The story is told in first person by Mr. March, the fictional father from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. He tells of his Civil War experiences through letters home, first person thoughts and memories. The story tells of the horrors of war and slavery. It also includes the very human conflicts and difficulties involved in changing a society and it's power structure. It also touches on human struggles on a smaller scale, the difficulties of human relationships, marriage, keeping a vegetarian diet, equal rights for woman, education of the poor and others.
Characters in the story include real people such as Henry Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. These authors were part of the crowd that Ms. Alcott's family associated with and draws on the semi-autobiographical nature of her books including the belief of some that Mr. March's character was based in part on her father, Bronson Alcott.