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Books Unbound – Hospital Sketches’ by Louisa May Alcott, Part Three


Both Louisa May Alcott and Walt Whitman were profoundly affected by the aftermath of the Battle of Fredericksburg during the American Civil War. In today’s episode, Alcott’s alter-ego nurse stays by the side of the mortally wounded soldier John, who embodies wartime ideals of nobility in suffering and self-sacrifice. Her account, read by Sarah Torbeck, is complemented by one of Walt Whitman’s poems about his own experiences as an army nurse, “The Wound Dresser,” read by Frank Buzolich. Heather Perry hosts.

Doug Storm, who announces for the Books Unbound series, interviews Pulitzer-Prize winning scholar John Matteson on the real-life John, and the effect of the battle on the course of American culture: it shaped and launched Alcott’s writing career, and marked a new direction in the poetry of Whitman, whose brother was wounded at Fredericksburg. An extended interview with Matteson can be heard in an episode of WFHB’s Interchange..

In the final segment of today’s episode, an illness sidelines Nurse Periwinkle, who uses her off-duty time to explore her independence as a working woman.

Special music comes from the Trio in E-flat Major for Piano, Violin and Horn, Op. 40 (1865) of Johannes Brahms, as performed at the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest 2014. Break music comes from “The Vacant Chair” and “The Invalid Corps,” performed by the 97th Regimental String Band. “Weeping Sad and Lonely” is performed on violin by Joseph B. Huck, from his album The Red Violin (self-released, 2008). Sound effects from Civil War reenactments by Freesound.org. Theme music by The Impossible Shapes.

Hospital Sketches is produced and written by Cynthia Wolfe, with production assistance from Doug Storm and Heather Perry, and edited by Cynthia Wolfe and Sarah Torbeck. Executive producer is Joe Crawford.


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