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Chapter 12 “He’s wrong!”

Their small corner of the forest was quiet again. There were battle noises far away, but the regiment was out of danger. They started marching back toward their lines. The men were nervous, looking behind them. They were afraid of a bullet in the back. “If I’m going to die. I want to die in battle!” thought the young soldier. “Not like this!”

They passed another regiment. The men were resting under some trees. Their faces were hard and sunburned, and their uniforms were old and dirty. They laughed and called out as the regiment passed.

“Where have you been? Are you coming back already? Where are you going? Home to mother?”

The tired regiment heard this, but they didn’t reply. One man wanted to fight. An officer pushed him back into line. The men walked heavily with their heads down. The young soldier looked at the older soldiers with eyes full of hate.

Finally, they got back safely to their line. Henry thought about the battle. He was pleased with his day’s work.

As the regiment was resting, a general arrived on a tired horse.

“Look!” said Henry to Wilson. “He’s the one who called us ‘cowboys’!” They listened as he spoke angrily to the officers of the regiment.

“Why did you stop?” he shouted. “Why did you stop fighting?”

“But we went as far as we could!” said one of the officers.

“Well that wasn’t very far, was it?” shouted the general. Now all the men were listening. “Your men aren’t even cowboys!

They fight like farm boys!” He turned his horse and rode away.

The men were surprised and angry. “Farm boys! He wasn’t even there!” they said. “He didn’t see us fight! It’s all a mistake.

He’s stupid!”

“Why did he say that?” cried Henry. “We fought hard, didn’t we?”

A group of men arrived. “Henry!” called one soldier. “Did you hear the news? I heard two officers talking. One of them asked.

“Who was carrying the flag?” The other said. „Henry Fleming.

and Wilson. They were at the head of the regiment.’ And do you know what he said next?”

“What?” said Henry.

“He said. ’Those two are excellent soldiers! They’ll be generals one day!’”

Henry and Wilson spoke together. “No. it’s not true! You’re lying!” They felt shy in front of the others, but they were very happy. They forgot their mistakes and their worries. They silently thanked the two officers for their kind words.

Before long, the enemy poured out of the woods again. Henry felt calm as he looked around him. On one side, two regiments were fighting in a field. On the other side, a blue regiment was attacking the enemy outside a wood. There was a line of cannon behind them. The noise was terrible. He saw small groups fighting close together. Men on horseback moved forward, then back again. Bright flags waved through the smoke. Rifles crashed and men fell to the ground. The young soldier did not know who was winning.

His regiment didn’t wait for an order. They fired and fired again. They shouted angrily at the enemy. An officer stood behind them, cursing loudly. A gray line of enemy soldiers ran closer and hid behind a stone wall. Henry held the flag and watched silently.

“That general was wrong!” he thought. “He called the regiment ‘cowboys’ and ‘farm boys.’ He’ll be sorry when I’m dead!” He imagined his body lying in the field. It was full of bullet wounds, but the (lag was still in his hands. The general was crying beside him. It was a hero’s death. Then he came out of his dream. His comrades were falling all around him. Men screamed in pain. Wilson was still beside him, and his face was black with smoke. The officer was still cursing, but more quietly now. The rifles fell silent as the regiment grew smaller.

The officers of the regiment ran up behind them. „We have to attack!” they cried angrily. The men ran forward, shouting loudly. The young soldier stayed in front with the flag. He felt no fear as he ran. The bullets could not stop him. He had a clear picture of the battle in his mind as he ran. In this picture, the blue regiment crashed into the enemy and broke it to pieces. But as he came closer, he saw something different. The gray soldiers were running away. A few men turned and fired as they ran. Some of them stayed to fight and fired from behind the wall.

The blue soldiers ran faster, shouting wildly. They were angry with the general. “Cowboys! Farm boys! He’s wrong!” shouted one man. “We’re good soldiers!” They turned this feeling against the enemy. They showed their teeth like wild animals.

The young soldier didn’t look at the men who were firing at him. He saw only the red enemy flag, waving in the smoke. It was a prize that he had to win. Nothing could stop him. The blue soldiers raced on through the bullets. They were very close to the gray line. Suddenly, they stopped and fired. The noise crashed in their ears. The group in gray was broken, but they continued firing. Men fell dying onto the ground. A gray soldier still held the flag. He was badly wounded and in terrible pain. Still, he tried to protect the flag. He held on to it tightly, but he was growing weaker. Henry saw that it was his last battle.

The blue line of soldiers poured over the wall, with Henry and his friend in front. His friend jumped at the red flag like a wildcat. He pulled it free, shouting wildly. He lifted it high above his head. It was the last thing the gray soldier saw. He fell down dead on the green grass in a pool of red blood.

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