On this day in 1861, author Ambrose Bierce became the second man in Elkhart County, Indiana to enlist for service in the Union volunteers after President Lincoln’s call for troops following the attack on Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Bierce, who was born in Meigs County, Ohio, was working in a local business that was a combination dry goods store, tavern, and ice cream parlor when the call for volunteers came. He joined Company C of the Ninth Indiana Volunteers. Thus began what would be service for the duration of the war and firsthand experience of combat in some of the war’s most famous battles: Shiloh, Kenesaw Mountain, Chickamauga, to name but a few of the places where Bierce fought. In turn he would draw on his experiences in uniform for a remarkable body of stories and short memoirs.
Bierce would later write, “At one time in my green and salad days, I was sufficiently zealous for Freedom to engage in a four years’ battle for its promotion. There were other issues involved, but they did not count for much with me.”
The youth’s decision to enlist would have its effect on American literature. Roy Morris, Jr., author of the biography Ambrose Bierce: Alone In Bad Company, wrote of Bierce’s experiences at Shiloh that they “would stay with Bierce for the rest of his life, occasioning some of his finest writing and foreshadowing and directly influencing an entire generation of American writers, men whose own take on war owed a great deal to his seminal works.”