The Civil War is present in Alcott's Little Women, but it is a marginal part of the story. At the beginning of the novel, as Mr. March is away serving as a chaplain in the war, but he later returns and does not spend much time talking about the war. When he is away, Mrs. March and her daughters read his heartwarming letters from the front. Most of the action, however, occurs far from the war and concerns the domestic travails of the four March sisters.
There are many theories about why Louisa May Alcott relegated the war to a minor place in the novel. She herself had served as a nurse during the war and had suffered from typhoid, which was treated with mercury. Her treatment would cause years of ailments. Her book, however, was a paean to the sweet domestic novel of the time, and, hoping to sell enough copies to put herself and her family on secure financial footing, Louisa May Alcott did not make the war central to the action of the book. She was hoping to write a book that was endearingly domestic and in which the power of the home could overcome most obstacles (save Beth's illness and death). She therefore made the war occupy only a minor role in the novel—one that only emphasizes the comforts of home, far from the front.
Fetterley, Judith. "'Little Women': Alcott's Civil War.' Feminist Studies Vol. 5, No. 2 (Summer, 1979), pp. 369-383. Published by: Feminist Studies, Inc. DOI: 10.2307/3177602.