The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Life of Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross (Vol. 2 of 2)

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: The Life of Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross (Vol. 2 of 2)

Author: William E. Barton

Release date: April 30, 2022 [eBook #67954]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922

Credits: MWS and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)













With Illustrations


Publisher mark



The Riverside Press Cambridge




The Riverside Press





I. First Knowledge of the Red Cross 1
II. The Franco-Prussian War 10
III. Her Illness Following the Franco-Prussian War 55
IV. Returning Home 77
V. The Years of Sickness and Recovery 88
VI. The Forerunners of the Red Cross 115
VII. The Years of Lonely Struggle 120
VIII. The Birth of the American Red Cross 144
IX. The Trials of a Treaty 161
X. The Perils of Success 172
XI. Clara Barton at Sherborn 199
XII. The Red Cross in Peace 215
XIII. Clara Barton at Home and Abroad 259
XIV. Clara Barton in Cuba 280
XV. Clara Barton’s Retirement from the Red Cross 294
XVI. Clara Barton at Home 307
XVII. Clara Barton’s Religion 317
XVIII. The Personality of Clara Barton 326
XIX. Clara Barton’s Last Years 361
XX. Clara Barton’s Death and Resurrection 369
Index 381


Clara Barton at Eighty Frontispiece
Photograph by Clara Barton Drew
Facsimile of Prince Bismarck’s Letter 32
Facsimile of Strassburg Diploma of Honor 40
Decorations of Clara Barton 256
Clara Barton’s Summer House at Oxford, Massachusetts 308
In the Cemetery at Oxford: Grave and Red Cross Monument 376

[Pg 1]



When in 1869 Clara Barton went to Europe in quest of health, she had never so much as heard of the Red Cross. That organization had been in existence in Europe for more than five years, but the number of people in America who knew anything about it was exceedingly small. The United States was not then a member of the international organization which recognized the Red Cross, nor did it become a member for many years thereafter. This was not because the United States Government did not know about it, but because this country had no purpose or desire to join in an organization established in Europe for purposes in which it was generally believed this country had no occasion to participate.

It is necessary to be explicit on this subject. The meeting which gave the Red Cross to the world took place at Geneva, Switzerland, on February 29, 1863. At the call of a committee, which already had behind it the formal endorsement of eleven national governments, the international organization was formed in Geneva on August 22, 1864. At this meeting the cross of red upon a white ground was adopted as the insignia of the convention.[Pg 2] Twenty-two governments promptly gave their adherence to this convention. The United States was not among them, although it had been formally invited to be present.

The Red Cross did not lack for an advocate in America in that early day. The Reverend Henry W. Bellows, D.D., chairman of the Sanitary Commission of the United States, earnestly desired that America should have been among the original nations adhering to the treaty; but his pleadings were met with indifference and with pronounced opposition. Mr. George P. Fogg, United States Minister to Switzerland, and Mr. Charles S. P. Bowles, European Agent of the Sanitary Commission, were informally present at the Geneva Convention. The Secretary of State authorized Mr. Fogg “to attend the meeting in an informal manner, for the purpose of giving or receiving such suggestions as you may think likely to promote the humane ends which have prompted it.” He added that Mr. Fogg was not to attend if any emissary of the Confederate Government was allowed to be there.

It is interesting and gratifying to know that Mr. Bowles was able to report to the convention concerning the important work done in America by the Sanitary Commission. But neither Mr. Fogg nor Mr. Bowles could give any assurance that the United States would do anything toward the formal endorsement of the Red Cross, or become a member of the convention.

Dr. Bellows exhausted all his efforts to secure some recognition of the movement in America, and finally gave it up in despair. From February 9, 1863, when the movement began in Geneva, until May 20, 1881, when James G. Blaine wrote to Clara Barton that President[Pg 3] Garfield would recommend to Congress the adoption of the international treaty, was a period of eighteen years, during which time the United States of America turned a deaf ear to every entreaty to participate in the work of the Red Cross. That the United States even at that late date came to be a participant in the results of the Geneva Convention was due to the untiring faith, devotion, and perseverance of Clara Barton.

She was not one among many good women working for this common end. She was not a member of a committee or other organization beginning feebly, but gradually gaining strength until the object was accomplished. Alone she learned of the Red Cross; alone she brought tidings of it back to her own country; alone she wrote of it, talked of it, brought it to the attention of distinguished men, carried her faith in it from desk to desk in Washington, and cherished the hope of it through long years, until just before the assassination of President Garfield, she received from him, through his Secretary of State, the assurance that the United States would accept the treaty which thirty-one national governments had previously adopted.

In September, 1869, Clara Barton went abroad in quest of health. For several months following the loss of her voice on the platform she had been fighting nervous prostration in America, and had found that she must turn her back on everything that suggested work. Acting under medical advice, she sailed in September, and, after a short sojourn in Scotland with no more than a look at London and Paris, she came to Geneva in Switzerland, bearing letters of introduction from the Swiss Minister in Washington, the Honorable John Hitz, to the American[Pg 4] Consul and the American Ambassador. It was there Clara Barton learned of the Red Cross.

Had she but known it, a Red Cross Society had actually been formed in the United States in 1866, but had died without securing national recognition or attracting public attention. Of that organization we shall have occasion to speak hereafter. It was called “The American Association for the Relief of the Misery of Battlefields.” Information concerning it is preserved in a letter of the Reverend Henry W. Bellows, D.D., President, to Monsieur J. Henri Dunant, Secrétaire du “Comité International de Secours aux Militaires Blessés.” The few people who knew of this organization in 1866 had very nearly forgotten about it by 1869, and its great-hearted organizer, Dr. Bellows, had become completely discouraged with respect to any recognition of the movement in America. How Clara Barton came into touch with this organization as it existed abroad she told in a lecture which she prepared and delivered in a number of places on her return from Europe at the close of the Franco-Prussian War. As during this period her health was so poor that her diary was kept with great irregularity, this lecture gives us our best account of her journey and succeeding events:

Most of you, I presume, know of me only as connected with our own war, and probably little of that, and, unless I give a word of explanation, it will remain a mystery to you how I ever came near a war in another country, and, in military parlance, we must connect the two by a “pontoon bridge,” and get ourselves across on it.

Our war closed in the spring of ’65. Almost four years longer I worked among the débris, gathering up the wrecks, and sometimes, during the lecture season, telling a few simple[Pg 5] war-stories to the people over the country, in their halls and churches.

One early winter evening in ’68 I stood on the platform of one of the finest new opera houses in the East, filled to repletion, it seemed to me, with the most charming audience I had ever beheld,—plumed and jeweled ladies, stalwart youths, reverend white-haired men. Gradually, and to my horror, I felt my voice giving out, leaving me; the next moment I opened my mouth, but no sound followed. Again, and again, and again I attempted it, with no result. It was finished! Nervous prostration had declared itself. I went to my home in Washington, lay helpless all winter. Finally, by my physicians I was ordered to Europe, and in early September, ’69, I was able to go.

I came in time to Geneva, when, while we were waiting, anticipating and settling ourselves, one day there was announced a visit from a body of Geneva gentlemen, having some business with me.

They introduced themselves as the officers of a society known as the International Convention of Geneva,—more familiarly, the Red Cross,—having for its object the amelioration of the sufferings of war, the succor and nursing of the wounded and sick in battle, the relief of prisoners, the guarding against famine and pestilence, and whatever may befall a people, under the scourge of war.

And this, in its international character, extends not alone to its own, but to all nations within the compact.

This society had been formed in 1865, at the instance of Dr. Louis Appia,—there present,—a noted surgeon in the Italian wars of Napoleon III, who had at that date called a convention composed of delegates from the civilized nations of the whole world, formed their laws for international neutral action in all wars extending to all peoples, framed their treaty and presented it for signature, through the delegates present, to the nations which they respectively represented. In less than two years this compact had been signed and entered into by twenty-five distinct governments comprising all the civilized and some semi-civilized nations of the globe.

With your kind permission, I will depart for a few moments from my narrative and speak of the nature of the international compact, which may not be familiar to you.

[Pg 6]

This treaty, consisting of ten articles, and making material changes in the articles of war governing the medical and hospital departments of all armies, provided among other things for entire neutrality concerning all hospitals for the care of sick and wounded men; that they should not be subject to capture; that not only the sick and wounded themselves, but the persons in attendance upon them, as surgeons, hospital stewards, and nurses should be held neutral, and free from capture; that surgeons, chaplains, and nurses, in attendance upon the wounded of a battle-field at the time of its surrender, should be regarded as non-combatants, not subject to capture, and left unmolested to care for the wounded so long as any remained upon the field, and, when no longer needed for this, be safely escorted to their own lines, and given up; that soldiers too badly wounded to be capable of again bearing arms should not be carried away as prisoners, but offered to their own army if in retreat it could take them. They must be placed in hospitals and cared for, side by side with the wounded of the enemy; that all convoys of wounded or evacuations of posts should be protected by absolute neutrality; that all supplies designed for the use of the sick or wounded should be held as neutral and entirely exempt from capture by either belligerent army; that it should be the duty of both generals in command to apprise the inhabitants, in the vicinity of a battle about to take place, of the fact that any house which should take in and entertain the wounded of either side would be placed under military protection, and remain so as long as any wounded remained therein, and that they would be also exempt from the quartering of troops and ordinary contributions of war, thus literally converting every house in the vicinity of a battle into a furnished hospital and making nurses of its inmates.

In order to carry into effect these great changes, it would be needful to have some one distinctive sign, a badge by which all these neutral peoples and stores could be designated. There must be but one hospital flag among all nations within the treaty, and this same sign must mark all persons and things belonging to it. The convention studied diligently for this sign; at length it got so far as to decide that a cross would be acceptable to nearly all peoples. They next said, “We represent here the great war-making monarchy of the world.”

[Pg 7]

This little Republic of Switzerland, so small that one of us could crush her between our thumb and finger, has had the courage to invite us here to consider our cruelties and call upon us for some better system of kindness and humanity than we have heretofore practiced. For this brave lesson she deserves something of us. We cannot take her flag; she has fought a thousand years for that, and will not give it up; but if she permits, we will reverse its colors—a white cross upon a red ground—and make a red cross on a white ground the one distinctive sign of humanity in war, the world over. The consent was given and this committee of gentlemen who had called the convention, with Monsieur Gustave Moynier as its president, was reëlected by all the nations as the international medium and head of war relief throughout the civilized world. To anticipate a little, I would say here that our adhesion to this treaty in 1882 has changed our articles of war; our military hospital flag. We have no longer the old faded yellow flag, but a bright red cross at every post, and the same sign to be worn by all military surgeons and attendants, if the orders of the War Department have as yet reached them, for we are to-day, you will be glad to know, not only in full accord with this International Treaty of Geneva, but are considered one of the strongest pledged nations within it.

There were at this time thirty-one nations in this great compact, comprising all the civilized and even some of the semi-civilized nations of the globe, all with one great and incomprehensible exception, the United States of America.

It had been three times presented to our Government; once at its formation during our war and twice since, without success, and without any reason, which, to the members of the convention, seemed sufficient or intelligent.

And it was to ask of me the real nature of the grounds of this declination that the interview had been sought.

If there were something objectionable in their articles, they might be modified to meet our laws, or even our prejudices—that some clue might be gained, which they could understand. They had thought of everything. If it had originated in a monarchical government, they could see some justifiable caution, but a sister Republic older than our own—and yet all monarchies had signed it. In their perplexity they had come to me for a solution of the problem. What could I say? What[Pg 8] could each or any of you have said, if confronted with this question?

Simply that you did not know anything about it, and you were sure the American people did not know anything about it, or ever had heard of it. That the Government, or rather some officer of the Government, to whom the matter had been assigned, had decided upon and declined it individually, and it had never been considered in the national councils, nor in any way made known to the people.

I knew it must be so: that it had simply gone by default with no real objection; that our Government was too rushing to attend to details outside of political influence.

I could only answer these gentlemen that I feared the matter was not sufficiently understood, being in a foreign language, and I hoped it could be better presented at some future time. I need not say that this committee of seven members and myself became friends.

I read their Articles of Convention, their published bulletins and all reports, and, as we progress, we shall see if, in the dark days that followed, I found reason to respect the cause and appreciate the work of the Geneva Convention.

On Miss Barton’s arrival in Switzerland she made her home with the Golay family, father and mother of Jules Golay whom she had befriended in America, and who extended to her every possible courtesy while she was in their home and in their country.

Switzerland is beautiful in summer and early autumn, but in winter it is no improvement on New England. The beginning of cold weather found Miss Barton in discomfort. She celebrated Thanksgiving, and soon afterward left Switzerland for a milder climate.

She had a cordial invitation to spend the winter in London, but declined the opportunity. London fogs are inhospitable even to Londoners, and, to any one in Clara Barton’s condition of health, they are most depressing. She determined instead to go to the Island of Corsica.

[Pg 9]

Corsica did not agree with Clara Barton. The mild weather was favorable, but she found that she needed as much quinine there as she had required in the South. In the spring she returned to Switzerland, where her home was at the United States Consulate with Mr. and Mrs. Upton, and where she resided from March until the 26th of May. Then she went to Berne for the sake of some baths which had been highly recommended to her. While there, an event occurred which caused her to forget that she was an invalid in search of health.

[Pg 10]


While Miss Barton was at Berne, in the villa of a friend, the Franco-Prussian War broke suddenly upon Europe. Nothing that happens in France or Germany fails to register influence at once on Switzerland. While she was there she received a call from Louise, the Grand Duchess of Baden, who, having learned of the presence there of an American woman so distinguished in war relief, invited her to go to Strassburg, which was in a state of siege, and prepare for the relief which already had become necessary and soon would be urgent. The baths were not so complete a tonic as this call to service. Yet it did not seem to her that she was strong enough to undertake this work.

Only a little later she had another invitation from Dr. Louis Appia, who had been one of the movers in the Geneva Convention. This was her opportunity to witness the actual work of the organization of which she had heard:

On the 15th of July, 1870, France declared war against Prussia. Within three days a band of agents from the International Committee of Geneva, headed by Dr. Louis Appia (one of the prime movers of the convention), equipped for work and en route for the seat of war, stood at the door of my villa inviting me to go with them and take such part as I had taken in our own war. I had not strength to trust for that, and declined with thanks, promising to follow in my own time and way, and I did follow within a week. No shot had been fired—no man had fallen. Yet this organized, powerful commission was on its way, with its skilled agents, ready to receive,[Pg 11] direct, and dispense the charities and accumulations which the generous sympathies of twenty-two nations, if applied to, might place at its disposal. These men had treaty power to go directly on to any field, and work unmolested in full cooperation with the military and commanders-in-chief; their supplies held sacred and their efforts recognized and seconded in every direction by either belligerent army. Not a man could lie uncared for nor unfed. I thought of the Peninsula in McClellan’s campaign, of Pittsburg Landing, Cedar Mountain, and second Bull Run, Antietam, Old Fredericksburg, with its acres of snow-covered and gun-covered glacée, and its fourth-day flag of truce; of its dead, and starving wounded, frozen to the ground, and our commission and their supplies in Washington, with no effective organization to get beyond; of the Petersburg mine, with its four thousand dead and wounded and no flag of truce, the wounded broiling in a July sun, dying and rotting where they fell. I remembered our prisons, crowded with starving men whom all the powers and pities of the world could not reach even with a bit of bread. I thought of the widows’ weeds still fresh and dark through all the land, north and south, from the pine to the palm; the shadows on the hearths and hearts over all my country. Sore, broken hearts, ruined, desolate homes! Was this a people to decline a humanity in war? Was this a country to reject a treaty for the help of wounded soldiers? Were these the women and men to stand aloof and consider? I believed, if these people knew that the last cloud of war had forever passed from their horizon, the tender, painful, deathless memories of what had been would bring them in with a force no power could resist. They needed only to know.

Soon Clara Barton was on her way to the front. She went, not to Strassburg, but to Basle, where she witnessed with great satisfaction the efficiency of the Red Cross system. Basle is in Switzerland, just at the German border, but there representatives of both belligerent nations had their headquarters for purposes of relief of suffering. The Red Cross, protected by international agreement, had its base of supplies in neutral territory,[Pg 12] and the agents of both armies organized their relief forces without molestation from each other. Wherever a battle occurred, relief could be and was provided in many cases before the first drop of blood was shed. Miss Barton’s admiration for the work of this society grew as she contrasted its efficiency with the unpreparedness and deadly delay which she had known all too well through the Civil War:

As I journeyed on and saw the work of these Red Cross societies in the field, accomplishing in four months under their systematic organization what we failed to accomplish in four years without it—no mistakes, no needless suffering, no starving, no lack of care, no waste, no confusion, but order, plenty, cleanliness, and comfort wherever that little flag made its way, a whole continent marshaled under the banner of the Red Cross—as I saw all this, and joined and worked in it, you will not wonder that I said to myself, “If I live to return to my country, I will try to make my people understand the Red Cross and that treaty.” But I did more than resolve, I promised other nations I would do it, and other reasons pressed me to remember my promise. The Franco-Prussian War and the war of the Commune were both enormous in the extent of their operations and in the suffering of individuals. This great modern international impulse of charity went out everywhere to meet and alleviate its miseries. The small, poor countries gave of their poverty and the rich nations poured out abundantly of their vast resources. The contributions of those under the Red Cross went quietly, promptly through international responsible channels, were thoughtfully and carefully distributed through well-known agents; returns, accurate to a franc, were made and duly published to the credit of the contributing nations, and the object aimed at was accomplished.

France, Germany, and Switzerland had been in the international compact for years past, all organized, every town and city with its Red Cross Relief Committee, its well-filled workrooms like our relief societies in our war, but all prepared in times of peace and plenty, awaiting the emergency.

[Pg 13]

The Swiss headquarters were at Basle, bordering on both France and Germany; and there all the supplies were to be sent and held on call from the hundreds of workers at the fields, for the use of the sick and wounded of either side indiscriminately wherever the need was found greatest. The belligerent nations had each its own headquarters; that of Germany at Berlin, with the Empress Augusta at its head; that of France, at Paris, under the auspices of its lovely Empress.

But you will understand that the international feature of this requires that all contributions from other nations be sent through the international headquarters; hence, no people within the compact, except the belligerents, could send direct to either France or Germany, but must correspond with the Central Committee at Geneva, and learn from it the place of greatest need and the proper agents on the spot to whom the consignment should be made. This wise provision both marked and sustained their neutrality.

Up to this moment, no point beyond Basle had been reached. This was, then, the great central dépôt of the International Red Cross, and it was worth something to have seen it as I saw it in less than two weeks after the sudden declaration, a declaration as unexpected as if some nation should declare war against us to-morrow.

My first steps were to the storehouses, and to my amazement I found there a larger supply than I had ever seen at any one time in readiness for the field at our own Sanitary Commission rooms in Washington, even in the fourth year of the war; and the trains were loaded with boxes and barrels pouring in from every city, town, and hamlet in Switzerland, even from Austria and northern Italy, and the trained, educated nurses stood awaiting their appointments, each with this badge upon the arm or breast, and every box, package, or barrel with a broad bright scarlet cross, which rendered it as safe and sacred from molestation (one might almost say) as the bread and wine before the altar.

You will conclude that quiet old historic Basle was, by this time, a busy city. It was frightened out of its senses. Bordering on both France and Germany, it lay directly on the possible march of either army on its way to the other; and the moment Switzerland shall allow this crossing, her neutrality will be declared broken, and not only Basle, but all Switzerland, will[Pg 14] be held in a state of actual war and become common battleground for both.

I passed a week in that city among this work, to learn it more thoroughly, to be able to judge it in its practical bearings, its merits and demerits, so far as I could, before giving my qualifications and endorsement. You will not wonder that Basle felt her responsibility and trembled for both her own safety and the safety of the State!

Not very long did she remain in Basle. Soon a dispatch was received from Mülhausen, and Clara Barton, no longer an invalid, set out again for the front. She was not alone; accompanying her was a young woman who thenceforth became her companion, and who some years later followed her to America, Miss Antoinette Margot. Accompanied by this devoted girl, she set forth as she had done nine years before, for the relief of suffering on the battle-field. She told the story of it in an address which she gave afterward, which was little more than a transcript of her diary:

A mile from Basle, we met the pickets, but passed without serious interruption for the first six miles, when the detentions became longer, and the road lined with fugitives fleeing to Switzerland, entire families, carrying such articles as were possible: the better classes in family and public carriages; the next, in farmer and peasant wagons, drawn by horses, oxen, cows, and often the animals of the family accompanying the wagon which contained the most useful articles for an emergency—kettles, beds, and clothing.

Those who could not afford this style of removal were wearily but hastily trudging along on foot, carrying in their arms such as their strength would allow, and the tired children plodding along on behind, or drawn in little carts, with bundles of clothing and bits of bread.

Sometimes a family was fortunate to have a cow or a goat with them when they had no wagon. Sometimes, after the Bernese custom, a large dog drew the wagon of luggage. But[Pg 15] in some manner all were making on, often in tears, and always with grief in their faces. All day we saw but two carriages going in our direction. But all whom we met looked at us in astonishment. “The Prussians are coming,” or, “There has been a terrible battle and everybody is being killed. Turn back, turn back!

Sometimes one would be so earnest as to come to the heads of our horses, to urge us to return, and it was not always easy to keep our driver in heart.

At —— we were met and stopped by a large body of people, the mayor at the head, and our destination inquired, and at the same time informed that it was exceedingly hazardous to proceed, as great battles were going on at a short distance from Mülhausen, and that the Prussians were crossing the Rhine in great force. But when to all this we replied that we were aware of the state of things, and that was the reason of our going, that we went to care for the wounded of the battles, they all cried with one voice, “Mon Dieu—God bless you,” and the old white-haired mayor led the way to the side of our carriage, to take our hands, exclaiming, “God preserve and be with you, my children, and He is with you, or you would not be here on this mission.” And the crowd that jostled in the street, one after another, followed his example, with the tears falling over their faces, even to the little children to whom we reached down our hands to reach theirs, or to touch them as they were held up to us.

