1898 HOME > Literature of the Spanish-American War > Stephen Crane
Before dying of tuberculosis at age 29, he published several essays, novels, and even a volume of poetry. He also worked as a newspaper journalist for several different publications, including for William Randolph Hearst. Crane's most famous novel, The Red Badge of Courage (1895), is a Civil War tale. At the time, Crane had had no war experience. That changed, however, when he became a foreign war correspondent, first in Greece, then, during the Spanish-American War, in Cuba. He had many adventures in Cuba, including surviving the sinking of his ship, witnessing first-hand several battles, and the reaction in Havana after the conflict ended. His accounts and opinions are drastically different from Twain's.
Related works of interest
Some excerpts from his war correspondences:
On his observations of local opinion in Porto Plata:
There is a considerable Cuban colony here, and only the requirements of journalism prevent us from being feted to-night by an enthusiastic populace. . .
As in Cape Haytien, the group of French and German merchants is pro-Spanish. Moreover, the British Consul has a Spanish wife, and this fact seems to prevent him from getting facts into any kind of perspective. But the natives are for us. They see in the destiny of United States a destiny for themselves. They want to be let alone, but they want to follow the great republic in the making of a wester world which will one day outshine the old civilization of the East.
Crane also described his own feelings when faced with action:
The next day we went shooting. It was exactly like quail-shooting, I'll tell you. These guerillas who so cursed our lives had a well some five miles away, and. . .it was decided that it would be correct to go forth and destroy the well. Captain Elliot of C company. . .was to start out at the next daybreak. He asked me if I cared to go, and of course I accepted with glee; but all that night I was afraid. Bitterly afraid. The moon was very bright, shedding a magnificent radiance upon the trenches. I watched the men of C and D companies lying so tranquilly--some snoring, confound them--whereas I was certain that I could never sleep with the weight of a coming battle upon my mind. . .In the morning I wished for some mild attack of disease, something that would incapacitate me for the business of going out gratuitously to be bombarded. But I was in an awkwardly healthy state, and so I must needs smile and look pleased with my prospects. (from "War Memories").
A description for the New York World, July 1, 1898:
Further on the two companies of marines were going through a short, sharp inspection. Their linen suits and black corded accouterments made their strong figures very business-like and soldierly. Contrary to the Cubans, the bronze faces of the Americans were not stolid at all. One could note the prevalence of a curious expression--something dreamy, the symbol of minds striving to tear aside the screen of the future and perhaps expose the ambush of death. It was not fear in the least. It was simply a moment in the lives of men who have staked themselves and have come to wonder which wins--red or black?
And glancing along that fine, silent rank at faces grown intimate through the association of four days and nights of almost constant fighting, it was impossible not to fall into deepest sympathy with this mood and wonder as to the dash and death there would presently be on the other side of those hills--those mysterious hills not far away, placidly in the sunlight veiling the scene of somebody's last gasp. And then the time. It was now 7 o'clock. What about 8 o'clock? Nine o'clock? Little absurd indications of time. . .these indications of time now were sinister, sombre with the shadows of certain tragedy, not the tragedy of a street accident, but forseen, inexorable, invincible tragedy.
I knew then that one of my pals was going to stand up behind the lanterns and have all Spain shoot at him.
The answer was always upon the instant: "Yes, sir."
Then the bullets began to snap, snap, snap, at his head, while all the woods began to crackle like burning straw. I could lie near and watch the face of the signalman, illumed as it was by the yellow shine of lantern-light, and the absence of excitement, fright, or any emotion at all on his countenance was something to astonish all theories out of one's mind. . .
These times on the hill resembled, in some ways, those terrible scenes on the stage--scenes if intense gloom, blinding lightning, with a cloaked devil or assassin or other appropriate character muttering deeply amid the awful roll of the thunder-drums. It was theatric beyond words: one felt like a leaf in this booming chaos, this prolonged tragedy of the night. Amid it all one could see from time to time the yellow light on the face of a preoccupied signalman.
Another account of the violence of war, this time from "War Memories":
I heard somebody dying near me. He was dying hard. Hard. It took him a long time to die. He breathed as all noble machinery breathes when it is making its gallant strife against breaking, breaking. But he was going to break. He was going to break. It seemed to me, this breathing, the noise of a heroic pump which strives to subdue a mud which comes upon it in tons. The darkness was impenetrable. The man was lying in some depression within seven feet of me. Every wave, vibration, of his anguish beat upon my senses. He was long past groaning. There was only the bitter strife for air which pulsed out into the night in a clear penetrating whistle with intervals of terrible silence in which I held my own breath in the common unconscious aspiration to help.
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