Louisa May Alcott

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connecticut yankee

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 2, 2017
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Image from Louisa May Alcott's Hospital Sketches, 1885

" ... He never spoke again, but to the end held my hand close, so close that when he was asleep at last, I could not draw it away. Dan helped me, warning me as he did so that it was unsafe for dead and living flesh to lie so long together; but though my hand was strangely cold and stiff, and four white marks remained across its back, even when warmth and color had returned elsewhere, I could not but be glad that, through its touch, the presence of human sympathy, perhaps, had lightened that hard hour."

Louisa May Alcott, best-known for her literary career including her famous work Little Women (1868), volunteered as a nurse late in 1862. She served in the Maryland region, tending to wounded soldiers, until she was diagnosed with typhoid pneumonia the following year. Her book Hospital Sketches documents this period of her life. "John" was a soldier who died in Alcott's presence.

 
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DBF

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Thank you for remembering Louisa May Alcott (a wonderful writer). I often forget she served as a nurse until illness forced her to retire after her bout with typhoid pneumonia, And of course the mercury based medical treatment would stay with her forever as she would say: "I was never ill before this time and never well afterward".
 
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LoyaltyOfDogs

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A new book that I look forward to reading discusses Louisa May Alcott's service as a nurse and its profound effect on her writing, "Louisa On the Front Lines: Louisa May Alcott in the Civil War" by Samantha Seiple. Ms. Seiple writes in detail about John, whom she identifies as John Suhre of the 133rd Pennsylvania Infantry, and the everlasting impression that his courage, kindness, and dignity in his final days made on his young nurse. I'd like to read more about him as well, and have just run across an article of interest, titled "Finding Private Suhre: On the Trail of Louisa May Alcott's 'Prince of Patients,'" by John Matteson.
 

Lisa Murphy

Private
Joined
Feb 16, 2019
I love the opening of Hospital Sketches, where Louisa is introducing her decision to be a nurse.
In response to Louisa saying she wants something to do, her family say:

"Write a book," quoth the author of my being.
"I don't know enough, sir. First Live, then write."
"Try teaching again," suggested my mother.
"No thank you, ma'am, ten years of that is enough."
"Take a husband like my Darby, and fulfill your mission," said sister Joan, home on a visit.
"Can't afford expensive luxuries, Mrs. Coobiddy."
"Turn actress and immortalize your name," said my sister Vashti, striking an attitude.
"I won't."
"Go nurse the soldiers," said my young brother, Tom, panting for "the tented field".
"I will!"


Alcott has a absolutely wonderful sense of humor.
 

LoyaltyOfDogs

First Sergeant
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Aug 8, 2011
Location
Gettysburg area
A new book that I look forward to reading discusses Louisa May Alcott's service as a nurse and its profound effect on her writing, "Louisa On the Front Lines: Louisa May Alcott in the Civil War" by Samantha Seiple. Ms. Seiple writes in detail about John, whom she identifies as John Suhre of the 133rd Pennsylvania Infantry, and the everlasting impression that his courage, kindness, and dignity in his final days made on his young nurse. I'd like to read more about him as well, and have just run across an article of interest, titled "Finding Private Suhre: On the Trail of Louisa May Alcott's 'Prince of Patients,'" by John Matteson.
I neglected to provide a link to @Belle Montgomery's earlier post about this book, which directs readers to an insightful review in The Washington Post newspaper. John Matteson's name may also be familiar to CWT members who read @Pat Young's review of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father."
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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John was the blacksmith who suffered so horrendously wasn't he? Her account of his case haunts me.

" Every breath he draws is like a stab ; for the ball pierced the left lung, broke a rib, and did no end of damage here and there ; so the poor lad can find neither forgetfulness nor ease, because he must lie on his wounded back or suffocate. It will be a hard struggle, and a long one, for he possesses great vitality ; but even his temperate life can't save him ; I wish it could."


" You don't mean he must die, Doctor?"


" Bless you, there's not the slightest hope for him; and you'd better tell him so before long ; women have a way of doing such things comfortably, so I leave it to you. He won't last more than a day or two, at furthest."


I could have sat down on the spot and cried heartily, if I had not learned the wisdom of bottling up one's tears for leisure moments.
 

LoyaltyOfDogs

First Sergeant
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Aug 8, 2011
Location
Gettysburg area
John was the blacksmith who suffered so horrendously wasn't he? Her account of his case haunts me.

" Every breath he draws is like a stab ; for the ball pierced the left lung, broke a rib, and did no end of damage here and there ; so the poor lad can find neither forgetfulness nor ease, because he must lie on his wounded back or suffocate. It will be a hard struggle, and a long one, for he possesses great vitality ; but even his temperate life can't save him ; I wish it could."


" You don't mean he must die, Doctor?"


" Bless you, there's not the slightest hope for him; and you'd better tell him so before long ; women have a way of doing such things comfortably, so I leave it to you. He won't last more than a day or two, at furthest."


I could have sat down on the spot and cried heartily, if I had not learned the wisdom of bottling up one's tears for leisure moments.
Yes, @JPK Huson 1863, he is John the blacksmith. But his occupation as blacksmith was evidently poetic license, according to John Matteson's research, as was Alcott's reference to him as a 30-year-old Virginian. She appears to have fictionalized some details about him.
 
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Mrs. V

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May 5, 2017
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Image from Louisa May Alcott's Hospital Sketches, 1885

" ... He never spoke again, but to the end held my hand close, so close that when he was asleep at last, I could not draw it away. Dan helped me, warning me as he did so that it was unsafe for dead and living flesh to lie so long together; but though my hand was strangely cold and stiff, and four white marks remained across its back, even when warmth and color had returned elsewhere, I could not but be glad that, through its touch, the presence of human sympathy, perhaps, had lightened that hard hour."

Louisa May Alcott, best-known for her literary career including her famous work Little Women (1868), volunteered as a nurse late in 1862. She served in the Maryland region, tending to wounded soldiers, until she was diagnosed with typhoid pneumonia the following year. Her book Hospital Sketches documents this period of her life. "John" was a soldier who died in Alcott's presence.

I have read her hospital sketches. She got sick and had to leave a job that she obviously enjoyed.
 
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