Beloved American children's author Louisa May Alcott worked as an army nurse in Union Hospital in Washington, D.C. for six weeks during the Civil War. Portions of letters sent home to Concord, Massachusetts were collected and published as Hospital Sketches in 1863. In this excerpt, Alcott writes of the final days of a Virginia blacksmith named John: "The only time I saw his composure disturbed, was when my surgeon brought another to examine John, who scrutinized their faces with an anxious look, asking of the elder: 'Do you think I will pull through, sir?'" This short work is part of Applewood's "American Roots," series, tactile mementos of American passions by some of America's most famous writers and thinkers.
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