Posted in Short Stories

Stephen Crane: The Little Regiment (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 38)

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Ultimately the night deepened to the tone of black velvet. The outlines of the fireless camp were like the faint drawings upon ancient tapestry. The glint of a rifle, the shine of a button, might have been of threads of silver and gold sewn upon the fabric of the night. There was little presented to the vision, but to a sense more subtle there was discernible in the atmosphere something like a pulse; a mystic beating which would have told a stranger of the presence of a giant thing – the slumbering mass of regiments and batteries.

Stephen Crane’s “The Little Regiment” makes me wonder what I may have been missing all these years in which I’ve put off reading his novel The Red Badge of Courage. I’ve read other stories by Crane that I’ve enjoyed but for some reason have not picked up his most well-known work. I’ll say that needs to change – but I’ve said it before. It’s a novel I want to read, though.

stephen crane

“The Little Regiment” centers around two brothers, Billie and Dan, in the same regiment during the American Civil War. Billie and Dan don’t like each other and Crane makes it obvious that this is not simply playful sibling rivalry.  I found it interesting that Crane would go this route with a Civil War story as so much is made of brothers (who perhaps don’t hate each other) being on separate sides of the war having to fight each other. Billie and Dan are on the same side.

The hardness these brothers already have for each other mirrors the hardness the soldiers have to muster in doing their jobs in battle. But it contrasts with Cranes eloquent and emotional descriptions of the war’s landscape and atmosphere. As beautiful as his writing is, there is no glorification of war – only the fear and futility of it. Behind the writing lies a silent “Why?”

This story is included in The Oxford Book of American Short Stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates. In her introduction to the story, she indicates that “The Little Regiment” is not a story that has been often anthologized. I’m glad she includes it in this collection.

I read this story when I selected the Three of Spades for Week 38 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

3 thoughts on “Stephen Crane: The Little Regiment (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 38)

  1. OMG that quotation you share is incredible. “The outlines of the fireless camp were like the faint drawings upon ancient tapestry…” I was blown away by the whole thing. I know I’ve read some Stephen Crane stories but I don’t remember this title, so I’ll have to find my copy of the JCO book and read it immediately. I guess if it’s in that anthology there’s a good chance I’ve read and forgotten but it would have definitely been in pre-blogging days.

    I have read the RBoC and remember being surprised by how good it was.

    1. Yeah, having a “sense more subtle” than vision gave me chills. Of Crane’s stories I’ve read, this one is the best. Not sure why it’s not anthologized. I looked in one of those “The Portable Stephen Crane” and it wasn’t there. I’ve got to read RBoC soon!

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