No wonder they wept! Their fathers, sons, and brothers would be in the bloody carnage so soon to follow. Already they had bade to God only knows how many the last farewell.

At length they let go our bridles and we passed on, and, with such scenes every moment in some form occurring, we performed the remainder of our journey to Mülhausen.

We made our way directly to the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross of Mülhausen, Monsieur August Dolfus.

A dispatch had just been received from the International Committee of the Red Cross at Mülhausen, France, inviting me to come there. Dr. Appia and his noble band of pioneers had evidently passed that way. This would be in a direct line to Strassburg, and the field of Weissenburg, and I decided to leave by the earliest train next morning.

[Pg 16]

As good fortune would have it, there came to me at this moment a kind-featured, gentle-toned, intelligent Swiss girl, who had left the canter de vaud to go alone to care for the wounded. The society introduced her to me.

Perhaps it would be well to anticipate so far as to speak of this young lady more fully, for all through you will know her as my faithful Antoinette—Antoinette Margot, Swiss by birth, French by cultivation, education, and habit. The two national characteristics met and joined in her. The enthusiasm of the one, the fidelity of the other, were so perfectly blended and balanced in her, that one could never determine which prevailed. No matter, as both were unquenchable, unconquerable. She was raised in the city of Lyons, France, an only daughter, and at that age an artist of great note, even in the schools of artistic France. Fair-haired, playful, bright, and confiding, she spoke English as learned from books, and selected her forms of expression by inference. One day she made the remark that something was “unpretty.” Observing a smile on my face, she asked if that were not correct. I replied that we do not say “unpretty” in English. “No. But you say unwise, unselfish, unkind, and ungrateful—why not unpretty?” “I do not know,” I answered. I didn’t either.

There was something in that face to be drawn to “at sight,” and to her astonishment and delight I told her she might accompany me.

Scarce was this arrangement completed when breathless messengers rushed to tell us that the French still fled before the troops of the Prince Royal, that the Prussians were marching direct upon the Rhine, if indeed it were not already crossed, and that the French had destroyed their railroad to Strassburg, that the rolling-stock of the road had been run off to save it, and that even the station was closed.

This was after dark—the news was not of a nature to favor delay. Instead of five o’clock by train next morning, I would start at daybreak by private carriage.

At length a cochère was found who would undertake the journey—the task of driving to Mülhausen for a consideration which, under the circumstances, it was quite possible for him to obtain. At the appointed hour, with some small satchels, the requisite supply of shawls and waterproofs, with my quiet, sensible young companion, I set off once more, shall I[Pg 17] say—for “the front”? That expression was very strange after a lapse of five years, and I had thought never to hear it again in connection with myself.

Arriving at Mülhausen, Miss Barton found there was no present need of her services. She determined to set forth for Strassburg. With great difficulty she made her way thither. Through rain and mud, with conveyance almost impossible to obtain, she finally arrived, a distance of seventy-two miles, which journey she completed in a single day.

She was received with honor at Strassburg. The United States Consul and Vice-Consul were both Germans, but both had fought in the Civil War on the side of the Union, and they both knew of Clara Barton. The Consul had been a surgeon and the Vice-Consul a chaplain. Both welcomed her to the Consulate and to their homes.

But Strassburg was about to undergo bombardment. The city was then under French rule, but its population was mixed. It contained besides its own proper inhabitants many German-Americans just then eager to get out of Alsace. The Consul got an omnibus full of them, with Clara Barton in the van, and set out to place them inside the German lines. He took them as far as he was allowed to go, and turned back on horseback. Clara Barton and her omnibus full of people moved on. They carried the American flag. Part of the way it served to enable them to pass the sentries. But when they reached the German outposts, it ceased to afford them safe passage:

We had the United States flag at our front, and the first sentry halted us to learn what it was. When informed, he[Pg 18] promptly disputed it. He had been in Mexico, and Guatemala and Australia and the Sandwich Islands, and it was not the American flag at all. Reference to a chart of flags convinced him, and we passed. But this made us aware of a great mistake we had committed.

In our hurry of getting off in the rain and darkness of the early morning, we had forgotten our International Red Cross Flag, and all our insignia. There was no return—as well seek to go back through the gates of death. We must trust to luck.

At the demand for the Red Cross insignia by the keen, acute sentry, Miss Barton retired, seized the bow of red ribbon, without which color she was seldom seen, and twisted it into a red cross which, with the thread and needle taken from her pocket, she sewed upon her arm.

The next sentinel, about a league from Strassburg, recognized our flag, saluted it, and did not even halt us.

These were the conditions under which, for the first time, Clara Barton wore the insignia which, in America, was destined to be forever associated with her name.

The outer German sentinels were now safely passed; but before she was permitted to enter the lines of the German army she was informed that if she entered she must remain. She might return if she wished within the French lines, or she might make her way again into Switzerland, but if she entered the German lines she must be willing to remain there until the termination of the war. She had no desire to go back to Strassburg and submit to the bombardment. She did not now desire to return to neutral territory. She entered the German lines and made her way to Carlsruhe, where she was a guest in the home of the Duke of Baden. She and the Grand Duchess Louise became devoted friends. The last letter Clara Barton wrote before her death, and with[Pg 19] the knowledge that she had but a few hours to live, was written to the Grand Duchess Louise. Among the tributes that lay upon the grave of Clara Barton when the earth closed over her was a beautiful laurel wreath from the Grand Duchess Louise.

It was an accident that put Clara Barton inside the German lines. She had planned it otherwise when she went to Strassburg. She had rather expected that her work would be to the wounded French, but the fortunes of war put her within the opposing lines, and to her it mattered little. Her interests were not those of a belligerent. She was ready to minister to the suffering of either army.

Again Clara Barton was on the battle-field. From Carlsruhe she visited in succession several of the bloody fields. But when Strassburg fell, as it did September 28, 1870, she turned her back upon the comforts of the grand ducal palace, and entered the city where a few weeks before she had been the honored guest of the United States Consul. Thousands of its inhabitants were homeless and in danger of starvation. She organized a workroom where she set two hundred and fifty poor women to work. For forty days she and Antoinette Margot did their work amid the ruins of this distressed city. At first there was nothing to do but to give relief on application. There lie before the writer some of the original meal tickets which were issued at this time. But before long she saw that this plan if continued, would pauperize the women. She devised the plan by which they were to work and be paid for it whenever they were able to work. She wrote a letter to Count Bismarck, being introduced to him by the Grand Duchess Louise, and which obtained official recognition for her type of work:

[Pg 20]

Count Bismarck
Governor-General of Alsace
Honored Count:

Through the politeness of your adjutant and his amiable lady, I learn that Your Highness will kindly permit me to communicate with you in reference to the work I am endeavoring to perform among the destitute people who are so fortunate as to fall under your protecting care. But speaking no German, lacking confidence to attempt a conversation in French, and fearing that English may not be familiar to you, I decide to write, subject to translation, the little explanation I would make of my work, its origin, progress, and design.

I entered Strassburg the second day after its fall, and, observing both the distress of its inhabitants and their bitterness toward their captors, who must always remain their neighbors, I deemed it wise, while they should receive the charity so much needed, that something of it be presented by German hands. In this view I was most cordially met by that noblest of ladies, the Grand Duchess of Baden, to whom I am also indebted for this introduction to you, and immediately, under her generous patronage, I returned with an assistant to do what we could in the name of Germany. At first, we could only give indiscriminately to the hundreds who thronged our doors. But, directly, I perceived that a prolonged continuance of this system would be productive of greater disaster to the moral condition of the people than the bombardment had been to their physical; that in a city, comprising less than eighty thousand inhabitants, there would shortly be twenty thousand confirmed beggars. Only a small proportion of these families had been accustomed to receive charity, but one winter of common beggary would reduce the larger part to a state of careless degradation from which they would scarcely again emerge. It seemed morally indispensable that remunerative employment in some form should be given them. Again I consulted Her Royal Highness, who kindly approved, generously making the first contribution of materials, and we opened our present “Work-rooms for Women” in the month of October. To say that the results have surpassed my most sanguine expectation is little, the facts are much more; but a stranger both to people and language, it is not singular that my work, which depends entirely[Pg 21] upon public patronage, has often lacked the necessary means to attain the full measure of success.

My original design was to aid not only the inhabitants of Strassburg, but those in other portions of Alsace who are equally destitute. I thought that to be just to all and produce the best moral influence, the employment, and the payment, should be given to Strassburg, thus making of the inhabitants workers, instead of beggars, but that the warm garments made by them should be sent to the half-naked peasants of the villages, and little country homes where the harvest has been lost, and neither money nor clothing comes within reach. And to the extent of my means I have done this. The peasants have heard of the rooms, and often walk two and three leagues to ask for garments, and the clergymen from around the old battle-fields, and from Bitch, are making appeals in behalf of their half-naked and shivering people. Both my sympathy and my judgment would favor the hearing of these appeals so far as possible. This population must always be the neighbors, if not a part, of the German people; it will be most desirable that they should be also friends; they are in distress—their hearts can never be better reached than now; the little seed sown to-day may have in it the germs of future peace or war.

But pardon my boldness, Honored Count; I am neither a diplomatist nor political counselor; I am only a maker of garments for the poor.

I have objected to the purchasing of materials for my work from magazines, believing that, if the attention of some large manufacturers of stuffs were called to the subject, materials could be supplied in a much better manner.

Other noble societies, I rejoice to say, have sprung up later, all of which I believe will confine their praiseworthy efforts to the city of Strassburg, and in every respect but that of affording employment will, I trust, prove sufficient for the necessities. My little work has been the pioneer, that ploughed through the earliest and deepest drifts, and which, though often weary and disheartened, still seeks to push beyond the beaten track, over the fields, and along the hillsides, and gather the sufferers out of the storm.

After this, I fear too lengthy, explanation, will Your Highness kindly permit me, for the sake of perspicuity, to arrange[Pg 22] under two or three distinct heads the prominent features of my work.

1st, I desire to give employment, and payment therefor at the usual rates, to some portion of the destitute families of Strassburg.

2d, To distribute the garments made by them among the people of the surrounding districts which have been reduced by the calamities of the war.

3d, That, beyond this, I design to make no appropriations of charities, but to refer all such applicants residing within the city to the various societies and committees of the same.

4th, To attain this object and carry on the work is required, material, in warm stuffs of both wool and cotton, suitable for clothing for working-men, women, and children.

5th, Money to pay the workers,—sufficient for the number employed.

Strassburg, Dec. 9th, 1870

Miss Barton also sent an appeal to America for assistance in the purchase of material. Her letter to the New York “Tribune” brought her prompt response, and she was not without means for the support of her work. She used the money which was sent to her in such fashion as to make it do double duty. She bought material and had it made into garments largely by the women who needed those garments for themselves or their families. She paid them for their work in vouchers—two francs a day, which was good pay; and she sold them the products of their work at low prices. They received good wages for their labor and good value for their wages, but, wherever they were able, they had to work for the vouchers they got, and pay for the clothing they obtained.

I have some of the odd little two-franc vouchers which she required the women to give. She was not held to any system of accounting, and when there was need she spent money without vouchers; but wherever it was[Pg 23] feasible, she did her business in a business-like way, and she taught the women to be business-like. In her final accounting, only a surprisingly small fraction of her money had been expended without vouchers.

On Christmas Day of 1870, her forty-ninth birthday, she wrote to Mrs. Frances Childs Vassall a letter in which she gave an account of her own work and also passed a distinctly unfavorable judgment upon the French as they appeared to her at that time:

Women’s Workroom
Strassburg, Alsace, Dec. 25, 1870

My dear Fannie:

With your usual sagacity you timed your letter just to the moment. It was Christmas Eve, five o’clock, cold as Greenland. I had sent my assistants home the day before to enjoy a few days of leisure with their friends. I sat writing at the farthest end of my large room, from which only a range of white curtains separated and enclosed me in my little “counting-room.” The postman’s rap at the door caused me to look up, and through the curtains I could discern a singular glimmer of lights like stars, but moving from point to point, as if the firmament were not satisfied with the arrangement of its luminaries, and sought the opportunity to rearrange. Startled at first, I rose from my seat to rush out, but suddenly remembering the evening and the occasion it occurred to me that my presence at that especial instant might not be desirable and I reseated. After a minute more of shifting and fluttering, my little domestic Emily appeared between the curtains, “Here are two letters, and will you please to walk out.” The letters were from you and Fannie Atwater, and the walking out revealed a Christmas tree in full blaze all for myself. It had been arranged and left by my good ladies before they had departed, with instructions to the domestics to produce and light it at five o’clock in the evening. It abounded in fruit and flowers and mosses, and some little nice things which their good hearts had dictated for my comfort. And so, in the delicate shadows falling like tracery upon the snow which spread beneath its branches, I sat me down and read your dear, welcome[Pg 24] letter. Although you did not intend a word of sentiment in it, nor a touching sentence, I could not truly say that my hand did not sometimes brush across my eyes as I read; it was so like old times to receive a whole letter from you, all from you, and all for me. I knew I did not deserve it. I have been so remiss in writing, and I don’t know how it happens. I can only account for it on your own grounds, that when we are occupied and feel that there is something to say there is no time to say it, and when unoccupied we become listless and there seems to be nothing to say. I am always disgusted at this state of things in the human economy, but I can neither reconstruct nor mend it. It is a little more than a week since I posted a long letter to Sally all about myself, selfish as could be, and I must not inflict a similar chapter on you, as you will be compelled to go over that when it arrives. I am rejoiced to hear from yourself that you are better than when I left.

The greatest obstacle I meet in the way of a full restoration of strength is the utter inability to get sleep enough; an average of five hours is the maximum. If I by chance succeed in getting a half-hour beyond this one night, I have it “docked off” the next. When I was stronger this would do me; I could run my machine at full speed all day upon this power, and did it for years; but now the belts are slack and the wheels slip and I lose so much power that my pond is all drawn off. I should be so glad if I could adopt your plan of a nap in the afternoon, but I cannot get it unless by mere accident once in a great while. But I, too, am so much better than when we last saw each other that I feel I should never mention the subject of health and strength again while they are as good as at present.

I thank you for mentioning to me Mrs. Livermore’s lectures. I know she was a favorite in Worcester; you know she was always a favorite with me, although I never met her. Madame de Gasparin’s appeal for peace has found a warm and strong advocate in Mrs. Howe. I hope some good may come of it. All that you say upon the subject is true, and it is no small amount of “picking up” that women have to do in consequence of these reckless fellows; from boyhood to manhood and from manhood to age, it is all the same. I can never see a poor mutilated wreck blown to pieces with powder and lead without wondering if visions of such an end ever flitted before his mother’s mind when she washed and dressed her fair-skinned[Pg 25] baby. Woman should certainly have some voice in the matter of war, either affirmative or negative, and the fact that she has not this should not be made the ground on which to deprive her of other privileges. She shan’t say there will be no war, and she shan’t take any part in it when there is one, and because she doesn’t take part in war she mustn’t vote, and because she can’t vote she has no voice in her government, and because she has no voice in her government she isn’t a citizen, and because she isn’t a citizen she has no rights, and because she has no rights she must submit to wrongs, and because she submits to wrongs she isn’t anybody. What does she know about war? Because she doesn’t know anything about it, she mustn’t say or do anything about it. “Three blind mice—cut off their heads with a carving knife—three blind mice.”

I pray for peace, and all that may promote it, and if there be a power on earth which can right the wrongs for which nations go to war, I pray that it may be made manifest, but when I think I fear. How supreme an international court must it have been to be able to induce the Southerners to liberate their slaves or to convince them that the “mudsills” and “greasy mechanics” and “horned Yankees” were a people entitled to sufficient respect to be treated on fair international ground! And how much legislation would it have taken to convince the world what a worthless bubble of assumption was France, so utterly unworthy the leadership she assumed, and to have laid her in all respects so open before the world that it should with one voice repudiate her leadership and refuse to follow her as heretofore in frivolity, immorality, folly, fashion, vice, and crime! She seems to me to have been only one great balloon, and now that the bayonets and bombs have pierced it full of holes it sends out tens of thousands of little balloons in its collapse. It is bad for France, but I am not certain but the lesson will be beneficial to the rest of the world. I don’t know if we may always trust councils—we had one at Rome not half a year ago that voted a dogma which turned backward the progress of enlightened thought two centuries, and how great a power of legislation would have been required to overthrow that decision! But I suspect the fear of Victor Emmanuel’s bayonets have seriously interfered with it. Oh, I don’t know; it is such a mystery, and mankind the greatest mystery of all! I shall never get it right in this world, whatever[Pg 26] may happen in the one that sets this right. But how prosy I am—and it all comes of that five hours’ sleep. You know Beecher says, “If the preacher doesn’t sleep, his hearers will.” I hope you reserved the reading of this till you were ready for your nap.

Soon after the fall of Paris, Miss Barton determined to make her way thither, but before leaving Strassburg she placed before the authorities of that city her views of the kind of organization which should be permanently established there for the relief of those who were suffering by reason of the war. That letter shows how thoroughly she understood the problem of administering relief without pauperizing the beneficiaries:

Monsieur Bergmann
Membre du Comité de Secours Strasbourgeois

Your very courteous request, that I would present something of my ideas in reference to the subject of employment for the poor of your stricken city, demands, perhaps, that I explain, first, the reason and origin of my own presence here. A long and familiar acquaintance with the calamities of war led me to direct my steps to the gates of your besieged city the first day that it was possible to enter, viz., September 29th. Not as a matter of curiosity, for bombarded cities had long ceased to possess any novelty for me, but to ascertain if there were any service I could render.

My earliest visit was to your civil hospital, and its wards of wounded women, which were indeed a novelty in the history of the world. Seeing no better way of serving them, I took a written account of each woman at her bedside, what she had suffered, and what she had lost, and, carrying the sad record, placed it personally in the hand of Her Royal Highness, the Grand Duchess of Baden, which, I trust, contributed a little toward directing to your afflicted city the immediate and active sympathy of that Court and Capital.

This accomplished, I returned with my present excellent and efficient assistant, Miss Zimmermann, to learn what[Pg 27] further could be done. A few days’ observation convinced me that, in the majority of instances, the actual loss of property which had been sustained by the class of persons who came to demand charity was of less real importance to them than the total loss of their customary remunerative occupation; that while the first merely reduced them to want, the latter would make of them permanent beggars and vagrants, thus doing for their moral, all that the bombardment had done for their physical, condition.

With the somewhat forlorn hope of being able to arrest in a few individual instances these disastrous consequences, I at once commenced the system of work-giving, in which occupation you have found me, and concerning which you have done me the honor to ask some opinions and recommendations.

If I might be so bold as to make a single recommendation, in reference to this unhappy population under their present calamitous circumstances, it would be that of the most immediate promotion of honest industry; that at the earliest moment labor be made to walk hand in hand, and step by step with charity, and, wherever it is possible, to precede the charity that gives without return; to open every possible avenue of employment to all classes of individuals, especially the women and children, in view of the peculiar nature of the calamities of the present hour which have left so large a proportion of them without the husband and father of the family upon whose labor they must have been more or less accustomed to depend in former times.

A first step would certainly be the making of garments with which to keep themselves comfortable and wholesome, and, if I might be permitted to make a suggestion, it would be that strong, but cheap, colored material, either of wool or cotton, suitable for dresses, skirts, and sacques for women and girls, and pantaloons and blouses for men and boys, be purchased either from manufacturers or merchants (all of whom are suffering from the effects of the war) and, carefully fitted and arranged, be given to women to make up in their homes, after the manner which we have pursued with the thirty or more who are at present employed from these rooms.

True, every woman will not sew well at first, but we have found that nearly every one will learn, and have now no trouble with our workers, and the garments made by them are[Pg 28] good enough to be placed in any ordinary clothing bazaar for sale.

The immediate disposition to be made of this clothing when finished is still an important question. For the moral effect upon those who are to receive it, I would recommend that it be not given outright and entire, as this course still has the tendency to foster habits of beggary and vagrancy which it is so desirable to discourage. Receipt without return is ever demoralizing, and for this, it were better that the poor, even, pay something for what they receive, if it be only a small proportion of the original cost, and with this view, I would recommend the placing of the articles in a kind of bazaar connected with and forming a part of the present noble establishment of the “Comité” of which you are a member, and a price, more or less real, and more or less nominal, be placed upon them, such a price as will bring them within the reach of all excepting the most abject, who are forever, perhaps, to be treated after the ordinary modes of wholesale charity; but the effort should be always to reduce this class as much as possible, by lifting up out of it every family and individual that kindly encouragement, paid labor, and reasonable prices can elevate above it. One would soon find that a small sale room of this kind would not necessarily be confined to the few varieties which I have named, but shoes, stockings, and many articles of ordinary apparel, and perhaps, also, many articles useful in the family household would find their way into it, and thus, through the generous and protecting hands of the Comité, substantial aid and a first impetus be given to many a small but worthy and unfortunate artisan of your city who now finds no purchasers for his products, or no material to commence his work, and to the smaller merchants who find now no purchasers for their goods.

I would not have it supposed that I present this little idea as a permanent cure for existing ills, but as a momentary help in time of trouble until the hard season passes, and business has time to resume a little its ordinary course.

Care would have to be taken to guard against imposition, to see that persons did not buy to sell again. The same vigilance which is now exercised in regard to those demanding charity would be necessary here. One may beg to sell, as well as buy to sell. But it should not discourage the work that it is[Pg 29] liable to abuse. God’s best gifts to man are hourly abused; shall we expect more for ours?

All articles would not find purchasers, it may be said. True, but what remains in hand will constitute the supply to be given in direct charity, and it is presumed that there will always remain a demand in this quarter equal to the supply, even under the best systems of distributive and protected labor.

