Dr. Chuck Jackson
Ambrose Bierce’s Twisted Naturalist Short Story “Chickamauga” The author of “Chickamauga,” Ambrose Bierce, created this short story as a naturalist visualization of the devastating effects that wars and battles had on the soldiers which fought in them. The short story “Chickamauga” is defined as naturalist literature because of the author’s employment of specific literary techniques which define naturalism, such as the way the author gradually darkens the mood of the storyline as it progresses, the amount of description and attention paid to grisly and macabre details that shed wars in a whole new light, as well as the unfolding nature of the main character as the story progresses. In “Chickamauga”, Ambrose Bierce begins on a sunny afternoon in autumn, describing the sense of freedom, and in a sense, gaiety, felt by a descendant of a strong, proud, and conquering race quickly leads to the dark and troublesome events which are the natural fallout of wars anywhere, the casualties and destruction, both military and civilian (343). Originally this small boy is depicted as a conquering warrior, whose mighty sword has the ability to slay imaginary foes that leads him on a mighty chase both through the woods and across the creek. Until the proud victor turns to return from whence he came, only to find himself confronted by a much more corporeal foe than any he had fought, a rabbit sitting bolt-upright in the middle of the path back to the creek. He is so frightened by this animal that he turns and flees into the woods, losing direction in the brush. Swift 2
The fear and shock of this once mighty warrior creates a shift in the mood of the story, transforming the conquering hero back into a lost, frightened child calling for his mother in the woods while he clutches his makeshift sword to soothe his nerves and drifts off to sleep (344). Awakening to the chill of night, still scared but no longer terrified the child is repelled from the flowing water by a ‘ghostly’ fog, which steers him unwittingly into the course of a large, lumbering shape in the dark (344). Through the eyes of a child he watches as multitudes of men make their way however able, whether by using arms and no legs, knees and no arms, or wriggling forward on the ground heading towards the creek (344). This child remembers how his father’s slaves would walk on their hands and knees and let the son ride as if they were horses, and seeing similarities the child swiftly climbs atop one of the nearby men, and is bucked off, as if by a pony. The unwilling steed reveals himself in the light to the child as a man missing his entire lower jaw with “shreds of flesh and splinters of bones” (345) where his mouth should have been and blood spilling down his shirt. After gathering himself away from the flood of bodies, the child notices a red glow tingeing the air, creating a background upon which he can see tree limbs moving and exaggerated shadows of these wounded men struggling ever forward. Figuring that he could help lead them, the boy then quickly outpaces the flowing tide of bodies, wielding his sword in his hand and adjusting his pace to match that of his ‘command’ (345). As the procession nears the creek, dropped equipment and supplies tell a story of countless men passing over the soft ground not once, but twice, as the soldiers hurry towards and then fleeing from a great battle which was held some short distance away. These men all struggling with the last of their lives are all that remain from thousands upon thousands of military who had nearly walked upon their current leader in his sleep, unbeknownst to both parties (346). Swift 3
Upon reaching the creek, the child proceeds to jump back across, seeing that the stones he is using are all stained red from the blood of those more fortunate to have fled earlier. Looking back across the creek towards his followers, he notices that upon reaching the...