BY: AMBROSE BIERCE
Chickamauga is a short story written by Ambrose Bierce published in 1891.
Ambrose Bierce was born in 1842 and the year of his death is not known actually due to the fact that in 1913 he travelled to Mexico with the rebel troops, to have a firsthand perspective of what was going on there, and he disappeared leaving no trace.
But the author ofthis short story was not only dedicated to this type of genre; he was a journalist, fabulist, editorialist and satirist as well. In fact, he is well known also by his lexicon The Devil’s Dictionary in which he defined English terms according to his own ideas in a satirical way. We have also several volumes of poetry by him.
It is also important to remark that Edgar Allan Poe had an influence onBierce’s works and that thanks to the irony and satirical critic of the latter; Bierce was best known as “Bitter Bierce”.
Many critics said that Bierce’s style contained abrupt beginnings, dark imagery, limited descriptions and the ever present theme of war.
In fact, “Chickamauga” is not a random name; it is the name of a battle that took place in 1863, right in the middle of the American Civilwar.
Chickamauga was a local Indian word meaning "Stagnant River" or, less accurately, "River of Death," a usage that may have begun after the battle. We have to take on account that the name of Chickamauga appears only in the title of the story and it is never mentioned again throughout it like if it merely were a piece of information given in order to situate the reader in the real context ofthe story.
We can summarize this short story only with a few couple of lines, by saying that it tells us how in a southern state, during the time of the Civil War, a child strays away from his home and into the woods.
The child becomes lost, tires himself out, and falls asleep on the ground. Several hours later he wakes up and notices what he thinks are animals crawling through thewoods. However, they are wounded soldiers fleeing from battle. Earlier, these soldiers had passed by the child while he slept. Now the battle is over and the soldiers are moving back over the same ground in order to reach a brook. The child, without knowing the seriousness of the situation, makes a game of it and marches in front of the soldiers, pretending to be their leader.
Afterwards, andcrossing a stream, he sees a fire raging. He goes to the fire and makes a game of this also, trying to throw things into the fire and dancing around it. But suddenly, he discovers that the fire is his own home burning, and comes upon his mother, lying on the ground, horribly murdered. It is then, at that precise moment, when we discover that the child is a deaf-mute.
Analysis and quotations:
Asummary of this story is not enough at all as it has many hidden connotations, really important ones.
We see that the story is told from a third person omniscient perspective; a perspective that allows us both to see the reactions of the child and to create a real idea about what is going on during the story, that is, to have a panoramic view.
In fact, we see that in many cases thedescriptions presented by Bierce remind us to the impressionistic movement. In many cases we feel like we were really visualizing a picture.
Talking about the story, the first thing that is important to say in order to understand all the symbolic references that Bierce offers to us is that the little six year old boy is the son of a planter. However, this planter had been a soldier and the clamor of thebattle was inside his veins.
Bierce says the following about him:
“He had been a soldier, had fought against naked savages and followed the flag of his country into the capital of a civilized race to the far South. In the peaceful life of a planter the warrior-fire survived; once kindled, it is never extinguished.”
These tree lines are vital to the development of the story. As Bierce had lived...