It may be asked if this system will not operate against the merchants who deal in ready-made clothing. It should not in the least, as these people could never purchase a garment at full price and consequently could not become their customers.

In order that my suggestions should not seem merely theoretical, permit me to turn for a moment to the more practical details. It may be asked if garments can be made to fit women and girls without actual measurement? I would reply that, with a graduated scale of five or six sizes, we have found no more difficulty in fitting women than the tailor finds in fitting men and boys without actual measurement.

Again, will there not be much waste of material in cutting quantities of garments? Very little; literally none; in the graduated sizes, one garment cuts from the form left by the other, down to the smallest size, and of the pieces too small for these we have the custom of making caps for boys and mittens for the hands, so that no piece larger than the size of a child’s hand need be left unused.

It would be proper to mention among materials to be purchased the small articles necessary in the making-up of garments, such as thread, laces, buttons, agraffes, tapes, etc., etc., the sale of which would still benefit another class of small merchants.

I may have dwelt too strongly and too long upon the subject of putting a price upon charities, but if so, I can only ask to be excused upon the ground of the moral elevation I so ardently desire for the unhappy people of your city, and remind you that it is a simple thing to leave this idea untouched, as the giving of work by no means depends upon it, and this course alone pursued after the ordinary methods of charity will of itself place the name of the “Comité of Strassburg” high upon the roll of the active charitable institutions of the world.

[Pg 30]

With sentiments of the highest consideration both for yourself and your Honorable Comité, I remain, dear sir,

Very truly yours

Clara Barton

Strassburg, January 3d, 1871

By this time there were organized American agencies for the relief of suffering caused by the war. Clara Barton endeavored to establish relationships with one of these at Brussels or Antwerp, but without conspicuous success, as shown by her letter to General Burnside:

General Burnside
My Esteemed General:

I am sure that a word will suffice to remind you of our interview at Geneva, and its object; and perhaps you will recollect that I craved the privilege of personal introduction from you to the American Legation at Brussels where it seemed proper to locate the headquarters of the American organization for the relief of the French peasantry which I had then traveled half the length of Germany and the width of Switzerland in the rain and snows to effect. I saw then so clearly all which has since transpired that I could not repress the conscientious demand of duty to use every effort within my power to prepare for the safe receipt and faithful and wise distribution of the forthcoming gifts of our countrymen, although at that moment no societies assisted and no monies had been raised in America to my knowledge except by the French and Germans residing there. I had, like yourself, come fresh from the scenes of strife, want, and desolation, and was chilled and bewildered by the cool indifference of the Americans residing here to whom I referred in such warmth of confidence. Only yourself, of all I met, gave a word of hearty approval. You will remember as I was surrounded that I could not tell you this at that moment; neither had I words to tell you how grateful I was for your commendation of my plans. Even the names of those who knew me well were withheld from me, as it seemed to me to be exceedingly moderate and modest, proper, hesitating and haggling until after you had given yours; then they came, so much weak men need a leader. Then I hurried back to my[Pg 31] post of duty at Strassburg, and on to Brussels, still in the rain, to be there on the “fifth day,” hoping to find and through you gain the more willing aid of the American representation there, and found something like American headquarters either there or at Antwerp; but to my excessive regret you had already passed out of town as I came in, and I stood alone in that strange city with my heavy, unfinished task. I called upon General Shetland, who very properly recommended me to his superior. I called upon him. He met me sharply and unkindly; informed me in a needlessly rude manner that he never heard of me before, and couldn’t understand what I wanted; that he saw no names on my paper which justified him in placing his there, and he should not do it. Of course I left his presence without a word. Genial General Shetland was hurt and offered his name “if it would do any good,” but I could not suffer him to place himself in unpleasant relations with his superior and declined it.

Still in the storm and mud, defeated and discouraged, sore and weak, I left Brussels and made Metz, which had that day opened its hungry gates. After a few hard days’ work among its famishing, fevered population I came once more to my work in Strassburg. I now saw clearly that I could effect nothing in the way of an organization to aid the work of our countrymen when they should see fit to commence it. I was grieved for the loss, through this account, to the suffering French and the loss of satisfaction to our countrymen eventually when the wiser ones should come to realize that they had not done their own work in their own name and manner, and with the best results. But I was only one woman alone, and had no power to move to action full-fed, sleek-coated, ease-loving, pleasure-seeking, well-paid, and well-placed countrymen in this war-trampled, dead, old land, each one afraid that he should be called upon to do something.

On June 1 Miss Barton left her well-organized work in Strassburg and hastened to Paris, where she spent about six weeks in the relief of suffering and distress. From there she went to Lyons, where she established another workroom such as she had had in Strassburg. Something of the detail of her work in Paris is afforded[Pg 32] us in a brief letter to a gentleman in London, acknowledging a gift of five hundred pounds sterling for her work. We see something of the grim situation which she confronted in that city. A much more cheerful letter is one which she wrote to Annie Childs just as she was about to leave Lyons at the end of August. Annie had been her dressmaker for many years. This letter, informing Annie that she was now the head of a dressmaking establishment of her own, shows how fully at this time she seemed to have recovered her old vivacity, and to be, amidst the desolation of a conquered country, her own wholesome, self-reliant self:

Lyons, France, August 20, 1871

My dear Annie:

If I were to make an apology as long as my offense, I could write nothing else, but I don’t like apologies; you don’t either, do you? Then let me hasten to proclaim myself an idle, lazy, procrastinating, miserable do-nothing and good-for-nothing; if that isn’t enough, I leave the sentence open for you to finish and I sign it squarely when you have done and call it “quits.” But really it has been too bad. I have neglected everybody in general, not you in particular. I thought I was too busy to write. I don’t suppose I was, only that I did not employ my time well. I know this is often so and perhaps always. I wish I had been better educated in this regard as well as every other. If you are ever married, as you doubtless will be, and have a family of eight or ten children, I beg you will make it a specialty in their several educations that they be taught to do things in the proper time. You will do me a favor to remember this as one of “my efforts for the good of humanity.”




I wanted all last winter to tell you about my “dressmaking” and describe to you my “shop.” I knew it would interest you if no one else. Now, wasn’t that the last thing you would have thought of, that I should come to Europe and set up dressmaking, and French dressmaking at that? I knew the fact would be a little surprise to most of my old friends who knew me best, but to you I imagine it a matter of bewildering astonishment. Well, you should have seen the patterns! “Did I have patterns?” Didn’t I? And didn’t I cut them myself? And didn’t I direct all the making until I had imparted my wonderful art to others? And you think my garments were fearfully and wonderfully made! Well, that opinion comes of your being an old maid and so particular. I assure you, Miss Annie Childs, that they were nice garments and prettily cut and well made, and I found them in excellent demand; every one wanted them and never a word of complaint of the price; everybody seemed to be perfectly convinced that they were cheap enough at my first offer. I had ten young girls (like yours) dressmakers, and from one to three men “tailors” who worked twelve hours a day, but only with the shears, never an hour’s sewing; and no one sewed at my “shop”; only those who must be taught to take something out and do it over. And we made dresses and sacques and petticoats and chemises and aprons and hoods and mittens and pantaloons, vests, blouses, shirts, socks, of all kinds of material and all sizes that ever the tiniest baby grew to. Oh, yes, and such lots of things for babies,—little dresses, little bonnets, cloaks, blankets, two thousand garments every week. I don’t think they were gored and flounced and frilled as much as yours, Miss Annie Childs, but they were strong and warm and handsome. It is true all my seamstresses had not such nimble, delicate fingers as one might desire for the finest work; they wore very large thimbles sometimes; but there were plenty of small fingers in the family. They came very gladly twice a week to see me and showed me with great pride their successful efforts; always the work came home in the market basket, and always I knew that that same basket would load the other way with bread and a little meat if it were possible, but this was not always. But it was such a comfort to see them, week by week, grow better clothed themselves and the children, till by and by a woman and her baby came to look only like a big and a little bundle of the same clothing she carried in her basket. And all the working-people of the city came to look like walking bundles of the same clothing. To be sure, it took away something from the picturesque style of the city as I first saw it when at least ten thousand human beings were perfectly arranged for models for the painter and the sculptor. I admit that it was highly artistic, but I thought it a “peutrop[Pg 34] for the season, considering that the earliest snows had commenced to fall. Oh, but don’t you wish now that you had come and worked at the head of my “shop”—didn’t I wish it? More than once I sighed in my inmost soul for you. How rich I should have been, with you at my side! Just think of it! I shall write to Fannie sometime when I hain’t told all the news to you—please hand her this if she looks patient and strong enough to stand it.

How much I wonder what you are all doing at home! I seem entirely to have lost the thread, and from the stray little thrums which I get hold of I cannot pick it up. I am just now in despair about Sally. Some one writes me that they suppose I know all about her and Vester’s sickness! Imagine the effect of this piece of intelligence. Another says, it was fortunate they were with Ber and Fannie, as they were sure of good care!!! This is consoling. What did they have, and how did they get it, and how was it, and when was it, and how is it now? Do pray you write and tell me. I am distressed and can’t at all help myself. I do hope they have not had a serious illness, but I keep feeling all the time that somebody will be sick. I keep writing Sally at Washington, but have no idea where she is and where you are this hot summer, and Fannie, poor, dear, neglected Fannie. She ought to cross me off her books, and I guess she has before this time. I know there has never been a day since I left that the entire troop of you all has not passed in panorama before me, and I have attempted to place you all as I thought it most likely to be, but I suppose I have been wide of the mark.

For me, as you must have known a hundred times when I left Strassburg, I went to Paris, and, after six weeks there distributing clothing and money, I left and came to Lyons to visit a family of one of the younger ladies who had aided me twice since the war commenced, and I have remained here about as long as I was in Paris, but am ready to leave, and shall again this week go to Paris for a day or two to meet some parties of Americans who will be there on their way home, and from there I am to go, as I have been once, into the central eastern portion of France to see the places and peoples who have been much destroyed by the war and the sieges. I have no idea how much time I shall consume here. I must judge this by the condition I find the people in. I am almost tired[Pg 35] of France and long for Germany or something which is solid and Saxon. There is no truth, no fixedness of purpose, nothing reliable, nothing sensible in France, and it only disgusts me that they have always claimed the leadership of the world and that so stupidly it has been conceded to them. I do hope the German bayonets have punched a hole in that bubble large enough to burst it. It is certainly time. If they were even neat, I would not complain so much of them, but they are such a dirty race of people, dirty but fashionable. One gets tired of this. Now, you will see from this that it is a real merit in me to work for the French. I do it out of pity and charity toward suffering humanity, because they need, and not because I gratify my love or my taste by it. I do neither. I think it right to do or I would not touch it, I do assure you.

Now, there are so many people whom you see every day that I would be so glad to see that it makes me almost homesick to write you. Does Willis still remain in Oxford, and Uncle John and Nancy; how are they? And Mrs. Hannah Sanford and Mrs. Sigourney, and all my cousins in Worcester; do you see them? Cousin Lydia Grout, do you see her ever? The Bacons and Starrs and Cousin Maria? I am told that Cousin Ned is to be married, and then my Cousin Jerry, what of him, and the Dennys and Dr. Snow? If you see him, please remember me most kindly. And the Towers and Mr. and Mrs. T. W. Hammond. Don’t you see I am homesick to see all these people even if they have forgotten me? I cannot help it. I am sure you will write me a long letter full of news, just as is your specialty, for, Annie Childs, you know, you do know, how to write a letter, and I shall wait for it now till it comes. You will address me as usual care of American Legation, Berne, Switzerland.

How does Ber behave? Does he boss his wife any? If he does, you pull his ears for me, and oblige

Yoors trooly, and believe me, your lovingest Sis

Clara Barton

Benjamin Moran, Esq.
Chargé d’Affaires, London

Esteemed Sir:

While I acknowledge the receipt of your favor and enclosed cheque for five hundred pounds, permit me, in the name of[Pg 36] the suffering of France, to thank you and your Committee most earnestly for the same. Your generous gift will enable me to send comfort into hundreds of desolate and more distraught families, whom I have hitherto been unable to reach. I beg you will permit me to explain that my attempts to clothe the people of France have not been the result of a desire to improve the personal appearance, but to aid in ridding them a little, if possible, from the scourge of pestilence and vermin which the war has so terribly spread among them.

It is to be hoped that few will die of outright hunger during the next six months, but thousands must fall pitiful victims to disease lurking in the only old rags, in which months ago they escaped from fire and destruction. Disease is spread from one family to another, until thousands who are well to-day will rot with smallpox and be devoured by body lice before the end of August. Against the progress of these two scourges there is, I believe, no check but the destruction of all infected garments; hence the imperative necessity for something to take their place. Excuse, sir, I pray you, the plain, ugly terms which I have employed to express myself; the facts are plain and ugly.

How industrious she was in Paris and how bravely and cheerfully she did her work is shown by two home letters which she sent out simultaneously in September, one to her sister Sally and the other to Mrs. Bernard Vassall, her long-time friend, Fannie Childs Vassall:

Paris, Sept. 18, 1871

My dear Fannie:

I have forgotten if I really did send a line in Annie’s letter or not. I know I wanted to, but since that I have received that precious “gingerbread” letter from all the family, and I have read and re-read, and spied into little corners to see some other welcome face peeping out. It was so good of Willis and Ber to set their hands and seals. Yes, I know all about receiving letters that call directly upon my heart, and my desire to answer that hour, and a thousand times I have said that those were the very letters which were to lie longest in[Pg 37] neglect and likely enough never get answered at all. The fact is I am over-anxious about them, and wait for a few moments of better opportunity, feeling that I have much to say, and so I wait and wait, and these letters are the sore spot, the worrying sin of my existence, that little package which I cannot put by, but which lies around, and looks me in the face on the most impossible of occasions, and reproaches in silence, and comes late at night and early in the morning to haunt, it may be to taunt, me a little; that little package is the plague of my life, and yet I prize it most of all and couldn’t have done without it, but I can never quite dispose of it. Oh, yes, yes, I do understand all you try so patiently to explain to me, ONLY that I don’t think my poor scrap could ever have been one of the class of letter which burden me, for I have no recollection whatever of it, and seriously suspect it was only a little pile of trash. It has been brave of you not to get sick in all summer with all your work, and company and sickness besides, but I am so glad that Sally was with you, and I suppose Vester was also, but it is not mentioned where he was during his illness.

I am spending some fine days in Paris, just what I most desired. I wanted to see some American people; it had been so long since I had seen them—and indeed there is no lack of them here. All Paris swarms with them, as I suppose it always does, and all grades. Some I am proud of, and some I am ashamed of; some speak remarkably well, and some cannot utter a proper sentence. Generally they are “well dressed,” as the world goes, but to my eye “over-rigged,” as a sailor would say, but always much better than the English, who are the most fearful dressers in all Christendom. English women are solid and sensible, learned and self-possessed, and all the world respects them; but the art of selecting and putting clothes onto themselves is something quite beyond their line of vision. Not that they do not wear enough,—oh, Heavens, no, not that,—there is always enough and to spare, but there is no calculation what portion or member of the body corporate it will be found dangling from, and Joseph’s coat bore no comparison. Still they are splendid women, and handsome, fifty per cent more beautiful than the French. The French declare that the Germans cannot dress in decent manner, but I have seen much good, comfortable-looking dressing in Germany, and I rather liked it. I don’t know what has induced me to write[Pg 38] so much upon the silly matter of dress, unless that some of my “sisterin” abroad annoy me a little with theirs.

I can see how busy Ber must be with his large family and congratulate both him and his children upon the relationship. I imagine him to be the most sensible and paternal of parents. I shall be only too glad when you can really take your legitimate place in the work. I can see an equal call for your services. Go and look after the little girls. They may not like to tell all their troubles to their State Papa, but would rejoice to reveal some things to a mamma. Go with Ber. I think that is one of your “rights”—it is at least your privilege, and you know it is very well said that “until women get their rights, they must keep their privileges.” I also have something of a family in Europe, some hundreds of state children, but of my own immediate family I have two delightful girls. They are as fully grown and developed as my two boys in America were, rather more, and about as near alike, but charming girls, both good as they can be, and be human, live girls. One is all gentleness, the other all strength, but both are so loving, so obedient, so true. The elder is Miss Antoinette Margot. She is a thorough artist, and is with me at present, painting and visiting the Louvre and the Luxembourg and comparing notes with the Parisian painters. She is at this moment painting an American flag, and looking back over her shoulder to ask me, “How many of the red stripes must commence at the field?” and ends with “Mais il est très joli.” Miss Anna Zimmermann is at her home in Carlsruhe looking after the thousand wants of a clergyman’s house, keeping the big brothers in order for the Universities they are plodding through; obeying her papa and mamma, who tell her she is too “independent and ambitious,” writing at odd moments as she can pick them, reading Carlyle, Dickens, Goethe, Schiller, as she can steal the minutes, pining that she must be held in just such bondage of body and soul, praying for the day when she may come and live with me a little more, and beginning a long, strong, logical letter once in a while with “To the Devil with the housework! Why must I fritter away all the best years of my own life and starve my brain to cram my brothers who already have been taught twenty times more than they can apply?” And she is right.

But my sheet will be full and I shall have said nothing at all.[Pg 39] I have just written your “Marm” and I think, perhaps, that will find its way to you, and you must just have had a surfeit through Annie. I am glad she went for a vacation. I wonder what they do at Falmouth. When I am home, can’t we go? I am not at all certain where I shall pass the winter; it may be I shall think I must work in France. I cannot tell how they will present themselves by winter, or I may think it well to quarter myself here in Paris and wait; and I have half a mind to go to Spain. This is perhaps the most sensible use I could make of the time. I must wait a little the turning of events. I can tell better after a month more in the east of France. I am glad you have had a visit from Georgie. It was nice of her to send me a line. Is not Alice with you now? Has she turned to ashes?—very possible—human nature can as well as wood or coal. Write me when you have time and don’t let Ber abuse you.


To Ber—
I am first-rate, how are you? Clara
For particulars see within.

After the terror and bloodshed of the Paris Commune, Miss Barton spent some time in northern France, laboring as she had labored in Paris and in Lyons; at Belfort, where she finished her work on October 27, and went for a little time of rest to Carlsruhe, where she was the guest of the Reverend Mr. Zimmermann, whose daughter had labored with her at Strassburg. Antoinette Margot was there also, glad to turn from scenes of desolation to her work of painting.

The middle of December she went forth again in bitter cold weather, accompanied by Antoinette Margot, distributing relief to the poor at Mülhausen, Belfort, and Montbéliard. She spent Christmas at Strassburg, where she served a great Christmas dinner to some five hundred of her old acquaintances, and then returned to Carlsruhe.

[Pg 40]

Activity agreed with Clara Barton. She rose to meet great emergencies. When the crisis was passed, she felt the effect of so long a strain. Again and again during her lifetime she carried an enterprise completely through to the triumphant close, and when it was done collapsed from nervous overstrain. Twice in America that collapse had been indicated by the total failure of her voice. At the close of the Franco-Prussian War she collapsed again. This time it was not her voice, but her eyesight. Her eyes were inflamed by the strain and smoke of the battle-fields. The nervous tension aggravated the discomfort of which the inflamed eyes were, after all, only a symptom. For several months in the winter and spring of 1872 she was at Carlsruhe in a state of semi-blindness.



We have a little sidelight on Clara Barton’s work among the French women in an undated letter from Belfort, almost certainly by Antoinette Margot. An American woman in Paris had evidently asked her for some account of the work of Clara Barton, and she had promised to write it. The letter gives some intimate glimpses into the character of her work:

[October, 1871]

Dear Madam:

Faithful to the promise made to you one bright day in Paris more than two months ago, I write. You remember that it was a kind of clandestine pledge, made in low tones, that I would one time tell you something of the doings of your compatriot, who has the “singular habit, for a woman,” as the world would say, of doing something and saying nothing.

From much observation, I am convinced that Clara Barton never makes the least report of what she does, unless, for some cause, she considers it to be absolutely indispensable, and then, in a form so plain and business-like that one would read, and turn the paper, little dreaming of all the sentiment, strength, heart, poetry, and labor that lay hidden beneath that unpretending exterior.

It were too long to tell you of the few weeks in Paris, following your departure. What, between the sympathies for the families of the wretched prisoners of Versailles, and the outpouring Alsatians who refuse to remain German, there was little rest for body or soul. Some entire families had even followed from Strassburg, knowing that Miss Barton went from there to Paris, and certain of relief if they should find her there. They did find her, and now occupy good positions. One is even placed for life in the civil service of the French Government (if the Government shall last so long). But these things, done through rain and storm, cost strength, and I was near to report to you a sick list.

Happily, that is past, and my present hour must be applied to telling you of Miss Barton’s work in a third general point of desolate France, viz., the brave little town of Belfort, which has rendered its name illustrious by the heroism of its defense. Here we are, facing the high citadel and the famous cannon “Catharine” that twenty-five thousand German bombs could not silence, and here day after day works your countrywoman trying to overcome the greatest amount of misery possible among so many.

The room in which she received her people has been tendered by Monsieur l’Administrateur of the town, and is in his own mansion, and himself and family are proving at every moment to your noble sister how proud they are of having obtained this favor.

It is in this room that she stands from morning till night, smiling and graceful as always, receiving family after family, and endeavoring to learn by herself what are their circumstances, how deeply they have suffered, to express to them her sympathy, and assist them with some money. It is probable that many of these poor people in this land of aristocracies have never listened to words so respectfully spoken, and are often so overcome by this added kindness of manner extended to them that the first answer which comes is a sob,—often no words can come,—and trembling, blessing hands held out to her are all that can speak. But oh! how eloquently they speak!

