Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was a humorist, journalist, and short story writer from the United States. His reputation as a ferocious and ruthless critic, as well as his self-expression of ‘Nothing matters,’ gave him the moniker ‘Bitter Bierce.’ His sardonic acrimony is reflected in his book ‘The Devil’s Dictionary,’ a collection of satirical and sarcastic terminology. His short works were generally themed on themes of war, terror, and death, and he had made important contributions as a short story writer. His most renowned and well-known short story, ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,’ is considered a masterpiece by a genius and is regarded as one of the best American short stories. ‘A Horseman in the Sky,’ ‘The Haunted Valley,’ ‘A Watcher by the Dead,’ and ‘The Moonlit Road,’ among many others, are some of his other renowned literary works. He was also a well-known California journalist who never shied away from exposing the truth. His scathing and sarcastic views of people and events earned him the moniker “the wickedest guy in San Francisco.” Bierce vanished unexpectedly and was last seen traveling with a renegade unit, according to legend.
Childhood and Adolescence
He was born on June 24, 1842, in a log cabin in Meigs County, Ohio, to Marcus Aurelius Bierce and Laura Sherwood Bierce, the tenth of thirteen children in an impoverished family. His father was a farmer who began all of his children’s names with the letter ‘A.’ He grew up in Kosciusko County, Indiana, and attended a local high school.
He left home at the age of 15 to work as an apprentice for a newspaper.
When the ‘American Civil War’ broke out in 1861, he joined the ‘Union Army’ and was commissioned into the ‘9th Indiana Infantry Regiment.’ He was there at the ‘Battle of Philippi’ on June 3, 1861, as part of the 1861 ‘Operations in Western Virginia’ campaign.
After being commissioned as a first lieutenant in 1862, he worked as a topographical engineer under General William Babcock Hazen. Drawing maps of potential battlegrounds was one of his responsibilities. Many military battles, including the ‘Battle of Shiloh’ in April 1862 and the ‘Battle of Kennesaw Mountain’ on June 27, 1864, saw him fight valiantly.
In January 1865, Bierce was dismissed from the ‘Union Army.’ He did, however, return to the service in 1866, when he took part in a military expedition led by General Hazen to search for military outposts. The expedition set out from Omaha, Nebraska, and arrived in San Francisco, California, by the end of the year. At 1867, he was promoted to brevet major on merit in San Francisco.
Career of Ambrose Bierce
After quitting from the ‘Union Army,’ he began his career as a journalist in San Francisco, where he resided for several years. In 1872, he moved to England, where he continued his writing career by contributing to the London journals ‘Figaro’ and ‘Fun.’ His first book, ‘The Friend’s Delight,’ was a collection of his pieces published under the alias Dod Grile. In 1873, John Camden Hotten published it in London. ‘Nuggets and Dust Panned Out in California,’ published in 1872, and ‘Cobwebs from an Empty Skull,’ published in 1874, were his other two novels at the time.
He returned to San Francisco in 1875.
After working as an associate editor for the ‘Argonaut’ from 1877 to 1879-80, he moved to Rockerville, Dakota Territory, to work as a regional manager for a New York-based mining business. He returned to San Francisco after the company’s demise.
On January 1, 1881, he became the editor of ‘The Wasp’ magazine, where he started a new column called ‘Prattle.’ He worked for the publication until September 11, 1885. ‘In the Midst of Life,’ one of his major short story collections, was published in 1892. It includes stories such as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” “The Boarded Window,” and “A Horseman in the Sky,” among others. ‘Tales of Soldiers and Civilians’ (1891), ‘Can Such Things Be?’ (1893), ‘Fantastic Fables’ (1899), and ‘Collected Works’ are some of Bierce’s other short tale collections (1909).
Many of his short pieces, such as ‘Chickamauga’ (1891), ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge’ (1891), and ‘The Boarded Window’ (1891), are considered among America’s best literary works and are based on his traumatic military experiences. He was one of the first regular columnists for William Randolph Hearst’s daily, ‘The San Francisco Examiner.’ He remained a part of the paper until 1906.
The US government provided the ‘Central Pacific’ and ‘Union Pacific’ firms with large, low-interest loans to build the ‘First Transcontinental Railroad.’ When Collis P. Huntington, a Central Pacific CEO, used his clout to get a bill through Congress to forgive $130 million in loans without a hearing or public notice, Hearst dispatched Bierce to Washington, D.C. in January 1896 to stop him.
When Huntington pushed Bierce to state his price, Bierce responded with a countrywide news release: “My price is one hundred thirty million dollars.” If I am out of town when you are ready to pay, you may pass it over to my friend, the United States Treasurer.” Finally, the bill was defeated. He became a well-known journalist, editor, and contributor on the West Coast over time, contributing to a variety of magazines and local newspapers. ‘Overland Monthly,’ ‘The Californian,’ and ‘The San Francisco News Letter’ are among the others.
His sardonic acrimony is shown in his book ‘The Devil’s Dictionary,’ a gathered sarcastic vocabulary published in 1911. It was first released in 1906 under the title ‘The Cynic’s Word Book.’ The book, which provides satirical and contentious definitions, is incredibly funny while also being profound, since he makes significant observations about ordinary life and human nature.
He embarked on a tour of the battlefields where he fought during the ‘American Civil War’ in October 1913. Around December of that year, he joined Pancho Villa’s army in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, as an observer and witnessed the ‘Battle of Tierra Blanca’ firsthand.
After being rumored to be last seen traveling with a dissident troop, he vanished abruptly and no sign of him was ever located. Investigations into his whereabouts were fruitless, thus the latter years of his life and circumstances of his death remain a mystery to this day.
Major Projects of Ambrose Bierce
One of his most renowned and widely read short stories, ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,’ is not only regarded his best work, but also one of the most faultless and amazing creative masterpieces in the history of American literature. A silent film adaptation of the story, ‘The Bridge,’ was released in 1929, and American and French versions of ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes were released in 1964.
Personal History and Legacy
He married Mary Ellen “Mollie” Day on December 25, 1871. Day and Leigh were the couple’s boys, while Helen was their daughter. He divorced his wife in 1888 after discovering letters from an admirer addressed to Mary. In 1904, they eventually divorced. On April 27, 1905, she passed away. Day committed suicide in 1889 after a romantic rejection, while Leigh died of pneumonia in 1901.
Estimated Net Worth
Ambrose is one of the wealthiest novelists and one of the most well-known novelists. Ambrose Bierce’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.