Ambrose Bierce was an American author and journalist. His vehemence as a critic, his motto "Nothing matters", and the sardonic view of human nature that informed his work, all earned him the nickname "Bitter Bierce".
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was born in a log cabin at Horse Cave Creek in Meigs County, Ohio on June 24, 1842, to Marcus and Laura Sherwood Bierce, a poor couple who instilled in him a deep love for all things literary. He was the tenth of thirteen children, all of whom had names that began with the letter A. He left home at age fifteen to become a "printer's devil" at a small Ohio newspaper. He attended the Kentucky Military Institute from 1859 to 1860. Ambrose suffered from asthma, the condition influencing his many moves throughout his life, in order to try to find an environment which would help him cope with its effects.
Ambrose married Mary Ellen (Mollie) Day on December 25th, 1871 in the Day House in San Francisco, California. They had three children, both sons, Day and Leigh, also worked as journalists. They separated in 1888, and were later divorced in 1904, Mary Ellen citing "abandonment" as her reason.
Ambrose participated in the Civil War, joining his uncle General Lucius Verus Bierce's company in 1861. He was part of McClelland's invasion of West Virginia and survived the battle in 1862 at Shiloh, Tennessee. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and saved his commanding officer's life at Stone's River. By February 1863, he was promoted again, this time to 1st Lieutenant in the 9th Indiana Regiment, Chicamaga. Ambrose was also part of General Sherman's Atlantic Campaign. On June 23, 1864, Ambrose was struck in the head by a musket shot at Kennesaw Mountain. By September, he had returned to the front lines. He was discharged in January of 1865 due to issues resulting from his earlier head injury, including dizziness and fainting spells.
In 1866, Ambrose was working as a topographical engineer for General Hazen as they travelled into Indian Territory and worked their way toward San Francisco. In 1880, he worked as the general manager of a mining company in South Dakota.
Ambrose put his passion for writing to work throughout his life. He worked as a managing editor at the San Francisco News Letter, editor for Argonaut, and for Randolph Hearst's The San Francisco Examiner, where he was promised he could write whatever he wanted without editorial oversight. He had a regular column in Figaro while later living in Bristol, England. His books included Fiend's Delight, Nuggets and Dust, Cobwebs from an Empty Skull, Cynic's Wordbook (also known as The Devil's Dictionary), Tales of Soldiers and Civilians, The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter, and Can Such Things Be?
In October 1913, Ambrose, then aged 71, departed Washington, D.C., for a tour of his old Civil War battlefields. By December he had passed through Louisiana and Texas, crossing by way of El Paso into Mexico, which was in the throes of revolution. In Ciudad Juárez he joined Pancho Villa's army as an observer, and in that role he witnessed the Battle of Tierra Blanca. Ambrose never returned from Mexico, most likely dying circa 1915. His daughter, Helen, petitioned Congress to investigate his death, but no evidence was ever returned. He has a memorial stone in Oakwood Cemetery, Warsaw, Indiana.
↑ 3.03.1 Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 03 December 2018), memorial page for Ambrose Bierce (24 Jun 1842–c.1914), Find A Grave Memorial no. 28826663, citing Oakwood Cemetery, Warsaw, Kosciusko County, Indiana, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave Find A Grave: Memorial #28826663
↑ "United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MX7H-ZLK : 4 April 2020), Ambrose E Bierce in household of Marcus A Bierce, Akron, Summit, Ohio, United States; citing family 205, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
↑ Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 182; Volume #: Roll 182 - 23 Apr 1872-08 May 1872 Ancestry Record 1174 #257148
↑ Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Year: 1860; Census Place: Wayne, Kosciusko, Indiana; Page: 314; Family History Library Film: 803273 Ancestry Record 7667 #177292
↑ Historical Data Systems, comp. U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. Ancestry Record 1555 #2235741
↑ Ancestry.com. U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General's Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General's Bureau (Civil War); Collection Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); NAI: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 1 of 1 Ancestry Record 1666 #552333
↑ Ancestry.com. Official records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Ancestry Record 1203 #3661
↑ National Cemetery Administration. U.S. Veterans' Gravesites, ca.1775-2019 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Ancestry Record 8750 #3661299
Frey, Holly and Tracy V. Wilson. "Ambrose Bierce." Stuff You Missed in History Class (Podcast). 26 Mar 2014. How Stuff Works.com. Republished on 28 Apr 2018.
"United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QL7S-ZJSS : 16 March 2018), Ambrose G Bierce, 30 Apr 1872; citing Passport Application, United States, source certificate #, Passport Applications, 10/31/1795 - 12/31/1905, 182, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
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