They are very poor, these relics of an eight months’ siege.[Pg 42] Some, of course, have lost nothing in material by the war, having nothing to lose but time and labor, but the larger portion have lost all or nearly all they possessed, the fruit of forty or fifty years of hard work, and remain homeless, hopeless, old, broken, dispirited, sick since they have lived in cellars, and without the smallest prospect of regaining their lost property. Do wars in Republics leave the people as badly off, I wonder?

It is not a rare thing to see a poor woman come in with her garland of six, seven, or eight handsome young children which she presents with both pride and distress. One had even thirteen, and when asked if all of them were still in her charge, she exclaimed, with the most charming simplicity, “Oh! no, madame, two are abroad; I have only eleven to work for.”

To-day, a tall, thinly clad woman entered, and presented her billet, bearing the stamp of the mayor. “Have you children?” asked Miss Barton kindly, as she took it. “Have I children?” exclaimed the woman in a tone at once proud and pitiful. “Dear child, if I haven’t. I have ten.” Miss Barton turned away to her table, but a stolen glance at her face a moment after detected something there glistening brighter than the gold she dropped into that hard, dark hand. “Ah,” thought I, as I hastened down the name as rapidly as possible,—“Ah, if only all the world’s work were done with a little of the heart in it how much nearer Heaven would seem!”

When it was decided that Miss Barton would accept the labor of herself receiving the crowd of victims of the bombardment, the authorities of the town, fearing for her, from the roughness of these people, who, they said, would rush in all together, by all the doors and windows, placed four policemen around the house to protect her against the crowd. Two of them in turn have for their mission to open the only door by which the solicitors are admitted. But never was I so amused as to see Miss Barton protecting her policemen, and preventing these rough men and shrill-toned women from crowding them against the wall. When sometimes they are all in a quarrel, the policemen swearing like two thunders according to the approved French manner of preserving respect, she appears at the door, and in the most charming manner prays them to wait a little and be quiet. Then the most piercing voices become silent, the wildest men are ashamed of their noise. The only visible motions are those[Pg 43] nearest trying to hide themselves behind others, and those in the distance raising themselves on tiptoe to see “la bonne dame américaine.” As for the policemen, they are perfectly puzzled, and could never have supposed that so gentle a lady, who never scolds or swears, could hold in order so undisciplined a crowd.

Often the work is interrupted for more agreeable reasons. Once it is a deputation of the sisters of the civil hospital, in their snowy bonnets, or some other charitable institutions of the town who want to thank her for the gifts sent to their establishment. Another day it is the mayor of the town, who desires to pay respects; another time all the council, mercifully asking to be allowed to express to her their gratitude in the name of Belfort and the county. All this as a personal matter I hear always steadily repelled, and they are politely requested to bear in mind that it is America and the goodly city of Boston to whom, if to any, all thanks are due. But no one is so mad as to expect to outdo a Frenchman in official politeness, and I observed the president of the council, half bent, hat in hand, replying that their three names would be always so united in their hearts that they should never be able to hear the one without thinking of the others.

This is a region almost exclusively Catholic, and the ignorance of the people is something deplorable. Each recipient is asked for a signature, and the proportion who are able to make something beyond an X is less than one in fifteen. Writing is an accomplishment generally not to be thought of, especially by the women, but when one who has attained so far is asked if she can give her signature, she replies, with the assuming grace of a noble of the blood, “Certainement, pourquoi pas?” But the common response is a burst of astonishment at the bare supposition. “I write! Mon Dieu, how should I.” A difficulty, by no means the smallest, is to find the kind of money to which these poor people have been accustomed. The immense payments of France to Germany all in silver and gold are fast making coin among the things that were. The bank-notes of France never having been small in value, and used rather as a convenience for business than as a currency for the people, the poor are mostly strangers to it, and when a note was placed in their hands they waited, holding it a long time, and then ventured to inquire timidly, if that[Pg 44] was something that they could get some money for, and where they should go to get it changed, and how they should do it? It was useless to tell them its value; they would have preferred ten francs in silver to twenty in paper. And, indeed, as they could not read, it were perhaps better for them, as one saw at once that they would be at the mercy of every swindler they met. This would not do. All notes which had been given were recalled and redeemed in coin, and it is certainly the occupation of one man from morning till night to change paper into coin as fast as it is required for distribution.

But it is impossible; the night is not long enough to tell all that transpires during the day, and one must not attempt it. I only wish, as I always do, that her own people could see their countrywoman at work among European poor, as not one European has done. If they are proud of her for what she has done at home, they would be prouder of her in a tenfold greater degree for what she is doing abroad, never at the best strength, in a strange country of foreign customs and divers tongues.

Pardon, s’il vous plaît, my miserable English; you knew what it was when you gave me leave to write you, and I can only thank you for the kind indulgence.

Yours in sincerity

Antoinette was not quite correct, however, concerning Clara Barton’s reports. She made rather full reports to the organizations that supplied her with funds. To Mr. Edmund Dwight, chairman of the Boston Committee, under whose auspices she labored during the latter part of her time in France, she wrote an extended letter, outlining in full her method of work, and shows how sensibly and wisely she did all her work:

Château de Belfort
Belfort, Oct. 28, 1871

Dear Mr. Dwight:

Sitting down to write you after one of the hardest day’s work one might ever hope to find, you will not wonder if I am not dazzlingly brilliant.

[Pg 45]

I should not select so inauspicious a moment but that I find your letter has been waiting so long without getting to me, and that I cannot rest until I have at least commenced a reply, even if I am not able to finish it to-night. It had been stayed by my own orders. My letters in France for a time went wrongly and some were lost, both for and from me, for which the postal authorities are now busy searching, and as the losing of letters is one of the things I cannot endure, I ordered mine to be held at all points where they would arrive, until I could arrange some safe place of reception. They have come to me at Belfort, and I find yours which has waited a month.

I should have written upon leaving Paris in July if I had not thought every day that I might get a line from either you or Mr. Moran, telling me of the delivery or receipt of my large package of accounts, from which I might draw some inference if my manner of doing things were an acceptable one. After this, I grew so busy that I think I forgot all but my work, or rather did not realize the length of time, as it passed so quickly.

You ask for my views. They have been so many and so varied that it would be impossible to tell them at one sitting, but I may say that my sympathy and judgment have pointed, and my efforts been directed, to three classes of sufferers, with two of which I have nearly finished, and the third I am at this moment among with heart and hand.

1. These were, the families of the prisoners of Versailles, and the ships of the Manche.

2. The families of Alsace and Lorraine, who, refusing to become German, are passing over the lines into France by hundreds, even thousands.

3. And thirdly, the region of Belfort.

The first-named of these are no longer confined to Paris, but are scattered now, for some distance around, poor, suffering, frightened, and trebly desolate.

First, they have often lost the family support in the person of the prisoner; next, they wait in suspense worse than actual death for the result of the impending trial, and fearing often to reveal to those about them who they are, and why they are so destitute; and lastly, poor as they are, they know that the Government allows but fifty centimes a day for the use of each prisoner, and provides nothing else, not even a bed, only straw, and whatever more he has (and many are very ill) must[Pg 46] be provided by the friends from outside. You will see how the hungry mouths and wretched homes would be robbed by pity and anxiety to supply this necessity.

I have made it a portion of my care to find and supply some of these families; it can only be some, for there cannot be less than twenty thousand of them. There are forty thousand prisoners.

The next in order, and a still more wretched class, if possible, so far as extreme homelessness and nothingness can go, are the outcoming Alsatians. The time has arrived for each to decide individually which to become, and remaining to take the oath of allegiance to Germany. In their ignorance and infatuation, they still believe France to be the greatest nation of the earth, and, in spite of her recent reverses, watch with unflinching faith to see her, at no distant day, rise in all her old-time power and glory, and advance in majesty to take back her lost possessions; and to them the thought is death, that, in that proud day, second only to the Resurrection, they and their sons must bend their necks to the Prussian helmet, and point their guns against the Eagles of France. Impudent expressions touching these points bring them into unpleasant relations with the German soldiery still stationed among them, who probably do not hesitate to mention unwelcome and unpalatable facts. This “last feather” is too much, and, finding the burden too heavy to be borne, the incensed father, or, too often, the widowed mother, gathers up the family of growing children, and, turning the back upon the blackened walls and trampled fields of the old home, makes the nearest point of the French lines and comes out defiant, with never a penny or a morsel. The French are glad to receive them, feel complimented by their loyalty, but are burdened and embarrassed by them. Societies for their relief are formed at many points, but it is only the merest trifle they can do for them, excepting to aid in finding employment. This often takes a long time, and the interim of waiting is something fearful. I found them largely at Lyons, which is one of the points they make on their way to the South of France, and Algiers. Again I found them at Paris, where several thousands have come in, every train bringing them, especially the night trains.

I have put in practice a lesson here which I learned in Germany fourteen months ago, when infuriated France drove all[Pg 47] her German families over her lines; viz., to meet and provide for them at the trains. No one can suppose for a moment that leaving Alsace and Lorraine and coming into France is not the most unwise and deplorable step these poor people could take; that they would not be a hundred-fold better off to remain. But I did not understand that your mission was to the wise, but to the unhappy, and I have taken the liberty to give them something.

But while occupied with those and these, I had by no means forgotten Belfort, or the fact that this was to be the great point when the right time should come. After leaving Paris, I met some very intelligent and practical gentlemen from that vicinity and learned of them many facts which have been of use to me, and always a confirmation of what we had both thought, viz., that help would be really more serviceable at the commencement of the cold weather than in midsummer. Their crops were abundant, especially grass. This set me to confer in Switzerland in reference to cows, and from these inquiries I learned something of a plan most gratifying if it could be realized, and I waited a little to see. This was in August, at which time, as you know, nearly all the cattle are on the mountains. On the 9th of October (“Le jour de la Saint Denis”) they are returned to the farms! There are then often too many for the winter and they can be purchased at lower rates. This, then, would be the time to purchase. But the good idea had entered into the minds of the Swiss to make a collection of cattle at that time for all the vicinity of Belfort and Montbéliard, or where the stock had been lost. They could do this without sending money out of Switzerland, which they desired to avoid, having already done so much of it. They carried out their plan, and when the time arrived commenced sending, and are still sending, to this region nearly as much stock as it is thought they can keep through the winter.

When I saw these things likely to succeed, I held a conference with the authorities of Belfort, and asked them to tell me plainly what their people most needed. They replied, “Small sums of money to commence the winter with,” and gave this reason: There is just now commencing a money panic in France. The large payments she must make to Germany in gold and silver make these commodities exceedingly scarce, and all who have a little bury it in their pockets and bureaus,[Pg 48] and hold it against the time when there will be no more and paper worth little or nothing. The smallest note, as you know, is twenty francs, a sum beyond the reach of a poor family, and thus there is nothing for them in money. This state of things, they assured me, would grow worse and worse, and, as France is only at her second payment (I believe), there was no room to doubt the correctness of their judgment. I asked how they would have it, in a sum to give to the people themselves, or should I give it? Apologizing for the labor they were suggesting to me, they begged that I would do it if I could, not that they were too indolent to do the work (for they are splendid men, and have the welfare of their people at heart), but they explained, that, living among and exercising jurisdiction over these people, who looked to them for impossible things, it was embarrassing to them to make distributions among them personally. The people were ignorant, and all had suffered so much that each one believed his or her case to be the worst in the world. And they would be much better satisfied with something from a stranger, which they would receive as a gift, than with ten times the sum from the municipal authorities, to whom they looked for “indemnity.” They seemed almost ashamed to ask of me the labor of distribution, and offered all possible assistance. For the town of Belfort and the nearest villages, the Administrateur has made the same kind of arrangement as the Mayor of Villette, and I am at this writing receiving at this house from fifty to a hundred a day, hearing their story and giving to them the proportion which seems best suited to their condition.

I shall go from point to point seeing and aiding personally all I can or until I am too tired to go farther, and after this, if something remain unfinished, find the proper persons to do what I have not done. Montbéliard, Haute Savoie, and Gex will be remembered as you desired. Indeed, is it necessary for me to say that I shall try by all means in my power to carry out all suggestions which you have made? Time and observation have shown them to have been wise and good. I have found nothing better, and only dare hope I may be able to execute something nearly as well as you designed.

The money from Baring Bros. I have drawn through Paris, as far as I thought well in the present state of things, and indeed more of it than I have found convenient for the manner[Pg 49] in which I was desired to distribute it, and some I must take through Switzerland or Germany to get the coin which will be useful to these people. The authorities will aid me in all these things. I have so far rather gained than lost in all exchanges.

I believe I have forgotten to speak of my visit to the Prefect of Doubs, which was one of the most pleasant that could have been. I found him to be an excellent man (who desired to be remembered to you with great regard, regretting your illness). He seemed glad and touched that I had found and regarded the families of Alsace and Lorraine, and a little surprised that I should have “comprehended their condition so quickly,” as he expressed it, as they are a rather new feature in the chapter of French suffering, and he asked that, in anything I might leave with Besançon, he be allowed to draw one half of it from the “Comité de Secours” from time to time to aid these families on their distressing arrivals and passages through the town. I thank you very much for this pleasant and useful introduction.

I am unable, my dear friend, at the present moment to report further, as I am just in the midst of my work; when it is a little over, I will write again, and as soon as possible I will send you all explanations and certificates and signatures which have come into my possession, and tell you as well as I am able what I have done, and how it was done.

With the highest esteem

I am very truly yours

Clara Barton

I cannot describe how painful and tiresome I find it to work here, abroad, among these strangers, with every thought and sympathy and energy turning and rushing four thousand miles across the ocean to our own beautiful and ill-fated city,[1] with its hundred thousand homeless heads. At night I can realize this a little; in the morning I think I have dreamed a bad dream. The facts will not remain fixed with me.

A message has been sent from the Court of Baden to say that I am desired there. This is the third time I have been asked in the last two months, but was always too busy to go immediately, but now that I am so near and the message made so[Pg 50] direct, I must go. If I can finish my work first I will; if not, I must leave it a little and return. I have no idea what is wanted of me. I will send this enclosed to Baring Bros.


C. B.

This work continued for some time and there came no definite date which could be accounted its termination. For this reason and because of the condition of her health, the final report was not presented until after her return to America. Then in a letter to Mr. Dwight, the chairman, and Mr. Jackson, the secretary, Miss Barton sent her final accounting, asking for its approval, on receipt of which she proposed to return the balance in her hands. Her letter is as follows:

Messrs. Edmund Dwight and P. T. Jackson
Esteemed Friends:

It has long been a subject of deep regret to me that I have been unable to make my report of the expenditure of certain sums of money placed in my hands by you, as agents for the distribution of the “French Relief Fund” sent by the city of Boston to the people of France who had been rendered destitute by the war of 1870-71. My apology for this long delay is physical illness, which overtook me before the work of distribution was completed in 1872, and has, with the exception of a few months, held me prostrate from that time until the present, more than two thirds of the time unable to leave my bed, and one year unable to transact the smallest item of my own business, or even hear of it as done by others.

But all this time it has been a source of pain and unrest to me that I could not close the account and make the proper returns to you; and all the more so, as there is still a portion of the money which I did not expend, and which I desire to return to you; and only He who knows and comprehends all can know with what gratitude I welcome the past few weeks of returning strength, which have enabled me to go over the long undisturbed packages of letters, receipts, and vouchers[Pg 51] which have traveled with and remained by me all these weak and weary years, and arrange them to be at last given up to you, who have waited upon my silence with a gentlemanly kindness seldom met in the rough business of life.

Although allowed the largest liberty in regard to the place and manner of the distribution, I knew from you both that your preference lay in the direction of the east of France, and accordingly Belfort, Montbéliard, Besançon, Savoie, and Strassburg became the scenes of my labors: and, as you both know my manner was to give in small sums to the needy in person, it only remains for me to repeat that I met the poor of these districts by call, through the civil authorities presiding over them, listened to each story of want and suffering, and gave such a sum as assured by the authorities would be most serviceable to them, and such as they themselves should have given if left in their hands. I was always cautioned from this quarter against making the sum too large, as the people had only the habit of small sums, and were demoralized by too much at once. This, of course, both increased and prolonged the labor of distribution.

I remember to have written you that among the most necessitous I met were the outcoming Alsatians. An extract from a letter of mine, written at Belfort, October, 1871, and kindly embodied in your report, renders a further description of this class of sufferers unnecessary in mine.

As these self-constituted exiles made their way largely into or through the districts I was serving, the people were keenly alive to the distress they witnessed, and humanely devised plans for relief. The one most practicable to their minds was to form a colony of Alsatians in the South of France and help them on to it. The climate was genial and productive, the country not over-populated, and the mayors and prefects besought me to withhold something for this enterprise and aid them personally in the establishment of their colony. I accordingly held back the money I had not expended, and went to Paris to learn what aid would be rendered by influential persons and the Government. But Paris was not so unsophisticated as the good people of the desolated outskirts. She was wise, polite, and had other aims. She immediately foresaw that these people, once broken up in their homes and family ties, placed on the borders of the sea studded with ships,[Pg 52] would not withstand a pressure of poverty; but at the first approach of want would emigrate a second time and to some other country. Thus France would lose her soldiers, and she counted largely on the exasperated Alsatians some day to fight for their homes, take back their lost possessions, and the Rhine. Hence they not only discouraged but forbade the step, and I had my appropriation left on my hands. I went to Carlsruhe to deliberate and rest, was worn out, and became ill, and from that time have never been able either to apply the funds or (until now) arrange the papers showing how I had disposed of what I had applied.

At the end of a year and a half of illness, I was able to figure up what still is due you, which sum, if satisfactory to you, I shall be happy to send you in a draft on my bankers.

Praying that, if upon examination all is not found to be satisfactory, you will not hesitate to inform me, and thanking you for your kindness and patience, I remain,

With the highest respect

Most truly yours

Clara Barton

New England Village, Mass.
April 24, 1876

Accompanying this letter was a detailed statement of all moneys received and expended, with vouchers for the disbursements. This account was duly audited, and the committee discovered that Miss Barton had deducted nothing for her own expenses, nor for any disbursements excepting those for which she had sent vouchers. They therefore sent to her the following letter:

My dear Miss Barton:

Mr. Dwight informed me sometime since that you have about eleven hundred and thirty dollars, still on hand, of the money sent to you by the Committee of the French Fair of which I was treasurer.

Your account shows that you have made no charge for your expenses, and that you have charged us only with items for which you have vouchers, taking no notice of the sums given where you were unable to take receipts. If the account had[Pg 53] been made up with all of these items included, the balance would have been nearly or quite absorbed.

The Committee have, therefore, directed me to say that they consider the account balanced, and request that you will accept this letter as a receipt in full settlement of your account with them.

Thanking you for your services in this work of charity and hoping that your health may soon be restored, I remain with great respect,

Yours very truly

(Signed)P. T. Jackson
Treasurer French Fair

There still remained in the hands of the Boston committee a sum of something more than three thousand dollars. The committee desired to present this to Miss Barton, who had accepted no salary during her period of work, and whose broken health they regarded as in a large measure the result of her arduous efforts for the relief of the stricken people of France. This was not acceptable to Miss Barton; she did not want the money; she wrote that she was almost the last of her family, with no dependents, and had neither use nor desire for money a day beyond her life nor beyond the simple needs for which her present income was sufficient. The committee, therefore, decided to give the money remaining in their hands to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, with a provision that the interest should be paid to Clara Barton during the term of her natural life. The hospital concurred in this arrangement and faithfully carried out the trust. Clara Barton received an annuity semi-annually on $3251, the amount which finally was paid over to that institution. With this action the committee placed upon record their high appreciation of her service in France.

[Pg 54]

60 State Street, Boston
July 1st, 1876

Dear Miss Barton:

You will wonder at my long silence, but, owing to the absence of gentlemen of the committee under whom I act, I have only been able to obtain their signatures to-day.

The money in the hands of Messrs. Brown Brothers, including interest on bonds to May first, is $4521, of which one quarter (or $1130) belongs to Mr. Jackson’s fund. Of this I am directed to pay $150 to a distressed family from Massachusetts, now in Boston. The balance (or $3240) to pay to the Massachusetts General Hospital in trust, to pay income arising from this money to you during your life; afterwards to become the property of the Hospital.

In making this arrangement the committee desire to express to you their high appreciation of your intelligence and self-sacrifice in distributing the funds placed in your hands, and their great sympathy with you in your long and painful illness, caused partly by the work which you did in their behalf. They recognize the great accuracy of your accounts, the large numbers of vouchers obtained by much labor, and the scrupulous care with which you have guarded the money entrusted to you. They wish you good health and a long life.

I need not tell you, dear Miss Barton, how cordially I join in all good wishes for your health and happiness. May the Hospital pay your annuity until the next Centennial.

Sincerely yours

(Signed) Edmund Dwight


[1] This was written shortly after the disastrous Chicago fire.

[Pg 55]


There are few letters and no diary during the winter of 1871 and 1872. Clara Barton was at Carlsruhe endeavoring to recover from nervous overstrain, and learning to write without much use of her eyes. She supposed that she had finished her work for French relief, but a letter from a Boston committee informed her that they still had funds for this purpose, but were not having good success in the matter of local distribution. They begged her to take charge of what remained of their working fund. Almost blinded though she was, she set out in winter and traversed again a route that had become familiar to her, through Mülhausen, Montbéliard, and Strassburg. Her work for women was still going on, and she gave it substantial encouragement and repeated her Christmas banquet of the preceding year in a New Year’s Eve banquet at Strassburg. She arranged for the continuation of the work in a way that did not pauperize the women. Then she returned to Carlsruhe and spent the remainder of the winter. Our chief knowledge of her oversight of these activities, as well as of her living arrangements during this period, is contained in a letter to her sister Sarah. She had been living in a hotel, but had taken lodgings of her own, had a little maid to wait on her, and was able to get a breakfast to her liking, which was beefsteak and baked potato, instead of the Continental breakfast of hard rolls and a gallon of coffee. The beefsteak for breakfast is interesting[Pg 56] because Clara Barton ate comparatively little meat. She never, however, became a strict vegetarian. Even in her old age she now and then indulged in the luxury of a good, thick beefsteak; but this was exceptional. Her meals, as a rule, were severely frugal, and mostly vegetable.

