Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) Life History
American journalist, short story writer and satirist Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) was an American Civil War veteran who wrote a series of satirical works about the conflict.
Ambrose Bierce, who is considered one of the greatest short story writers in U.S. history, was born in Meigs County, Ohio on 24 December 1842.
His family moved to Indiana in 1848 where he attended a local school.
Ambrose’s father, a farmer and politician, named him after the minister who performed his own wedding ceremony. His father served in the Mexican War, lawyers and politicians were relatives on both sides.
His mother was also prominent in public affairs and encouraged her son to be an intellectual scholar.
At the age of seventeen years old his father died and he enlisted into the Union Army at age eighteen. He fought in this war against the Confederacy until he was wounded in 1862 during the Battle of Chickamauga.
After that Bierce became a teacher and newspaper reporter, moving to California in 1868. He also married Mary Ellen Day while they were both working for the San Francisco Morning Call.
His father, a farmer and politician, named him after the minister who performed his own wedding ceremony. His mother was also prominent in public affairs and encouraged her son to be an intellectual scholar.
Young Bierce attended college at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware where he gained a love of literary studies as well as an appreciation for classical poets. In 1864 he began working as an assistant editor for the San Francisco News Letter and followed with a position at The San Francisco Examiner until 1872.
Ambrose Bierce military career
Ambrose Bierce’s military career began in May 1861 when he enlisted for service in the American Civil War. He was a corporal in Company A, 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 20th and then 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. During his service, he contracted typhoid fever and was discharged on August 13, 1862 at Wheeling, West Virginia.
A fearless warrior, Ambrose Bierce marched into battle during the Civil War as a corporal in Company A, 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. His courage on the battlefield earned him the respect of his fellow soldiers.
Bierce had a military career that was, for the most part, unremarkable. After entering the Union side of the Civil War in 1864 like many young men of his generation, he saw service under General Philip Sheridan and led some raids against rebel sympathizers in Missouri. In 1865, he returned to his native California and settled down with his wife; to support himself he founded the satirical magazine The Wasp and soon expanded it into a thriving literary empire.
Ambrose Bierce Journalism History:
His journalism focused on politics and war, and his writing was often satirical or critical of human nature.
He is best known for his satirical definitions of words from The Devil’s Dictionary, but he also wrote darkly humorous short stories that were collected together after his death as Tales of Soldiers and Civilians.
In The Devil Dictionary, Bierce uses satire to illuminate many aspects of human nature with its vices, follies and shortcomings. It was published shortly after he moved from Ohio to San Francisco, where he became the editor of a newspaper.
The works of Ambrose Bierce are featured in this book, which includes his journalism and war reportage, as well as his most famous short stories, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” and “Chickamauga.”
Ambrose Bierce Railroad refinancing bill
In 1864, the Union Pacific Railroad Company and Central Pacific Railroad Company received large, low-interest loans from the U.S. government to build a railroad line from Omaha, Nebraska, to Sacramento, California. Collis P. Huntington, the president of Central Pacific, persuaded a friendly member of Congress to introduce a bill that would excuse both companies from repaying their loans. The bill amounted to $130 million (worth $4.23 billion today). Hearst dispatched Ambrose Bierce to Washington D.C. to foil this attempt. Bierce’s residence (right), 18 Logan Circle, Washington D.C., became his base of operations for exposing what he considered “the most corrupt legislation ever proposed by Congress.”
States that this act shall be known and may be cited as the “Railroad Refinancing Act”. Declares the purpose of the act to be the establishment of a means by which a nation-wide system of transportation, communication, and general commerce can be developed and maintained at a fair return on invested capital. Also provides that railways and other transportation companies are authorized to issue new securities in exchange for their outstanding obligations. Authorizes such companies, without issuing new securities, to pay off their floating indebtedness from any amount saved from operating expenses or from earnings on investments made outside the United States
Bierce’s biting social criticism and satire often landed him in trouble with his publishers, but he always had the last laugh. When a rival newspaper attacked Hearst for one of Bierce’s satirical poems, which they thought was intended to inspire violence against President William McKinley, Bierce coolly replied: “I was sorry to hear that Secretary Root was charged with having inspired my unfortunate poem about the assassination of Governor Goebel of Kentucky. I am assured by persons who ought to know that Mr. Root is incapable of writing anything in verse.”
