Sunday, February 26, 2023

Angel of the Battlefield

The Story of Clara Barton

by Cindy Regnier

I can remember learning about Clara Barton in elementary school. For some reason she always fascinated me. I guess I pictured her walking amongst the thousands of wounded civil war soldiers like that scene in Gone With the Wind. She was a brave woman who earned an honored mention in American history books.

Born Clarissa Harlowe Barton, she always preferred to be called Clara. She started out as a schoolteacher, even then pioneering the way as in the mid-eighteen hundreds most teachers were men. She then went to work in the U.S. Patent Office, but when Civil War broke out, she left her job to bring supplies to the troops, often putting her own life at risk to accomplish her missions.

The men in uniform she served were hungry, sick, without bedding or extra clothing. Many were wounded. She began her work by taking supplies to the Sixth Massachusetts infantry that had been attacked in Maryland by Southern sympathizers and were temporarily staying in the unfinished Capitol building. She referred to the men she helped as “her boys” since she had actually grown up with some of them or even taught them in school. She worked in conjunction with several organizations, but was not affiliated with any particular one. Some of the supplies she furnished were acquired by her personal resources. She appealed to the public for others and organized their storage and distribution. 

 Though the supplies she furnished were undoubtedly much needed and appreciated, Clara is perhaps even better known for the personal support she offered the men. She read to them, wrote letters for them, listened to their problems and prayed with them. In short, she sought to offer hope and keep their spirits up, a formidable task in the midst of such hardship.

After much prodding of government leaders on her part, she was finally given passes to bring her services and medical supplies to those on the battlefields and in field hospitals. In these scenes of such intense need and despair, she became known as “The Angel of the Battlefield.” 
One account says that at Antietam, she ordered her supply wagon drivers to follow the cannon. As the battle raged around them, she comforted, nursed, cooked and offered whatever hope she could. At war’s end she became instrumental in establishing a national cemetery around the graves of Union men who died in Andersonville Prison.
In 1869 she visited Europe to “rest” and was introduced to the Red Cross in Geneva Switzerland. With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Barton again went to the war front, but this time she fashioned a cross out of red ribbon and wore it for her own protection. The red cross was actually the reverse of the Swiss National flag which is a white cross on a red field.

After returning to the States. she corresponded with the Swiss Red Cross officials and took her appeal for establishment of a similar organization in the U.S. to President Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes rejected it but later, President James Garfield was about to sign when he was assassinated. Garfield’s successor, Chester Arthur took up the cause, signed the treaty and it was ratified by the Senate. The America Red Cross was born, with Clara Barton at its helm.  

Many other accomplishments too numerous to mention here were credited to Clara Barton before she died at the age of 91 on April 12, 1912, at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland. She was buried in the Barton family cemetery plot in Oxford, Massachusetts.

I have a hard time imagining doing what Clara did. What about you? Could you go to the battlefield to help those in need?

Scribbling in notebooks has been a habit of Cindy Regnier since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She writes stories of historical Kansas, especially the Flint Hills area. Her experiences with the Flint Hills setting, her natural love for history, farming and animals, along with her interest in genealogical research give her the background and passion to write heart-fluttering historical romance.



  1. This was so interesting. I think it is assumed Clara Barton was a nurse and that the Red Cross was established much sooner. As for me I'd be to chicken to do what she did. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Me too! And apparently Clara had no nurse's training. She just did whatever her heart told her needed doing. Much to be admired in that brave woman!

  2. Thank you for posting today. I, too, have been fascinated by Clara Barton. I don't think I could have done what she did. It's a far cry from an office setting to the battlefield, and I wonder if her desire to do the work was driven by something personal.

    1. I've wondered the same thing, Connie. She definitely had a mission and a heart for getting it accomplished. Thanks for stopping by today.

  3. Kudos to women like Clara Barton. Great post! thank you!