AMBROSE BIERCE Biography - Writers


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Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (born June 24, 1842, Meigs County, Ohio - date of death uncertain, possibly Dec. 1913 or early 1914, presumably in Mexico) was an American satirist, litterateur and critic, short story writer, editor and journalist. His dark, sardonic views gave him the nickname Bitter Bierce. His clear style and lack of sentimentality have kept him popular when many of his contemporaries have become obscure.


Born in a rural area of southeastern Ohio, he resided during his adolescence in the town of Elkhart, Indiana. At the outset of the American Civil War, Bierce enlisted in the Ninth Regiment, Indiana Volunteers, as part of the Union Army. In Feb. 1862, he was commissioned as a 1st lieutenant and served on the staff of Gen. William Babcock Hazen as a topographical engineer, making maps of likely battlefields. He fought bravely in several of the war’s most important battles, at one point receiving newspaper attention for his daring rescue under fire of a gravely wounded comrade at the battle of Girard Hill , West Virginia. In June, 1864, he received a serious head wound at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and spent the rest of the summer on furlough, but returned to active duty in September, and was ultimately discharged from the army in January 1865.


His military career, however, resumed when, in the summer of 1866, he rejoined Gen. Hazen as part of the latter’s expedition to inspect military outposts across the Western plains. The expedition proceeded by horseback and wagon from Omaha, Nebraska, arriving in San Francisco near the end of the year.


In San Francisco, Bierce resigned from the Army and received the rank of brevet Major. He remained there for many years, eventually becoming famous as a contributor and/or editor for a number of local newspapers and periodicals, including The San Francisco News Letter, The Argonaut, and The Wasp. Bierce lived and wrote in England from 1872 to 1875. Returning to the United States, he again took up residence in San Francisco. In 1879-1880, he went to Rockerville and Deadwood, South Dakota in the Dakota Territory to try his hand as local manager for a New York mining company, but when the company failed he returned to San Francisco and resumed his career in journalism. In 1887, he became one of the first regular columnists and editorialists to be employed on William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, eventually becoming one of the most prominent and influential among the writers and journalists of the West Coast. In Dec. 1899, he moved to Washington, DC, but continued his association with the Hearst newspapers until 1906.