His life ended in an unsolved mystery. In he enlisted in the 9th Indiana Volunteers and fought in a number of American Civil War battles, including Shiloh and Chickamauga. After being seriously wounded in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in , he served until January , and he received a merit promotion to major in Resettling in San Francisco, which was experiencing an artistic renaissance, he began contributing to periodicals, particularly the News Letter , of which he became editor in

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Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce June 24, [2] — circa [3] was an American short story writer, journalist, poet, and Civil War veteran. A prolific and versatile writer, Bierce was regarded as one of the most influential journalists in the United States, [7] [8] and as a pioneering writer of realist fiction. Joshi speculates that he may well be the greatest satirist America has ever produced, and in this regard can take his place with such figures as Juvenal , Swift , and Voltaire.

He was never seen again. His parents were a poor but literary couple who instilled in him a deep love for books and writing. He left home at 15 to become a printer's devil at a small abolitionist Ohio newspaper, the Northern Indiana.

He participated in the operations in Western Virginia , was present at the Battle of Philippi the first organized land action of the war and received newspaper attention for his daring rescue, under fire, of a gravely wounded comrade at the Battle of Rich Mountain. Bierce fought at the Battle of Shiloh April , a terrifying experience that became a source for several short stories and the memoir "What I Saw of Shiloh".

In April he was commissioned a first lieutenant , and served on the staff of General William Babcock Hazen as a topographical engineer , making maps of likely battlefields. Thomas and Oliver O. Howard , both of whom supported his application for admission to West Point in May General Hazen believed Bierce would graduate from the military academy "with distinction" and William T.

Sherman also endorsed the application for admission, even though stating he had no personal acquaintance with Bierce. His military career resumed in mid, when he joined General Hazen as part of an expedition to inspect military outposts across the Great Plains.

The expedition traveled by horseback and wagon from Omaha Nebraska, arriving toward year's end in San Francisco, California. They had three children: sons Day — [27] and Leigh — [27] and daughter Helen — Both of Bierce's sons died before he did.

They divorced in Bierce was an avowed agnostic , and strongly rejected the divinity of Christ. In San Francisco , Bierce was awarded the rank of brevet major before resigning from the Army. Bierce lived and wrote in England from to , contributing to Fun magazine.

Returning to the United States, he again took up residence in San Francisco. From to , he traveled to Rockerville and Deadwood in the Dakota Territory , to try his hand as local manager for a New York mining company. When the company failed he returned to San Francisco and resumed his career in journalism. From January 1, , until September 11, , he was editor of The Wasp magazine, in which he began a column titled "Prattle". He also became one of the first regular columnists and editorialists on William Randolph Hearst 's newspaper, The San Francisco Examiner , [2] eventually becoming one of the most prominent and influential writers and journalists [ citation needed ] of the West Coast.

He remained associated with Hearst Newspapers until The Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad companies had received large, low-interest loans from the U.

Central Pacific executive Collis P. The essence of the plot was secrecy; the railroads' advocates hoped to get the bill through Congress without any public notice or hearings.

When the angered Huntington confronted Bierce on the steps of the Capitol and told Bierce to name his price, Bierce's answer ended up in newspapers nationwide: "My price is one hundred thirty million dollars. If, when you are ready to pay, I happen to be out of town, you may hand it over to my friend, the Treasurer of the United States. Bierce's coverage and diatribes on the subject aroused such public wrath that the bill was defeated. Bierce returned to California in November.

Because of his penchant for biting social criticism and satire, Bierce's long newspaper career was often steeped in controversy. On several occasions his columns stirred up a storm of hostile reaction, which created difficulties for Hearst. Bierce meant his poem to express a national mood of dismay and fear, but after McKinley was shot in , it seemed to foreshadow the crime:.

The bullet that pierced Goebel's breast Can not be found in all the West; Good reason, it is speeding here To stretch McKinley on his bier.

Hearst was thereby accused by rival newspapers—and by then- Secretary of War Elihu Root —of having called for McKinley's assassination. Despite a national uproar that ended his ambitions for the presidency and even his membership in the Bohemian Club , Hearst kept employing Bierce. During his lifetime, Bierce was better known as a journalist than as a fiction writer. His most popular stories were written in rapid succession between and , in what was characterized as "a tremendous burst of consummate art".

Bierce wrote realistically of the terrible things he had seen in the war [41] in such stories as " An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge ", " A Horseman in the Sky ", " One of the Missing ", and " Chickamauga ". His grimly realistic cycle of 25 war stories has been called "the greatest anti-war document in American literature". According to Milton Subotsky , Bierce helped pioneer the psychological horror story. His Fantastic Fables anticipated the ironic style of grotesquerie that became a more common genre in the 20th century.

One of Bierce's most famous works is his much-quoted The Devil's Dictionary , originally an occasional newspaper item, first published in book form in as The Cynic's Word Book. Described as "howlingly funny", [44] it consists of satirical definitions of English words which lampoon cant and political double-talk. Bierce edited the twelve volumes of The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce , which were published from to The seventh volume consists solely of The Devil's Dictionary.

Bierce has been criticized by his contemporaries and later scholars for deliberately pursuing improbability and for his penchant toward " trick endings ". Bierce's bias towards Naturalism has also been noted: [46] "The biting, deriding quality of his satire, unbalanced by any compassion for his targets, was often taken as petty meanness, showing contempt for humanity and an intolerance to the point of merciless cruelty".

