Friday, January 31, 2014

One Hundred Years Gone

Today I picked up a book at a secondhand store. It's called Lost . . . and Never Found and it's by Anita Gustafson. (1) Lost . . . and Never Found is about people who have disappeared, never to be seen again. The second chapter is on the disappearance of Ambrose Bierce. I read something in that book that I have never read before. In his last letter of December 26, 1913, sent to his secretary from Chihuahua, Mexico, Bierce wrote that he was going to proceed with Pancho Villa's army to Ojinaga. From Anita Gustafson's book:
Some explanations of [Bierce's] disappearance point to his last letter, when he wrote that he was going with Villa's army to Ojinaga. The siege of that city began on January 11, 1914, and one Mexican army dispatch lists a casualty named A. Pierce. Was that Ambrose Bierce? (2, 3)
If Bierce wrote a letter on December 26, 1913, announcing some plan for immediate action, it seems pretty likely to me that he lived into the year 1914. So if the A. Pierce who died at Ojinaga was indeed Ambrose Bierce, then this month--January 2014--marks the one hundredth anniversary of his passing. There aren't many today who are  puncturing the great gasbags of our age the way Bierce did in his. We could use someone like him again. Rest in peace.

(1) Lost . . . and Never Found was published by Scholastic in 1985.
(2) p. 23.
(3) An article on the website of Marfa Public Radio says that the battle at Ojinaga was actually won on January 10, 1914. The New York Times reported fighting there on or before January 1. If Bierce died at Ojinaga, then his death may have taken place some time between January 1 and January 10. That's a big if. By the way, as everyone knows, Marfa, Texas, is home of the mysterious Marfa Lights. If, as Charles Fort suggested, someone in the great universe is collecting Ambroses, then maybe they made their approach to Mexico above Marfa and still do.

Original text copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

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