Louisa May Alcott

October 30, 2020

In December 1862, Louisa May Alcott began her service as a Union army nurse at a ramshackle hospital in Georgetown. Less than a week later, she met a wounded man who changed her life. John Suhre, a Pennsylvania blacksmith, had been shot through the lung in a desperate assault on the Confederate line at Fredericksburg. Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar John Matteson will explore the strange journeys that brought the two together and will show how Alcott’s encounter with Private Suhre altered the course of her career and the history of American literature.


John Matteson is a Distinguished Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the City University of New York. His first book, Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. His second book, The Lives of Margaret Fuller, received the Ann M. Sperber Prize for an outstanding biography of a journalist. A graduate of Harvard Law School and the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Professor Matteson has recently completed A Worse Place than Hell: How the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg Changed a Nation, which will be published by W. W. Norton in February 2021.

This season was generously supported by the following friends and partners:

Categories: History, Literature & Poetry