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Bierce (Ambrose) Foster family collection of materials
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Content Description
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Related Materials

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Title: Foster family collection of Ambrose Bierce materials
    source: Elkhart County Historical Society
    Identifier/Call Number: M2146
    Physical Description: 3.0 Linear Feet : 2 boxes, 1 half-box, 1 flat box
    Date (inclusive): 1858-1986

    Content Description

    The collection consists of correspondence (including one letter from Ambrose Bierce to a family member), photographs, maps, field notes, receipts, dispatches, telegrams, and printed material, chiefly relating to the Civil War career of Bierce as a surveyor as well as his extended family in Indiana, especially sister Almeda Sophia Bierce Pittenger (the original source of this collection), father Marcus Aurelius and brothers Albert and Addison Bierce.
    Of particular note to Civil War historians are the series of maps produced by the Union army's Army of the Cumberland on the Chattanooga Campaign, reflecting the borders between Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Of the paper and linen printed maps, some have annotations, and most credit Captain William Emery Merrill. A few note that they were created from information from "captured rebel engineers." There are also maps drawn by Bierce himself. Note that Stanford's Ambrose Bierce Papers also contain material concerning the Civil War, including the sketchbook Bierce kept while serving as a Union topographer with the staff of General Hazen.
    D.W. "Jim" Strauss originally loaned this collection to the Elkhart County Historical Society in Bristol, Indiana on behalf of his late wife Betty Ann, who had inherited it from her mother Grace Juanita Bussing Foster, Almeda's daughter. After Strauss's death, their daughters Cindra Heston and Debra Van Dyke decided to donate the Bierce collection to Stanford.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    [identification of item], Foster family collection of Ambrose Bierce materials (M2146). Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open for research. Note that material must be requested at least 36 hours in advance of intended use.

    Conditions Governing Use

    While Special Collections is the owner of the physical and digital items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Any transmission or reproduction beyond that allowed by fair use requires permission from the owners of rights, heir(s) or assigns.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Cindra Heston and Debra Van Dyke, 2016. Accession MSS 2016-175.

    Biographical / Historical

    Ambrose Gwinett Bierce was born in Meigs County, Ohio on June 24, 1842, the tenth child of Marcus Aurelius and Laura Sherwood Bierce. Little is known of his childhood; he became a printer's apprentice in Kosciusko County, Indiana, before entering the Kentucky Military Institute in 1859. Shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War, Bierce was a laborer and waiter in Elkhart, Indiana. Bierce enlisted in the 9th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers following Lincoln's call for volunteers and served for nearly the duration. Bierce was one of the few war veteran writers to have such front-lines experience, surviving some the war's most bloody battles, including Shiloh, Missionary Ridge, and Chickamauga. Bierce progressed in rank from private to lieutenant and became the acting topographical engineer on Gen. W. B. Hazen's staff. At the battle of Kenesaw Mountain, Bierce sustained a near-fatal head wound from which it took months to recover. It is clear that his war experiences did much to inform his "Bitter Bierce" persona.
    Following the war, Bierce became an aid to Treasury Department agents collecting abandoned Southern property. He joined Hazen's surveying expedition to the Far West in 1866 and stayed on in San Francisco working for the U.S. Mint. In San Francisco Bierce began to pursue his literary interests. In 1868, he succeeded his friend James T. Watkins as the editor of News-Letter. Bierce married Mary Ellen Day on Christmas Day, 1871, and eventually had three children, Day, Leigh, and Helen.
    From 1872 to 1874, Bierce was in England writing for Tom Hood's Fun and James Mortimer's Figaro. He returned to San Francisco in September of 1875. He edited several magazines for the next years, including Argonaut and the Wasp; he also wrote his Prattle and The Dance of Death. Bierce became a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner in 1887 and continued to produce his own books and stories. He was sent in 1896 by the Examiner to Washington, D.C. to cover the Railroad Funding Bill controversy. He stayed on in Washington as a political reporter for many years, all the while publishing his own literary work.
    In late 1913, Bierce took a trip through the Southwest into Mexico where he mysteriously disappeared. It is likely that he became involved with the Mexican Revolution, traveling south with Pancho Villa and his troops, and met his fate at the hands of Federal soldiers near Chihuahua City.

    Related Materials

    Stanford Special Collections also holds the Ambrose Bierce Papers (M0080) https://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/4082973
    Letters to or from Bierce are also contained in the papers of David Starr Jordan, George Sterling, Eugene T. Sawyer, and Stephen Mallory White.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
    Authors, American.
    Bierce, Ambrose, 1842-1914?
    Elkhart County Historical Society
    Bierce family