Like “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” “Chickamauga” possesses classic Biercean features, including the violence of war and a bizarre version of reality. The chief difference in this story, however, is that the bizarre reality, for all its appearance as such, is no dream; it is all too real.
The story tells of a small boy, who, with toy wooden sword in hand, wanders off into the woods to fight invisible foes, just as his ancestors have battled real ones. The boy strays too far and becomes lost. Finally, he lies down to rest and sleeps for several hours. Soon after he awakes, he is joined by hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers making their way in macabre fashion through the twilight near where the boy lies. Rather than being frightened by them, he is entertained. He even tries to play with them and eventually, sword in hand, takes a position in front of the group and “leads” them.
Soon he and the soldiers come upon a fire. He then recognizes the buildings of his own plantation and runs in search of his mother, whom he finds, herwhite face turned upward, the hands thrown out and clutched full of grass, the clothing deranged, the long dark hair in tangles and full of clotted blood. The greater part of the forehead was torn away, and from the jagged hole the brain protruded, overflowing the temple, a frothy mass of gray, crowned with clusters of crimson bubbles—the work of a shell.
The child attempts to scream, but it is...
(The entire section is 604 words.)