Guide to the Foster Family Collection of Ambrose Bierce Materials M2146

Miles Kurosky & Franz Kunst
Department of Special Collections and University Archives
Green Library
557 Escondido Mall
Stanford 94305-6064

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)
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


Series 1. Photographs

box 1, folder 1

Photographs AB1 - AB4

Scope and Contents

“Mrs. Ambrose Bierce, Aunt Molly” – San Francisco, CA; E. H. Bierce, age 84; unknown family; “Uncle Will and Aunt Ann Good” – Mercer, photographer, Middleport, Ohio.
box 1, folder 2

Photographs AB5 - AB8

Scope and Contents

From brown envelope marked “Bierce”: Unknown woman; unknown man; unknown woman; “M. A. Bierce.”
box 1, folder 3

Photographs AB9 - AB14

Scope and Contents

One from white envelope: “To my Mother Addison” – J. Humphrey, Kimarnock, photographer; “Harrie Bierce Jr.” – J. H. Clark, photographer, Indianapolis; “Grandpa Bierce” - H. C. Millice, photographer, Warsaw, IN; unknown woman (poss. Mrs. Ambrose Bierce) – Elite, photographer, San Francisco; unknown children (boy & girl) – G. D. Morse, photographer, San Francisco; “Grace Pittinger Davis Bussing” – Parrot, photographer, Warsaw, IN.
box 1, folder 4

Photographs AB15 - AB17 1913

Scope and Contents

In envelope to Miss Hettie Pittinger, R. R. West, Warsaw, Indiana: “Grandpa Bierce” – H. C. Milice & Bro, photographer, Warsaw, IN; “Yours Truly, Lulu Tinsworth” (Bierce added in pencil), Uncle Al’s daughter – Elite, photographer, San Francisco; “Andrew Bierce” – Goff, photographer, Elkhart, IN.
box 1, folder 5

Photographs AB18 - AB21 1912-1914

Scope and Contents

Next four photos appear to be of the same gentleman: Unknown gentleman in chair – postcard to Miss Hettie Pittinger, Nove. 23, 3pm, 1914; unknown gentleman in chair – postcard not addressed or mailed; unknown gentleman with hat – postcard addressed to Miss Hettie Pittinger, Nov. 22, 1912; unknown gentleman in chair with hat – postcard not addressed.
box 1, folder 6

Photographs AB22 - AB25

Scope and Contents

“Yours Truly, A. S. Bierce” – Haussler, photographer, San Francisco; A S. Bierce in military uniform; “Carlton A. Bierce” – Oakland, CA; Dag type of unknown older woman (Grandmother Bierce?); “Grandmother Bierce” – H. C. Milice & Bro., photographic artists, Warsaw, IN.
box 1, folder 7

Photographs AB26 - AB29

Scope and Contents

“Mrs. Laran, Springfield, Ohio, A dear friend gone”; “Ida E. Reber” – T. H. Bulla, photographer, Elkhart, IN; unknown woman – DeVos, photographer, Elkhart, IN; unknown older woman – Young & Carl, photographers, Cincinnati, Ohio.
box 1, folder 8

Photographs AB30 1858

Scope and Contents

Ink (?) drawing of unknown gentleman dated 1858.
box 1, folder 9

Photographs AB31

Scope and Contents

“Harrie Bierce, 70 years”
box 1, folder 10

Photographs AB32

Scope and Contents

“Laura Bierce, My Grandmother” – penciled to accentuate details.
box 1, folder 11

Photographs AB33

Scope and Contents

Unknown older gentleman – penciled to accentuate details, newspaper glued to back.
box 1, folder 12

Photographs AB34

Scope and Contents

“Ambrose Bierce” – Netterville Briggs, photographers, London (one duplicate) – Nahl Bros. & Dickman, San Francisco.
box 1, folder 13

Photographs AB35

Scope and Contents

“Harrie Bierce, 70 years” (possibly unknown gentleman in postcard previously recorded)
box 1, folder 14

Photographs AB36

Scope and Contents

“Harrie Bierce Jr.” – Nicholson, IN with envelope.
box 1, folder 15

Etching of California Authors

Scope and Contents

From photograph folder, etching includes Ambrose Bierce.