Carlsruhe, Last Day of January, 1872

Dear Sister:

I believe I can write you a readable letter without looking on at all. I have used my eyes pretty much of late, and they complain so sadly of my bad treatment, that I have decided to give them a rest, and not write any more at present, but, as I don’t know how long the rest must continue, I don’t want you to wait without news of me for an indefinite period. I want to tell you that I did receive your good long letter, and was exceedingly glad of it. It had been a little age that I had not heard of you. I must write without a reference to your letter, for I could not read it to-day; my poor eyes ache too badly for that. It was long ago that I wrote you, I believe. I don’t know if I have written since the 25th of November, when I remember to have done so. If not since, I have never told you anything of my going to Montbéliard to give something to the poor people there who suffered so much by the war. I went from Carlsruhe about the middle of December in the coldest time we have had in all the winter. It was fearfully cold. Miss Margot went with me. It was a day and a half’s travel, and some of the way it was so cold in the train I dared not let Miss Margot fall asleep. I knew she was exceedingly cold, and I kept her awake through precaution. We spent the first night at Mülhausen with Mr. and Mrs. Dolphus, French people of literary note, whom I have known during all the war. Next day we went to Belfort and passed the night and Sunday with the Administrator, Monsieur Leblue, and arranged some trunks I had left there in October, and Monday morning we went to Montbéliard and called on the Prefect (a Jew), to whom I had previously made a donation of money, and informed him that I wanted to make the next donation in person. I wished to see, therefore, myself. He was very amiable and would arrange it, and I left him to[Pg 57] do so while I went still on to Besançon to see the Prefect of Doubs. Here it was so cold and cheerless I could not sleep at night and returned next day. I was made the guest of the noble families of the town, for Montbéliard was an old Court town, and the grandmother of the Czar of Russia was a Princess of Montbéliard, so they have still relics of royalty there and a pretty old castle. I found excellent arrangements for taking care of the poor, the best I have seen in all France. They have committees of both gentlemen and ladies and the president of the ladies’ committee is a Mrs. Morell, a person so much like Mrs. Greffing that I feel as if I had really seen Mrs. Greffing and worked with her a few days this winter. They assembled in their hall and called their poor there, and they came in hundreds, and waited in a long line, or two long lines, reaching from the doors away through the yard and down the snowy street. At the suggestion of Mrs. Morell I gave them orders for wood and rent, so that the husbands could not compel the women to give up the money to them to get drunk on and abuse the family. We wrote hundreds of orders. I signed them, and then we went to the hall and received the women. They were my women then. I admitted them, and gave them the order and took in the next, and so day after day till all was done. The orders were drawn immediately, and when I left just before Christmas all the poor had wood for two months and rent paid until the first of April. They looked so poor, but were so happy at such an unexpected fortune and I was so glad to have been able to do it. It was Boston that did this good little thing—I have written the committee about it, a long letter. I thought they would be glad to know it while the fires were still burning.

Then I came back, and I wanted to go to Strassburg and give something to my old working-women there. They would not be so poor as the women of Montbéliard, for much had been done for them, but I wanted to see and remember them, and so I said I would go. I invited Miss Zimmermann to go with me, as she helped me to organize the Strassburg work last year. I said I would not give anything in charity to these women; I had not permitted them to beg—they had always worked for me and been paid. I would give them a Christmas fête and invite them like other people. So we bought two splendid pine trees fresh from the Black Forest, and I knew[Pg 58] all my women, so I had only to count the heads and buy purses. I purchased three hundred good strong morocco purses with steel clasps, prettily lined, and pretty little things for the children, and to ornament the trees many dozens of little wax candles and holders to light the trees. I had stopped at Strassburg on my way back from Montbéliard and hired the best hall in town for Saturday night the 30th December. On Wednesday night we went to Strassburg, had our invitations printed and sent to the women by post; then I ordered at a good bakery twenty cakes, I cannot tell you how large and high. Each cake would cut from twenty to twenty-five slices, big slices; and five hundred rolls, and I took a caterer I knew there to arrange chocolate and coffee. The hall had a fine kitchen and dining-rooms, and I asked the banks to change my money into the last issue of French silver, never used, and they did. The best ladies of the city came to help us, and the trees were set, the purses filled, the hall arranged, the tables spread and set so white and clean, and, oh, the trees were so pretty, on a long platform across all one end of the hall in front of two enormous mirrors and all the floors spread with moss, all scattered full of fine-cut white paper and isinglass, which made perfect snow and ice, and brightened with handfuls of little scarlet berries; and the hall was so brilliant with chandeliers and mirrors that one could read the finest print in its most distant corner. I tell you all this so particularly because I think it was the prettiest thing I ever saw. Don’t say it was that that made my eyes sore; it wasn’t. The hour was seven; at six-thirty the women began to arrive. Mr. Kruger, Vice-Consul from America, received and seated them in the anteroom till it was time to light the trees. I had not seen them yet, and did not know that so many were there, but some one came to tell us that our little wounded children had come and we went to that room to see and welcome them. When we entered the doorway, all these hundreds of women rose up before us like an army—not a word, still like so many soldiers—and stood for us to pass. At seven, the trees were lighted and the doors opened, and all this regiment of women walked in and took seats. A fine parlor organ stood under the trees, a Christmas hymn was struck, and these poor women in the fullness of their hearts joined in a burst of song such as I never heard before. They sang as if they meant God should[Pg 59] know how glad they were and how grateful they were to be there. Then there was prayer, an address of welcome (I wouldn’t have them instructed), and then Mr. Kruger and your sister went under the trees upon the platform where all the purses hung. There were elegant ladies to take them down from the trees and hand them to me while Mr. Kruger called each woman’s name and she came up and gave her hand to me, and I put in it a purse of silver with her name and a pretty buff card attached to it; then the ladies took her round to see the trees and to sign her name at a table presided over by the Misses Rausche, of Strassburg Boarding School. Afterward they were taken to the refreshment room and the daughters of the clergymen of the city, with Miss Zimmermann at the head, received and served them to chocolate and all the good things; and then they did talk and laugh and cry for joy, and such a time some hundreds of poor women almost beggars I think never had. “It was worth going a mile to see.”

All this time Mr. Kruger and I were giving the gifts, but when it was done I went and ate with them; then I came back and gave the gifts to my eleven cutters, ten pretty young girls and one tailor. I gave them workboxes and portfolios, etc., and then the Comité de Secours had arranged a little surprise for me, which the women enjoyed exceedingly. M. Bergmann, my old esteemed friend, the president of the syndicate of Alsace, addressed the women, and they all crowded up around the front of the platform like so many children, to listen to him. He told them, among other things, that Miss Barton had said she wished they would all keep the money in the little purses as a keepsake and make it the beginning of a sum for the savings bank, which would reopen next week. Having told them this, he said to them, so pleasantly and familiarly, “I think we ought to make her this promise, eh?” You should have heard the storm of, “Yes, yes, we will,” that filled the room. This finished the evening, only their good-bye to me, which each one insisted on making for herself. This occupied almost an hour, till the last one was gone, and then it was past eleven, almost twelve, and we went home to our hotel and to bed; but all the time I knew I had seen a very pretty thing.

There were about sixty women who did not get their invitations. It was no wonder; they never had a letter before in their lives and the letter carriers never heard of them, and they lived[Pg 60] in such old alleys and garrets and cellars they could not be found. But the next day I made a list of all these and put it in all the papers of the city, and it was told to them and they came to our old workrooms a few days afterward and we gave them their purses. When it was all done, we came back to Carlsruhe, one of the first days of January, and I have been here ever since. I had a good deal of writing to do, and I suppose I have used my eyes a little too much. I was going over to London directly after leaving Strassburg to stay with Abby and Joseph Sheldon, who are continually writing for me to come to them. I meant to have been there now, but I received a letter on my return from Strassburg from the head of the Boston Committee saying that they had held a meeting after hearing something from me and decided to ask me to take charge of all their unfinished business in France. They see that it is going wrong and beg me to take it in hand, even if I cannot do anything personally, to take the oversight of it. I replied to them and will wait for their answers. I thought then it would be nonsense to cross the Channel if I must recross to France again in a few weeks, so I decided to remain here until I could finish up on the Continent and go to England free.

I do long to be free of work once more for a little while. I have been rather busy. I have a little home here in Carlsruhe. I got tired of the hotel and took some small rooms, a little apartment, and furnished it to suit me (rented) and have a little German girl. She was the private waiting maid of Madame de Mentzinger and I knew her, so I live as independently as I please. I can arrange my living to suit myself better. I can have a beefsteak and baked potato for breakfast and not be driven to a choice between a piece of dry bread and a gallon of coffee, and I can have my dinner at four and not be forced to eat at eight o’clock at night, as is done here.

I am sure you have had a great deal of trouble with my things and so has Lieutenant Westfall; I am sorry but can’t help it. I want to write the Lieutenant, but dare not send him one of my blind letters. I must wait till I can use my eyes again. I am glad you went and visited all the world of Massachusetts. I want to see our old brother Dave more than I can tell, and I think I shall sometime. I don’t understand[Pg 61] if Ida has left the Treasury for all time or on a rest. Is she not well? I am sorry you wandered about waiting for some one to carry you from post to pillar. Wait a little, Sall, and we will have a coach and one and ride when we please. I will have it sent over to you every day to take a ride on condition that you will promise to come and take tea with me every time, and you shan’t wait to be carried somewhere—it was all vexatious and heart-aching. I know it all by experience, so old that it seems to me it must have been a part of another existence; but it wasn’t; it was only the first end of this old patched and tangled web. What a good soul-stirring time you had at the Convention, didn’t you? That was splendid; shall I ever see something like that, I wonder? What a meeting! How I want to see and know Mrs. Livermore. I don’t suppose I ever shall, but I knew her so long ago. What beautiful things she wrote when she must have been so young; no wonder she can speak well. I speak very much of these things with the Grand Duchess. She sent for me about a week ago to spend an evening and she spoke of little else than the progress of woman and schools for girls in America. She had evidently been reading something, I presume some German criticism upon the too liberal spirit of America, and wished to compare notes, I think. I told her all as it was, and I said I believed in special training for all kinds of life, but that I thought it possible to train too much till the original spirit was crushed out and ashes left in the place of coals, and there was danger of Germany’s doing this with her great respect for discipline; that I thought them too strict, and that they cramped their people by rules and regulations and hurt many good original minds. This was plain speech for a woman in a plain black gown without even a ring on her hands to address to a Princess and Sovereign, but when I am asked I answer, let it be where it will. I guess it didn’t offend, for she sent me a very pretty letter next morning.

I can’t think what the dress is that you speak of having made up and washed. I can just recall that I sent something by Dorr, but it couldn’t have been anything but a piece from my shelves where we cut for the women. I can’t think if it was calico or cotton gingham. I know I wanted to send something good, but he was afraid to take it lest he have trouble at the custom house, and they trouble him about his own things[Pg 62] for it. I know we packed his boxes in terrible haste one night after midnight and I can’t think of anything more about them. This was the day but one before I cleared up in Strassburg and started for Paris. It wasn’t a quite sure thing if one would get there very safely, and so difficult was it that it took three days to do the traveling of one day in ordinary times. But it is better now.

This winter is easier than the last was. I have made some friends and I am not a stranger in Europe any longer, and I have warm friends in Strassburg, and, if I do say it, last week Mr. and Mrs. Bergmann came to Carlsruhe to visit us, i.e., Miss Zimmermann and me. I had them to tea with me twice (they were at hotel) in my house, and I arranged a visit for them at Court. This is, I expect, the first social exchange of visits between a leading French officer and a German Court since the war—a gentleman may have visited, but not the ladies, but Mrs. Bergmann and the Grand Duchess visited, and, better still, the poor women came over to Germany to visit me. I have made some peace between them if they won’t fight again and spoil it all. I will enclose in this one of my invitations to the Women’s Fête and Christmas Tree. Your German letter-carrier will read it to you. Now I think, in mercy to your eyes, I must stop. Don’t be troubled about me; my eyes will be well soon. I will be very careful. I know you can’t read near all of this, but some maybe.


I thought I couldn’t write any more, but I find it so funny to write with my eyes shut, as if I were playing blindman’s buff, that I think I must do another sheet. I was afraid to commence to tell you how nice I thought your picture gallery was; indeed, I think it was splendid. How could you think of it all? How did you get up your ideas? I laughed till I cried again and again; indeed, I am not sure but that hurt my eyes some. I wish you had told me more about it. I wanted all the particulars. I related it one evening at tea at Madame General de Freystadt’s, and you should have seen the merriment of those German Court ladies—they have a great deal of fun in their heads. They were especially amused at the old hoop and line, as I explained to them our bold President[Pg 63] swinging around the circle to gain popularity. Miss Margot has not been initiated into the mystery of your gallery yet, as she is at Lyons with her people, but is expected to return any day now to resume her studies here. I will make her full explanations as soon as she is back. She caricatures me sometimes, to her great amusement. She would not be bad help for you on such an occasion, as she would be in the seventh heaven if she could do it.

No, I didn’t think of the 17th of September as being the day of Lake City. How well I remember that day, and how anxious a day it was, but after all, not unhappy. We thought that we had gained so much; our experiment had not failed and it did not fail in the end; it accomplished just what you say it did. Our dear boy lived to feel that he had done his work and was ready to go; a little life it was, but full and had in it much more than many another of fourscore and ten. I had not heard of Lizzie Learned’s last affliction. Can this be so? Where did Lizzie get such a complication of maladies, and is there anything in the new remedy? I have heard of it. The Grand Duchess asks me about it. Her first maid of honor, Mademoiselle de Sternberg, of whom you must have heard me make mention, is supposed to be dying of a cancer, but she also seems to have a multitude of illnesses. I called on her a few weeks ago. She was a mere skeleton and is too sick now to see any but her nurses.

Does Nancy do the work at home, and are she and Uncle John all there are? I cannot think how it would seem there without—“Bamma”—poor dear, honest, faithful, Christian, guileless Bamma! who worked faithfully up to the last day without complaint and lay down bravely with the harness of life about her, without a murmur.

Do you have much fruit this year? I am out of patience with Europe. I never find fruit here,—it is always a “scarce year,” they say. Indeed, there was none in all the Rhine Valley. Little gnarly apples are two and three cents apiece; prunes, which are only the plums which grow here, dried, are fifty cents a pound, and I have searched the town over without success for a little dried apple. All oranges here are always either sour or bitter. I have nearly forgotten, but it seems to me that we had better fruit arrangements at home. You see by this that I am quite hungry, don’t you, or I shouldn’t write[Pg 64] of it. Now I think I have finished for this time. I have let my letter wait two days and my eyes are better.

Ever your Sis

Returning to Carlsruhe, she continued her oversight of American relief for French destitution by correspondence, though still suffering greatly with her eyes. She passed “some very dull weeks, very green and shady, with exceedingly long nights”; after the acute pain was over, she learned to write with bandaged eyes, and wrote a good deal.

Her friends Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon were in London and were not satisfied to have her in Germany alone. They sent her peremptory orders to be ready to accompany them when they came, as they were presently to come, down the Rhine. She went with them, left Carlsruhe, visited Strassburg on her last tour of inspection, and set out for London by way of Paris. On reaching Paris, they encountered an American family by the name of Taylor, friends of the Sheldons, who had just left London for a tour of Italy and besought Miss Barton to accompany them. Hastily she changed her plans, and, after six weeks’ travel in Italy, she came to London. She had dropped her diary altogether, and her correspondence with her relatives had nearly ceased on account of her impaired eyesight, but in London she wrote the story of her wanderings to her sister Mrs. Vassall. The last page is missing and the letter ends abruptly, leaving her in Venice. The Italian tour was finished, however, and in the early summer she arrived in London.

[Pg 65]

No. 5 Hewson Street—Wanrey Street
Walworth Road
, July 5th, 1872

Dearest Sister:

In one way and another I imagine you must have become aware of me in England, although I believe I have never told you so directly. By the presence of a half-finished letter to you, dated March 29th, between Paris and Turin, Italy, I see that I cannot have written you since I left Germany just previous to the above-named date. This has all been very wrong, for I received your good and welcome letter here, via Berne, early in June. You know me as neither abundant nor graceful in apologies, although it never hurts my spirit to ask pardon, and your good intuition will perceive this rather extraordinary sheet of note-paper to signify contrition, confession, and serious effort at amendment. For all the interesting details contained in your letter I thank you very much. They constitute my only landmarks of the old coast for months; my explorers have been very silent and my scouts brought small tidings.

I remember that I wrote you when nearly blind. I had used my eyes too hard, and at night, which I ought to have known I could not do with impunity. I passed some very dull weeks, very green and shady, with exceedingly long nights; although after the greater pain and nervous excitement was over, I wrote a great deal with them closely bandaged. This helped to pass the time, but Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon, who were in London, became altogether dissatisfied with this state of things, and determined to put an end to some of it by coming after me and taking me, willing or not, to London. They had given me a short notice and ordered me to pack my knapsack, while they came down the Rhine. I obeyed, and, after a visit of a couple of days, we set out via Strassburg and Paris. I was infinitely better by this time; still must not put any close strain upon my eyes. I made my “good-byes” in Strassburg, which was not an easy thing for the “soul,” and, on reaching Paris, we met a family party of Americans, friends of the Sheldons, that had just left London for a trip of six weeks through Italy. There were four of them, Mr. and Mrs. Holmes and their only daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. Mr. Holmes was the American Commissioner[Pg 66] to the Great International Exhibition in London in 1862 and in Paris in 1867, and with his family has resided in London and Paris since, as American representative of science, skill, invention, etc. They were fine travelers, Italy was a familiar route to them, and it entered their heads to attach me to their party. I felt it to be a great piece of temerity on my part to think of dropping “sans cérémonie” plump into the middle of an elegant family party arranged for a private travel, and I said so, and said all I could, but all was overruled, and even Mrs. Sheldon said “go.” It was “too good an opportunity to lose,” she said, and added at the end of her advice, “What a fool I am. I always did give up all that I wanted most”; and so we separated in the streets of Paris, March 28th, five o’clock in the afternoon, she for London and I for Italy. I had only a little hand satchel, having stored all my European luggage with my Paris bankers till my return. I have never written up my trip, so I cannot give it you, but if I can recall the days a little in order will try to account for some of them. I will draw hard upon my memory, which will probably help me accurately to whatever she will help me at all, she being, not so generally treacherous as repudiatory. I wonder if that is an English word—it ought to be; if not, I can only plead two years’ life in Germany, and surely out of all that I must have earned the right to manufacture one word.

As sightseers, it was not, of course, our policy to travel at night, and we did it only twice, of which the first night was one. The road between Paris and Macon, just above Lyons, being as familiar to each one of us, as that between New York and Washington, we could afford to miss it. Reaching Macon at sunrise, from there to Euloz and, passing the custom house, proving ourselves innocent of liquors and tobacco, we were ushered into Italy through the famous Mont Cenis Tunnel, eight miles under a mountain, which rises almost six thousand feet above the level of the sea. It is a well-laid track in the solid rock, well ventilated and lighted by powerful reflectors each half-mile. You remember that it was over Mont Cenis that Napoleon I constructed a road to march his armies into Italy. At ten o’clock at night we were at Turin. By this time I was conscious of being some tired; altogether I was not very strong, and, just for variety, I had a chill in the night, and, of course, decided to abandon my journey and return. But as[Pg 67] Turin was one of the cities to be visited and naturally two or more days were to be given it, I could afford to wait and watch further developments. My chill did not recur, and, although I continued weak for some time, I kept on the journey.

Turin is a charming city, by far the most modern in appearance of anything in Italy, well laid out, fine broad streets, excellent markets, abounding in fruit, clean, and entirely free from beggary. It seems also to have no poor quarter, the general practice being for every wealthy family to take into its service and care one, two, or more entire families, lodging them in tenements fitted in the attic stories of their own residences, rather than below on the streets, thus at the same time holding surveillance and compelling respectability. I liked the plan. I don’t know if it is one of Victor Emmanuel’s ideas. You know that Turin was always his Capital residence, till a few years ago, when he established himself at Florence, which now is in turn abandoned for Rome. It has over one hundred churches, very rich in jewels and antiquities. I remember in the Metropolitan Church to have seen the marble figure, sitting, lifelike, of Marie Adelaide, the wife of Victor Emmanuel, and mother of Princess Clothilde of France. The private jewels of the church were shown us (for a consideration—everything in Italy is displayed for a consideration), but for no consideration could I undertake to describe them; images of solid silver, men and women, weighing hundreds of pounds and covered with jewels, where sometimes one was of greater value than the massive silver image it adorned. The Royal Palace was most magnificent; the rooms were all shown. Here, in this gilded salon where their busts stand, were married Princess Clothilde, and the Queen of Portugal. The plate-glass mirrors are twenty feet high, and everything accords with them. The armory contains an entire gallery of mounted knights in armor, full dress, horses like life, armed to the teeth, and among them lies the sword that Napoleon used at Marengo. Above the city is a fine old monastery to which we climbed for a view of Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, and all the chain of southern Alps, snow-white and dazzling, stretching away into the eternal blue.

On the second of April, Tuesday, we took train for Milan, riding for hours in the bright spring sunshine of northern Italy, the Alps behind us, and the Apennines before, the wheat[Pg 68] waving in all the freshness of early green, and the vines just bursting into leaf. Here at Milan, we were met by a young lady protégée of Mr. Holmes, a young American girl who is to come out soon as a prima donna. She is finishing her musical studies in Milan, and, while we were installed at an excellent hotel, our dinners were always with Mademoiselle Katrina.

