|Birth Day:||June 24, 1842|
|Death Date:||Lost/c. 1914 (aged 71–72);
last letter from Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico
|Birth Place:||Meigs County, Ohio, United States, United States|
As per our current Database, Ambrose Bierce died on Lost/c. 1914 (aged 71–72);
last letter from Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico.
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Bierce was born in a log cabin at Horse Cave Creek in Meigs County, Ohio, on June 24, 1842, to Marcus Aurelius Bierce (1799–1876) and Laura Sherwood Bierce. He was of entirely English ancestry: all of his forebears came to North America between 1620 and 1640 as part of the Great Puritan Migration. He often wrote critically of both "Puritan values" and people who "made a fuss" about genealogy. He was the tenth of thirteen children, all of whom were given names by their father beginning with the letter "A": in order of birth, the Bierce siblings were Abigail, Amelia, Ann, Addison, Aurelius, Augustus, Almeda, Andrew, Albert, Ambrose, Arthur, Adelia, and Aurelia. His mother was a descendant of William Bradford.
In April 1863 he was commissioned a first lieutenant, and served on the staff of General William Babcock Hazen as a topographical engineer, making maps of likely battlefields. As a staff officer, Bierce became known to leading generals such as George H. Thomas and Oliver O. Howard, both of whom supported his application for admission to West Point in May 1864. General Hazen believed Bierce would graduate from the military academy "with distinction" and William T. Sherman also endorsed the application for admission, even though stating he had no personal acquaintance with Bierce. In June 1864, Bierce sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, and spent the rest of the summer on furlough, returning to active duty in September. He was discharged from the army in January 1865.
Bierce married Mary Ellen "Mollie" Day on December 25, 1871. They had three children: sons Day (1872–1889) and Leigh (1874–1901) and daughter Helen (1875–1940). Both of Bierce's sons died before he did. Day committed suicide after a romantic rejection (he non-fatally shot the woman of his affections along with her fiancé beforehand), and Leigh died of pneumonia related to alcoholism. Bierce separated from his wife in 1888, after discovering compromising letters to her from an admirer. They divorced in 1904. Mollie Day Bierce died the following year.
Bierce lived and wrote in England from 1872 to 1875, contributing to Fun magazine. His first book, The Fiend's Delight, a compilation of his articles, was published in London in 1873 by John Camden Hotten under the pseudonym "Dod Grile".
In January 1896 Hearst dispatched Bierce to Washington, D.C., to foil this attempt. The essence of the plot was secrecy; the railroads' advocates hoped to get the bill through Congress without any public notice or hearings. When the angered Huntington confronted Bierce on the steps of the Capitol and told Bierce to name his price, Bierce's answer ended up in newspapers nationwide: "My price is one hundred thirty million dollars. If, when you are ready to pay, I happen to be out of town, you may hand it over to my friend, the Treasurer of the United States."
Because of his penchant for biting social criticism and satire, Bierce's long newspaper career was often steeped in controversy. On several occasions his columns stirred up a storm of hostile reaction, which created difficulties for Hearst. One of the most notable of these incidents occurred following the assassination of President William McKinley, when Hearst's opponents turned a poem Bierce had written about the assassination of Governor William Goebel of Kentucky in 1900 into a cause célèbre.
Bierce meant his poem to express a national mood of dismay and fear, but after McKinley was shot in 1901, it seemed to foreshadow the crime:
One of Bierce's most famous works is his much-quoted The Devil's Dictionary, originally an occasional newspaper item, first published in book form in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book. Described as "howlingly funny", it consists of satirical definitions of English words which lampoon cant and political double-talk. Bierce edited the twelve volumes of The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, which were published from 1909 to 1912. The seventh volume consists solely of The Devil's Dictionary.
In October 1913, Bierce, then age 71, departed from Washington, D.C., for a tour of his old Civil War battlefields. By December he had passed through Louisiana and Texas, crossing by way of El Paso into Mexico, which was in the throes of revolution. In Ciudad Juárez he joined Pancho Villa's army as an observer, and in that role he witnessed the Battle of Tierra Blanca.
In 1918, H. L. Mencken called Bierce "the one genuine wit that These States have ever seen."
At least three films have been made of Bierce's story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge". A silent film version, The Bridge, was made in 1929. A French version called La Rivière du Hibou, directed by Robert Enrico, was released in 1962; this black-and-white film faithfully recounts the original narrative using voiceover. It aired in 1964 on American television as one of the final episodes of the television series The Twilight Zone: "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge". Prior to The Twilight Zone, the story had been adapted as an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Another version, directed by Brian James Egen, was released in 2005. It was also adapted for the CBS radio programs Escape (1947), Suspense (1956, 1957, 1959), and Radio Mystery Theater (1974).
In his 1932 book Wild Talents, American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena Charles Fort wrote about the unexplained disappearances of Ambrose Bierce and Ambrose Small, and asked, "Was somebody collecting Ambroses?"
Bierce's disappearance and trip to Mexico provide the background for the vampire horror film From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter (2000), in which Bierce's character plays a central role. Bierce's fate is the subject of Gerald Kersh's "The Oxoxoco Bottle" (aka "The Secret of the Bottle"), which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post on December 7, 1957, and was reprinted in the anthology Men Without Bones. Bierce reappears in the future on Mount Shasta in Robert Heinlein's novella, "Lost Legacy".
Actor James Lanphier (1920–1969) played Bierce, with James Hampton as William Randolph Hearst, in the 1964 episode "The Paper Dynasty", of the syndicated western television series Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. In the story line, Hearst struggles to turn a profit despite increased circulation of The San Francisco Examiner. Robert O. Cornthwaite appears as Sam Chamberlain.
Carlos Fuentes's 1985 novel The Old Gringo is a fictionalized account of Bierce's disappearance; it was later adapted into the film Old Gringo (1989), starring Gregory Peck in the title role. Fuentes stated: "What started this novel was my admiration for Ambrose Bierce and for his Tales of Soldiers and Civilians."
Two adaptations were made of Bierce's story "Eyes of the Panther". One version was developed for Shelley Duvall's Nightmare Classics series and was released in 1990. It runs about 60 minutes. A shorter version was released in 2007 by director Michael Barton and runs about 23 minutes.
In 2002 the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco premiered a one-act version of Bierce's ultra-short story "The Difficulty of Crossing a Field" by American composer David Lang. The opera has since been performed by other companies.
In 2005, author Kurt Vonnegut stated that he considered "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" the "greatest American short story" and a work of "flawless... American genius".
Currently, Ambrose Bierce is 180 years, 9 months and 0 days old. Ambrose Bierce will celebrate 181st birthday on a Saturday 24th of June 2023.
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