Nearly 100 years after the American declaration of independence in 1776 a civil war almost divided the nation. In the south it was legal to own slaves but most of the northern states were against the idea. In 1860 the new president, Abraham Lincoln, promised to keep slavery out of the southern territories. These southern ‘Slave States’ were not happy and decided to leave the union and form a new nation; the Confederate States of America. In 1861 the fighting started between the Union and the 11 Confederacy states. The industrial north had more weapons and more men available to fight, including lots of European immigrants. The war ended on 9 April 1865 when the Confederacy surrendered to the Union. It was the most violent war in America’s history but slavery was finally abolished.

When the war started in 1861 Louisa May Alcott supported the Union because she was against slavery. As a woman she couldn’t fight so she decided to help the soldiers and become a nurse. She used her experience during the war to create a realistic context for Little Women and the letters of Mr March who wrote to his family from the Union army which he was serving.


Illustration by Paolo D’Altan, taken from Akron House Mystery, by Gina D. B. Clemen, Green Apple, Step One (CEFR A2).