Clara Barton’s Civil War Work

March 24, 2011

Clara Barton grew up in a modest household as a farmer’s daughter and the youngest of five children. Over the course of her lifetime, she took risks to save lives and help those in need.  She stands out as a pioneer, an outstanding humanitarian, and one of the most honored women in American history. 

Clara started her work as a trail blazer when she began teaching school at a time most teachers were men, starting New Jersey’s first free public school to offer students with little means an education. But the humanitarian work she is best remembered for began when she was 40 years old at the outbreak of the American Civil War.

Barton demanded and was the first to receive an official pass from the Union Army to distribute supplies to soldiers, quickly becoming known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.”She took great personal risks in order to bring supplies and support to wounded soldiers in the field and witnessed some of the most gruesome battles of the Civil War. As a true humanitarian, she did not discriminate based on personal ties or military allegiance, and instead remained impartial, aiding both Confederate and Union soldiers. 

At the request of President Lincoln, Clara Barton established the Missing Soldiers Office in 1865 and helped locate over 22,000 soldiers in a span of three years.  She also worked tirelessly over the course of three presidencies in persuading the United States to adopt the first Geneva Convention of 1864, codifying international humanitarian law. Continuing her dedication to humanitarian aid, Clara founded the American Red Cross at age 60 and served as the leader of the organization for 23 years. 

Clara Barton’s passion in serving those in need resulted in enough achievements to fill several ordinary lifetimes. Her unwavering devotion to helping people in need is a principle that guided her throughout her life, and has set an example that continues to inspire others.