One Officer, One Man by Ambrose Bierce, 1889
The magic trick:
Ferocity of the story title
Ambrose Bierce was one cynical dude. Witty too. That’s a dangerous combination. One need look no further than the title of this story for confirmation of these claims. Rarely do you see a story title comment so viciously and so effectively on the story’s theme. It’s a good story as is, demonstrating again, as he so often does, the humanity behind the statistics of the American Civil War. But that title – and it doubles as the story’s final line – is the real push over the top into greatness. And that’s quite a trick on Bierce’s part.
“The ball is opened on the right flank,” said an officer.
Captain Graffenreid understood: the sounds were musketry and artillery. He nodded and tried to smile. There was apparently nothing infectious in the smile.
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.