In at least one respect Bierce's little essay backfired. When describing finding the Confederate graves near Travelers' Repose, Bierce writes of homemade grave markers "discoverable by removing the accumulated forest leaves. From some of them may be taken (and reverently replaced), small thin slabs of the split stone of the country, with rude and reticent inscriptions by comrades" (397). Unfortunately, according to the current landlord, the publicity afforded to Travelers' Repose by Bierce served to highlight the presence of these gravestones and irreverent war trophy hunters and vandals have stolen all but one, which was moved for safekeeping (fig. 5).
scholars, aficionados, and fans—along with Civil War historians,
re-enactors, and buffs—caught in the personal excitement
of discovering the largely untouched Travelers' Repose farm might
easily overlook the real point of "A Bivouac of the Dead." Here
Bierce highlights his personal reconciliation with his former "honest
and courageous foemen" (398) and asks who, North or South, "would
begrudge the expense of giving to these fallen brothers the tribute
of green graves?" (397). This passage clearly reflects his
respect for the fraternity of Civil War veterans. Bierce closes
the piece with characteristic barbs aimed at those politicians,
writers, non-combatants, and shouting "civilians" on
both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line who would preserve the old
divisions. "A Bivouac of the Dead" therefore becomes
a plea for reconciliation and unity, one small example of many
still being written even four decades after the end of the republic's
division into blue states and gray states.
Bierce, "A Bivouac of the Dead," The Collected
Works of Ambrose Bierce, 12 vols. (New York: Neale Publishing
Company, 1912), Volume XI, Antepenultimata, 395. All
citations hereafter cited parenthetically within the text.