In 1887, William Randolph Hearst sought out and hired Bierce to write for the San Francisco Examiner, the first periodical in what would become the Hearst media goliath. “Prattle” was given new life, and Bierce demanded and won the right to there express himself as he wished, without fear of editorial intrusion.

In addition to columns in which he speared the usual assortment of politicians, charlatans, and literary figures, Bierce began to publish serious short fiction and nonfiction. During this period, he published many of his famous pieces about the Civil War. These include: “The Crime at Pickett’s Mill” (1888), “A Son of the Gods” (1888), “Chickamauga” (1889), “A Horseman in the Sky” (1889), “The Affair at Coulter’s Notch” (1889), and “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890).

In 1888, Bierce and his wife formally separated. Beyond the long-held differences between them, Bierce believed that Mary had willingly received love letters from another man. It may be that Bierce had jumped to conclusions about her impropriety, but his pride required him to seek the separation. Thereafter, he apparently spoke to her in person on only two occasions.


An even greater personal misfortune occurred in 1889, with the tragic death of Bierce’s son Day. Not yet eighteen-years-old, the youth was involved in a gunfight with a friend who had run off with and married Day’s own fiancée. Both combatants were mortally wounded.

Despite these blows, Bierce in this period achieved the height of his creative powers, and was never a more potent satirist. A body of young writers sought his advice, championed his work, and spread his already considerable fame throughout the United States.

In 1892, Bierce published his masterpiece Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (publication date 1891), a carefully-arranged collection of his Civil War stories. The book was widely-reviewed to great acclaim in America, as was the English version, re-titled In the Midst of Life (1892).

Other publications followed in short order, including The Monk and the Hangman’s Daughter (1892), a translation of a German novel by Richard Voss. More notably, in 1893 Bierce published Can Such Things Be?, a collection of supernatural stories he had written for the Examiner.