Part 3. Ladies who ministered to the sick and wounded in camp, field and general hospitals.
- Early life -- teaching -- the Bordentown school -- Obtains a situation in the Patent office -- her readiness to help others -- her native genius for nursing -- removed from office in 1857 -- return to Washington in 1861 -- nursing and providing for Massachusetts soldiers at the Capitol in April, 1861 -- Hospital and sanitary work in 1861 -- death of her father -- Washington hospitals again -- going to the front -- Cedar Mountain -- the second Bull Run battle -- Chantilly -- heroic labors at Antietam -- soft bread -- three barrels of flour and a bag of salt -- thirty lanterns for that night of gloom -- the race for Fredericksburg — Miss Barton as a General purveyor for the sick and wounded -- the battle of Fredericksburg -- under fire -- the rebel officer's appeal -- the confiscated carpet -- after the battle -- in the department of the South -- the sands of Morris Island -- the horrors of the siege of forts Wagner and Sumter -- the reason why she went thither -- return to the North -- preparations for the great campaign -- her labors at Belle Plain, Fredericksburg, White House, and City Point -- return to Washington -- appointed “General correspondent for the friends of paroled prisoners” -- her residence at Annapolis -- obstacles -- the Annapolis plan abandoned -- she establishes at Washington a “Bureau of records of missing men in the armies of the United States” -- the plan of operations of this Bureau -- her visit to Andersonville -- the case of Dorrance Atwater -- the Bureau of missing men an institution indispensable to the Government and to friends of the soldiers -- her sacrifices in maintaining it -- the grant from Congress -- personal appearance of Miss Barton
If those whom the first blast of the war trump roused and called to lives of patriotic devotion and philanthropic endeavor, some were led instinctively to associated labor, and found their zeal inflamed, their patriotic efforts cheered and encouraged by communion with those who were like-minded. To these the organizations of the Soldiers' Aid Societies and of the Sanitary and Christian Commissions were a necessity; they provided a place and way for the exercise and development of those capacities for noble and heroic endeavor, and generous self-sacrifice, so gloriously manifested by many of our American women, and which it has given us so much pleasure to record in these pages. But there were others endowed by their Creator with greater independence of character and higher executive powers, who while not less modest and retiring in disposition than their sisters, yet preferred to mark out their own career, and pursue a comparatively independent course. They worked harmoniously with the various sanitary and other organizations when brought into contact with them, but their work was essentially distinct from them, and was pursued without interfering in any way with that of others. * In the preparation of this sketch of Miss Barton, we have availed ourselves, as far as practicable, of a paper prepared for us by a clerical friend of the lady, who had known her from childhood. The passages from this paper are indicated by quotation marks.  To this latter class pre-eminently belongs Miss Clara Harlowe Barton. Quiet, modest, and unassuming in manner and appearance, there is beneath this quiet exterior an intense energy, a comprehensive intellect, a resolute will, and an executive force, which is found in few of the stronger sex, and which mingled with the tenderness and grace of refined womanhood eminently qualifies her to become an independent power. Miss Barton was born in North Oxford, Worcester County, Massachusetts. Her father, Stephen Barton, Sr., was a man highly esteemed in the community in which he dwelt, and by which his worth was most thoroughly known. In early youth he had served as a soldier in the West under General Wayne, the “Mad Anthony” of the early days of the Republic, and — his boyish eyes had witnessed the evacuation of Detroit by the British in 1796. “His military training may have contributed to the sterling uprightness, the inflexible will, and the devotion to law and order and rightful authority for which he was distinguished.” The little Clara was the youngest by several years in a family of two brothers and three sisters. She was early taught that primeval benediction, miscalled a curse, which requires mankind to earn their bread. Besides domestic duties and a very thorough public school training she learned the general rules of business by acting as clerk and book-keeper for her eldest brother. Next she betook herself to the district school, the usual stepping-stone for all aspiring men and women in New England. She taught for several years, commencing when very young, in various places in Massachusetts and New Jersey. The large circle of friends thus formed was not without its influence in determining her military career. So many of her pupils volunteered in the first years of the war that at the second battle of Bull Run she found seven of them, each of whom had lost an arm or a leg. “One example will show her character as a teacher. She went to Bordentown, N. J., in 1853, where there was not, and never  had been, a public school. Three or four unsuccessful attempts had been made, and the idea had been abandoned as not adapted to that latitude. The brightest boys in the town ran untaught in the streets. She offered to teach a free school for three months at her own expense, to convince the citizens that it could be done; and she was laughed at as a visionary. Six weeks of waiting and debating induced the authorities to fit up an unoccupied building at a little distance from the town. She commenced with six outcast boys, and in five weeks the house would not hold the number that came. The commissioners, at her instance, erected the present school-building of Bordentown, a three-story brick building, costing four thousand dollars; and there, in the winter of 1853-4, she organized the city free-school with a roll of six hundred pupils. But the severe labor, and the great amount of loud speaking required, in the newly plastered rooms, injured her health, and for a time deprived her of her voice — the prime agent of instruction. Being unable to teach, she left New Jersey about the 1st of March, 1854, seeking rest and a milder climate, and went as far south as Washington. While there, a