From Library Journal
In calling Stephen Crane and Walt Whitman our poets of the American Civil War, we unfairly neglect the Ohio-born Bierce, who, unlike the first two authors, actually fought for the Union army, at Chicamauga, Missionary Ridge, Bloody Shiloh, and elsewhere. If the average reader is at all aware of Bierce, it is probably from a few choice definitions from The Devil's Dictionary, the phantasmagoric story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," and the author's mysterious disappearance in Mexico in 1913. However, Bierce, whose nastiness toward contemporary writers and critics came home to roost when his own reputation had to be decided, deserves to be better known. His war experience gives the 27 brief war stories in Shadows of Blue & Gray the ring of authenticity. In a sometimes turgid writing style (slaves are once described, for example, as "sons and daughters of Ham"), Bierce depicts a war that is at once horrifying, pointless, and supernatural the stuff of The Twilight Zone. The nine pieces in "Memoirs and Chronicles" and "Reminiscence and Memoria," with which editor Thomsen fittingly rounds out this volume, are as artful as the fictions. Recommended for all libraries. Despite the strengths of Thomsen's collection, Phantoms of a Blood-Stained Period is a superior work, for it includes not only all of Bierce's short fiction and nonfiction about the Civil War but a detailed 25-page introduction that is invaluable in placing Bierce in historical context and thus helping to explain his stance as a realist about the war and a satirist about post-Civil War American self-congratulation and heroic myth-making. Duncan (American history, Univ. of Copenhagen) and Klooster (English, Hope Coll.) wisely organize Bierce's myriad stories, memoirs, letters, newspaper columns, and even war poems around the war's five-year duration. Instead of a curmudgeon who happened to write war stories, this volume portrays a man who joined the Union army at age 20, fought in the bloodiest battles until a Confederate bullet in the head took him out of combat, and revisited the battlefields and retrieved the experience in memory until his disappearance. Highly recommended for all libraries. Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, MO
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Here is exemplary American prose, and here is the real war -- without uplift, without virtue, without purpose." -- Benjamin Schwarz
Bierce writes with great strength and never hides from us the ugliness of war. -- William S. McFeely
This book makes a highly significant contribution to American literary studies. -- Michael W. Schaefer, author of "Just What War Is: The Civil War Writings of De Forest and Bierce"