Friday, May 30, 2014

Book Review: Louisa May's (Alcott) Battle

Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women, Kathleen Krull, illustrations Carlyn Beccia, Walker Books for Young Readers, New York, 2013.
This is a short story type book with illustrations.  It tells the story of Louisa May Alcott going to Washington to serve as a nurse during the Civil War.  A woman had to be 30 years old to serve, so shortly after her birthday she traveled from her rural home to the city.  She had nursed her sister until her sister died from scarlet fever. 
When she arrived she was placed in charge of a ward of 40 men, who all had various illnesses.  Germs were common. 
However after only three days, she was woken during the night as 40 carts of men, wounded in battle were arriving.  Louisa spent the next twelve hours bathing the men as they came from the battle field.  She was placed in charge of a ward again, but now with more difficult cases, and seeing the effects of war.  She had the graveyard shift and would sing lullabies to the men if they couldn’t sleep.  While she was there, she was able to celebrate the emancipation of the slaves on January 1, 1863 at midnight.
As a result of her service, Louisa almost died.  She contracted Typhoid, and was very sick.  She insisted on staying, but her father came and collected her and took her home.  It took her a couple months to recover, and she was never without complications as a result of her illness, headaches, exhaustion and nerve pain.  She also lost all her hair, which before her illness had reached to her feet when not put up.
Before serving as a nurse she had been a writer, but not very successful.  However she took her letters from the hospital, and they were printed in an antislavery newspaper.  They were then put into a book form.  They were a big success as people were starved for first-hand knowledge of the war.  Eventually she was asked to write a women’s book, and “Little Women” was the result.

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