friend and distant relative, then in Congress, voluntarily obtained for her an appointment in the Patent Office, where she continued until the fall of 1857. She was employed at first as a copyist, and afterwards in the more responsible work of abridging original papers, and preparing records for publication. As she was an excellent chirographer, with a clear head for business, and was paid by the piece and not by the month, she made money fast, as matters were then reckoned, and she was very liberal with it. I met her often during those years, as I have since and rarely saw her without some pet scheme of benevolence on her hands which she pursued with an enthusiasm that was quite heroic, and sometimes amusing. The roll of those she has helped, or tried to help, with her purse, her personal influence or her counsels, would be a long one: orphan children, deserted wives, destitute women, sick or unsuccessful relatives, men who had failed in business, and boys who  never had any business-all who were in want, or in trouble, and could claim the slightest acquaintance, came to her for aid and were never repulsed. Strange it was to see this generous girl, whose own hands ministered to all her wants, always giving to those around her, instead of receiving, strengthening the hands and directing the steps of so many who would have seemed better calculated to help her. She must have had a native genius for nursing; for in her twelfth year she was selected as the special attendant of a sick brother, and remained in his chamber by day and by night for two years, with only a respite of one half-day in all that time. Think, O reader! of a little girl in short dresses and pantalettes, neither going to school nor to play, but imprisoned for years in the deadly air of a sick room, and made to feel, every moment, that a brother's life depended on her vigilance. Then followed a still longer period of sickness and feebleness on her own part; and from that time to the present, sickness, danger and death have been always near her, till they have grown familiar as playmates, and she has come to understand all the wants and ways and waywardness of the sick; has learned to anticipate their wishes and cheat them of their fears. Those who have been under her immediate care, will understand me when I say there is healing in the touch of her hand, and anodyne in the low melody of her voice. In the first year of Mr. Buchanan's administration she was hustled out of the Patent Office on a suspicion of anti-slavery sentiments. She returned to New England, and devoted her time to study and works of benevolence. In the winter following the election of Mr. Lincoln, she returned to Washington at the solicitation of her friends there, and would doubtless have been reinstated if peace had been maintained. I happened to see her a day or two after the news came that Fort Sumter had been fired on. She was confident, even enthusiastic. She had feared that the Southern aristocracy, by their close combination and superior political training, might succeed in gradually subjugating the whole country; but of that there was no longer any danger.  The war might be long and bloody, but the rebels had voluntarily abandoned a policy in which the chances were in favor of their ultimate success, for one in which they had no chance at all. For herself, she had saved a little in time of peace, and she intended to devote it and herself to the service of her country and of humanity. If war must be, she neither expected nor desired to come out of it with a dollar. If she survived, she could no doubt earn a living; and if she did not, it was no matter. This is actually the substance of what she said, and pretty nearly the words-without appearing to suspect that it was remarkable.” Three days after Major Anderson had lowered his flag in Charleston Harbor, the Sixth Massachusetts Militia started for Washington. Their passage through Baltimore, on the 19th of April, 1861, is a remarkable point in our national history. The next day about thirty of the sick and wounded were placed in the Washington Infirmary, where the Judiciary Square Hospital now stands. Miss Barton proceeded promptly to the spot to ascertain their condition and afford such voluntary relief as might be in her power. Hence, if she was not the first person in the country in this noble work, no one could have been more than a few hours before her. The regiment was quartered at the Capitol, and as those early volunteers will remember, troops on their first arrival were often very poorly provided for. The 21st of April happened to be Sunday. No omnibuses ran that day, and street cars as yet were not; so she hired five colored persons, loaded them with baskets of ready prepared food, and proceeded to the Capitol. The freight they bore served as countersign and pass; she entered the Senate Chamber, and distributed her welcome store. Many of the soldiers were from her own neighborhood, and as they thronged around her, she stood upon the steps to the Vice President's chair and read to them from a paper she had brought, the first written history of their departure and their journey. These two days were the first small beginnings of her military experience,--steps which naturally led to  much else. Men wrote home their own impressions of what they saw; and her acts found ready reporters. Young soldiers whom she had taught or known as boys a few years before, called to see her on their way to the front. Troops were gathering rapidly, and hospitals — the inevitable shadows of armies — were springing up and getting filled. Daily she visited them, bringing to the sick news, and delicacies and comforts of her own procuring, and writing letters for those who could not write themselves. Mothers and sisters heard of her, and begged her to visit this one and that, committing to her care letters, socks, jellies and the like. Her work and its fame grew week by week, and soon her room, for she generally had but one, became sadly encumbered with boxes, and barrels and baskets, of the most varied contents. Through the summer of 1862, the constant stock she had on hand averaged about five tons. The goods were mainly the contributions of liberal individuals, churches and sewing-circles to whom she was personally known. But, although articles of clothing, lint, bandages, cordials, preserved fruits, liquors, and the like might be sent, there was always much which she had to buy herself.