Series 2. Books and notebooks

box 1, folder 16

A. J. Bierce's billfold (empty)

box 1, folder 17

Army Officer's Pocket Companion and Manual for Staff Officers in the Field 1862

Scope and Contents

Written by William P. Craighill, published in 1862 by D. Van Nostrand, New York. Some water damage and worn spine.
box 4, folder 1

Ambrose Bierce's Field Book for Map Notes

Scope and Contents

Ambrose Bierce's filed book for map notes - signed "Lieut. A. G. Bierce A. Topl. Engr. Staff of Gen. Hazen." Includes drawings for Demi-Lune Post Pulaski, TN planned and constructed by A. G. Bierce; Cleveland, Tenn.; and Dallas, GA - good condition
box 4, folder 2

Ambrose Bierce's signed copy of Gillespie's Land Surveying

Scope and Contents

Gillespie's Land Surveying - Treatise on Land Surveying by W. M. Gillespie, LL. D., Civ. Eng. published by D. Appleton & Co. of New York - signed "A. G. Bierce Top Eng"

Series 3. Ambrose Bierce army records

box 1, folder 18

Discharge papers, medical report, and equipment issuance 1864-1869

Scope and Contents

Ambrose Bierce Army discharge papers and envelope. Lt. A. G. Bierce medical report for discharge (head wound). Equipment issuance letter from Army.

Series 4. Civil War maps

box 3, folder 2

Sketch of the Environs of Murfreesboro, Capt. N. Michler (linen with pencil notations) September 1862

box 3, folder 3

Topographical Sketch of the Battle Field of Stone River - Surveyed by Maj. J.F. Weyss, under direcrtion of Capt. N. Michler (small linen)

box 3, folder 4

Map of Chattanooga [Tennessee] & Vicinity, by Capt. Wm. E. Merrill, U.S. Engineers 08/12/1863

box 3, folder 5

Map of Cleveland [Tennessee], by Capt. Wm. E. Merrill, U.S. Engineers (torn/damaged) 08/14/1863

box 3, folder 6

Map of McLamore's Cove [i.e. McLemore Cove, Georgia], by Capt. Wm. E. Merrill, U.S. Engineers 08/26/1863

box 3, folder 7

Map of Bridgeport and Trenton [Georgia-Alabama border], compiled under the direction of Capt. W. E. Merrill, U.S. Engineers 08/28/1863

box 3, folder 8

Map of Stevenson, Alabama, compiled from Information, under the direction of Capt. W. E. Merrill, U.S. Engineers 08/29/1863

box 3, folder 9

Map of Chattanooga [Tennessee] & Vicinity, compiled from the Latest Informations, under direction of Capt. W. E. Merrill 09/08/1863

box 3, folder 10

Map of Bridgeport [Alabama] & Vicinity, surveyed under the direction of Capt. W.E. Merrill, U.S. Engineers 03/26/1864

box 3, folder 11

Map of A Part of Murray County, Georgia, compiled under the direction of Capt. W. E. Merrill, U.S. Engineers 04/23/1864

box 3, folder 12

Map of 1st District, Campbell County, Georgia, Compiled under direction of Capt. W.E. Merrill (linen) 05/23/1864

box 3, folder 13

Maps of Part of Cobb County, Georgia ; [one by] by H.C. Wharton (negative maps] 06/08/1896 ; 06/26/1864

box 3, folder 14

Land Map of DeKalb County, Georgia 07/11/1864

box 3, folder 15

Map of Atlanta [Georgia] 07/15/1864

box 3, folder 16

Map of Chicamauga River [aka Chickamauga River, Tennessee] (small hand-drawn map)

box 3, folder 17

Map of Dalton [Georgia] & vicinity, Compiled under direction of Capt. W.E. Merrill

box 3, folder 18

Map of parts of Fulton, Fayette & Campbell Counties [Georgia], From Surveys, State Maps, and Information

box 3, folder 19

Five maps/battle plans by Ambrose Bierce

Scope and Contents

Includes Reynolds, Hazen, TRain Depot, W. & A. RR, "Encampment" ; Includes Manchester, Lynchburg Road, Shelbyville Road, Duck River ; Bearings in Tennessee Valley ; Manchester to Normandy 08/06/1863 (signed) ; Lynchburg Road from Manchester S.W. 08/11/1863 (signed)

