reference: (Courage) Shotgun Webmaster. Home of the American Civil War. 8 December 1998 web Reference: (Shotgun) The Beast. The Civil War. 8 December 1998 web Reference: (Beast) Chuck Ten Brink. The Civil War Artillery Page. 8 December 1998 web Reference: (Chuck)
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Research essay sample on American Civil War Red Badge Of Courage