Ambrose Bierce, one of the most famous authors of the late 19th century, recognized for his brief story "An event at Owl Creek Bridge," political satire pamphlet "The Devil"s Dictionary," and also for his mysterious disappearance in Mexico in 1913. He served with the Union army in the western theater of the polite War. He battled at Shiloh and Chickamauga and was serious wounded at Kennesaw Mountain. He created the adhering to story based upon his experience at Chickamauga.

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ONE SUNNY fall AFTERNOON a kid strayed far from its rude home in a tiny field and also entered a forest unobserved. It was happy in a brand-new sense of freedom from control, happy in the opportunity of exploration and also adventure; because that this child"s spirit, in body of the ancestors, had actually for thousands of years been trained to memorable feats of discovery and conquest--victories in war whose an essential moments were centuries, who victors" camps were cities of hewn stone. From the cradle the its gyeongju it had conquered its means through 2 continents and passing a an excellent sea had actually penetrated a third, over there to it is in born come war and also dominion as a heritage.

Ambrose Bierce in 1866 Wikimedia Commons

The kid was a young aged around six years, the son of a negative planter. In his younger manhood the father had actually been a soldier, had fought versus naked savages and followed the flag the his nation into the capital of a civilized race to the much South. In the calm life of a planter the warrior-fire survived; when kindled, the is never extinguished. The male loved military books and also pictures and the boy had taken enough to do himself a wood sword, though even the eye that his father would certainly hardly have actually known it because that what it was. This weapon he now bore bravely, as came to be the child of one heroic race, and pausing now and also again in the sunny room of the forest assumed, v some exaggeration, the postures of aggression and defense the he had been teach by the engraver"s art. Do reckless by the ease with which he overcame invisible foes attempting to continue to be his advance, he cursed the common enough military error of pushing the search to a attention extreme, until he discovered himself upon the margin the a wide but shallow brook, whose fast waters ban his direct advancement against the flying enemy that had crossed v illogical ease. However the intrepid victor was no to be baffled; the soul of the race which had passed the great sea melted unconquerable in that little breast and would not be denied. Recognize a ar where some bowlders in the bed of the currently lay yet a action or a leap apart, the made his way across and also fell again upon the rear-guard that his imagine foe, placing all to the sword.

Now the the battle had been won, prudence forced that he withdraw to his basic of operations. Alas; like many a mightier conqueror, and also like one, the mightiest, he might not curb the lust because that war, nor find out that tempted Fate will certainly leave the loftiest star.

Advancing native the financial institution of the creek he suddenly uncovered himself faced with a brand-new and an ext formidable enemy: in the course that he to be following, sat, bolt upright, v ears erect and also paws suspended prior to it, a rabbit! through a startled cry the son turned and fled, that knew no in what direction, calling v inarticulate cries for his mother, weeping, stumbling, his tender skin cruelly torn by brambles, his tiny heart beating difficult with terror--breathless, blind with tears--lost in the forest! Then, for more than one hour, the wandered with erring feet through the tangled undergrowth, till at last, get rid of by fatigue, that lay under in a narrow space between 2 rocks, in ~ a couple of yards the the stream and also still grasping his toy sword, no much longer a weapon however a companion, sobbed self to sleep. The lumber birds sang merrily over his head; the squirrels, whisking your bravery of tail, ran barking indigenous tree to tree, unconscious that the pity of it, and also somewhere much away to be a strange, muffed thunder, together if the partridges to be drumming in celebration of nature"s victory over the kid of her immemorial enslavers. And ago at the small plantation, whereby white men and also black to be hastily looking the fields and hedges in alarm, a mother"s heart to be breaking because that her absent child.