The great sight of Milan is its cathedral, the second in size and magnificence in Europe; this also I could not justly describe. It is built entirely of marble, commenced in the thirteenth or fourteenth century and, like all these old massive structures, never finished. It covers many acres, and seems to be one sea of turrets rising at irregular heights toward the clouds. Although the comparison would be most inelegant, I will say that it reminded me of a shipping-yard, where the marble turrets and statues take the place of thousands of masts; indeed, if my memory serve me well, it has 135 spires, and 1923 statues on the outside from the ground to the top and 700 inside. There is on one of the roofs, which you pass as you ascend (far above to the top), an entire flower garden in marble, hundreds of flowers forming minarets, and no two flowers carved alike or representing the same flower. It was a long way to the top, which at length was gained after many times of sitting, and (for me) even lying down to rest on the various roofs passed in leading from one flight of stairs to another, roofs of pure white marble polished and glistening in the sunshine like the crust of the snowbanks on the New England hills on bright winter days. (I wonder if I ever will see them again.) Here again we saw marvelous jewels, “gold, silver, and precious stones.” The tomb of Carlo, who “stayed the plague,” is in a chapel beneath; the coffin and even the roof of the chapel are of solid silver; mass is held here each morning, and on certain days of the year miracles are wrought. There are many sacred relics in the cathedral, as several nails from the Cross, the Virgin’s shroud, and a seamless coat of the Lord Jesus Christ, etc., etc. The picture galleries were especially fine, many celebrated originals, among which is Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper of the Master and Disciples” in the original fresco. And the celebrated “Ambrosian Library,” so old and rare its volumes were indeed a curiosity—illustrated volumes of the fourth century. And the Royal Palace erected on the site of the old palace of the early Dukes of[Pg 69] Lombardy, where Attila thundered about in his destruction. Later this Palace, like nearly all in Italy, had been at some time or another occupied by Napoleon I. Here was his bedchamber, unchanged, decorated in scarlet and gold, heavy velvet curtains richly wrought in flowers of pure fine gold thread. Then the celebrated theater “La Scala,” the largest in the world, its stage one hundred feet in depth, and wide in proportion, and this, not including the recesses. The pit alone holds eleven hundred people, and there are six rows of galleries; one hundred musicians in the orchestra; the principal boxes are purchased by the nobility for the season, a single box from four hundred to five hundred dollars (the season). I name all these particulars for Vester’s benefit; he may be interested in the facts. Our young prima donna stepped upon the stage (as our visit was in the daytime) and sang to us; she had sung there before to an audience of five thousand, but I think she took just as much pains for us, and I am sure we were not less enthusiastic. I expect some day to hear her sing when she is famous, but it will never afford me greater pleasure than when she sang to her audience of five in the great “Scala” of Milan.

One little incident, happening not long before, was so pretty that I am tempted to tell it you. “Katrina” (who is of German parents, but born and always lived in New York) had only been led before the public once,—i.e., last winter she was the “leading lady” of the first opera in Turin,—and on the evening of the close of the engagement she was “called out” to sing a little national air, in which she had been exceedingly popular. When she stepped before the curtain she found the entire house a blaze of light, which at first nearly “upset” her, but, gathering up, she went through her air, to the last strain, when four men entered and placed at her feet an enormous bouquet of the choicest flowers, nearly four feet across. She managed to accept it, but attached to it was a note which requested her, when it should be faded, before throwing it away to open it with care, and at the end of a week this was done, and hidden among the flowers were found a magnificent gold watch and chain, pins, necklaces of coral, turquoises and pearls, bracelets and rings, which I could not enumerate. It had been ordered and arranged in Geneva, and sent all the way through the mountain passes to her. I thought this was[Pg 70] a pretty success for the début of a little American girl, studying in a strange land with little money. As a child she used to sing in New York with Patti.

But you must be tired of Milan, and wish I would hasten on if I am going. Well, I will, and so imagine this to be Saturday the 6th of April, 9 o’clock A.M., and I just taking the train eastward. The day was so lovely, so full of the springtime, the grass and grain so green, the swinging vines swaying over all the fields, the birds literally bursting their little throats, the fields filled with peasants in gay dress working to merry tunes, and when you could draw the eyes away from these near scenes they fell to the northward, first upon a line of dim, hazy blue, but over this, skirting the horizon again, the whole chain, peak after peak, of ranging Alps, such an unbroken line of glittering snow—here on the south only four miles away the field of Solferino where France lost one thousand officers in a day.

At 4 P.M. we were at “Verona” wondering if we should see its “gentlemen” and giving certainly more than our usual interest to this subject, and at five we halted at a singular dépôt, with no rattle of cabs, or hacks, no tramping of horses, still as death all about us, and as we walked out there lay waiting us hundreds of gondolas, black as a pall, some covered, some open, all drawn up to the side of the Canal to take us weary travelers to our hotels. This was, indeed, novel, but we selected our carriage, stepped in with our luggage, sat down, and, leaning lazily back, left it to our gondolier to pick his way through the watery streets, some wide, some narrow, leading into and out of each other, like veritable city streets and lanes, the ways on each side lined perfectly thick with old palaces and majestic buildings of centuries ago, their fronts to the sea and their magnificent stone steps leading directly into the water, and when one would pay a call, the gondolier had only to bring his boat alongside and you stepped out as from another carriage to the steps of a mansion. We were taken to “Hotel Victoria,” made as comfortable as a first-class Italian hotel can make one, and after supper commenced upon the sights. Ah, but there was so much to see, not that it is a city of enterprise, a flourishing mart of trade or business. Oh, no, far from it. Venice only exists upon the record of its former greatness; take all this away and the travelers consequent[Pg 71] upon it and I believe twelve months would find a famine there, but there is little danger of this while Byron and Shakespeare remain bright in English literature.

Here, as everywhere in Italy, one must commence with the cathedral, and having gone through this, and some scores of churches, the “Campo Santo” and the Bell Tower, one is at liberty to enter upon the palaces, gardens, and theaters. But Venice offers some deviations from this general rule; most cities have prisons, but they have not all the dungeons of Saint Marc. All have bridges, but all have not a “Rialto” nor a “Bridge of Sighs.” I suspect I do not need to remind you of many old or historical facts. You who are always digging into the past will have them all “papered and labeled” and stored away ready for use. But I might mention the seventy-two little islands upon which Venice was built, which were only a part of the Adriatic, and not reckoned as land at all. A set of not warlike people from here and there in the vicinity, having grown weary and afraid of their fighting and troublesome neighbors, mostly from Austria, determined to place themselves in a position more difficult to attack, came far over the sea to these little islands and commenced a city, and gave a general invitation to all war-pestered, peace-loving citizens of the world to come and join them; from time to time they united their islands, built their houses for dwelling and trade upon the streets laid down upon the piles, with one side opening upon the street of earth and the opposite upon the sea, as I have before described. But—the depravity of human nature!! No sooner were they a little strong and comfortable themselves than they sent out their ships to prey upon and plunder their neighbors, and well-nigh ravaged the cities of the earth. They decorated their palaces with the spoils of other nations, married the sea, and declared themselves Omnipotent and Divine. Among other things their religion and church must have a Hero, and they sent afar, and got (as they said) the body of Saint Mark, brought it, and great numbers of relics belonging to him, buried it with the divinest honors in their principal church, and named it Saint Mark, or “San Marco.” This was as early as the ninth century. It is a large but not handsome edifice, facing a paved court, a “piazza” some six hundred feet in length, surrounded by palaces, now used for public purposes, stores, etc. All the world of Venice[Pg 72] walks in the “Piazza of San Marco.” The pigeon was esteemed a sacred bird with them, and he is still cherished here and treated with great honor. One of the curiosities to be seen are the “pigeons of San Marco.” I cannot at this moment recollect definitely enough to state to you how many hundreds are supposed to reside in the immediate vicinity, but their dinner hour is two o’clock in the afternoon. The great bell of the clock strikes three quarters past one and they commence wheeling and circling into the court, they cover the fronts of all the buildings, sit as thickly as possible upon every window seat, hang in all the cornices, and stand in full platoons in every foot of spare pavement for a number of rods around the especial corner where their dinner is served. A young man (it was formerly a young girl) is appointed by the Government as feeder of the pigeons. It is not necessary to say that he is punctual with his repast—he could not live with his tumultuous boarders if he were not. As the bell strikes two, he pours the grain from—

The rest of this letter is missing, but from this time on her letters became frequent, and we are able to follow her, almost day by day.

Her health by this time was much improved. She established pleasant lodgings in London, where her old friends the Sheldons and her new friends the Taylors were, and followed her lifelong habits by rising at five o’clock in the morning and getting in four and a half hours’ activity before any one else in the house appeared for breakfast. She heard Stanley, who had just returned from Africa, and, in the controversy which ensued between him and the Geographical Society, she became a warm partisan of Stanley. Antoinette Margot joined her. She, too, had lived through the war without breaking down, but, when she had nothing to do but to sit down at Carlsruhe and paint, she gave way to nervous overstrain. Mrs. Taylor found her Italian trip rather[Pg 73] too much for her and wanted a quiet place outside of London, so they rented a summer home in the Isle of Wight and there spent some restful and health-giving weeks. For a company of nervous invalids, they appear to have had a very merry time. The following jingle was written in London in 1872 for reading at a social gathering of a few families and America’s friends, who met once a week for social intercourse over a cup of tea and light refreshments, enlivened by recitations.

The family names are somewhat significant—Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. Bacon, Mr. and Mrs. Darling, and Mrs. Cynthia Care, a friend then absent.

Mr. Taylor was the inventor of the McKean drill.

Since time commenced its cycles, or the memory of man
Hath record or tradition of pastoral tribe or clan,
They have never failed to chronicle that men from far and near
Have met to sharp or blunt their wits in liquor, wine or beer.
This ancient custom, reaching back into the hoary past,
Wears a dignity and prestige that rivals even caste;
And bold are they who dare to meet in social gathering free,
And call not to the festal board one of the classic three.
But here’s a jolly company, from far across the sea,
Dares tune its mirth and sharp its wit in a cup of good Bohea.
We’re here from many hundred miles, where the western ocean foams,
But, though a paradox it seems, we have not left our Holmes.

The social homes of England draw us to her like a band,
For we are but the children of this true old glorious land.
Of the “merry homes” of England our great-grandsires used to tell,
But with pride and joy we prove it here, that we’ve Merry Holmes as well.
Disclaiming all comparison, we write ours brave and free
[Pg 74]And kindly and hospitable as any Holmes can be.
But we have very English grown, so soon we habits take on,
We cannot even sip our tea, but we must have our Bacon.
But English or American, it matters not a straw,
For both hang out before the world without a taint or flaw.
Go search through British literature, down to her Common Laws,
And find what strength and nourishment it from its Bacon draws;
And if you doubt America can follow in the van,
Go test our “Cincinnati sides,” and “West Virginia ham.”
So perfect in itself is each, it’s patent to my mind
The choicest Bacons that can be, are just the two combined.

By the watery distance we have come one might judge us merely sailors,
But we’re nae thoughtless nor improvident, for we’ve even bro’t our Taylors.
One doesn’t know how long ago, the unjust trick began
To stigmatize a tailor as the ninth part of a man;
But though as old and honored as the Judge’s wig and gown,
Before the faithless falsehood I throw my gauntlet down:
Yes, tho’ it was with Adam for the modest blush that came
When he sewed his scanty fig leaves, and dropped his head for shame;
Tho’ old as this—and thick, and black, and firm as granite, too,
We’ll drill it to a honeycomb, and let the daylight through.
So lay upon our Taylor here your nicest chalk-line true,
And measure him, in soul and vim, as he would measure you;
You’ll find, Sir Scandal, when you’ve done the best you ever can,
In reach of thought, and breadth, and depth, he’s every inch a man.
What did I say? I’m wrong—crave grace—to err is ever human—
Ah, with what pride of sex I claim, his better half a woman—
Tho’ fair Fidele and tender she walketh by his side,
He can neither make nor mend her, but hold fast in his pride;
And though no mortal’s meeker, we find from far and wide
[Pg 75]The best and wisest seek her, for a pattern and a guide.
And does the critic here step in, and call us frozen-hearted,
And lacking in paternal love, that we so long are parted
From clinging dear ones left to pine like caged and crying starlings?
Hold, sir! Here’s ointment for your wrath, for we have bro’t our Darlings.
We hold them very near us, with tender love and true;
Their happiness and welfare are never from our view;
And though we’re willing sometimes that they abroad should roam,
We would not spare our darlings forever from our home.

There’s one, methinks, whose eloquence erst charmed this happy band,
Who stays away through many a day in a sunny foreign land—
Who lingered where the soft moonlight plays through the Colosseum,
And troops of idle beggars wait for strangers’ hands to fee ’em.
Or where the setting sun goes down on Monte Rosa’s crest,
And hoary Blanc bids grand good-night to the cloudlets in the west,
And who strays even now, ’mong the vines and the trees,
And walks the green slopes of the dark Pyrenees.
Given us to be jurors and judge of this action,
We’d reduce this delay to a very small fraction;
But being quite powerless our cause to defend,
We must learn to endure what we cannot amend.

As the best of a bad case, let’s forgive her, shall we,
And drink to her health in a cup of Bohea?

And now for our bumpers but one greeting waits
While we roll back our thoughts to the United States,
For United as one they must ever remain,
Since the blood of a million hath rusted the chain.
With a link in each hand died the true and the brave,
And sunk side by side in the low martyr’s grave.
Their bones rest in peace ’neath the soil of their love,
While their souls keep calm watch on the ramparts above.
We would hide nae her faults, this dear land of our pride;
[Pg 76]We know she has errors on many a side;
She’s restless, impatient, hurries on through her day,
And treads on old customs that lie in her way.
She’s bold in her speech, but there’s nae lack of truth,
And her faults, let us hope, are the failings of youth.
Yes, she’s young—oh, so young—and her robes are so bright,
For she’s made herself gay with the stars of the night,
And thrown o’er her shoulders a mantle of light
That the oppressed of all nations keep ever in sight.
Oh! each grasp the tissue that floats on the wind,
For hid in its folds lie the hopes of mankind!
Oh! guard Thou her ways, Great Eternal Lord God;
Let her meekly but safely pass under thy rod!

With her faults and her virtues we trust her to Thee
And drink to her life in our cups of Bohea.

Clara Barton

[Pg 77]


It would be pleasant to record that the benefits derived from this happy outing on the Isle of Wight proved permanent, but unfortunately that was not the case. Had Clara returned to America in the autumn, it might have been better, but she went back to London for the winter determined to brave its fogs. She had discovered, with many of her countrymen, that it is a mistake to expect relief from cold weather by going to a warm climate. The people who live in warm climates do not know how to prepare for the cold. In London they knew at least the value of a fire. To London she went, and the results were depressing. Her throat and chest were affected badly by the London fogs. All the gains of previous months seemed to have been lost, and she was as far from well as she was at the end of the Franco-Prussian War. At this time she wrote to Mrs. Vassall, who had returned from Washington and was living in Worcester:

London, July 11, 1873
Euston Road

Dearest Fannie:

Your dear good letter and that of your “Bear” came a few days ago. It is funny to be interviewed at that distance, and I am glad that you got no worse reports than you did. I don’t think I am so homesick as it would seem, but I am weak, and little things seem such a burden to me that it hinders me from doing many things that would make me more at ease if they could be done. However, one must be patient; it is not a month yet that I was in my bed most of the day, and now I[Pg 78] can go about town, and even once have been out of town, but not for a long trip.

It is kind of you all to offer to come to help me, but I believe I shall be able to get over my difficulties without giving so much trouble to any one. By “getting over them,” I mean measurably over them. I cannot say that I even hope to be strong again as I was before this last illness. I cannot tell, but it would be a wonder to me if sufficient nervous strength returns to permit any degree of real usefulness. The greatest trouble I meet now is to bear the little burdens of contact with the persons and things around me, and not show too plainly that I have not strength and composure to bear them calmly; in short, to “hold my horses,” You, dear Fannie, will know what that means, and how to the weak the grasshopper becomes a burden. I am glad you have found a physician who has some strength for you, if it is really so; but I must confess that my previously small share of confidence in medical aid and wisdom has not increased by the last year’s experience.

I hear of you in the most trying heat at home. It is just warm in England some days, but to-day, for instance, ladies are generally clothed in wool suits and a shawl. I went out just now for a few minutes with Mamie, while our rooms were put in order, and came back because I was too cold, and it is never very bright in London. I suppose this has its due influence on one’s nervous system, and I would have been glad at any time within the last month to be made ready and go over to France or Germany. I think it would be better, but I could not get strong enough to get ready and go. You wonder what “getting ready” means. It seems to you that it requires little preparation to put up a bag or small trunk of things and cross the Channel, and so it does, but it is summer, and I have several trunks of mainly woolen things for this cool climate. My little strength since I have been in Europe has made it necessary to have them, of course, unpacked, and in a state of utter confusion, for some trunks I have not had my hand in for months and months, but to others I constantly go, and in haste. The moths in London are like flies in abundance. It wouldn’t mend my nerves to know I had gone off traveling and left all I have to be devoured, and I have been made worse several times by simply attempting to get a dress or some little article from a trunk. My weak chest will not admit of the[Pg 79] least labor of the arms yet. Let Mamie do it? Mamie is only a weak little girl, and until lately could not have packed her own trunk without harm to herself. So I wait for strength as an army waits for quartermaster and commissary supplies before it can march. I made one little trial or two, to see what I could do. Papa Holmes (with whose family I went to Italy) came one day to ask me if I could go to Liverpool where he was going, and over into Wales, and pass a week. It was about the time Colonel Hinton was going to sail, and I thought, with so many good friends on the road, I might try it. So I went as far as Stratford-on-Avon, but I grew so tired I gave out and let the party go on and I came home. It wasn’t much of a journey,—only a few hours,—but I found it quite sufficient.

It is really quite astonishing what those sleeping fellows tell, and how they look us all through! I don’t think I am so homesick, if that is the term they give it, but no one knows—only those who have tried it—what the depressing atmosphere of London may be to one who is not strong, and more especially to one who feels he is never to leave it, as I expected last winter. I think I could have faced the prospect of the dark river with a stouter heart if I had been strengthened by a few glimpses of sunlight sometimes, but I waited such months watching my little window panes for a patch of sky over which one could discover that a cloud moved, but the surface was never light and thin enough for this. It was as immovable as a sheet of zinc; one felt himself already in a metallic coffin, only waiting to be closed in a little snugger, and have the screws turned down. But I have tried to be cheerful and as full of life and fun as I could be, with so little ability to speak as I have had, and it may be that you and your Mamma Sally’s sleeping men see deeper and get nearer to the reality than those about me, or than perhaps even I am well aware of. It is possible I have at times succeeded in cheating myself a little; all the better if it is so. I should be glad to be spared the trial of going on to the continent of Europe again. I am so tired of it, I never want to see it again, but it may be best, and then Mamie ought not to leave Europe without going there. I should be sorry to embark her for America having seen only poor smoky old London. If some one of our friends had been coming over, with whom I could have sent her to journey some, I should[Pg 80] have been very glad of it. I can perhaps arrange it from here, but up to the present moment I have not been able to find the right opportunity. I thank you very much, dear Fannie, for all your interest and care, and hope I may never find a chance to repay it in the same manner.


Mr. Sheldon has just drawn a letter out of his pocket and, looking very wise, announced to me that he had just commenced a correspondence with a very pleasant lady of Worcester and, showing the envelope, I judged the correspondence had been commenced with the lady’s husband. But I read it, and became convinced that it was from the lady herself. He informed me that he had replied at the earliest moment, and it happened to be just when they had succeeded in pushing me off for my trip, so he had an opportunity to talk large, but he had scarce time to answer until I was back, and he waited a day or two to see if he might show your letter to me.

I hope Ber will have had an opportunity to hear direct from me, as I gave his Boston address to Colonel Hinton, who promised to see him if he could find him. I have seen no one who was going to Worcester or I would have sent him to you. As for me, I shall try to go home this autumn, I suppose. America will at all events be as well as here, and has a greater range of climate with easier travel. As for the prospects of a full recovery of my original health (i.e., previous to last winter) I cannot decide yet. I may, when once out of this climate and atmosphere in which I have fallen, recover at once and fully; and I may never be able to throw off the effects of such prolonged prostration. My own opinion inclines strongly to the latter. I do not think any one need come to see me home; I should be sorry to give that trouble to any one, and will do my best to get on by myself. And now, with a kiss and great love to all, and the best to your own dear self, I am as ever


To Fannie’s husband, Bernard Barton Vassall, the “Ber” or “Bear” of her playful letters, she had already written:

[Pg 81]

5 Heusen St., Wansey St.
Walworth Road, London
, April 8, 1873

My dear Good Boy Ber:

I cannot tell you how good and kind it was of you to hasten to write me as soon as you knew I had need of a word of sympathy; neither can I tell how it did me good and made me better and stronger. I was so weak and ill that day. It came at night with one from your mother, and they were the first words of sympathy that had come to me from the old home. I almost hesitate to tell you how long I held them in my hands. I looked at them till they were damp with fever and perspiration before I opened them and kept saying softly to myself, “There’s something good for me in there; there are good kind words and sympathy.” I waited still and held them close till I got a little accustomed to them, and then I got raised up a little in my hot bed and read them all through and through, and Mamie read them all to me again. How they helped me on after that worst and weakest and hardest of all the days I have passed in all this illness! It seemed providential that they should come just then. It was not my cough that was holding me so low at that moment. I don’t know if in all I have written your mother, I have ever told her how I got a part of my illness. I had two physicians, one daily and one consulting occasionally. He came one day in early March, and recommended me to be taken out of bed and bathed in water each day, put back awhile, then taken up and dressed. I could not stand alone, but this was done two days. I had only my cough then, but the third morning after the bathing and “gaping” I couldn’t straighten a limb. It proved to be inflammatory rheumatism from my body to my toes; then in two weeks a relapse and a rheumatic fever set in, which was at its height when your letters arrived. But the port wine broke the fever and I am nearly past the effects of the rheumatism, have little or no pain, and my cough is not dangerous now, I am sure; I sleep pretty well for me, and I eat good substantial food. Now, if I can hold fast to all these improvements, I cannot think it will be necessary for any person to leave home and business to come to me. I could not be come for at present, for I should not dare attempt the voyage yet, and I hope to be able to get along by myself, especially as it is almost summer now. But, dear Ber, I think every moment how good and[Pg 82] kind it was of you to say you would come if I needed you, and if I should “go to the bad” again, I fear I shall need you. If such a miserable state of things comes, I will telegraph, and you will all consult, and do what seems best to you to do. You know much better than I what would be well to do, and, if it must be done, you will do it. Doesn’t the State want to send you over to make some investigations? In that case it wouldn’t seem such waste of ammunition on small game as to come just to look after poor miserable me, who never amount to anything anywhere.