Series 5. Newspaper articles

Scope and Contents

newspapers and clippings in the collection date from 1881 to 1986 and are chiefly about Bierce or his family, including reports detailing his death which came to light c1919-1920 and a few of his own SF Examiner articles, mostly fragmented.
box 1, folder 20

Small Newspaper Clippings

box 3, folder 1

Large Newspaper Clippings

box 2, folder 34

Poem scrapbook

Scope and Contents

small notebook with poems cut from newspapers.

Series 6. Letters, correspondence, and receipts

box 2, folder 1

Engineer Orders and Circulars 1863 - 1864

Scope and Contents

“Head Quarters 2d Brig. 3d Div. 4th Corps Official Business”; letter to A. G. Bierce from Wm. E. Merrill, Capt. U. S. Engineers, Chief Topl. Engr. “Head Quarter Topl. Engr. Office; Army of the Cumberland Official Business”; General Orders No. 124 Head-Quarters Dept. of the Cumberland, Murfreesboro, TN, May 31, 1863 – instructions to corps, division, and brigade topographers from newly appointed Capt. W. E. Merrill, engineer in charge of topographical dept. – includes scale from C. Goddard; Addition to General Orders No. 124 Topographical Engineer Office, Murfreesboro, TN, June 23, 1863, Capt. Wm. Merrill – circular to corps, division, and brigade topographers including instructions for recording features, signed and dated; Engineering Circular No. 3, Topographical Engineering Office, August 12th, 1863, Capt. Wm. Merrill – information maps, technique, and colorization; Engineering Circular No. 4, Top. Eng. Office, Sept. 9th, 1863 – regarding engineering property, Capt. Merrill; Engineering Circular No. 5, Top. Eng. Office, Sept. 9th, 1863 – instructions for mapping Cherokee Purchase, northern portion of Georgia – Capt. Merrill. Circular of General-Headquarters Topl. Engr. Office, Army of the Cumberland letterhead Chattanooga, March 3rd, 1864 – list of maps available from Wm. A. Margestantz, Capt. Supt. Topl. Engl. Office – Brig. Gen. Hayes – 2nts Brig. 3 Div. 4th C.; Circular No. 6, Headquarters Topl. Engr. Office, Army of the Cumberland letterhead, Chattanooga, March 3rd, 1864 – instructions for replacement of Topl. Engr. And care of equipment, notes, etc. Wm. A. Margestantz, Capt. Supt. Topl. Eng Office.
box 2, folder 2

Pamphlet of Circulars and Orders 01/10/1864

Scope and Contents

Issued from Top. Engr. Office - Army of the Cumberland, Chattanooga, TN.
box 2, folder 3

Dispatches and Express Receipts 1863-1866

Scope and Contents

In envelope “Dispatches & Express Receipts”; American Telegraph Company to S. B. Eaton; Southwestern Telegraph Company; Adams Express Company from A. G. Bierce to S. B. Eaton; Southern Express Company from C. C. Marsh to Mrs. J. L. Watson; United States Express Company; U. S. Military Telegraph Office from Eaton to Bierce; American Telegraph Company to A. G. Bierce; Western Union Telegraph Company from Wazen to A. G. Bierce; American Telegraph Company from Luther Martin to S. B. Eaton.
box 2, folder 4

Engineering Orders 1863 - 1866

Scope and Contents

Army issue invoice; letter from Jack at Montgomery Jan. 10th, 1866 to Bierce on cotton receipt; Topl. Engr. Office Chattanooga engineering orders; Top. Egr. Office, Engineer order; Death announcement of Capt. John Earhart Aug. 10, 1863; letter to the Treasury Dept (copy) received Feb. 18, 1865; sketch “monument.”
box 2, folder 5

