Clara Barton, Trailblazer

One of most recognized Civil War Trailblazers in my book, Civil War Trailblazers and Troublemakers is Clara Barton.  Her contributions to medical care during and after the war were truly epic.  However, and this is one more of those oddities about the war, Barton insisted that she was not a nurse.  You can read about her in some excerpts below and in the book at:

“Like most of the hundreds of women who engaged in nursing during the Civil War, Clara Barton had neither medical training nor any hint that she would be “good” at this profession.  However, acting on her own initiative, she overcame the prejudices of the age and provided vital services at a time when medical practices were barely adequate.  Modern American nursing was “born” on Civil War battlefields, and Clara Barton was one of its most important parents, even though “nurse” was a title she repeatedly rejected.

Barton was a patent clerk in Washington when she had her first nursing experience, aiding Massachusetts troops attacked by a pro-secessionist mob in Baltimore in April 1861.  Having seen how unprepared medical personnel were, she began to organize and gather supplies in her offices.  In her memoirs, Barton emphasized that she performed this work “to get timely supplies to those needing” rather than being a “nurse.”

After the war, she turned to another trailblazing effort, discovering the identity of the dead and wounded.  Barton solicited letters from families in search of the fate of their loved ones.  Barton claimed that her “Office of Missing Soldiers” identified over 20,000 men out of the nearly 200,000 reported missing and helped arrange for their proper burials.    Barton also was the founding President of the American Red Cross, an organization she led from 1881 to 1904”




Author: geneofva

Author of "Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era," and of seven more Civil War books -- with more to come!!

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