Painting of Ambrose Bierce


Lifetime: 1842 - 1914 Passed: ≈ 110 years ago


Soldier, Journalist, Writer


United States

Ambrose Bierce

Bierce was born in a log cabin at Horse Cave Creek in Meigs County, Ohio, on June 24, 1842, to Marcus Aurelius Bierce (1799-1876) and Laura Sherwood Bierce. His parents were a poor but literary couple who instilled in him a deep love for books and writing. Bierce grew up in Kosciusko County, Indiana, attending high school at the county seat, Warsaw.

Bierce married Mary Ellen "Mollie" Day on December 25, 1871. They had three children: sons Day (1872-1889) and Leigh (1874-1901) and daughter Helen (1875-1940). Both of Bierce's sons died before he did. Bierce was an avowed agnostic, and strongly rejected the divinity of Christ. He suffered from lifelong asthma, as well as complications from his war wounds, most notably episodes of fainting and irritability assignable to the Traumatic Brain Injury suffered at Kennesaw Mountain.

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 1888 and 1891, in what was characterized as "a tremendous burst of consummate art". Bierce's works often highlight the inscrutability of the universe and the absurdity of death.

In October 1913, Bierce, then age 71, departed from 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.

His last known communication with the world was a letter he wrote there to Blanche Partington, a close friend, dated December 26, 1913. After closing this letter by saying, "As to me, I leave here tomorrow for an unknown destination," he vanished without a trace, his disappearance becoming one of the most famous in American literary history. Skeptic Joe Nickell argued that the letter had not been found; all that existed was a notebook belonging to his secretary and companion, Carrie Christiansen.

Books by Ambrose Bierce

The Devil's Dictionary Cover image

The Devil's Dictionary

Satire Humour Reference work

The Devil's Dictionary is a satirical dictionary written by American Civil War soldier, journalist, and writer Ambrose Bierce consisting of common words followed by humorous and satirical definitions. The lexicon was written over three decades as a s...

Present at a Hanging and Other Ghost Stories Cover image

Present at a Hanging and Other Ghost Stories

Fantasy Horror
Supernatural Ghost Story

Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914), satirist, critic, poet, short story writer and journalist. His fiction showed a clean economical style often sprinkled with subtle cynical comments on human behaviour. Nothing is known of his death, as he went missing wh...

Write it Right Cover image

Write it Right

Linguistics Education

A collection of tips and pitfalls compiled by the great American short-story writer and satirist, to help attain mastery of English.

Ambrose Bierce Cover image

Ambrose Bierce

Memoir War
Military Modern

At the outset of the American Civil War, [the writer Ambrose] Bierce enlisted in the Union Army's 9th Indiana Infantry Regiment....In February 1862 he was commissioned First Lieutenant, and served on the staff of General William Babcock Hazen as a to...

In the Midst of Life; Tales of Soldiers and Civilians Cover image

In the Midst of Life; Tales of Soldiers and Civilians

History War
Civil War Military Historical Fiction America Civil War United States Supernatural Fiction Horror

Tales of Soldiers and Civilians is a collection of short stories by American Civil War soldier, wit, and writer Ambrose Bierce, also published under the title In the Midst of Life. With a stated publication date of 1891 (but actually published in ear...

The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter  Cover image

The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter

Fiction History
Battle Young Redemption Historical Fiction Sympathy Corruption Tragic

On arriving at a rural monastery, the monk Ambrosius meets a young girl, Benedicta. She is shunned by the local community for being the daughter of the local hangman, but Ambrosius is drawn into a dangerous sympathy with her, and in defiance of the c...

The Fiend's Delight Cover image

The Fiend's Delight

Family Mystery Death Travelling Determination Life Civil War Writing

This book, the fiend’s delight, was published in 1873, during the lifetime of author Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1914, pseudonym Dod Grile. It is a collection of short stories which cover many subjects. Dependent upon the reader the stories may seem callous...

The Parenticide Club Cover image

The Parenticide Club

Horror Fiction
Short Story Moral Dilemmas Narrative Dark Human Nature Supernatural Fiction Human Relationship Ghosts

This is a gripping collection of short stories that explores the darker aspects of human nature and the consequences of committing the ultimate taboo: killing one's own parents. Written by renowned American writer Ambrose Bierce, this captivating boo...

A Son of the Gods and A Horseman in the Sky Cover image

A Son of the Gods and A Horseman in the Sky

Fantasy Fiction
War Military Horseman Death Gods Suspense Philosophical Civil War Dark Intriguing

In A Son of the Gods, Bierce masterfully weaves a tale of supernatural encounters and philosophical musings. A young soldier, lost and alone in the midst of a Civil War battle, stumbles upon a mysterious stranger who possesses superhuman abilities. A...