Poem - The Awakening

box 2, folder 6

List of Railroad, Bridges, and Tunnels 08/24/1863

box 2, folder 7

Germania Fire Insurance Co. Ad Blotter 07/01/1863

Scope and Contents

A. L. Selig, agent, Lawrence, KS
box 2, folder 8

Money Order Application

Scope and Contents

U. S. Postmaster, No. 6001-domestic form.
box 2, folder 9

Chicago Scale Co. Booklet

Scope and Contents

Illustrated descriptions and prices of useful articles of prominent firms.
box 2, folder 10

Letter from Ambrose Bierce to Almeda Pittenger 12/07/1911

Scope and Contents

Letter from Ambrose Bierce to his sister. Sent from the Army-Navy Club, Washington, D.C. to Pittinger in Warsaw, Indiana.
box 2, folder 11

Ambrose Bierce London Address

box 2, folder 12

Genealogical Notes and Letters

Scope and Contents

Bierce Genealogical Society form letter May 9th, 1921 to Mr. A. J. Bierce; letter to Mrs. Almeda Pittenger on same day; Birth dates – death dates of Augustus Bierce and Albert Sherwood Bierce; Deaths – Arthur Middleton Bierce, Adelia, Wayne Bierce, Aurelius Bierce; Deaths – Arthur Middleton Bierce, Adelia Wayne Bierce, Aurelia Jane Bierce, Aurelius Bierce, Marcus A. Bierce, Laura Sherwood Bierce; Marriages – Marcus Aurelius Bierce and Laura Sherwood; Dwight Warren Chappell and Abigail Bell Bierce, William Good and Ann Maria Bierce, Benjamin Franklin Guthrie and Amelia Bierce; Deaths – Addison Bierce, Amelia Bierce, Ann Maria Good, Augustus Bierce, Abigail Bell B. Chappell; Vitals on Marcus Aurelius Bierce, Laura Sherwood, Abigail Bell Bierce, Amelia Bierce, Ann Marie Bierce, Addison Bierce, Doretta Ferdinand.
box 2, folder 13

Curtis Fenn Genealogical Research 1899

Scope and Contents

Letters to Almeda Pittenger re: descendants of Hezekiah Bierce; Curtis Fenn's mother was Harriet Almeda Bierce.
box 2, folder 14

Marcus Aurelius Letter 03/16/1869

Scope and Contents

Includes word of Ambrose.
box 2, folder 15

Marcus Aurelius Letter 12/05/1869

Scope and Contents

Regarding new home.
box 2, folder 16

Abigail Bierce Letter 04/20/1894

Scope and Contents

Sent to Mrs. A. S. Pittenger re: general family activities.
box 2, folder 17

Abigail Bierce Letter 03/24/1911

Scope and Contents

Sent to Mrs. A. S. Pittenger re: details of LIbbie's funeral.
box 2, folder 18

Addison Bierce Letters 1858 - 1913

Scope and Contents

Attempts to re-establish connection with estranged family; Son Harry's loss of wife and son; Divorce from Doretta; Working in circus known as Add Bryron; More details of divorce Travels and illness; experiences and reflection in travels; Ambrose is mentioned in regards to visiting battlefields.
box 2, folder 19

Albert Bierce Letters 1876 - 1922

Scope and Contents

Re: photo of Ambrose; envelope to Mrs. William Bussing; letter to Mrs. Almeda Pittenger re: Carl and Lora, Ambrose in Washington; to Mrs. Almeda Pittenger re: Leigh's death, Carlton's marriage in Alaska, Ambrose Bierce's address; memories of youth, Ambrose's asthma; Ambrose in Washington, interested in publishing house in NY and Washington; re: Ab's death; Ab's illness; father's death and Ambrose in San Francisco; death of Gus; trip to Glacier Pt. and memories of mother.
box 2, folder 20

Ida Letters 1910 - 1912

Scope and Contents

From Hotel Chapman, Los Angeles to mother - re: hotel, trip, illness; general info; from Redlands - includes price of groceries, letter to Nina Bussing, letter to mother and Grace re: trip to California; envelope postmarked March 21, 1912; letter to mother, Nela, and cousins from Portland, OR re: travels and family.
box 2, folder 21

