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The Mysterious Disappearance of Ambrose Bierce

Updated on December 12, 2019
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James has won several awards on articles ranging anywhere from killer asteroids to becoming an excellent getaway driver. #RecipeCollector

Ambrose Bierce (June 24, 1842 - 1914(?)

Early Life

Being from total English ancestry, he was born in a log cabin at Horse Cave Creek, Meigs County, Ohio, USA, on June 24, 1842. His parents, Laura Sherwood Bierce and Marcus Aurelius Bierce gave birth to thirteen (13) children all of whom were given names beginning with the letter "A": Ambrose was the tenth (10) child.
The order went like this:

  1. Abigail
  2. Amelia
  3. Ann
  4. Addison
  5. Aurelius
  6. Augustus
  7. Almeda
  8. Andrew
  9. Albert
  10. Ambrose
  11. Arthur
  12. Adelia,
  13. Aurelia

While living in Kosciusko County, Indiana, you could say that it was his parents, Marcus & Laura, who put the desire to read and write and really grasp the wonders of knowledge in his head, but most importantly... in his his heart. Although they were poor, they knew that having an education could lead to a better life.

Civil War Career

Being from Indiana, Ambrose Bierce enlisted in the Union Army's 9th Indiana Infantry in 1861 at around the age of nineteen (19).. He eventually retired at the earned rank of Brevet Major at around the age of 24. During his service, in the American Civil War, he was involved in many battles including:

  • Battle of Philippi (West Virginia)
  • Battle of Laurel Mountain
  • Battle of Rich Mountain
  • Battle of Corrick's Ford
  • Battle of Cheat Mountain
  • Battle of Greenbrier River
  • Battle of Camp Allegheny
  • Battle of Shiloh
  • Siege of Corinth
  • Battle of Perryville
  • Battle of Stones River
  • Battle of Chickamauga
  • Chattanooga Campaign
  • Battle of Lookout Mountain
  • Battle of Missionary Ridge
  • Battle of Resaca
  • Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
  • Atlanta Campaign
  • Battle of Jonesborough
  • Battle of Franklin of 1864
  • Battle of Nashville


Married w/Children

On December 25, 1871, Ambrose married Mary Ellen Day (aka "Mollie"). From 1872 to 1875 the Bierce's lived in England. This is when Ambrose started his writing career. During this time, he worked his way up to a contributing journalist to several popular newspapers and magazines.

They had three children, two (2) sons and a (1) daughter. They were:

  • Day (1872–1889, seventeen (17) years old, death by suicide.
  • Leigh (1874–1901, twenty-seven (27) years old, death caused by pneumonia/alcoholism.
  • Helen (1875–1940), sixty-five (65) years old.

Ambrose Bierce witnessed the death of both of his sons. He would experience the first about a year after he separated from his wife, Mary Ellen Bierce. Ambrose legally divorced Mary Ellen in 1904. Unfortunately, "Mollie" would pass away a year later.

The reason Ambrose divorced Mary Ellen was because he found letters from an admirer to his wife. He was heartbroken and felt betrayed. He must have thought it out long and hard since it took about six (6) years to finally decide on divorce after he separated from her.


The Mysterious Disappearance of Ambrose Bierce

Did He Know...?

The one odd thing about the mysterious disappearance of Ambrose Bierce is that he may have known he was about to disappear. This is in question because in December 1913, Bierce decided to go South down to Chihuahua, Mexico. There he wanted to gain first-hand experience of the Mexican Revolution. Unfortunately, it's rumored (but highly unlikely), the last person who witnessed Bierce in battle said that he was killed and then his body was burned in a pile with the other dead bodies. This is one of the many rumors/theories believed. The Mexican Army is considered to have a hand in the disappearance. This is believed mostly because of the "cryptic note" he left behind before he stepped outside. It read:

Goodbye. If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. I shall not be here long enough to hear from you, and don’t know where I shall be next.

It is still unknown what exactly happened to Ambrose Bierce to this day.


The Work of Ambrose Bierce

Bierce wrote several books/stories that received a lot of attention. Those books/stories include:

  • The Devil's Dictionary
  • An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
  • Tales of Soldiers and Civilians

It's been said that Bierce's war stories influenced future great writers such as Stephen Crane and Ernest Hemingway. He was also considered to be an influential, well-respected and mostly feared literary critic.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 James Timothy Peters

Comments

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    • profile image

      Hxprof 

      6 months ago

      Very interesting. Thanks!

    • Iammattdoran profile image

      Matt Doran 

      7 months ago from Manchester, UK

      What a fascinating case!

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