Stephen Crane was of the minority of Bierce's contemporaries who valued Bierce's experimental short stories. Lovecraft characterized Bierce's fictional work as "grim and savage. Critic William Dean Howells said, "Mr. Bierce is among our three greatest writers. Howells is the other two. In October , Bierce, then age 71, departed from Washington, D.

By December he had passed through Louisiana and Texas , crossing by way of El Paso into Mexico, which was in the throes of revolution. Bierce is known to have accompanied Villa's army as far as the city of Chihuahua.

His last known communication with the world was a letter he wrote there to Blanche Partington , a close friend, dated December 26, Skeptic Joe Nickell argued that no letter had ever been found; [55] [56] all that existed was a notebook belonging to his secretary and companion, Carrie Christiansen, containing a rough summary of a purported letter and her statement that the originals had been destroyed.

There was an official investigation by U. Some of Villa's men were questioned at the time of his disappearance and afterwards, with contradictory accounts. Pancho Villa's representative in the U. Sommerfeld , was contacted by U. Scott and Sommerfeld investigated the disappearance.

Bierce was said to have been last seen in the city of Chihuahua in January. Oral tradition in Sierra Mojada , Coahuila , documented by a priest named James Lienert, states that Bierce was executed by firing squad in the town cemetery there.

He quotes Bierce's friend and biographer Walter Neale as saying that Bierce had not ridden for quite some time, was suffering from serious asthma , and had been severely critical of Pancho Villa. Neale concludes that it would have been highly unlikely for Bierce to have gone to Mexico and joined Villa.

Therefore, despite an abundance of theories including death by suicide , his ultimate fate remains shrouded in mystery. Bierce has been fictionalized in more than 50 novels, short stories, movies, television shows, stage plays, and comic books.

Most of these works draw upon Bierce's vivid personality, colorful wit, relationships with famous people such as Jack London or William Randolph Hearst , or, quite frequently, his mysterious disappearance. Some works featuring a fictional Ambrose Bierce have received favorable reviews, generated international sales, [61] or earned major awards.

Bierce's short stories, "Haita the Shepherd" and " An Inhabitant of Carcosa " are believed to have influenced early weird-fiction writer Robert W. Chambers ' tales of The King in Yellow , which featured Hastur , Carcosa , Lake Hali and other names and locations initiated in these tales.

Lovecraft and much of modern horror fiction. In , H. Mencken called Bierce "the one genuine wit that These States have ever seen. A silent film version, The Bridge , was made in In his book Wild Talents , American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena Charles Fort wrote about the unexplained disappearances of Ambrose Bierce and Ambrose Small , and asked, "Was somebody collecting Ambroses? In the story line, Hearst struggles to turn a profit despite increased circulation of The San Francisco Examiner.

Robert O. Cornthwaite appears as Sam Chamberlain. Carlos Fuentes 's novel The Old Gringo is a fictionalized account of Bierce's disappearance; it was later adapted into the film Old Gringo , starring Gregory Peck in the title role.

Two adaptations were made of Bierce's story "Eyes of the Panther". One version was developed for Shelley Duvall 's Nightmare Classics series and was released in Bierce was a major character in a series of mystery books written by Oakley Hall and published between and Essayist Clifton Fadiman wrote, "Bierce was never a great writer.

He has painful faults of vulgarity and cheapness of imagination. The short film "Ah! Bierce's disappearance and trip to Mexico provide the background for the vampire horror film From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter , in which Bierce's character plays a central role. In , author Kurt Vonnegut stated that he considered "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" the "greatest American short story" and a work of "flawless American genius". In the novel, Bierce is personally executed by Pancho Villa.

Weird-fiction critic and editor S. Joshi has cited Bierce as an influence on his own work, and has praised him for his satirical wit, saying "Bierce will remain an equivocal figure in American and world literature chiefly because his dark view of humanity is, by its very nature, unpopular. Ambrose Bierce was a prolific writer of short fiction.


Author:Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

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Ambrose G. Bierce

He received a limited education and left school at an early age to become a printer's apprentice. He remained in the Union Army for the war's duration and participated in numerous battles, including Shiloh and Chickamauga. In , Bierce left the military with the rank of major. Bierce also began publishing articles and short stories in various newspapers and magazines, including the News Letter and the Argonaut. In , he became editor of the News Letter , and held that position for the next four years. In , he traveled to Europe, and continued to write various articles. By , Bierce had returned to California and had become associate editor of the Argonaut.


Ambrose Bierce

Helena, California, surrounded by the vineyards of Napa Valley, is in good repair. Eight stout sequoia trunks flare outward from a fused base in the front yard. An hour and a half drive to the south, in San Francisco, is a short knife-thrust of an alley in North Beach named Ambrose Bierce. In , at the age of seventy-one, the famous writer saddled up a horse and rode into Mexico, not speaking any Spanish, in order to cover the Mexican Revolutionary War, perhaps to participate in it, perhaps to interview Pancho Villa. As newspaper accounts of his time reported, he disappeared without a trace. More accurately, there were too many traces to follow and World War I soon broke out, so a thorough search for Bierce was postponed. According to witnesses, Bierce died over and over again, all over Mexico.

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