Old Cousins, Van Guilder, CCF 1895 - 1940

Scope and Contents

To Grace Bussing from Cora A. Van Gilder; to Almeda Pittenger from Columbus Fuller; to Grace Bussing from Cora A. Van Gilder; to Almeda Pittenger from C. C. Fuller; to Almeda Pittenger from C. Van Gilder; to A. S. Pittenger.
box 2, folder 22

Letters to Almeda Pittenger 1895 - 1911

Scope and Contents

Group photo from Annie Mauck; two men in suits (man in wrinkled suit is Howard, the other is Will); Aunt Gracie; Aunt Meda; from Samuel and Hattie Cary.
box 2, folder 23

E. Bierce Letters 1912 - 1918

Scope and Contents

Two letters on different dates addressed to Almeda Pittenger.
box 2, folder 24

Ambrose Bierce and Charles Warren Stoddard

Scope and Contents

"Ambrose Bierce and Charles Warren Stoddard: Some Unpublished Correspondence", reprint from The Huntington Library Quarterly, May Issue 1960, Vol. XXIII, No. #, pg. 261-292.
box 2, folder 25

Mrs. Earl Foster Research

Scope and Contents

Mrs. Earl Foster family records (poss. from Bierce family Bible), and assortedpages dealing with marriages, deaths, births - Ambrose's immediate family info.
box 2, folder 26

Family Correspondence and Newspaper Clippings

Scope and Contents

Miscellaneous family correspondence and newspaper clippings belonging to Almeda Pittenger.
box 2, folder 27

Letters of Inquiry

Scope and Contents

Letters of inquiry for collection from various scholars.
box 2, folder 28

Columbia University Correspondence 03/14/1961

Scope and Contents

Also includes Quarterly News Letter Spring 1961.
box 2, folder 29

Betty Strauss, Time Life Correspondence 1986

box 2, folder 30

Requiem to Jane Elliot Boyd Davis

box 2, folder 31

Pittenger Rent Receipt 01/03/1909

box 2, folder 32

Sir William Mulock's Philosophy of Life

box 2, folder 33

Assorted Correspondence and Papers

Scope and Contents

Letter with envelope to Grace Bussing from John Merrill Davis from Rio Grande, Ohio; Christmas postcard to Almeda Pittenger from cousin Jane Chinworth; photograph of Carlton Bierce; postcard photograph of unknown older woman and man; photograph of Ambrose Bierce (?); letter with envelope to Grace Bussing from John Merrill Davis; photograph of "Uncle Ambrose Bierce" - Nahl Bros. & Dickman: Artists and Photographers, San Francisco; photograph of Albert Bierce - Morse's Gallery of the Cumberland, Nashville, TN; photograph of Addison Bierce - Edward J. Cobb photographer, San Francisco; blank papers and envelope; jacket of accounts book; Indiana State "Chautauqua" Assembly program 1893; Year Book of the Ladies' Society of the First Presbyterian Church signed by Juanita Bussing Foster.

Series 7. Miscellaneous

box 1, folder 21

Original collection inventory, museum exhibition card, article photocopies

Scope and Contents

The collection inventory and plaque provided by Elkhart County Historical Museum. Newspaper articles regarding the museum's exhibit.
box 1, folder 19

Card/announcement, Mollie E. Day and Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Bierce

Scope and Contents

Possibly from the wedding of Mollie Day and Ambrose Bierce. Also icluded, two train tickets from the Lake Shore & Mich. Southern - Toledo to Chicago, South Bend to Goshen.

Series 8. Drafting tools and desk

Physical Location: These three-dimensional objects are currently housed at the David Rumsey Map Center (

Wood field desk for drafting—green felt lining, compartment for drafting implements and other supplies


Field glass in black case


Theodolite telescope in brown leather case


Survey/drafting instruments in velvet-lined case: 5 assorted drawing compasses; 1 six inch wooden ruler


Compass for drafting (metal)


Protractor: 180 degrees (metal)