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.
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