But, Ber, I shall never have done thinking how quick and kind you were in writing me, and what strength and purpose I felt in every line of your letter, and it strengthens me still. You saw so clearly how I needed a strong arm near me; all about me is so weak. I have managed everything since my illness, for myself, and all around me, from my banking business and correspondence to my butcher and grocer, the airing of my linen, and the arranging of the chairs in my room. There is no mind or will or thought that can go one inch beyond me, when I stop. There is no hand that has enough magnetic force to take away one nervous twinge, not a hand that does not take magnetism from me even now, and days when I am weakest, I cannot let a hand be laid upon me, to rub, or even comb my hair. I feel the loss of strength directly and fall into nervous perspiration. I tell you all this because I read between the lines of your dear letter that you half divined the case, and I may as well confess it. I believe I can bring myself up out of this weakness, and then I will come home to thank you, and be “put in my little bed.” Won’t you write me again soon, now you know how it does me good?

Dear Fannie offers her “Bear” to me,—what a good Bearess she is, isn’t she? Now, dear Ber, with a great big kiss, and I can’t say that there aren’t a few other little things dropped along with it, here, my good boy, is my good-bye.

From Your Old Sick Auntie

Ber, you must hold your good mother steady and not let her get alarmed. It will never do for her to come all this way on such an errand. In any case it would be too hard for her.

[Pg 83]

Though neither medicine nor the climate availed to help her, she found some measure of relief in a cheerful spirit. Of her system of mental therapeutics she wrote to her niece Mamie Barton, Mrs. John Stafford:

Auntie wants to write Mamie a little letter. She is more sorry than she can tell that she has such a stupid illness that forbids her to be company for any one.

Auntie does not feel less social for this and, although it is hard and painful, she will not feel despondent a moment, but hopeful and cheerful for the present and future, if the circumstances immediately about her do not combine to depress her to a degree which she cannot control. If she had a headache or a nervous head which a noise would disturb or make ache, there would be some good reason for all about her to keep quiet, and leave her to her rest and reflections; but she has nothing of this, and never has. Her head is strong physically. (She will not refer to its mental qualities.) And as she has nothing to do all night but to rest and reflect, she does not need special opportunity for these during the day. If she were all alone, she would not get lonely or nervous on account of the quiet and silence about her. She has had great experiences in this and is accustomed to it. But when she feels herself imposing a dull dead silence on all persons about her, those whom she loves most dearly and for whose hourly comfort and happiness she would sacrifice anything in reason and see her dear little girls gliding about without speaking a sentence,—never sees a laugh or scarce a smile,—it makes her feel herself such a restriction, such a detractor from their happiness and leaves her such a prey to sad reflections and makes her feel the misfortune of her illness so deeply that at times it seems impossible to bear it. She grows more and more depressed every minute and the poor strained nerves refuse longer control, and, in spite of all her womanly determination, break into tears and groans. This would make me very ill in time. Mamie doesn’t want this of all things, Auntie knows, and she writes this poor little letter to explain to her the causes and the results, and tell her how to avoid the one and improve the other.

Just, then, throw away the old-time, never-to-be-departed-from notion, handed down from nobody knows where, that all[Pg 84] ill or ailing persons are to be treated the same, and that mainly like a dead person, surrounded by dumb watchers, and dim tapers, waiting to be buried, and remember that one whose heart is cheery and one whose mind is active, but whose mouth is closed to speech, might like to borrow the use of the mouths of those around them—might and must want, most of all, some one to talk for them—to say the nonsense and make the fun they cannot say and make for themselves. And that nothing so much as a good funny time a day would so shorten and deaden the pain that must be borne in either case. Now, if the two dear good little girls could only bring themselves to have the same chatty day that Auntie knows they would have if they were in their own room by themselves, laughing, singing, doing nonsense, and, in short, feeling themselves perfectly free to enjoy themselves as I always know they do when by themselves, Auntie would be more grateful to them than for anything else they could do for her. And she has faith in the good understanding of her dear Mamie, to believe that she still sees the real state of the case as she could not see it before. And she knows that once she sees it, that big lump of Benevolence just on the top of her head, will not permit her to do anything but have a good jolly time in spite of her disagreeable old Auntie who can’t just now help a bit to make it, but who needs it more than ever, and most of all.

Mamie needn’t work on that old puzzling dress unless she greatly desires to.

Now, with great love, and great hopes, and sincere commiseration, Auntie closes this her first epistle to the daughter of David and waiting to hear her cry out in a “loud voice,” she remains as usual

Old Dolorous

The summer, however, did her some good. She was able to get out and do a little sight-seeing, her longest journey being to Stratford-on-Avon. Early in October she sailed for home on the steamship Parthia.

Only a few weeks before she had believed that she had but a short time to live, or that if she lived it must be as a hopeless and permanent invalid; but with even the[Pg 85] beginning of a restoration to health she recalled her determination to introduce in America the Red Cross, under whose auspices she had labored on the battle-fields of Europe. She knew that America had no knowledge of, or interest in, the Red Cross. She had good reason to question whether it would be possible for her immediately to stir up any great enthusiasm for it. But she was determined to live and bring this to pass.

As usual on trans-Atlantic voyages, there was a concert in the cabin of the Parthia. Clara Barton, returning to America as the heroine of two wars, was asked to participate. She made her contribution to the evening’s entertainment in a poem which she wrote on shipboard, in which she expressed her ardent desire and her solicitude. She was going back to America after a long absence. Was there anything for her to do when she got here? For daily bread she had no concern and no need for concern. Her modest income was adequate for her still more modest needs. Even while traveling abroad she had found no occasion to encroach upon her principal, and her expenses at home were certain to leave her each year a little margin between income and outgo. But there had entered into her soul a vision of the contribution which she might be permitted to make to America and the world by securing America’s adhesion to the international treaty which included the recognition of the Red Cross. Would America listen to her when she pleaded for this? Had it room for her and her mission?


Five days from New York—five days did he say?
[Pg 86]Only five days from the glistening bay,
That four years ago I sailed tearfully o’er
Watching the sunny light fade from the shore!
As the kerchiefs had faded along the dense pier,
And the God bless you’s died on the listening ear.
Tearfully, prayerfully, sailing away,
Past the green islands, and out of the bay,
Recalling in pain they who sorrowed and wept,
More painfully still the brave who had slept;
Tearfully, prayerfully sailing away
In search of the strength that went out in the fray.

It were easy to search for the gems of the sea,
The jewels and gold hid in mountain and lea,
The thin veins of silver that line the green sod,
But health is of wisdom, and strength is of God.
Four wearisome years in lands strange and old,
Watching the changes that over them rolled,
How the calm shadows lay in the valley of rest,
And the black war cloud gathered from out of the west;
How lancer and tireur dashed o’er the plain
And the smiles fled the face of sweet Alsace-Lorraine.
And helmet and turban lay soaked in the rain
And the masterless dog lapped the wounds of the slain.
Fair sons and brave husbands there lingered not one,
And the far childless widow prayed—Thy will be done.

How the old nations groaned on their unstable beds,
As the great car of progress rolled over their heads,
Uprooting old forms, time-honored of sages
Sowing new truths for the incoming ages.
Republics have sprung on the steps of the throne,
Kingdoms have crumbled, empires have grown;
Princes and prelates have listened their doom,
And ermine and gold-decked the refugee’s tomb.

Strange sights for strange eyes as the old cities burn,
And battle and siege follow each in their turn.
I have heard the faint note of the last sentry’s call,
And seen the white flag flutter out o’er the wall;
I have bound up death wounds lying dark and alone,
[Pg 87]And the language that blessed me was strange and unknown.
The homeless and famished clung wild with despair,
And the noble and gentle have cherished me there.
Still trustingly,—loyally: loving and true,
Anxious and glad, I am coming to you.
Have ye place, each beloved one, a place in your prayer,
Have ye room, my dear countrymen, room for me there?

How the strength rose and fell in those perilous years!
What torture it made of my hopes and my fears,
When I joyed in its rise or wept for its fall,
It was never myself that I thought of at all.
But if only once more I might tread the loved land,
And toil for its weal with my heart, and my hand;
Have ye place, each beloved one, a place in your prayer,
Have ye work, my brave countrymen, work for me there?

Plow on, old Parthia, steady and true,
Each plunge of thy prow brings them nearer to view;
Brings me nearer the days that shall settle the doubt
If they’ve kept me within—or have left me without.
For my feeble hands failed while care rested on all,
And trouble and grief wrapped them round like a pall.
Who shall say that the storms have not scattered my sheaves,
Or the winter winds buried the fallen autumn leaves,
Or the gaping seas closed without anger or frown,
And the freighted ships crowd where the lone wreck went down?
Have ye place, each beloved one, a place in your prayer,
Have ye room, my dear countrymen, room for me there?

Steamship Parthia, Mid-Atlantic
October 8, 1873

[Pg 88]


Clara Barton came back from Europe wearing the jewel of the Red Cross presented to her by Queen Natalie of Serbia. She was the only person in America who then, or for nine years thereafter, wore the Red Cross. She was the sole person in the United States who, by service or any form of official recognition, was entitled to that decoration. She wore also the Iron Cross of Merit, presented to her by the Emperor and Empress of Germany. She wore a Gold Cross of Remembrance, presented to her by the Grand Duke and Duchess of Baden; and from Louise, the Grand Duchess, she wore, and prized beyond all wealth, a magnificent amethyst, said to have been the finest amethyst in this country. From poor, defeated France she wore no official decoration, but she brought the love and gratitude of innumerable people there to whom she had ministered.

On her return to America, she went to her old home in Washington, on Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol Hill, the home she had purchased before leaving, but occupied so short a time before her nervous breakdown. But she was not permitted to live there very long, because the corner was too noisy. Her physician, Dr. Thompson, commanded her to live elsewhere. The doctor assigned her her limits, “jail-limits” she called them; she might live somewhere between Seventh and[Pg 89] Sixteenth Streets, and on the farther side of New York Avenue.

She established herself at the corner of Fourteenth and F. Her letters to her nieces in this period are cheerful, but written under the burden of physical pain and nerve fatigue.

On May 23 she received word that her sister Sarah, Mrs. Vester Vassall, was fatally ill. Though far from well, she hastened to Massachusetts, arriving in the evening to find that her sister had died that morning. The shock of her sister’s death, coming as it did when her own health was so precarious, brought back her old trouble with full force. For several months she remained in Oxford and Worcester, and then went to North Grafton—New England Village it was called—where her relatives, the Learned family, had a country home. There she took a house, and remained for a considerable time attended by Minnie Kupfer, who had served with her in the Franco-Prussian War, and, like Antoinette Margot, had followed her to this country. Her health varied with the season and with other conditions not all of them easy to determine. There were times when she had hard chills, followed by dripping sweats. There were weeks when she had no strength even to lift her head. There were bright days also, when she moved about with some approach to health.

What was the real nature of Clara Barton’s illness during this long period of suffering? Material is not lacking for a fairly accurate diagnosis. Having exhausted the resources of local physicians, she entered into correspondence with a series of doctors, each of whom professed to be able to bring her permanent relief. Some of[Pg 90] these called for very little information about her condition. Their remedies were supposed to cure almost anything. But others sent long lists of questions calling for full and minute replies. Copies of these questions and of her answers, she preserved.

From her replies it would appear that there was hardly a bodily function which was not disturbed. She was subject to hard colds, to severe headaches, a weak back, digestive trouble, and to periodic attacks of camp diarrhœa from which so many soldiers suffered for so many years after the war, this condition alternating with stubborn constipation.

But it is evident, as one reads critically these pathetic catechisms, that she had after all a basis of sound physical health. Her careful answers to these questions do not appear to indicate a single organic disease. She had yet to learn that her back, which she thought so weak, was really remarkably strong, and that her head had little need to ache when her eyes were not overstrained. And her digestion need not be seriously disturbed if her nerves were not worn and shattered.

The most serious symptom that Clara Barton had, through all these years, was a temperament abnormally sensitive. She was capable of enduring almost any possible physical or nervous strain, and of standing up under it well, but when the strain was over and she met some trivial exhibition of ingratitude, some captious and wholly negligible criticism, some petulant and despicable bit of opposition, her nervous energy gave way with a sudden collapse. Her voice failed; her eyes failed; whatever organ was weakest gave way first, and she went to pieces like the deacon’s “one-hoss shay.”

[Pg 91]

To one who reads those letters at this distance, it seems a thousand pities that some one, whose scientific judgment she could trust, did not say to her: “You are organically sound. There is no good reason why you should be sick. You are tired, and that is not surprising. And you have magnified innumerable foolish little matters of irritation. Forget them. Believe that you are well. Half your years are yet before you,—the better and happier and far the more useful half of your life. Get out in the fresh air. Live simply. Throw medicine away, and you can be strong again.”

In an undated letter written in the early spring of 1876, she gives to Mr. Dwight an account of her experience since her return to America:

[Undated. 1876, early spring]

Dear Mr. Dwight:

I am at New England Village. Some good angel must have inspired you to write me. I was so anxious to hear of you, and only my physical weakness has kept me from commencing a search for you long ago. I had “somewhat” to say to you, as you know, and as soon as I am strong enough shall find a way to say it. Yes, it is true I am at New England Village and have been since last April.

The “world” has not treated me badly in the last four years; but I could have better borne some bad treatment from others than all I have had to bear from myself. I have been an invalid most of the time. I grew very weak at Carlsruhe directly after Belfort, recovered a little, went to England in the spring of ’72, kept about some months, but in October broke down with a cough, became too ill to get off the island, was confined to my bed eight months; in June, ’73, was able to get over to Paris and recovered sufficiently to come home in October. My cough had left me, but I was weak, and fearing its return went to Washington as soon as I could for the winter, broke down again with “prostration of the nervous system,” if any one knows what that is, which was deepened[Pg 92] and nearly rendered fatal by the illness of my only sister in Worcester, whom I strove for months to reach. Was finally brought to Worcester at the peril of my life on the 23d of May, ’74, arriving at 4 P.M. to find that she had died at 6 in the morning. I never saw her dead face even. It was one year from that time before I left the house again, and that to be removed here. I could not tell you the suffering, physical and mental, of that year, and I would not if I could. Only a small portion of the time could I stand alone; averaged less than two hours’ sleep in twenty-four for almost a year; could not write my name for over four months, and could not have a letter read to me or see my friends or scarcely my attendants. Little by little I have grown better until now I am about my house (for I always keep house). I have for attendant and nurse and housekeeper Miss Kupfer, of Berne, Suisse, a friend I made there, and who came to me as soon as she heard of my illness here a year or more ago and who never leaves me. I am gaining slowly, though weak still; have had neither physician nor medical treatment for over a year. Nature does her work as best she knows how; what measure of strength she may ever give me back I cannot know, probably not great. I suppose diseased nerve centers and worn-out systems are not likely to mend very firmly. But one day I shall want to see you, and you will let me do so, I think. If I am not able to go to Boston, you will come to see me, I believe, and when I see how it is likely to be with me I shall write and tell you. Meantime, it would interest me just as deeply to know how the world has treated you in these last few years as it does you to hear of me. Can I not know something of you and can I not send my most sincere and respectful regards to Mr. Jackson, whom I hope one day to see?

While Clara Barton was touring New York State on her lecture tours, she spoke at Dansville, New York, and was entertained at the sanitarium, popularly spoken of as the water cure. On March 16, 1876, a lady from Worcester who had been a patient at Dansville called and spent the greater part of a day with her. She told her that Dansville was “The place to go and get well.”[Pg 93] Miss Barton had resumed her diary, and she recorded that this Miss Adams seemed to her “not an enthusiast, but a calm, sensible girl; looks at things in the light of reason and common sense; and I feel that I can take her reports without discount, and her opinions on trust.”

Before many days she had practically determined to go to Dansville, and that place became her home for about ten years. At first she lived in the sanitarium; then she bought a home of her own. She adopted the simple habits of life which there were inculcated. Little by little her strength returned, until, instead of being an invalid, she was for her years a woman in remarkably good health. With the return of health came back her determination to establish the American Red Cross, and it was in Dansville that the first local organization in America was established under that name. How she secured the organization and official recognition we shall presently learn. From her letters at this time, two may be selected which give some account of the troubled years through which she had passed, and the great hope which she was now ardently cherishing. One of these was addressed to the Public Printer at Washington, whose services she remembered kindly, and with whom she hoped to have dealings. The other was to her cherished friend, the Grand Duchess Louise of Baden.

Dansville, Sept. 8, 1877

John D. De Frieze, Esq.
Public Printer, Washington, D.C.
Dear and Esteemed Sir:

It occurs to me that it may not be entirely necessary to introduce myself to you. Even after a lapse of almost a decade you will not quite have forgotten that there was once a woman by the name of Clara Barton who, in common with the rest[Pg 94] of the moving world, gave you more or less trouble. However faint these traces remain in your memory, that cannot dim the brightness which gilds her recollection of the uncounted favors you so kindly and generously meted out to her in the hard, busy days when she tried, with little strength and less power, to carry heavy burdens, and accomplish hard things. Through all these years the grateful memory of these kindnesses has never waned, and it so presses itself upon me that I cannot resist the desire to pick up my pen, far away in this quiet nook of the country, and tell you how glad I am, and have been, to know you are back again at your old post, which you ought never to have left, and how thankful I am to our good President for having recalled you. My first impulse was to thank him directly, but unfortunately he does not know of my existence, and could never have found an excuse for my boldness, but you, my good and honored friend, will excuse it and will not call it even bold that a hard-worked woman has remembered the strong, kind hands that helped her on, and after long years has ventured to speak of it.

Physically these intervening years have not been easy years for me, four of them with broken health and a wanderer in foreign lands, two of them in the Franco-Prussian War and its devastations, four more a helpless invalid in my own country, and this year for the first, once more on my feet walking about like other persons, but up to the present never leaving my home even for a short journey. I think of you all in that busy capital and wonder if it is true that I too was once a part of it, and stood erect amid its jostling and excitement. Thank God He has given you strength to endure to the end!

Lest I give a wrong impression, let me add that it was physically only that I referred to my life as hard. Socially and pecuniarily it is and has been easy and beautiful. I have all the world for friends and no unsatisfied wants, no necessities, no regrets except that I am not strong enough to do the work around me which the world needs to have done. Until now it has not in five long years dared ask of me the smallest service. Lately the European people have laid upon my hands an international matter pertaining to humanity for which it seems proper that I see the President. If I should be able to go to Washington for this purpose after his return, would you think it probable I could see and speak with him?

[Pg 95]

I hope, Mr. De Freize, my long letter has not been too great a burden to you. If so, let it console you that it is not without its uses, for it is a great relief to me to have said a little of that which I wanted to say so much, and I beg to remain with the highest esteem,

Always gratefully your friend

Clara Barton

Dansville, Livingston Co., N.Y.
May 19, 1877

My dear Grand Duchess:

How shall I commence to write you after all these years of silence? Can it ever appear to you inexcusable? Will the generosity of your noble nature make you equal to the overlooking of an act which all the world, less noble and generous than yourself, would condemn as neglectful or forgetful? But, my preciously beloved friend, if these thoughts have ever taken hold upon your mind, and left their unpleasant shadow over the memory of your old-time friendship for me, and led you to feel that not only Republics, but their people as well, are ungrateful, and that you are only too happy in being relieved of such as you have known,—if all these dark thoughts and shadows lay there in your memory of me to-day, and I knew it, and knew also that they could only be removed by a full portrayal on my part of all the days and years of weakness, illness, suffering, and affliction which have caused the silence, I should hesitate long before I brought the picture to you; your active life and needed energies are not to be clogged and burdened by woes which do not belong to you, and the tax upon your sympathies is great enough from those who feel that they look rightfully to you for sympathy and help. Then let me say as little as possible of all this, and pass on to other things, and that little is, that during almost two years of the time since I last saw you in London, I have been not only too ill to write you, but too weak to have heard read a letter from you if it had been sent to me. You will understand from theory, and I pray the great and good God that you may never know by experience, what helplessness and suffering may follow in the train of utter “prostration of the nervous system.” This was the misfortune that fell upon me directly upon my arrival in this country at the close of the year 1873, hastened and deepened[Pg 96] by the death of my only sister whose life had been always dearer to me than my own. It was only last year, 1876, that I was able to leave my bed and learn to walk feebly about my room, sometimes see a friend, write a letter, and read my letters; then I was removed from my home in Massachusetts to this place, the largest and most noted water and rest cure in the country, where I have resided since, gradually regaining my strength, and coming back to life a little, but whether to usefulness remains to be seen. I have done everything to surround myself with healthful and strength-giving influences. The climate is delicious and I nearly live in the open air. Sleep, which in all years has been only a visitor, has come back to abide with me more constantly, and there is no night now in which it quite forsakes me. This was the great necessity, and I feel my strength returning under its blessed influence. My flesh is also returning and I am regaining some power of endurance. So far as any usefulness to others is concerned, I can see in all these years of helplessness only entire loss, but to myself I hope they may not have been without their uses and benefits. Through them I have walked narrower and darker paths than ever before, and stood very close to the dark still river. Aye, I have pitched my tents and rested there, waited calmly and sometimes, I fear, looked longingly over on to its other restful and brighter shore; but its shadows have not alarmed, its waters have not terrified. God has stood very near, my trust in Him has never faltered, and my faith has never wavered nor changed. I have known no fear, and if weakness, suffering, and inaction have made me more tender and thoughtful, it is well; if the silvery hair they have spread over temple and brow are a daily reminder that I have no longer the vigor of young strength, that, too, is well, and I will hope for added wisdom and gentler kindness.

