For a man who wrote the book in his early twenties, never went to war, and died at the age of 28, Crane did an impressive job of recreating the average soldier's experience in the Civil War.
I have only just recently begun to read on the Civil War and its personalities, starting with Selby Foote's "Civil War Narrative," with "Battle Cry of Freedom," and "The Last Full Measure" (about the Minnesota First Volunteers). From that meager background however, I found Crane's work phenomenal. The unrealistic view of war expressed by the protagonist, his urgent desire to join in the effort to "gain in the glory" before it was all over, his fear that he would not measure up when the time came, even his disgust over the conditions of camp life and the apparent ineptitudes of his superiors were as though they had been harvested from the diaries of the Civil War veterans used as resources by modern historians.
I had read the Red Badge of Courage in high school as part of American Literature, but decided to read it again as part of my review of Civil War literature. In school we tended to focus on the narrative as a craft, looking at color words, meaning of words in context, creation of character, etc. Certainly in this perspective, the work is exemplray. One of the more vivid passages describes the youth in the presence of a corpse of a fellow soldier in an arbored area after he has fled the battle field. The tight, concise style and careful choice of words carries the main character from braggadocio to cowardice, from flight to fearless valour, from novice to veteran in under 200 pages. Unforgettable.