October 3: Today in History: Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage is published in book form in 1895

October 3rd, 2013

On October 3, 1895, The Red Badge of Courage, the first American novel to portray the Civil War from the perspective of a soldier, was published in book form. The enormously popular short novel was originally published by a newspaper one section at a time.

Stephen Crane was born in 1871 in Newark, New Jersey to a religious family; his father, Jonathan Townley Crane, served as a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church and his mother, Mary Helen Peck Crane, was the daughter of a minister. From a young age, Crane was an avid writer and published several articles by the age of 16. He attended Claverack College, a quasi-military school where he demonstrated a sharp intellect for history and literature, though his aloof personality prevented him from earning top marks.

Crane opted to drop out of college to become a full-time writer and reporter in 1891. He struggled for the first few years as a freelance writer for New York newspapers, but became interested in the Civil War in 1893. Researching magazine articles devoted to the war, Crane felt that the stories were too impersonal: “I wonder that some of those fellows don’t tell how they felt in those scraps. They spout enough of what they did, but they’re as emotionless as rocks.”

Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage presents the psychological realities of war through the eyes of a young private named Henry Fleming. The manuscript was completed in 1894, and the Bacheller-Johnson Newspaper Syndicate published the manuscript in serial form in six US newspapers. The next year, it was published as a book to immense critical acclaim.

Crane’s success would be short-lived as he died at age 29 after serving as a correspondent in the Spanish-American War. Read an excerpt of The Red Badge of Courage from WSPWH. Interested in another powerful Stephen Crane story? Try “The Veteran,” which continues the story of Henry Fleming, now an old man. 

Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

Tags: , , ,