The Embattled Courage


The Embattled Courage describes the experiences that the soldiers who participated in the American civil war had. It explores the psychological effects that the civil war had on the soldiers who participated in it and how it changed their first motives. The book mainly dwells on the motivations of the soldiers to participate in the civil war. At first, the soldiers joined the troops with enthusiasm and genuine courage with the individuals on both sides believing that they will emerge winners. As we come to learn later, the civil war changed the image of the war into a kind of a disillusioning experience by the soldiers who participated in the war and the image of the soldiers have been changed to victims of the war instead of heroes of the war. A study was done on a number of soldiers (about fifty soldiers) and the intention of each soldier when he was being enlisted in his side is compared to his feeling about the war towards the end of the battle.

Courage at the Core

When the civil war began, thousands of young men enlisted to be trained as soldiers so that these young men could prove their courage and manhood (Michael & Larry 436). The soldiers were trained in all possible ways and any quality that the soldiers ought to have had was tried. The failure to succeed in any of the tests led to the dismissal of the individual as they felt that this individual was not manly and independent. Courage was the center of each action that they took at the early ages of the battle. Courage was connected with other issues such as godliness, honor manliness, duty, knightliness, etc. However, the relationship between courage and any of the issues differed in terms of their identity to courage. All these powerful words that were associated with courage helped to give more strength to the volunteer soldier and increase their courage.

Manliness was used to give a similar meaning as the word courage. Any volunteer soldier who

The Embattled Courage

was refereed to as being manly was being refereed to as being courageous. To the volunteer soldiers, courage was seen as the guiding principle for to them, it was the strongest manliest virtues (Michael & Larry 437). Those who did not show courage aspects during the war were deemed to lack manhood in them. The relationship between courage and godliness was that faith in god made the volunteer soldiers brave. There was the believe that those who believed in god as the source of courage received that courage from him. Again, the volunteer soldiers believed that god could always offer protection to those who believed in him. Those who believed in god were given the courage and strength to resist the fear of one’s safety when fighting. People were regarded with honor if they had courage characteristics.

After participation in the battle for quite sometime, experience taught the soldiers that courage in the battlefields never offered any protection as they had been made to believe earlier. Those who decided to remain at home or to look for some means of avoiding the battle were safer regardless of the titles that they received. Those who claimed to be the bravest went out to prove their courage and the end result was death in these battlefields. Research showed that in a years time, out of fifteen soldiers- who had been appointed as officers for their courage- five had lost their lives and six had sustained some serious injuries. When these volunteer soldiers thought of the number of great people (in terms of courage and other attributes) they had lost, they found that these great people were ever the first victims. The results that they were receiving were strange in relation to the results that they anticipated. Some commanders who were fortunate enough not to be the first victims were really disappointed by the fact that the authorities promoted people who always acted to prevent their own lives to replace those dedicated soldiers who died in the war (Michael & Larry 442). These were individuals who had not undergone through any pains to protect their own lives. This made the soldiers feel that their original believe that courage was a means of offering one protection and help him acquire victory was all deceiving oneself. They realized that the courage being defined here was a means of inviting death into ones life. Earlier, there were strong attachments to the godliness especially the bible but by now, those who carried the bible in their pockets could also undergo suffering and even die. The men were tired and sad to the extent that they had to hang some tags containing their names on the eve of the war (Gerald, 220). This was a sign of desperation and hopelessness on the side of the soldiers who joined the groups with so much enthusiasm. They did this so that when they die in the war, their bodies will be identified. The strength of courage to stand on its own went down to the extent that the volunteer soldiers could not see any rewards of courageous participation in then war.

Strengths of the Book

The Embattled Courage

The book is set in a way that one reads it and there is nothing that one can do other than pity the volunteer soldiers. These are individuals who go out for the war guided by certain principles especially courage. The enthusiasm of the individuals leaves one with no doubt that the group will win the battle. The experiences that these individuals go through especially in the wars get to tech them a lot. Whatever used to be their guiding principles have acquired some totally different definitions and the volunteer soldiers happen to have deceived themselves a lot (Michael & Larry 444). The promotions given to the soldiers who have not shown any signs of sacrifice to fight for their lives in replacement of the great soldiers who died in the war is not in order. The reactions of the volunteer soldiers after they realize that the courage that they believed in was no longer a means of acquiring victory but a method of inviting death are desperate. Hanging of tags in the soldiers’ neck shows how hopeless the soldiers are. One cannot believe that these are the same soldiers who rushed to enlist for the opportunity. This book shows how good elements can turn out to be poisonous if proper care is not taken.

Weaknesses of the Book

The way the book presents the voluntary soldiers is that none of the two groups had the experiences that they expected in the war. The war seems to have come solely to wipe out the first motives of the soldiers. None of the principles that are being applied seems to work in the anticipated dimension. There is a claim that the number of soldiers that were interviewed was only fifty which is quite a small number to make generalizations about the whole population (Michael & Larry 449). None of the objectives of the war was achieved and in fact, the volunteer soldiers were out to experience some harsh conditions which had some very negative impacts on the side of the volunteer soldiers. Some of the volunteer soldiers could not even tell about their experiences in the war.

The Author’s Argument

The argument of the author is quite credible especially on the side of the soldiers who go out for the war. The soldiers have high expectations as they leave for the war but the experiences in the battle teach them a lot (Michael & Larry 449). Those who are always in the front line happen to be the first victims of death in the war. The promotions given to other soldiers to replace those who die or get disabled in wars is questionable.

The Embattled Courage


The central argument in the book Embattled Courage revolves around the oneness of the soldiers as they leave for the war and their guiding motivations especially the courage issue. These voluntary soldiers leave for the battle field anticipating victory and no losses. However, the experiences of the soldiers in the war teach them a lot. Courage is no longer seen as a guiding principle but as a call to death.


Gerald, F. L. (1989). Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the America World War.

New York: N. Y. U Press, 219-224.

Michael, B & Larry, M. L. (2002). The Civil War Soldier: A Historical Reader. New York: NYU Press, 436-452.