Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born in Massachusetts in 1821and would later become the founder of the American Red Cross. Clara, as she preferred to be called, began her lifelong career of helping people and breaking molds began when she became a school teacher. Keep in mind that she was teaching at a time when most teachers were men. She moved to Washington, D.C. And received a job as a patent clerk but her controversial feelings about slavery caused her to lose her job and she moved back to New England where she stayed until the Civil War broke out in 1861. It was then that she moved back to Washington to volunteer in an army infirmary.
It was late in 1861 when her father died so she had no ties to the city anymore and left the hospital to go out in the battlefield. Her first stop was Antietam where a big battle was taking place in September of 1862. With her she brought three Army wagons of supplies, which was a Godsend to the Union Army, especially the overworked surgeons there who were resorting to using corn husks as bandages. She organized men to get fresh water, prepare food and also perform first aid on the wounded soldiers. She attended to both Union and Confederate soldiers. She would then be known as the "angel of the battlefield". Clara Barton traveled around to other Union camps and helped the wounded soldiers there. She purchased supplies through money she had raised and also using her own money, in which President Lincoln made sure she was reimbursed for.
Clara Barton's efforts did not end when the Civil War did. In March of 1865, President Lincoln appointed her as the General Correspondent to the Friends of Paroled Prisoners. It was her job to compile lists of missing soldiers and respond to the correspondence of friends and families of the missing soldiers. In order to do this she used the prison roles, casualty rolls, and the parole roles from the camps at Annapolis, Maryland. Clara Barton was also the woman who made sure that unmarked graves at the infamous Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp were all marked as to whom was buried there.
Clara Barton then formed the Bureau of Records of Missing Men of the Armies of the United States in which she published Rolls of Missing Men and had them posted across the country. Then on this day in history, May 21, 1881, she along with a man named Adolphus Solomons, founded the American National Red Cross to help people in distress from war and natural disasters in coherence with the International Red Cross. Clara Barton was the president of the American Red Cross well into her 80's. The American Red Cross received its first national charter in 1900 and Clara Barton passed in 1912.
Clara Barton was not just involved in the American Civil War as a humanitarian aid. She traveled all over the world and help soldiers in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war. She also arranged for railroad cars full of grains, corn meal and flour to be sent to Russia in the late 1800's to aid them during their famine. Clara Barton made an indelible mark in woman’s history and thanks to her, the American Red Cross is thriving today and is always there to lend a helping hand when it is needed most.