During the Civil War (or the War Between the States or the War of the Northern Aggression -- whichever the wounded or the starving people called it), Clara Barton organized and distributed supplies to the front lines and nursed those in need, no matter which side of the Mason-Dixon line they came from. She went into the Fort Wagner battle with the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, an African American unit, and cared for the wounded, according to American University historian Ed Smith.
For her bravery and compassion, she was called "Angel of the Battlefield."
At war's end, Barton took up an effort vital to families whose friends and relatives had seemed to vanish in the gunfire. Barton, never one to tend to just knitting, set up her apartment and office at the Seventh Street address. For four years, the heroine sent out posters, with lists of people whose friends and family were searching for soldier friends and relatives, alive or dead. Her efforts found 22,000 soldiers, according to Scott.
Barton joined with Frederick Douglass in his battle for African American rights and then Susan B. Anthony in the suffrage movement. In 1869 she went to Europe during the Franco-Prussian conflict, and, true to her passion to help, worked with the International Red Cross. The German emperor awarded her the Iron Cross of Merit.
Back in Washington, she organized the American Red Cross and, of course, became its first president, and for 23 years directed its work. At 79, she went to Galveston, Tex., to help the people suffering from floods there. She retired at 82, and lived at Glen Echo, until her death at 91 in 1921.
A poem by Barton explains her life's work:
in their hearts God had planted the seed
Of pity for women, and help for its needs;
They saw, in high purpose, a duty to do,
And the armor of right broke the barriers through.
Uninvited, unaided, unsanctioned ofttimes
With pass, or without it, they pressed on the lines
They would bind on their "brassards" and march to the fray.
And the man liveth not who could say them nay;
They would stand with you now, as they stood with you then
The nurses, consolers, and saviours of men.
Page Added: 15 April 2000