Bierce wrote his stories of the Civil War a few decades after the conflict ended, so he was writing about a historical era that was long gone. In 1890, however, the effects of the war were still ever-present, even if the memories were fading. Historical fiction stories like "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" preserved the memory of the war.
The story also reproduces the emotions of a man shortly before, and during, his death. Farquhar's imaginary journey is a physical and emotional adventure. Bierce's description of Farquhar's sensations during his miraculous escape and his perception of the world around him raises a dying man's thoughts to the level of epic adventure. Freeing himself of his bonds while sinking in a creek, swimming away from bullets, and traveling through a strangely unfamiliar landscape, Farquhar goes on an exhilarating adventure.