Chasing War

Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage first appeared in print on this day in 1894, serialized in a handful of American newspapers. The popularity of the serialization enabled Crane to obtain a publisher, and the first book edition appeared ten months later, soon becoming an international hit. Crane was just twenty-three at the time; over his remaining five years he would chase several other wars, trying to capture the reality of battle. Below, his description of American troops heading into the Spanish-American War:

There wasn’t a high heroic face among them. They were all men intent on business. That was all. It may seem to you that I am trying to make everything a squalor. That would be wrong. I feel that things were often sublime. But they were differently sublime. They were not of our shallow and preposterous fictions. They stood out in a simple, majestic commonplace. It was the behavior of men on the street. It was the behavior of men. In one way, each man was just pegging along at the heels of the man before him, who was pegging along at the heels of still another man who — It was that in the flat and obvious way. In another way it was pageantry, the pageantry of the accomplishment of naked duty. One cannot speak of it — the spectacle of the common man serenely doing his work, his appointed work. It is the one thing in the universe which makes one fling expression to the winds and be satisfied to simply feel. Thus they moved on at San Juan — the soldiers of the United States Regular Army. One pays them the tribute of the toast of silence.

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.