Conklin: Jim Conklin is a friend of Henry’s.
They have known each other since childhood, and are both privates
in the Union army. Jim is a good soldier, accepting whatever
circumstances come his way. He is badly wounded in the first
battle. Henry encounters him by chance as he joins the procession
of wounded men after his own act of cowardice. Jim dies of his
injuries soon after this, and Henry witnesses his death. Jim
is a contrast to Henry and a reproach to him: in battle, Jim
stood his ground, fought and died for his courage, whereas Henry
ran away at the first sign of danger.
Henry Fleming: Henry Fleming is the protagonist
of the novel. He is an untested young man who leaves his mother’s
farm in order to enlist in the Union army. He has grand, romantic
ideas about the glory of war, but he soon finds out that the
real thing is very different from what he imagined it to be.
During his period of military service, Henry learns a great
deal about himself. Before the first battle, he is unsure of
how he will react to it. He is concerned that he may run away.
Sure enough, as soon as the bullets begin to fly, this is exactly
what happens. Henry is filled with guilt and shame about his
cowardice, but he makes his way back to his regiment and later
distinguishes himself in battle, showing outstanding bravery
and leadership. His lieutenant and his general recognize Henry’s
contribution and offer him great praise. By the end of the novel,
Henry has attained maturity. He is confident that he has proved
his worth as a man. Even though for a time he was caught up
in the savage joy of battle, on reflection he realizes that
he has no love of war.
Lieutenant: The lieutenant is Henry’s immediate
commander in the battle. He swears and curses as he tries to
motivate and cajole the men (“he could string oaths with
the facility of a maiden who strings beads,” ch. 19 p.
121). Before the first battle, as the men are marching, he beats
Henry with his sword and tells him to hurry up. Henry despises
the lieutenant’s crude manner. But after Henry proves
himself in battle, the lieutenant gives him high praise. After
this, whenever the lieutenant has some profound thoughts about
the science of war, he unconsciously addresses them to Henry.
In the final battle, the lieutenant and Henry join together
in urging the men on. They feel a sense of fellowship and equality.
Tattered Soldier: The tattered soldier is a soldier
Henry encounters in the procession of wounded men. He has been
wounded in the head and arm. He is friendly to Henry, but when
he asks where Henry is wounded, Henry runs off, in spite of
the soldier’s desire for him to stay. Like Jim Conklin,
the tattered soldier serves to prick Henry’s guilty conscience,
reminding him that the wounded men had showed a courage that
he lacked. Henry last sees the tattered soldier wandering helplessly
in a field.
Wilson is a loud private, and Henry's friend in the regiment.
Early in the novel he is belligerent and always ready for a
quarrel. He is young but he swears like an old soldier, and
he has no doubts at all that he will perform well in battle.
In the early part of the novel, he serves as a contrast to Henry,
who doubts himself in a way that Wilson never could. When Henry
returns to his regiment after deserting, Wilson greets him with
great warmth, and looks after him selflessly. He is generous,
and the experience of battle seems to have matured him. Instead
of instigating quarrels, he now acts as a peacemaker between
the men. In the battles that follow, Wilson and Henry are comrades-in-arms,
and Wilson matches Henry for valor. Indeed, it is Wilson rather
than Henry who succeeds, in the final charge, in capturing the