Ambrose Bierce: Soldier Turned Author Essay

Submitted By OKATH
Words: 1371
Pages: 6

Ambrose Bierce DLB 186
Ambrose Bierce is a case of soldier turned author. His short stories of the Civil War are considerably famous, most notably of which is “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”. Throughout his life, Bierce was involved in many interesting ventures from writing in periodicals such as the Californian to fighting as a Union soldier at the battle of Shiloh. Much of his literary career focuses on the horror of nineteenth century war; however he also was the author of several books under the pseudonym Dod Grile as well as a number of biting and satirical articles in many different magazines and other publications. Born June twenty fourth, 1842 in south eastern Ohio, Bierce was the youngest of his ten siblings to live to maturity. After his birth his family moved to a farm in Indiana. During this time Bierce stated that they had to “grub out a very difficult living” (29), although it is important to note that Bierce’s father – Aurelius was scholarly in nature and was the proprietor of an extensive library. This library turned out to be Bierce’s escape from the monotony and toil of manual labor required on his father’s farm. On a side note, all of Bierce’s siblings were similarly named in a way to ensure the initials “AB”. For most of Bierce’s childhood he enjoyed the pleasant scenery of Indiana up until the nineteenth of April, 1861, where he enlisted in the Union Army. At age nineteen, Bierce’s young manhood was marked by tumultuous blood and gore for many years. Yet many say that this period was analogous to what could have been his “Yale and Harvard” (29), setting the scene for some of his most famous essays and short stories. He would return to the battlefields many years later during middle age to gather inspiration for his literary work. Bierce found the war to be a very significant part of his life, regarding it as a necessary moral obligation. He stated his opinion on November 13, 1898 “Great-hearted men and great-minded men felt the stress, marched to the polls, and thence to camp. There was a chance of action consistent with self-respect for even the pessimist and cynic.” (30) After the war, Bierce joined the company of General William B. Hazen. He worked as a topographical officer mapping expeditions through Indian Territory towards the west coast. After his work with Hazen, Bierce resigned from the military because he was not fully promoted to captain after the expeditions. After his departure from the military, Bierce settled in San Francisco pursuing literature. It was in San Francisco where Bierce made a professional leap in his literary career, he became editor of the Sans Francisco Newsletter and California Adviser. He greatly expanded his reputation through this, writing a series of essays called “Ursus” and becoming a columnist in the regular “The Town Crier” column. While working on all of this, Bierce’s first story “The Haunted Valley” appeared in the Overland Monthly, a story about same-sex relationships and brutal murder in the American west. During these successful years, Bierce met and later married Mary Ellen “Mollie” Day on December 25, 1871. After this event, the couple sailed off to England for several years, Bierce had his children – Day and Leigh, wrote his first three books as Dod Grile, and gave up a successful career as a London journalist due to Mollie’s pleading to return to her family in San Francisco. Once the family arrived in California, Mollie gave birth to their third child – Helen. It was the move back to San Francisco that involved Bierce with the Black Hills Placer Mining Company. He became interested after hearing news of mining in the Dakota Territory. Faced with an opportunity to raise his tier financially and support his family, Bierce became a general agent for the company. It proved to be the most ruinous choice of his life (maybe apart from a certain trip to Mexico). The reason why his time at Black Hills turned out to be such a challenge…