“Bitter” Bierce

Bierce, AmbroseAmong the men missing from the roles of the Army of the Cumberland after the Kennesaw Line was twenty-two-year-old Lt. Ambrose Bierce. Bierce is famous for his dark and disturbing writings, the most famous of which, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, has been adapted to film numerous times—most notably by the Twilight Zone during the Rod Sterling era. Bierce’s writings are still impactful today, influencing the writings of such noted authors as Stephen King. Bierce’s writings were influenced by the horrors he witnessed at places such as Shiloh, Chickamauga, and Pickett’s Mill in the Atlanta Campaign.

Bierce, who served on the staff of General William B. Hazen—whom he called “The Best Hated Man in the Army”—really lost his faith in humanity during these engagements.

The resulting cynicism and vitriol would come from his pen in works like his Devil’s Dictionary, where he defined a patriot as “One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.”

Bierce enlisted in the 9th Indiana Infantry but was serving Hazen as a topographical engineer. On June 23, the day before his birthday, he was following in the wake of a skirmish line, probing the Confederate defenses, when he fell with a shot to his head from a Confederate sharpshooter, much like Col. Fred Bartleson did a short distance away. The bullet fractured Bierce’s temporal lobe and got stuck in his skull behind his left ear.

Bierce’s brother, an officer in the 18th Ohio Battery, found him and carried him from the field to a field hospital. From there, Bierce was sent by rail to a military hospital in Chattanooga. Bierce survived his wound, although he was incapacitated for the rest of the summer and discharged the following January.

1 Response to “Bitter” Bierce

  1. Reblogged this on Dixie Spirits blog and commented:
    Here is a brief piece on Bierce from the Emerging Civil War blog. It is a nice summary, although a whole book could be written of Bierce’s war career–and has. The only thing I would add at this point is that Bierce rejoined the army in time for the Autumn Campaign and that there are some discrepancies regarding his actual date of separation from the service.

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