An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Ambrose Bierce


Ambrose (author) was a guy who used to be in the army during the Civil War. After he was in the army, he was a newspaper writer. This story takes place during the Civil war.


Peyton Farquhar: He is the main dude of the story. He is a southern guy who gets hanged during the Civil war.


The story starts out with some Northern soldiers (Yankees) at Owl Creek Bridge. They have Peyton standing on a platform, kinda hanging off the railroad bridge. He has a noose around his neck. They are preparing to kick the platform so Peyton hangs and dies.

Then right before he is about to die, Peyton starts to think about his wife and kids. Then he thinks about why he is there. He has a flashback to some night where a southern soldier came to their door. The soldier stopped at their house to get water. He also told Peyton about the northern troops trying to rebuild the railroad for another attack. Then Peyton started asking him what would happen if he went and sabotaged the railroad. The soldier tells him that he would be hanged by the northern army. After the soldier leaves, we find out he rides back up north because he is a northern spy. He was just pretending to be a southern soldier, just to trick Peyton.

Then the story cuts back to Peyton about to die. The northern troops kick out the platform and Peyton is about to die. But then he breaks the rope from the bridge and falls into the water below. He starts to swim away and escape. The troops shoot at him but they miss. Peyton swims and swims. Then he dives underwater and swims some more. All the while Peyton is talking to himself and telling himself what he should do to avoid getting shot. Then Peyton finally reaches land. He goes up on shore and walks to his family’s house. He goes home and sees his beautiful wife and his kids.

But the last lines of the book are a big plot twist. It turns out this whole escape thing never happens. This was all his imagination while he was hanging from the noose. He just imagines this escape with his last moments of life. Peyton dies at the end, by hanging off the Owl Creek Bridge.


  • Peyton gets tricked in the beginning. He thinks he is sucking up to a southern soldier by telling him that he might screw up the Northern railroad. But he’s really telling a northern soldier this info
  • At first the reader thinks that Peyton has really escaped, and is swimming away to freedom and dodging bullets. But there is a twist because all of this is just his imagination.
  • When the army fires at him when he is "supposedly" escaping he says that they use grapeshot. Firing "grapeshot" means that they are just firing a bunch of small pieces of garbage...stuff like metal, nails, glass, etc.