Hours passed, and then the tiny sleeper increased to his feet. The chilled of the evening was in his limbs, the are afraid of the gloom in his heart. However he had rested, and he no longer wept. With some remote instinct i m sorry impelled to activity he struggled v the undergrowth about him and also came come a much more open ground--on his ideal the brook, to the left a tenderness acclivity studded with infrequent trees; end all, the gathering gloom that twilight. A thin, ghostly mist increased along the water. It frightened and also repelled him; rather of recrossing, in the direction whence he had actually come, that turned his earlier upon it, and also went forward toward the dark inclosing wood. Unexpectedly he saw prior to him a strange relocating object i beg your pardon he took to be some big animal--a dog, a pig--he could not name it; perhaps it to be a bear. He had actually seen photos of bears, but knew of nothing to your discredit and also had vaguely wished to meet one. Yet something in type or movement of this object--something in the awkwardness that its approach--told him that it was no a bear, and curiosity was remained by fear. He stood still and also as it came gradually on gained courage every moment, because that he witnessed that at least it had not the lengthy menacing ears of the rabbit. Perhaps his impressionable mental was fifty percent conscious that something acquainted in its shambling, aer gait. Prior to it had actually approached near enough to resolve his doubts he observed that that was complied with by another and also another. To right and to left were countless more; the whole open room about him were alive with them—all moving toward the brook.

v over 34,000 casualties, the results of the battle of Chickamauga to be stunning. Chickamauga to be the 2nd bloodiest fight of the polite War, ranking only behind Gettysburg, and was by much the deadliest fight in the West. Library of congress

They to be men. Lock crept upon your hands and knees. They supplied their hands only, dragging your legs. They used their knee only, their arms hanging idle at your sides. Castle strove to rise to their feet, but fell at risk in the attempt. They walk nothing naturally, and also nothing alike, save just to development foot by foot in the same direction. Singly, in pairs and in little groups, they come on v the gloom, part halting now and again while others crept gradually past them, climate resuming their movement. They came by dozens and by hundreds; as much on either hand as one might see in the deepening gloom castle extended and also the black hardwood behind them showed up to it is in inexhaustible. The really ground appeared in movement toward the creek. Occasionally one who had paused did not again walk on, yet lay motionless. He to be dead. Some, pausing, make strange gestures with their hands, set up their arms and lowered them again, clasped their heads; spread out their palms upward, as males are sometimes seen to perform in publicly prayer.

Not every one of this go the boy note; that is what would have actually been noted by one elder observer; the saw little but the these to be men, yet crept prefer babes. Gift men, castle were no terrible, though unfamiliarly clad. He moved among them freely, going from one to another and peering right into their deals with with childish curiosity. All their encounters were singularly white and also many to be streaked and also gouted through red. Miscellaneous in this--something too, perhaps, in their grotesque attitudes and also movements--reminded that of the painted clown whom he had seen critical summer in the circus, and he laughed together he watched them. However on and ever on castle crept, this maimed and also bleeding men, together heedless as he of the dramatic contrast in between his laughter and their very own ghastly gravity. Come him it was a funny spectacle. He had actually seen his father"s negroes creep upon your hands and knees because that his amusement--had ridden lock so, "making believe" they to be his horses. He currently approached one of these crawling figures from behind and also with one agile movement mounted it astride. The man sank top top his breast, recovered, flung the tiny boy fiercely come the ground together an unbroken colt could have done, then turned upon that a face that short a reduced jaw--from the top teeth come the throat was a an excellent red void fringed v hanging shreds the flesh and splinters of bone. The unnatural importance of nose, the absence of chin, the fierce eyes, offered this guy the figure of a an excellent bird of prey crimsoned in throat and breast by the blood of its quarry. The male rose to his knees, the boy to his feet. The male shook his fist at the child; the child, terrified in ~ last, ran to a tree close to by, obtained upon the farther next of it and also took a much more serious check out of the situation. And also so the clumsy multitude dragged itself slowly and painfully along in hideous pantomime--moved forward down the slope like a swarm of great black beetles, with never a sound that going--in silence profound, absolute.

Instead the darkening, the haunted landscape started to brighten. Through the belt the trees beyond the brook shone a strange red light, the trunks and also branches that the tree making a black lacework against it. It struck the climb figures and gave castle monstrous shadows, which caricatured their motions on the lit grass. It dropped upon your faces, touching their whiteness through a ruddy tinge, accentuating the stains with which so many of them were freaked and maculated. It sparkled ~ above buttons and bits of steel in your clothing. Instinctively the boy turned toward the growing splendor and also moved under the slope with his horrible companions; in a couple of moments had actually passed the foremost that the throng--not much of a feat, considering his advantages. He placed himself in the lead, his wooden sword tho in hand, and also solemnly command the march, conforming his pace to theirs and also occasionally turning as if to check out that his pressures did not straggle. Surely such a leader never prior to had such a following.

