**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Clara Barton: "The Angel Of The Battlefields"
by [?]

Eager to have the soldiers given all the comforts and necessities which could be obtained, Miss Barton put an advertisement in the Worcester Spy, asking for supplies and money for the wounded and needy in the Sixth Regiment, and stating that she herself would receive and give them out. The response was overwhelming. So much food and clothing was sent to her that her small apartment overflowed with supplies, and she was obliged to rent rooms in a warehouse to store them.

And now Clara Barton was a new creature. She felt within herself the ability to meet a great need, and the energy which for so long had been pent up within her was poured out in a seemingly unending supply of tenderness and of help for suffering humanity. There was no time now for sensitiveness, or for shyness; there was work to do through the all-too-short days and nights of this struggle for freedom and unity of the nation. Gone was the teacher, gone the woman of normal thought and action, and in her place we find the “Angel of the Battlefields,” who for the remainder of her life was to be one of the world’s foremost figures in ministrations to the suffering, where suffering would otherwise have had no alleviation.

“On the 21st of July the Union forces were routed at Bull Run with terrific loss of life and many wounded. Two months later the battle of Ball’s Bluff occurred, in which there were three Massachusetts regiments engaged, with many of Clara Barton’s lifelong friends among them. By this time the hospitals and commissaries in Washington had been well organized, and there was no desperate need for the supplies which were still being shipped to Miss Barton in great quantities, nor was there need of her nursing. However, she went to the docks to meet the wounded and dying soldiers, who were brought up the Potomac on transports.” Often they were in such a condition from neglect that they were baked as hard as the backs of turtles with blood and clay, and it took all a woman’s swift and tender care, together with the use of warm water, restoratives, dressings, and delicacies to make them at all comfortable. Then their volunteer nurse would go with them to the hospitals, and back again in the ambulance she would drive, to repeat her works of mercy.

But she was not satisfied with this work. If wounds could be attended to as soon as the men fell in battle, hundreds of deaths could be prevented, and she made up her mind that in some way she was going to override public sentiment, which in those early days of the war did not allow women nurses to go to the front, for she was determined to go to the very firing-line itself as a nurse. And, as she had got her way at other times in her life, so now she achieved her end, but after months of rebuffs and of tedious waiting, during which the bloody battle of Fair Oaks had been fought with terrible losses on each side. The seven days’ retreat of the Union forces under McClellan followed, with eight thousand wounded and over seventeen hundred killed. On top of this came the battle of Cedar Mountain, with many Northerners killed, wounded and missing.

One day, when Assistant Quartermaster-General Rucker, who was one of the great-hearts of the army, was at his desk, he was confronted by a bright-eyed little woman, to whose appeal he gave sympathetic attention.

“I have no fear of the battle-field,” she told him. “I have large stores, but no way to reach the troops.”

Then she described the condition of the soldiers when they reached Washington, often too late for any care to save them or heal their wounds. She must go to the battle-front where she could care for them quickly. So overjoyed was she to be given the needed passports as well as kindly interest and good wishes that she burst into tears as she gripped the old soldier’s hand, then she hurried out to make immediate plans for having her supplies loaded on a railroad car. As she tersely put it, “When our armies fought on Cedar Mountain, I broke the shackles and went to the field.” When she began her work on the day after the battle she found an immense amount of work to do. Later she described her experience in this modest way: