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

“Five days and nights with three hours’ sleep–a narrow escape from capture–and some days of getting the wounded into hospitals at Washington brought Saturday, August 30th. And if you chance to feel that the positions I occupied were rough and unseemly for a woman, I can only reply that they were rough and unseemly for men. But under all, lay the life of a nation. I had inherited the rich blessing of health and strength of constitution such as are seldom given to women, and I felt that some return was due from me and that I ought to be there.”

The famous army nurse had served her novitiate now, and through the weary years of the war which dragged on with alternate gains and losses for the Union forces, Clara Barton’s name began to be spoken of with awe and deep affection wherever a wounded man had come under her gentle care. Being under no society or leader, she was free to come or go at will. But from the first day of her work at the front she was encouraged in it by individual officers who saw the great value of what she accomplished.

At Antietam, when the fighting began, her wagons were driven through a field of tall corn to an old homestead, while the shot whizzed thick around them. In the barnyard and among the corn lay torn and bleeding men–the worst cases, just brought from the places where they had fallen. All was in confusion, for the army medical supplies had not yet arrived, and the surgeons were trying to make bandages of corn husks. The new army nurse immediately had her supplies unloaded and hurried out to revive the wounded with bread soaked in wine. When her bread gave out there were still many to be fed. All the supplies she had were three cases of unopened wine.

“Open the wine, and give that,” she commanded, “and God help us.”

Her order was obeyed, and as she watched the cases being unpacked her eyes fell on the packing around the bottles of wine. It was nicely sifted corn-meal. If it had been gold dust it could not have been more valuable. The wine was unpacked as quickly as possible; kettles were found in the farm-house, and in a twinkling that corn-meal was mixed with water, and good gruel for the men was in the making. Then it occurred to Miss Barton to see what was in the cellar of the old house, and there three barrels of flour and a bag of salt were found, stored by the rebels and left behind when they marched away. “What wealth!” exclaimed the woman, who was frantically eager to feed her flock. All that night Clara Barton and her workers carried buckets of hot gruel up and down the long lines to the wounded and dying men. Then up to the farm-house went the army nurse, where, in the dim light of a lone flickering candle, she could dimly see the surgeon in charge, sitting in apparent despair by the table, his head resting in his hands. She tiptoed up to him and said, quietly, “You are tired, doctor.”

Looking up, he exclaimed: “Tired? Yes, I am tired! Tired of such heartlessness and carelessness! And,” he added, “think of the condition of things. Here are at least one thousand wounded men; terribly wounded, five hundred of whom cannot live till daylight without attention. That two-inch of candle is all I have, or can get. What can I do? How can I bear it?”

A smile played over Clara Barton’s clear-cut face. Gently but firmly she took him by the elbow and led him to the door, pointing toward the barn, where dozens of lanterns gleamed like stars.

“What is it?” he exclaimed.

“The barn is lighted,” she said, “and the house will be directly.”

“Who did it?”

“I, doctor.”

“Where did you get them?”

“Brought them with me.”

“How many have you?”