Alfred Waud map out of Confederates proceeding through the woodland at Chickamauga Library of congress

Scattered about upon the floor now slowly narrowing by the encroachment of this terrible march to water, were details articles to which, in the leader"s mind, were combination no significant associations: an occasional blanket tightly rolled lengthwise, doubled and the end bound along with a string; a hefty knapsack here, and there a damaged rifle--such things, in short, as are discovered in the behind of retreating troops, the "spoor" of men flying from their hunters.

Everywhere near the creek, which here had a margin the lowland, the planet was trodden right into mud by the feet of men and also horses. One observer of better experience in the usage of his eyes would have actually noticed that these footprints sharp in both directions; the ground had actually been twice passed over--in advancement and in retreat. A few hours before, these desperate, stricken men, through their an ext fortunate and also now far-off comrades, had actually penetrated the forest in thousands. Their successive battalions, breaking into swarms and also reforming in lines, had actually passed the kid on every side--had nearly trodden top top him as he slept. The rustle and murmur of your march had actually not awakened him. Virtually within a stone"s throw of where he put they had combated a battle; but all unheard by him to be the roar that the musketry, the shock that the cannon, "the thunder the the captains and the shouting." He had slept through it all, grasping his tiny wooden sword with probably a tighter clutch in unconscious sympathy through his martial environment, yet as heedless of the grandeur of the battle as the dead who had passed away to make the glory.

The battle of Chickamauga Library of conference

The fire beyond the belt the woods ~ above the farther next of the creek, reflected to planet from the canopy of its own smoke, was now suffusing the totality landscape. It changed the sinuous heat of mist come the vapor of gold. The water gleamed through dashes that red, and also red, too, were countless of the stones protruding above the surface. However that was blood; the less desperately wounded had stained lock in crossing. On them, too, the child currently crossed through eager steps; he was going come the fire. Together he stood ~ above the farther financial institution he turned about to look in ~ the companions the his march. The breakthrough was getting here at the creek. The stronger had currently drawn us to the brink and plunged their faces into the flood. Three or 4 who lay there is no motion showed up to have no heads. At this the child"s eyes expanded with wonder; even his hospitable understanding could not accept a phenomenon implying together vitality as that. After slaking your thirst these men had actually not had the toughness to earlier away from the water, no one to save their heads over it. They were drowned. In behind of these, the open spaces of the woodland showed the leader as numerous formless figures of his grim command as at first; but not virtually so plenty of were in motion. He waved his cap for your encouragement and also smilingly pointed with his weapon in the direction of the guiding light--a tower of fire to this weird exodus.

Confident of the fidelity of his forces, the now gotten in the belt the woods, passed with it conveniently in the red illumination, climbed a fence, ran across a field, transforming now and again to coquet through his responsive shadow, and also so approached the blazing damage of a dwelling. Desolation everywhere! In all the broad glare not a living thing was visible. That cared nothing for that; the spectacle pleased, and he danced v glee in imitation the the wavering flames. He ran about, collecting fuel, yet every object the he found was too hefty for that to actors in indigenous the distance to i m sorry the heat limited his approach. In despair the flung in his sword--a surrender come the superior pressures of nature. His military career was at one end.

Shifting his position, his eyes fell upon some outbuildings which had an oddly acquainted appearance, as if he had actually dreamed that them. He stood considering them with wonder, when suddenly the entire plantation, v its inclosing forest, appeared to turn as if upon a pivot. His little world swung fifty percent around; the points of the compass were reversed. He recognized the blazing building as his own home!

For a moment he was standing stupefied through the power of the revelation, then ran with stumbling feet, making a half-circuit that the ruin. There, conspicuous in the irradiate of the conflagration, place the dead human body of a woman--the white face turned upward, the hand thrown out and clutched full of grass, the clothing deranged, the long dark hair in tangles and full of clotted blood. The greater component of the forehead was torn away, and also from the jagged feet the mind protruded, overflowing the temple, a frothy massive of gray, crowned through clusters the crimson bubbles--the work-related of a shell.

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The child moved his small hands, do wild, unsure gestures. He uttered a series of inarticulate and indescribable cries--something in between the chattering of one ape and the gobbling the a turkey--a startling, soulless, unholy sound, the language of a devil. The boy was a deaf mute.