Ambrose Bierce Other Remarkable Works
During his lifetime, Bierce was famous as a journalist than as a fiction writer. His most popular stories were written in rapid succession between 1888 and 1891, in what was characterized as “a tremendous burst of consummate art”. However, his works often highlight the inscrutability of the universe and the absurdity of death
Bierce’s most popular stories were written in rapid succession between 1888 and 1891. His works often highlight the inscrutability of the universe and the absurdity of death. He also wrote poetry and fables that mirror his interest in supernatural horror.
Bierce wrote about the war and the evils of mankind in such stories as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, “A Horseman in the Sky”, “One of the Missing”, and “Chickamauga” (about the American Civil War). He also wrote poems and fables.
Ambrose Bierce is best known for his much-quoted The Devil’s Dictionary, a collection of satirical definitions lampooning cant and political double-talk. He edited the twelve volumes of The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, which were published from 1909 to 1912. The seventh volume consists solely of The Devil’s Dictionary.
Bierce was criticized by his contemporaries and later scholars for what appeared to be deliberate pursuit of improbability in his stories. Many critics feel that Bierce was attempting to shock his audience, as if he were trying to attack the reader’s sense of security.
Bierce’s biting satire has been compared to that of Jonathan Swift, who often showed contempt for humanity and an intolerance to the point of merciless cruelty.
He wrote realistically about the things he saw during the war. He also published a lot of poetry and fables that were humorous.
Ambrose Bierce Disappearance
The disappearance of Ambrose Bierce in 1913 remains one of the world’s most enduring unsolved mysteries.
On March 30, 1913, Ambrose Bierce vanished into thin air. He had been writing political polemics in Mexico City at the time and was seeking to travel to the United States in order to avoid military conscription. Letters sent from him stopped coming about this time, and he was never seen again. Theories circulated that he had been murdered by the Mexican government for his writings or taken prisoner by the U.S. government for his anti-patriotic views; however, both suggestions have been proven false.
Some believe he was abducted by bandits and murdered. Others think he simply wanted to live out the rest of his days as a hermit.
Bierce’s disappearance has been investigated in modern times with search parties and groups as well as writers interested in pursuing possible answers to how he disappeared.
- The Fiend’s Delight
- Nuggets and Dust Panned Out in California
- Cobwebs from an Empty Skull
- Map of the Black Hills Region
- Tales of Soldiers and Civilians
- The Monk and the Hangman’s Daughter
- Black Beetles in Amber
- Can Such Things Be?
- How Blind Is He
- Fantastic Fables
- Shapes of Clay
- The Cynic’s Word Book
- A Son of the Gods and A Horseman in the Sky
- Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults
- The Shadow on the Dial
- Killed at Resaca (1887)
- A Horseman in the Sky (1889)
- An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1890)
- One of the Missing (1888)
- A Tough Tussle (1888)
- My Favorite Murder
- A Horseman in the Sky: A Watcher by the Dead: The Man and the Snake
- Tales of Ghouls and Ghosts
- Tales of Haunted Houses
- My Favorite Murder and Other Stories
- Ghost and Horror Stories
- The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce
- Ten Tales
- Fantastic Debunking Fables
- An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and Other Stories
- The Horseman in the Sky and Other Stories
- The Stories and Fables of Ambrose Bierce
- For the Ahkoond
- The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories
- A Deoderizer of Dead Dogs, Carl Japikse, ed. (Alpharetta, GA: Enthea Press, 1998)
- The Collected Fables of Ambrose Bierce
- A Horseman in the Sky
- One Summer Night
- One of the Missing: Tales of the War Between the States
- Civil War Stories
- An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and Other Stories
- The Short Fiction of Ambrose Bierce
- Ambrose Bierce: Masters of the Weird Tale
- An Invocation
- A Vision of Doom
- The Lion and the Lamb
- Poems of Ambrose Bierce, M. E. Grenander, ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1995)
- Extraordinary Opinions on Commonplace Subjects
- A Cynic Looks at Life
- The Sardonic Humor of Ambrose Bierce, George Barkin, ed. (New York: Dover, 1963)
- The Fall of the Republic and Other Political Satires
- A Psychological Shipwreck (1879)
- An Inhabitant of Carcosa (1886)
- John Bartine’s Watch (1893)
- The Eyes of the Panther (1897)
- The Moonlit Road (1907)
- Beyond the Wall (1907)
- An Unfinished Race (1888)
- One of Twins (1888)
- The Spook House (1889)
- The Man and the Snake (1890)
- The Realm of the Unreal (1890)
- The Middle Toe of the Right Foot (1890)
- The Boarded Window (1891)
- The Death of Halpin Frayser (1891)
- The Secret of Macarger’s Gulch (1891)
- The Damned Thing (1893)
- Moxon’s Master (1899)
- Containing Four Ambrose Bierce Letters
- Ambrose Bierce: “My Dear Rearden”: a Letter.
