Although a harsh critic of many of the conventions of his day - stating his disaproval of 'human institutions in general, including all forms of government, most laws and customs, and all contemporary literature' - Ambrose Bierce was perhaps most deeply affected by his belief in the waste and futility of war. Bierce was born in a log cabin in Ohio. His family, though strongly religious, provided him with no formal education and he left home in his teens for a military academy in Kentucky. At the outbreak of civil war, he enlisted in the Union Army in which he served with distinction - rising quickly from private to major. At the end of the war, Bierce settled in San Francisco where he began contributing articles to a number of journals. He married in 1971 before heading off to England where he completed three collections of stories. Returning to San Francisco, he worked for several papers, most notably William Randolph Hearst's 'San Francisco Examiner' where his cynical but popular columns earned him a reputation as the 'literary dictator of the Pacific Coast'. It was also during this period that he completed the two short story collections 'Tales of Soldiers and Civilians' and 'Can Such Things Be'. In 1896 he was set to work on another of Hearst's papers in Washington and the entire capital reportedly 'ran for cover'. But his divorce in 1904 and the deaths of his two sons from suicide and acute alcoholism took their toll. In 1913, at the age of 71, Bierce settled his affairs and headed off to Mexico - the scene of a bloody civil war; he was said to have exclaimed: 'To be a Gringo in Mexico - ah, that is euthanasia'. The exact circumstances of his death remain unknown.