An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce

Summary: Peyton Farquhar is extremely loyal to the southern cause during the civil war. Although he is unable to be a soldier, Faquhar does anything in his ability to help the war effort. Peyton hears of a bridge that would be easy to burn down if you could get past the guards, he tries and is caught then hung.


Peyton Farquhar - Planter (owner of a plantation); old family in Alabama

Section One:

  • Man is on a railroad bridge over a river, he has a noose around his neck and his captures are going to kill him by stepping off of a plank which he is balanced on the other side.
  • All the soldiers watching the execution are quiet; "when death comes announced he is received formally" (paraphrased)
  • The man closes his eyes to think of his family before he dies, he hears a metallic ringing, it is his watch; begins to think if he can get his hands loose he will be able to escape; the sergeant steps off of the plank
  • We find out later the man is Peyton Farquhar

Section Two:

  • Peyton Farquar is extremely loyal to the south, and even though he cannot be a soldier he does anything he can to help the cause; "No service was too humble, or too perilous" (paraphrased)
  • A man dressed in grey comes to to the Farquhar's house to ask for water; Farquhar ask about the news on the war front
  • The man tells Farquhar that the "Yanks" are fixing the railroads to make another push on the front; The Man tells Farquhar there is a order posted condemning any civilian interfering with the railroad to be hanged
  • Farquhar ask how much damage would occur to the Owl Creek Bridge if someone was to sneak past the guards; Farquhar is told the bridge would set afire easy due to the dry tow (a bunch of small fibrous material; tinder ) from the rains
  • The man leaves, but it turns out he was a Federal scout

Section Three:

  • The scene goes back to Peyton on the bridge, and continues from the sergeant stepping off of the plank
  • Peyton falls and is in pain, but the rope breaks sending him into the river; he manages to get his hands free and swim to the surface
  • Peyton Farquhar is shot at but is not seriously injured, he manages to get to the river bank and escape capture
  • Farquhar walks into the country, on the way back home he sees everything around him; his senses are perfect
  • Farquhar sees his house, and right before he is able to hug his wife, he is dead;
  • Farquhar never escaped from the bridge; instead his neck is broken from the hanging.

Other Notes:

  • Farquhar actually never left the bridge, only a few seconds have passed since the man stepped off the plank to the moment Farquhar is pronounced dead
  • Farquhar wants to be recognized by people, he thinks soldiers always get that recognition of greatness; but he is unable to be a soldier
  • Farquhar is extremely loyal to the South, and does eveyrthing he can for the Southern cause
  • Farquhar is a fairly wealthy man, from an old family and owns his own plantation; he is respected by the community
  • Farquhar is being hanged for causing problems with the railroad, most likely he tried to set the
    • Owl Bridge on fire , because that is what the scout told him early in the story