Clarissa Harlowe "Clara"

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Civil War Historical Figure Sources Handout: Clara Barton ( 1821-1912)

Secondary Source:

Clarissa Harlowe “Clara” Barton was born in North Oxford, Massachusetts, the youngest of five siblings. At a very early age, Clara accelerated at school and became a teacher in Massachusetts at 17 years old. By the time she was 27, she had opened a school in New Jersey where attendance quickly grew to over 600 students. She eventually moved to Washington D.C. and took work in the U.S. Patent Office. When the Civil War started, Barton started working with the soldiers on the front and as a result of her untiring work, she became known as the “Angel on the Battlefield.” Officially, she became known as the superintendent of the Union nurses in 1864 and began obtaining camp and hospital supplies, assistants and military trains for her work on the front. After the war, she traveled to Europe in 1869 and learned about the concept of the Red Cross as outlined in the Treaty of Geneva. Twelve nations had signed the treaty but the U.S. had not. She rallied to have the US join the treaty and helped expand the original concept of the Red Cross to fit the needs of people not only during wartime but in peacetime. Barton was the President of the American National Red Cross for twenty-two years.
Primary Source:
Excerpt from Clara Barton’s journal about caring for the wounded during the battle of Antietam.
And this was the beginning of the battle. You must know that we had passed the supplies the night before; they could not come up until the fate of the day was decided. Those were their orders; they must not risk falling into the hands of the enemy. That was the point I always tried to make, to bridge that chasm, and succor the wounded until the medical aid and supplies should come up. I could run the risk; it made no difference to anyone if I were shot or taken prisoner and I tried to fill that gap. My men unloaded the wagons, and brought up everything the good women of the country had provided; the wounded kept pouring in, and we kept working over them. After a time my stores for feeding the men began to give out; not the other things, oh no there were plenty of those; but of food I had naturally not enough for thousands, and by afternoon the line of wounded stretched out for five miles
Clara Barton testified before Congress on Feb 21, 1866 on behalf of the freedman and how they were treated in the south after the war.
I discovered that they were in a state of ignorance, generally, at that time of their own condition as freedmen. Some of them knew it. They all, of course, mistrusted it. They had all heard it from one another. A few knew it from their masters, and only a few; and what they did hear they had very little confidence to believe. Hearing that a party of Yankees, and especially a Yankee lady, was there, and they commenced to gather around me for the facts, asking me their little questions in their own way, which was to the effect, if they were free, and if Abraham Lincoln was really dead. They had been told that he was dead; that he had been killed; but at the same time they had been informed that, now that he was dead, they were no longer free, but would be all slaves again; and with that had come the suspicion, on their part, that he was not dead, but that it was a hoax to hold them in slavery. They would travel twenty miles in the night, after their day's work was done, and I would find them standing in front of my tent in the morning to hear me say whether it was true that Abraham Lincoln was dead, and that they were free. I told them Abraham Lincoln was dead; that I saw him dead; that I was near him when he died; and that they were free as I was. The next question was what they should do. There were questions between the negro and his master in regard to labor and in regard to pay. I saw or discovered that the masters were inclined to get their labor without pay.”

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