Shadows of Blue & Gray The Civil War Writings of Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce; Edited by Brian M. Thomsen

Forge Books



Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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Shadows of Blue and Gray collects all of Bierce's classic Civil War short stories—twenty-seven in all—along with several autobiographical sketches on the author's experiences at the front lines of Shiloh, Chickamauga, and Franklin. This book, which exhibits some of the most compelling war reportage and realist ficition ever written, represents a zenith in both the life and letters an American master.



A Horseman in the Sky
Parker Adderson, Philosopher
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
Two Military Executions
The Mocking-Bird
A Tough Tussle
The Major's Tale
A Son of the Gods
A Man with Two Lives
One of the Missing
The Coup de Grace
Killed at Resaca
The Affair at Coulter's Notch
An Affair of Outposts
The Story of a Conscience
One Kind of Officer
One Officer, One Man
George Thurston
Three and One Are One
A Baffled Ambuscade
A Resumed Identity
A Jug of Sirup
Jupiter Doke, Brigadier-General
The Other Lodgers
The Spook House

On a Mountain
What I Saw of Shiloh
A Little of Chickamauga
The Crime at Pickett's Mill
Four Days in Dixie
What Occurred at Franklin
'Way Down in Alabam'

A Sole Survivor
A Bivouac of the Dead



Praise for Shadows of Blue & Gray

"Shadows of Blue and Gray: The Civil War Writings of Ambrose Bierce [collects] 27 stories along with some memoirs and reportage by the journalist, writer, literary critic, and former Union Army soldier. Famous for their unflinching look at the brutality of the war, the pieces include 'Two Military Executions,' about the execution and revenge of a young soldier sentenced to death for striking an officer; 'Bivouac of the Dead,' the classic plea for the recognition of unknown Confederate soldiers in a West Virginia hillside; and 'Four Days in Dixie,' Bierce's account of his own imprisonment and escape from Confederates in Alabama."—Publishers Weekly

"In calling Stephen Crane and Walt Whitman our poets of the American Civil War, we unfairly neglect the Ohio-born Bierce, who, unlike the first two authors, actually fought for the Union army, at Chicamauga, Missionary Ridge, Bloody Shiloh, and elsewhere. If the average reader is at all aware of Bierce, it is probably from a few choice definitions from The Devil's Dictionary, the phantasmagoric story 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,' and the author's mysterious disappearance in Mexico in 1913. However, Bierce, whose nastiness toward contemporary writers and critics came home to roost when his own reputation had to be decided, deserves to be better known. His war experience gives the 27 brief war stories in Shadows of Blue and Gray the ring of authenticity. In a sometimes turgid writing style (slaves are once described, for example, as 'sons and daughters of Ham'), Bierce depicts a war that is at once horrifying, pointless, and supernatural the stuff of The Twilight Zone. The nine pieces in 'Memoirs and Chronicles' and 'Reminiscence and Memoria,' with which editor Thomsen fittingly rounds out this volume, are as artful as the fictions. Recommended for all libraries."—Library Journal

"A tidy and well-ordered volume that collects nearly 40 Civil War short stories, memoirs, and reminiscences by the celebrated 19th-century writer . . . The product of a stern and God-fearing Ohio home, [Bierce] enlisted with the Indiana Volunteers in 1861 and saw action in some of the fiercest battles of the war. Afterwards he settled into life as a journalist and editor and made a considerable success at both. (He was also a well-regarded poet whose work is much neglected today.) Although some of the pieces here (especially 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge') have retained their popularity down the years, most are long-forgotten resurrections, and some (like 'A Sole Survivor,' about the fates of several of Bierce's army comrades, all of whom died) were literally discovered in the corner of a library basement, uncatalogued and unknown. The war was perfect material for Bierce, who describes scenes of action with a reporter's sharp sense of circumstance and an O. Henry-like weakness for the climactic twist: 'A Horseman in the Sky,' for example, describes in great detail a sniper's shooting of an enemy officer, revealing only at the end that the target was the rifleman's father. Ironically, 'Owl Creek,' the best-known of all Bierce's works, stands out here as the least typical: The elaborate fantasy of a condemned man who dreams his escape in the final seconds before his hanging, the story has little of the stark, unvarnished bluntness ('The object at his feet resolved itself into a dead horse, and at a right angle across the animal's neck lay a dead man, face upward in the moonlight') that makes so many of the stories read like dispatches from the field. A rich collection of fine writing saved from obscurity: Commendable rescue work."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Nothing written of the horrors of World War in recent years surpasses the sheer exposition of either death of the bosy or corruption of the soul as the Civil War tales of Bierce."—Ludwig Lewisohn, Expression in America

"[Bierce] wrote about the horrors of war with insight and technical mastery. Unlike our current think-thank, bureaucratic military experts, Bierce . . . knew what he was talking about . . . As a participant in some of the Civil War's bloodiest campaigns, First Lieutenant Bierce saw the war close-up, from bush to cliff, from corpse to corpse."—Ismael Reed

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  • Ambrose Bierce; Edited by Brian M. Thomsen

  • Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) was one of the leading men of letters in 19th-century America. Among his most important books were The Devil's Dictionary and Tales of Soldiers and Civilians.