Ambrose Bierce

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What could happen to Druse next in "A Horseman in the Sky"? Can he live with his decision?

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Carter Druse is a Union soldier who lives in Virginia, which was the stronghold of the Confederacy. His father called him a “traitor” when he decided to join the Union army. Druse’s assignment during the story is to act as sentry, but he has fallen asleep. When he wakes up, he observes a Confederate soldier who sits on horseback at the edge of a nearby cliff, and he suffers qualms of conscience as he decides whether to fire at the soldier. Ambrose Bierce describes Druse as having a “brave, compassionate heart.” As he takes aim, he wonders about the morality of killing the enemy, especially when the reason is to protect his own side. Remembering his father’s admonition to always to do his duty, he decides to shoot, but he aims and fires at the horse.

Druse’s shot sends the horse and rider over the cliff, where a scout sees them fall as if riding through the air. Soon a sergeant approaches Druse and asks him about the shot he heard. Druse replies truthfully that he shot the horse and sent it over the cliff. To the sergeant’s next question, he also replies that there was a rider on it, and that this man was his own father.

Because Druse acted to safeguard his Union comrades, they may consider him a hero. As he proved to be a good shot, he will likely be given more sniper assignments. If he suffers psychological problems, however, he might desert.

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