Tales of Soldiers and Civilians

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19 stories by Ambrose Bierce, published in 1891 and retitled In the Midst of Life (1892, revised 1898).

These grim, vivid stories, reminiscent of Poe's tales of horror, are marked by an ingenious use of the surprise ending and a realistic study of tense emotional states. Among the tales of soldiers, dealing with Civil War scenes, are “A Horseman in the Sky,” telling of a soldier in the Union army, who, stationed as a picket near his Southern mountain home, encounters his father, a Confederate cavalry officer, and is forced to shoot, plunging him over a steep cliff to his death; “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” which is concerned with the illusory thoughts of a Southern planter who is being hanged by Union soldiers, depicting his mind in the interval between the tightening of the rope and the breaking of his neck, during which he imagines that he has escaped; and “Chickamauga,” a lurid account of a deafmute child amid the horrors of a bloody battle that destroys his home and family. The tales of civilians also deal with sensational effects of mystery and terror, as in “The Middle Toe of the Right Foot,” the story of the ghostly return of a wife to terrify the husband who murdered her, causing his death in a duel.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Ambrose Bierce (1842—1914) American writer

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