Hospital Sketches

By Louisa May Alcott,

Book cover of Hospital Sketches

Book description

Complete and unabridged paperback edition.

Collection of short stories.

First published in 1863.


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4 authors picked Hospital Sketches as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Early in the war, writer Louisa May Alcott journeyed to the nation’s capital to care for sick and wounded soldiers. Over a period of six weeks, she experienced firsthand the rigors of life in crowded hospital wards as a nurse to men suffering from disease and wounds. She recorded her observations in a series of accounts printed in a Boston newspaper. These writings formed the basis of Hospital Sketches. Published a month after the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, when the outcome of the war remained uncertain, Alcott’s words encouraged other women to support the U.S. war effort,…

Disease killed far more Civil War soldiers than battle did, and the single greatest determinant of survival was nurses. Before she went on to fame as an author, Louisa May Alcott served as just such a Civil War nurse. When war came, Alcott itched for a way to do her part and headed South with eager enthusiasm, which did not disappear but which did run headlong into the tragedy and suffering of war. Alcott herself fell dangerously ill and had to return home before the war’s conclusion. Naming herself “Tribulation Periwinkle,” she then wrote this account, detailing her real-life experiences…

This is Louisa’s firsthand account of her time as a nurse during the Civil War. Written with warmth and humor, the reader can easily see glimpses of Louisa’s writing voice developing. I was particularly drawn to the detailed account and her fond feelings behind John Suhre, her “prince of patients,” a “most attractive” and “comely featured” blacksmith who was badly wounded at Fredericksburg. Louisa was greatly moved by John’s quiet dignity in the midst of his suffering and was determined to nobly share in it with him.

The beautiful language and sweet affection Louisa used to write of John in…

From Heidi's list on Louisa May Alcott and her life.

Before she wrote novels, Louisa May Alcott served as a nurse for the Union. Though her time was cut short by typhoid fever, her vivid memories of those days offer a colorful glimpse into her personal experiences with wounded and sick soldiers.

From Jocelyn's list on women nurses during the Civil War.

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