- A Much Misunderstood Man: Selected Letters of Ambrose Bierce
- My Dear Mac: Three Letters
- The Letters of Ambrose Bierce, Bertha Clark Pope and George Sterling
- Twenty-one Letters of Ambrose Bierce
- A Letter and a Likeness
- Battlefields and Ghosts
- Iconoclastic Memories of the Civil War: Bits of Autobiography
- A Sole Survivor: Bits of Autobiography, S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, eds. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee, 1998)
- Battle Sketches
- Skepticism and Dissent: Selected Journalism from 1898 to 1901
- Selections from Prattle, Carroll D. Hall, ed. (San Francisco: Book Club of California, 1936)
- The Ambrose Bierce Satanic Reader
Legacy and influence
Ambrose Bierce’s influence is still felt today. He was a journalist and satirist who wrote about the hypocrisy of politics, war, and military life. His work has inspired later authors like Hunter S. Thompson and George Carlin. Sadly, Ambrose Bierce died in Mexico in 1914 at age 71 without a lasting legacy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What influenced Ambrose Bierce?
Bierce was influenced by many different things in his life, including his experiences in war. He fought in the Civil War and was wounded several times, which gave him a unique perspective on warfare that he often incorporated into his works. Bierce was also influenced by his father’s death when he was young; this event affected him deeply, causing him to be very private about his emotions for most of his life. He was known for his dark humor, which he used to express his opinions on things like war, religion, and politics. Some of his best-known works are The Devil’s Dictionary (a satirical dictionary) and Can Such Things Be? (about ghosts). Bierce’s stories often take place in an imaginary place called “Dullborough,” where all of the characters are dull people who are not very interesting themselves. He also wrote a lot about death—he thought it was funny because it’s so inevitable that we’d all have to face it someday!
How did Ambrose Bierce feel about the Civil War?
Ambrose Bierce, who wrote during the Civil War era, was a critic of the war. He felt that it was a mistake and that it should have been avoided. He believed that the South should have been allowed to leave the Union without violence, but he didn’t believe that slavery was a good thing either. In his book “In the Midst of Life,” he expresses his feelings about the Civil War in an article titled “The Little Woman.” He writes about how he considers himself to be an abolitionist but is not willing to fight for it. He says that he is not willing to fight in favor of freedom because he believes that freedom is already guaranteed to everyone by God.
What two major battles did Bierce fight in?
Ambrose Bierce fought in two major battles: the Battle of Shiloh and the Battle of Stones River. Bierce was a soldier in the Union Army, which he joined at the age of 42. He served as a captain and then later as a major during the Civil War. He was wounded during both battles, but his injuries were not life-threatening. Shiloh was fought on April 6-7, 1862. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War and is often considered one of its turning points because it showed how much manpower would be required to win such a war. The battle began when Confederate forces led by General Albert Sidney Johnston attacked Union troops under Ulysses S. Grant at Pittsburg Landing (modern-day Shiloh). Johnston hoped to defeat Grant before reinforcements could arrive from other parts of the country—but Grant’s army had more than twice as many soldiers as Johnston’s force did. The Battle of Stones River started on December 31, 1862, when Union forces led by William Rosecrans launched an attack against Braxton Bragg’s Confederate army at Murfreesboro, Tennessee (modern-day Murfreesboro)