Throughout this collection, Bierce brings to light a myriad morbid aspects of the Civil War, including the psychoemotional devastation endured by families divided over the causality, using the trademark dark humor and twisted irony for which he is rightly regarded by successors. Most stories are distinguished by unexpected conclusions, as in “Incident at Owl Creek Bridge.” Readers are bestowed with a renewed interest in this for the most part simplified epoch in U.S. history. For the most part, Bierce avoids any partisan commentary. His description of the wounded soldiers retreating from the battle at Chicamauga is potent and horrifying.
These stories are well-written, but may leave some readers feeling queasy, given their graphic descriptions of war as hell (see the first paragraph on page 116), but shouldn’t we learn that lesson. If you want accurate descriptions of the front line of the Civil War, however, this is the authentic documentation in darkly comic satire some readers may be seeking..
This collection of short stories by Bierce gives you a deep and undeniable sense of presence, in other words: you are there with the actual Civil War combatants understanding their distinction from other soldiers and the distinction of this war from all the others in this country’s history, though, as some would argue, the ideological division undeniably persists. Civil War Stories is informed by personal experience, but is an artistic treatment of the events and people filling those memories, as any fantastic biography must be. In the military ranks, miinor faults like forgetfulness or pride or stupidity have extremely influential effects.