Ambrose Bierce

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Roy Morris, Jr., is the editor of the journal AMERICA’S CIVIL WAR and the author of SHERIDAN: THE LIFE AND WARS OF GENERAL PHIL SHERIDAN (1992). As a Civil War authority, Morris is well suited to unraveling how the war impacted Ambrose Bierce. Born on June 24, 1842, in Horse Cave Creek, Ohio, Bierce was the tenth child of Marcus Aurelius Bierce and Laura Sherwood Bierce. For some unknown reason, his father gave all of his children a first name beginning with the letter “A.” While Bierce was still a child, the family moved to Indiana. The family struggled to stay out of poverty. While the other children did their best to adjust to the harsh conditions, Bierce became withdrawn and sullen. Morris points out that as an adult, Bierce never had a kind word to say about his parents.

At the age of fifteen, Bierce left home for good. With the start of the Civil War in 1861, he enlisted in the Ninth Indiana Volunteers. Morris is at his analytic best in his description of the war and the part the Bierce played in it as a Union Army soldier. He was a good soldier and by the end of the war had risen to the rank of first lieutenant. Bierce saw action in a number of major battles. On June 23, 1864, he was shot in the head while leading a skirmish line at Kennesaw Mountain. Morris drives home the point that Bierce physically recovered from his head wound, but that he did not ever fully recover psychologically from witnessing such horrendous carnage.


(The entire section is 488 words.)