Short Story #273: A Tough Tussle by Ambrose Bierce

Title: A Tough Tussle

Author: Ambrose Bierce


Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceSecond-Lieutenant Brainerd Byring sits on patrol at night with the Confederates near.  He leads a squadron of men positioned in a holding position as the first line.  While waiting on whether the enemy's advance, he take a moment to rest by removing his sword and gun.  He slips into deep contemplation about the world around him and contrasts the dark night of nature to his own world of war.  However, he realizes shortly that he is in the presence of what he assumed to be a dead body.  Though Byring has proven himself in war, he is utterly disgusted by the presence of a dead body.  He realizes that he has to sit with the dead body and this leads him to contemplate where the repulsion towards the dead comes from.  As the moonlight and clouds shift, he realizes it is a Confederate soldier.  The twisted repose of the body further discomforts him and he stands to move but then changes his mind for fear of being perceived as weak.  He doesn't leave but without conscious thought, finds himself standing in an offensive position ready to strike, which makes him laugh.  The laugh itself sets him off.  He then begins to see (or believes he sees) the corpse moving, but before anything more can happen, a gunshot rings out which brings him out of his head a bit.  The fighting starts continues into the early morning.  A federal captain is exploring the damage and comes across two bodies, Brying and a dead Confederate soldier.  It was clear that Brying had inflicted wounds upon the enemy but had died of a sword wound to the heart.  However, the sword was Brying's own and the Confederate soldier's body had long been dead. 


An ok story.  There were some interesting moments when Brying is reflecting and comparing the natural world to the world of war--both of which are surrounding him, but that was mostly mood setting for the body.  

Short Story #273 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read8/26/2014
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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