Short Story #212: A Horseman in the Sky by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  A Horseman in the Sky 

Author:  Ambrose Bierce


Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceA soldier lies on the ground on the lookout for the terrain and any potential enemy soldiers that might arrive.   He falls asleep but luckily is not discovered by his sergeant as it would mean his death.  When he awakes, he sees a man standing on a ledge on a horse who is of the Confederacy.  He contemplates to shoot the man but finds himself morally challenged.  In the end, he shoots the horse and the man and horse leap off the ledge.  An officer who happens to be in the forest under the ledge looks up and sees a man on a horse, seemingly running through the sky.  It shocks him and he all but passes out.  When he recovers he goes searching for the man but does not find man or horse.  When he returns to camp, he says nothing.  Meanwhile, a superior comes up to the soldier to ask what he's seen and the soldier tells him that he shot at a horse in order to kill the man.  When asked to identify the man, he explains the man was his father and a Confederate soldier.  


The punchline is a bit powerful in large part because Bierce masks the soldier's hesitancy in his overall attitude or concerns about war.  The side bit where the officer sees the "horseman in the sky" also seems a bit fitting in the sense that it was a send off of sorts.  That the body and horse is never found is typical Bierce but not sure what purpose it serves entirely.  

Short Story #212 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/18/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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