Short Story #321: Killed at Resaca by Ambrose Bierce

Title: Killed at Resaca

Author: Ambrose Bierce


Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce  The narrator introduces Herman Brayle, whom he considers one of the best soldiers of the staff.  The narrator describes him as tall and strong and well liked by everyone.  However, he has the strange quirk of being in the thick of battle, sitting tall on his horse or standing while being exposed to gunfire.  This happens regularly, even in situations where he does not need to be in danger.  His style of brazenly risking himself is admonished to which he accepts and tells people that he hopes people will say "I told you so" should he ever come to harm by his methods.  In a later battle, Brayle once again rushes forward to bring notice to someone.  However, while he is shot at ceaselessly, his fellow soldiers spring to support him.  However, during his movement further, he did not anticipate running into a barrier that he couldn't negotiate and thus, is left trapped and shot down.  In recovering his body, they find a letter from his love on him but it includes some commentary about someone saying how Brayle ran from battle and how she couldn't love a coward.  The narrator later visits the woman to inform her of how he died bravely.  However, in the last moment, the narrator sees how beautiful she is and lies to her, telling her that he was bitten by a snake.


 I initially too impressed with this tale but as I re-read the ending, realizing the narrator lied because he was romantically interested in the woman, i couldn't help but laugh.  

Short Story #321 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 9/15/2014
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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  1. I don't think the narrator lies to protect her feelings -- he says flat out that he detests her. He says Rayle was "bitten by a snake" because that is what he considers her to be..

  2. For the most part I agree with "Unknown" (August 6, 2021). Far from being enthralled by the shallow, foolish girl, the narrator is revolted by her. He lies about Rayle's passing for two reasons, I think: firstly, because, as "Unknown observes, he considers this woman a venomous thing and secondly, because he realizes that such a self-absorbed and thoughtless person as she could even derive pleasure from having so influenced her man that he died to earn her favorable opinion. This the narrator cannot and does not permit.


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