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Tag: Louisa May Alcott

Little Women in the Civil War

The carded service record for Louisa May Alcott notes her service as a nurse at the U.S. Army hospital at the Union Hotel in Washington, D.C. Such cards abstract the information found on the original hospital records. Entry 535A, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, Record Group 94.

About 20,000 women volunteered in military hospitals during the Civil War. Unfortunately, the majority of them left little or no written evidence of their sacrifice in the war.

Louisa May Alcott, renowned 19th-century author of Little Women, was one of them, and her service is documented in a Washington, D.C., hospital’s muster roll.

Alcott was an abolitionist from an early age and eager to give her share, however small, to the war effort. She began sewing Union uniforms and badges before serving as a nurse at the age of 30.

As her muster roll indicates, she was stationed at the “Union Hotel U.S.A. General Hospital,” a makeshift military hospital in “Georgetown, D.C.” She served under the superintendent of Union Army nurses, Dorothea Dix, as a “female nurse” for November and December 1862 and received ten dollars pay.

“My greatest pride is in the fact that I lived to know the brave men and women who did so much for the cause, and that I had a very small share in the war which put an end … [ Read all ]

The Mustache: Future of the South?


George Alfred Townsend, Samuel L. Clemens, and David Gray, ca. 1860–ca. 1865 (111-B-2167; ARC 526362)

When you think of Samuel Clemens, do you think of the celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County? His house in Conneticut? A yankee in King Arthur’s court? Or do you think of his full, bushy mustache?

As a child growing up in New England, I felt more familiar with the world of Lousia May Alcott than Samuel Clemens. For me, the world of Huck Finn, rafts, and paddleboats on the Mississippi was a strange and mysterious one, just as the South felt like a distant place, which I imagined was full of alligators and droopy moss and mysterious iced drinks.

Of course, the South is much more than Mark Twain or any clichés. The National Archives holds many records from the region’s past.

But after Hurricane Katrina and the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, what’s in store for the South? Come hear speakers discuss the future of the region on October 5 at a day-long conference (no registration required!). Panels will tackle the relationship between culture and the land, the ecology of the gulf coast, and the future of Southern culture and identity.… [ Read all ]