Louisa's turn as a nurse lasted only six weeks; the work almost killed her and certainly traumatized her. She caught typhoid fever, the hospital scourge, and her father was called to take her home. Both survived the trip, something the Hawthornes found miraculous. Rosa Hawthorne Lathrop:
"Truly, [Bronson] Alcott was completely at the beck of illusion; and he was always safer alone with it than near the hard uses of adverse reality. I well remember my astonishment when I was told that he had set forth to go into the jaws of the Rebellion after Louisa, his daughter, who had succumbed to typhus [typhoid] fever while nursing the soldiers. His object was to bring her home; but it was difficult to believe that he would be successful in entering the field of misery and uproar. I never expected to see him again."
That rescue mission may have been Bronson's shining moment and her hospital service Louisa's. Some accounts tell us that Dorothea Dix helped out by sending two of her nurses to accompany the Alcotts on the railroad back to Concord.
Once home Louisa was bedridden for weeks (delirious for a few) and woke up to find she was bald. The doctors had ordered her head shaved in Washington to apply blistering chemicals to her scalp. (You might have been better off without doctoring at the time.) Blisters were raised on the scalp with a hot wig or a powder of abrasive concoctions. The blisters were lanced and as they drained the hypothesis was that the toxic humors of typhoid drained away.
Hospital Sketches was her first successful book and for the rest of the war her main occupation was writing---writing to keep her family solvent and writing because she loved to do it.
"When the writing fit came on, she gave herself up to it with entire abandon, and led a blissful life, unconscious of want, care, or bad weather, while she sat safe and happy in an imaginary world, full of friends almost as real and dear to her as any in the flesh. Sleep forsook her eyes, meals stood untasted, day and night were all too short to enjoy the happiness which blessed her only at such times, and made these hours worth living, even if they bore no other fruit. The divine afflatus usually lasted a week or two, and then she emerged from her 'vortex' hungry, sleepy, cross, or despondent."
"Was Louisa Alcott, like so many artists, manic depressive? Certainly her creative pattern and mood swings are consistent with the diagnosis, according to the psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison, an authority on manic-depressive, or bipolar, mental illness."
Louisa was quite productive during the Civil War. Her charitable works for freed slaves' and soldiers' relief organizations included producing plays and dramatic events for fairs. She volunteered to dramatize "Six Scenes from Dickens" in conjunction with the Sanitary Fair held in Boston at Music Hall in December, 1863.
“Things did not go well for want of a good manager and more time," she complained. "Our night was not at all satisfactory to us, owing to the falling through of several scenes for want of actors [but] People liked what there was of it.” And the drama raised $2,500 for the Sanitary Commission's mission.
A—Cut 1 square 2-1/2”.
B—Cut 1 square 5-1/4”. Cut into 4 triangles with two diagonal cuts. You need 4.
C—Cut 8 squares 2-7/8”. Cut each into 2 triangles with one diagonal cut. You need 16 triangles.
B—Cut squares 7-1/4”
C—Cut squares 3-7/8”
16” Block (4” Grid)
A—Cut squares 4-1/2”
B—Cut squares 9-1/4”
D - Cut 4 small squares
8” - 1-1/2”
16” - 2-1/2"
E - Cut 4 squares. Cut into 2 triangles with 1 diagonal cut. You need 8.
8” - 1-7/8”
12” - 2-3/8”
16” - 2-7/8”
F - Cut 1 square. Cut into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts. You need 4.
8” - 3-1/4”
12” - 4-1/4”
16” - 5-1/4”