The Red Badge of Courage departs from traditional war novels by looking at a single persons experience throughout the war: Henry Fleming, a Union soldier, who flees from battle when things get hairy. With his shame weighing heavily on him, Henry hopes to get a war wound – a “red badge of courage”. In the end, he does end up getting a wound – but not how he expected to.
The book was met with universal praise upon its release. It’s known for its realistic portrayal of battle, as well as its mixture of naturalistic, realistic, and impressionistic prose. The novel is about a man in war, as opposed to a larger narrative on the war itself. It could, in fact, likely take place in any war. Crane did this purposely, wanting to show a “psychological portrayal of fear” that is divorced from any single context.
If you want to do a deep dive into the book, the Norton Critical Edition is a great place to start. If you just want a compendium of Crane’s works, this is an affordable option.