Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Louisa May's Battle: How the Civil War Led to <i>Little Women</i>

Louisa May's Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women

Kathleen Krull
Illustrator:  Carlyn Beccia 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Bloomsbury, 2013   ISBN: 978-0802796684

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, Louisa May Alcott dearly wished that she could serve as a soldier. Her family had been involved in the smuggling of slaves from the southern states to safety in the north, and President Lincoln’s cause meant a great deal to them. Since she was not allowed to serve in the army, she had to make do with being a nurse.

   Thus it was that Louisa left her home in Concord on December 12th, 1862 and began a long, frightening, and exhausting journey to get to Washington D.C. When she got there she found out that the so called hospital where she was going to work was actually an old hotel, and it was a terrible place full of disease and misery. For the first few days Louisa simply did what she could to take care of the soldiers who had measles, pneumonia, and other contagious diseases. Then a battle took place and hundreds of wounded soldiers started to arrive. The sights, sounds and smells of the men made Louisa indulge “in a most unpatriotic wish that I was safe at home again.”

   Louisa was a modest young woman and she was shocked when she was asked to wash the men, but she rolled up her sleeves and got to work, and for the next twelve hours she washed the patients.

   In the days that followed Louisa brought the patients food, learned how to bandage wounds, held hands during medical procedures, and did everything she could to lift up “her patients’ spirits.”

   Louisa had always been healthy and strong, but the terrible conditions at the hospital were too much even for her and she fell ill. Eventually, Louisa’s father had to come and get her and take her home. Though her health never fully recovered Louisa was determined to do her part to make some money for her family. She decided that she was going to use her skills as a writer to this end, which is just what she did.

   Drawing on letters that Louisa wrote to her family during her time as her nurse and from an article that she wrote about her childhood, the author of this book tells an extraordinary story of a woman who was willing to do her part during a terrible war. She was also able to make a living as a writer, even though she was living in a time when women were not supposed to work for a living.

   At the back of the book readers will find more information about women who worked in the medical profession.