Now, my dear, this is all of me, but how is it with you and yours? For I have heard of you ill and suffering, and dared not ask more. I trust that is all past, and I should see only the bright, happy face that left its lovely picture on my memory. The noble husband, is he well? The beautiful “children”—I can scarcely picture them, for some of them are men and women now, and I never forget to pray God to keep and bless them all for the wife’s and mother’s sake. You will remember that the first great love in my heart for you carried me at[Pg 97] one bound beyond all lines of courtly etiquette, blinded me to the positions and conditions of rank and royalty, and made me stupidly, awkwardly dumb to every titled phrase and courtly sentence; it closed and sealed my senses to all these, but opened them to the loving, tender wife and mother, the noble woman and the priceless friend. I could not have spoken a word of flattery to you sooner than I could have put it in my prayer; it could never have entered my thought to courtesy or bend the knee in your presence, but I should have lain in the dust at your feet without knowing it, if I had felt that it could serve you. A strange, uncourtly friend you have in me, this far-away American woman, my child, but a friend, nevertheless.

And now comes up that dread theme that first brought me to know you—war, dreadful war. My heart has stood still for weeks in anxiety, fear, and dread. Is Germany, dear Germany, to be drawn into that terrible vortex? Are her mothers to give out their sons, and her wives their husbands again so soon? Are the graves to be opened again almost before they are green, and the wounds before they are healed? Are the fair fingers of her maidens again to ply the busy hours with bandages and lint and the trembling grandmothers to labor again with shirts and socks? And you and yours, who hold and guard the weal of all, are you to stand in jeopardy, and watch in agony again so soon? Are these dreadful days I so well remember all to be lived over again? I cannot yet believe it; neither can I yet rid me of the fear which haunts me day and night. Constantly the question rises, What can I do? And my weakness answers back, “Nothing, nothing.” If I had the strength of ten years ago, and the war opened upon you, I should prepare myself and go, not single-handed and alone, as I was overtaken in 1870, but I would make my arrangements with my people here for all material to work with, select my assistants from the German and German-speaking populations here, take my surgeons and nurses, and go at once and ask you for a field of labor. Surely you and your good husband and father and mother would assign me one somewhere! But it is all too late for this; at the best I can only use my influence and the little strength I have at home. As a means to this, I have written our good friend, Dr. Appia, of Geneva, to ask if any help from me would be desirable, and[Pg 98] to say that if it would be acceptable, I would, upon his writing me to that effect, make the effort to establish an international organization in my own country for the collection and receipt of supplies, which should work under the insignia of the Red Cross, and forward through a headquarters which I would attempt to establish somewhere near or at New York. Thus would I try to bring the early and organized efforts of America into direct communication with the activities of Europe, and try for once to make our charities of some timely and real benefit, which the great distance and want of proper organization has hitherto greatly hindered, or nearly prevented. Our people are generous, tender of heart, and quick in their sympathies, but they are busy and spread over a quarter of the globe. They do not become aware of the necessities for assistance in other lands till great suffering exists and the general Press brings it to their knowledge. Then they spring with a bound of sympathy and generosity and give without stint, but their stream has no channel prepared for it to flow in and runs over and wastes, so that little, very little, ever reaches the real scene of suffering and want for which it is so generously given. If I can learn that it would be acceptable and that there can be established a direct coöperation between the charitable activities of America and Europe, and that Europe desires it, I shall do all in my power to organize the work early, at once in America. It is for this I have written Dr. Appia to have him send me his request that I would do it, that I may use it as a lever with our Government to gain its sanction, protection, prestige, and coöperation so far as I can. I shall watch with all interest every movement and I would be so grateful for any information that I might gain from European sources regarding the true condition of things. How glad I should be of any published work or matter, if any exists, which explains the working of your remarkable system of, or what we term, “Relief Societies.” I do not know where to send for this but to you who were the originator and head. If the condition of Europe renders it desirable, and I am strong enough to organize aid in America, every word of information on these points would be held priceless. I am gleaning all I can from such foreign papers as I can get; both the German and French languages are familiarly used in my house. My amanuensis is Swiss and speaks both natively, of course. The[Pg 99] more I read, the more I fear what the next months may bring to you, to dear Germany and to all Europe. And the more I fear, the more anxious I am to help. Let us pray God the storm may pass, but if it must come, give us strength and wisdom to meet it well.

I have long been the debtor of good Madame de Mentzinger, and my next European letter will be to her, who I hope will forgive my delay. I was not able to answer her in time. To our dear Hannah I have not written in years, nor heard. I know the parent family is nearly gone, and that she has one of her own. I shall hope to hear of her some day,—the precious child!

And dear Princess Wilhelm, who seems to me always to be a part of yourself, may I dare send my love through you to her? I remember once she graciously told me I might write her. I wonder if the privilege still exists, or has time annulled it? I know she has had her griefs and that her precious mother has gone home.

All that happens to you there in that beloved Court circle is reflected and felt here in my distant home as if it were a part of it. I joy in your prosperity and sorrow for your griefs as if in some way they belonged to me or mine. I could not if I attempted to divest myself of this interest. I even could not help feeling a solicitous interest in all that pertained to Prince Alexis in his recent visit to my country, and rejoiced with a kind of motherly pride in all the good impressions he made, and felt that I ought to see him, because he was of your house, and the home cousin of dear Princess Wilhelm. He, the gallant, princely man, would have laughed at the idea of a plain, unpretending American woman cherishing a family pride in him and keeping a motherly watchfulness for his welfare, but your love and kindness to me when a stranger in your country won my gratitude and love forever for all that pertains to you. I have followed the late journeying and visits of your noble father with wonder and joy for his continued vigor. I so well remember the tender care and love that dwelt in my heart for my honored father when fourscore winters had whitened his locks and bared his brow, yet his firm marching step told not more than fifty summers, and his eye was still clear and his voice strong; but he left me, the brave old soldier.

I always regret that I never saw your honored mother, and[Pg 100] it was my purpose not to have left Europe without this distinguished pleasure. But her precious gift, the beautiful cross, is the chiefest among my treasures, lying always beside yours. You cannot conceive, I am sure, how precious those gifts are to me, and do you recollect the sweet picture of yourself you once sent me for a Christmas gift? It has comforted me every day through all these suffering years, always near my bed. It was the first to greet me in the morning, and now, in these days of better strength and activity, it is no less the admiration of my friends than it has been the companion of my weakness.

But I must somewhere make an end to this seemingly endless letter, and with one thought more I will.

May I entreat you that, if disturbances and war come upon you, and there arises any contingency, any want, any point upon which it may seem that I could, being here, be of the smallest or largest use to you, or your people, you will not hesitate a moment in making any use of me that you possibly can; consult with me upon any plan (that it shall be strictly confidential I need not add) and it will be always possible for me to confer directly with the head or heads of our Government, and so far as I can I will influence our people to any charitable activities or movements which might be desired and which you kindly suggest to me. How glad I should be to feel myself once more working with you, that I was perhaps helping you a little, and the American people would be glad, for you are no stranger to them, and I want them to know you better still. I pray you let

Your grateful and loving friend

Clara Barton

What she found at Dansville that restored her health is shown in some of her home letters. She found congenial society, wholesome and simple food, and an atmosphere that believed health to be possible. The world is moderately full of sick and half-sick people who could be well if they knew how, and would believe that they were well.

She grew strong enough for short tours to neighboring cities. She became a star performer in the evening entertainments[Pg 101] in the sanitarium, reciting poetry, sometimes writing a poem for a special occasion, and after a time giving a short lecture about her experiences abroad. A few of her letters will show her state of health and of mind. There was nothing miraculous or sudden about her recovery. She had periods of depression and times of weakness, but she gained strength and gained it permanently, and was able to take up the greatest work of her life and carry it through triumphantly.

Our Home on the Hillside
Dansville, Livingston Co., N.Y.
July 15, 1876

Dear Coz:

If Miss Kupfer had not written me that she had written to you since our departure, I should have written earlier, but I knew she had told you of our safe arrival, and I thought I had then nothing of interest to say until I could tell you how I liked my surroundings. I have now been here seven weeks and find no occasion to regret coming. The place is simply beautiful in its location and surroundings, made up of hills and valleys under a high state of cultivation and taste.

The institution is larger and more flourishing than I had expected, with about three hundred patients, or persons as patients, and I think I never saw together any group of people that combines the degrees of intellect, general intelligence, and culture as is collected here. The speech of every person one meets is kind, charitable, and refined.

The faculty connected with the institution is, I should judge, skillful and competent, but the general means for promoting health through proper food, water, bathing, dress, rest, sunshine, open air, and pleasant surroundings are mainly relied upon; little or no medicines are ever used. I have neither seen nor heard of any being used by any person since I have been here; indeed, the great struggle and effort seems to be to get out of the patients the remnants of the medicines already taken in the past.

We have several excellent lectures in the hall during the week and services on the Sabbath. The Hall is so situated[Pg 102] that all can attend. No change or addition of dress required, more than to go from one room to another. If one is not able to walk, he is carried if he chooses to be, and if one does not wish to sit up, he lies down and listens, so there is no getting weary, no exhaustion, no getting over-tired. One gets all the good without the bad.

The tables are excellent and most abundantly supplied. Meats plainly but well cooked, the freshest of vegetables from their own gardens, and such abundance of fruit as I never saw, all in its turn. We have passed through the era of strawberries and cherries and currants, and are now in the raspberries, white, red, and black. I believe the blackberries follow next, and so on to the peaches, pears, and apples of autumn, but the astonishing thing after their freshness and perfection is their abundance. They are not served to us in saucers, or on individual plates, but placed in large fruit dishes once in about three feet through all the scores of tables, each one to help himself over and over, the dishes being refilled to the last, and we leaving the tables filled as we find them. The fruit is mainly picked from the gardens that day for dinner, or the evening before for breakfast, from two hundred to four hundred quarts for a meal. Besides this we have always the greatest abundance of “Shaker” dried fruits cooked for those who cannot take the fresh. New milk from their own dairy (they have forty or fifty cows), all one can use at every meal; the freshest of oatmeals and grahams, sweet butter, tapioca, etc. The vegetables are largely cooked in milk, and harmless. With all these fruits and vegetables there is no summer complaint here. I have not heard of a case, and among all these invalid people not a person in bed, except a few rheumatics who were brought here in beds and are not up yet. No fevers, no colics, but all out and about in the sunshine, and on the Hillside’s stretchers and hammocks under the trees. One has only to be lazy and jolly and get well if they can.

There are a good many very pretty cottages outside the Main Institute where persons room, but all meet in the same dining-hall, and in the same parlor for prayers and singing after breakfast and the distribution of the mail after dinner. I am in the Institute, or main building. The views from the verandas are as fine as many I have heard extolled in foreign countries. A single glance takes in a stretch of the valley of[Pg 103] over ten miles in length, as handsome as a landscape garden. We are so high above the town that we seldom walk, but there are always livery teams waiting orders at the door. One drives or is driven as the choice may be. Dr. Jackson has a stable of about twelve horses for his and family uses and the work. They are handsome enough for a fair, and I occasionally find that they are good roadsters. The village below us is pretty and thriving.

Miss Atwater lives in the village about a mile from me, but comes to lectures. She is well and seems very happy. I have ridden down to see her a few times. Her uncle is still with her. He had worked hard in his hotels for a great many years, been broken of his rest a great deal, and was considerably worn down, and seems to be glad of an opportunity to rest a little outside of a hot city. It makes it pleasant for Fanny till she gets more acquainted, but the people are very kind and social here. There is no stiffness.

There are something like fifty people employed as help to do the work of this Home, but not one servant; the word, nor position is not known here, all are treated equally, all ladylike and gentlemanly, all treated alike. There is an amusement society, and one of its features is a beautiful dance once a week from 5 till 8 P.M. Piano and violin music,—no round dances,—but cotillions and all dances which are not injurious, and the prettiest and most elegant dancers in the hall are from among the help.

There is a regularly organized fire company on the grounds, and the houses are watched and patrolled all night like a first-class manufactory. No doors are ever locked; all stand open if not too cold. I have never turned a key in the house. Now, I believe I have told you all the most important features of the place I have come to, but I have been very careful not to overdraw it, for I hope some of your journeys may sometime bring you to take a look at it for yourself, and I would not like you to be disappointed.

I hope this severely hot weather has not been too much for you, and that sometime you will find time to drop a line to your

Affectionate Coz


I neglected to say that I find a good many old friends here.[Pg 104] Our chaplain was a member of the Sanitary Commission in Washington, and the Reverend Dr. Abbott, who is here with his family, was President of the Christian Commission. Love to any who may inquire.

Clinton Hotel, Rochester
Sunday [1876]

Dearest Mamie:

Does the date take you by surprise? Don’t be alarmed, it’s all right. I am only on a visit of a few days. Dr. Jackson, Miss Austin, and several other lady friends made a party and came last Friday to stay several days in Rochester, and enjoy the change and rest, and here we are having a glorious time. All but I can go to operas, church, lectures, galleries, etc., etc., and I can stay by and keep guard and direct the servants how to order the rooms, to have all ready and jolly for them when they get back. Mrs. Jones, principal of the Dansville Seminary, and a Miss Reynolds, who is “Thirza Ann” in a Betsey Bobbet Club we have here and a capital dramatist, are my room companions in the hotel. There is no lack of fun with two such fertile brains about. We go home next Tuesday.

Now that I am through with myself, let me turn to you and say how glad I am that you have been to the Centennial and enjoyed it so well, made so much of it, and got home so well. What a beautiful gift that was from Mr. and Mrs. Shrubler, to you, that trip, a hundred-fold more than the beautiful dress which was a thing to be most grateful for, but it will wear out in time, while nothing short of eternity can take from you the knowledge and benefits of that exhibition. It is a thing for a lifetime, not only its pleasure but its profits. Please thank them both for me for this thoughtful courtesy to you and for the good dress also, and indeed for all their kindnesses to my little girl, who I know is grateful for herself, but I am also grateful for her.

Now, you see I have not your letter here and cannot answer it as I ought, for I really do not recollect the questions it asks, neither do I recollect when I wrote you last, or what I told you then, so this letter is liable to be a repetition or an omission, but you will forgive this in either of the circumstances. I had a good letter from Ida just an hour before I started from Dansville[Pg 105] and have answered it from there. She is a very easy, natural correspondent and would make a fine writer in some special directions if she could be cultivated. She sends me advertisement of your Papa D.’s farm. I was a little surprised at this, but it shows him in earnest in his assertion that he would like to be rid of it, and I do not wonder that he feels it a burden. It is more so than if it were larger and would afford more and efficient help, and pay for outlays. I consider it one of the most laborious sizes that a farm can have if one intends to use it as a farm, and if not, then it is too large. Four acres of nice buildings would really be worth more in the way of comfort, and these buildings have got to an age which will call for constant repairs, and the house is never convenient nor built for a farmhouse; in fact it was not intended for a farm by Grandpa, and there was no farm till your father made it so by his cultivation, for it was waste land.

Did I tell you that the Taylors had sailed for England? They must be there now. How sweet and beautiful they were when here, and how in the two or three little days they spent here they made themselves felt and beloved. Mrs. Taylor is really one of the sweetest women I have ever known. Fannie is at the Centennial and I have just one line from her. She is almost frantic from the confusion. You know her head gets troubled easily, and she had not got it rested from the journey and the first days of the great show. She will remain long enough to find herself and look clearly and see what she “went for to see,” I trust. I am glad you have heard from Etta and glad they are getting on so well. Please give a great deal of love to dear Anna and congratulate her on her Centennial trip which, I trust, she enjoyed to its fullest, and thank Mr. Shrubler for his good gift to my dear old brother. I know it has made a warm spot in his heart for all the time he will live to wear it, and with his poor health and tendency to melancholy his joys are not too many. Mr. Shrubler has given him a great many pleasures, and I thank him most earnestly for them all.

My kitty is charming. She knows almost as much as folks, and has just taken to mousing. She often carries in two and three and sometimes four and five bits of game a day, and all the family have to recognize each one before she will be at all quiet. She is too comical, standing at the door with her nice[Pg 106] white face and her mouth full of mouse and grass, calling all the household out to see her.

Yours lovingly


Miss Barton’s views on health, on politics, on society, on idle women, and incidentally, perhaps, her best description of herself, her tastes and habits, is contained in a letter of this period to a learned German professor, who, knowing of her life in Germany, wrote to her, and proposed to visit her. It is interesting to note that in this letter she speaks of her hair as having been dark brown and changed in a few months of illness to a silvery gray. It did not remain gray, but with her return of health resumed its color of brown, though not so dark as before:

Dansville, Livingston Co., N.Y.
April 17, 1877

Esteemed and dear Friend:

I beg you not to be alarmed even if you were correct in your conjecture that illness caused my silence. It is very true, but I am so far recovered now that, although not released from my bed, I have taken up my pen again, and yesterday, before receiving your card, had laid out your last letter as one of the first to be answered. I might, or I might not, have reached it to-day in regular order, but now, I place it first, and commence my morning roll-call with “Prof. Thed. Pfau,” and a long, narrow, blue-tinted envelope responds, half wearily, half impatiently, “Here.” So “here” we have it.

First, having admitted illness, which I never do if possible to avoid, I must settle your apprehensiveness; it is no new play, or act or scene, simply a calling before the curtain for repetition. I have in these exhausted days only a given amount of strength, and if, by any accident or oversight, I overdraw on my accounts, I am at once bankrupt, and can carry on business no further. Having been in former days accustomed to draw from an unlimited and ever-recruiting stock of strength and health, I find it a difficult problem to solve, how to bring myself down to the necessary economies of my present condition.[Pg 107] I cannot realize that a few hours, a few rods, a few steps even, a little overwork at my desk, the quiet arranging of a simple room, a little overrun of company, may use up all my little capital, and I must wait and compromise with my creditors, start business anew on a smaller scale, and work my way up again to the lost point, probably only to lose it again. A month or six weeks ago I committed some one of these extravagances, and immediately comes a notice from my physical banker shutting off my supply of sleep. He had been allowing me nearly seven hours in the four and twenty, but he cut it down to three, two, one, a few minutes, none at all, and so left me for several days and nights, then let it come back in a similar ratio up to—Oh, well, no matter how much, but not seven hours, no, nor for a long time to come; but I can get up and walk about my room and sit part of the day; and I write, because it is better for me to write chatty letters, with no thought in them, than to relapse into solid thinking as I would in doing nothing. One sometimes needs to be saved from himself.

I do not know if I have ever told you of my illness, or what holds me so weak. It is what is known as “prostration of the nervous system,” and very complete at that, I suppose. I am not aware of any decided organic disease, only as all the organs are affected by this great letting down of nerve power and force. Of the class of disease generally denominated “female weaknesses” I know nothing experimentally. Of the lame backs and aching lower spine, that the majority of feeble women suffer torture from, I am ignorant, and can sympathize with them only through observation, but of the hot sore spot on the spine, high up between the shoulders, leading up to the base of the brain, bursting into flame at every over-taxation of mental energy, I know all. It is the same thing that over-worked public men sink under, in sudden deaths, softening of the brain, paralysis, or something analogous to these. This is the illness that has become my master and will one day prove my conqueror. There is no looking forward to “restored health,” soundness and security. The price of not only my liberty, but my life is “eternal vigilance.” Now a truce to illness, to which, thank God, you are a comparative stranger, and I pray Him you always may be.

I have received “Puck” since his advent into this warring[Pg 108] world, and he is growing to be a fine little fellow, stout and healthy, a jolly little elf, isn’t he? His wit will get him some clips over the nose by and by, when it begins to be felt, but this he does not care for, for he means to bite. I laughed heartily at his satire on Stanley two weeks ago, and yet Stanley is a valued friend, and I have fought terrible battles for him on both continents, but the imitation is excellent and full of ingenuity. The cuts are, of course, inimitable. Mr. Kepler’s pencil has a master touch, and I wish him long life, abundant success, full pockets, and artistic fame.

The spring is opening well here. We have had a succession of charming days, followed now by a rain which is bringing up the green grass and swelling the buds almost to bursting, but we have no leaves yet. Some wild trees which precede their leaf life by their flowers are out in spring dress; a kind of woods willow, which bedecks itself in deep yellow, is very gaudy just now; the peach trees are pushing out their little soft gray pussy toes all over their red branches, and the horse-chestnuts, with their blunt ends tipped with swollen round buds, look as if they had doubled up their fists for fighting and said to all their more tapering, slender neighbors, Come on, we are ready! We are yet a month too early for the first roses.

Perhaps I told you that I removed to a snug brick city-built house for the winter. I have changed it this spring for a much older and country-like wood house, which has some trees, grass, and shade, a garden, and perhaps some flowers if the sunshine brings them up. I am, of course, all too unpretending and simple in my life to have a gardener, so shall lack the beauties which such assistance would develop. I was once a very tolerable gardener myself among flowers, but I have no longer strength to spend on the strong lap of Mother Earth, much as I love her and her dear little nurslings of cowslip and violets, but good sturdy old dame, she does a great deal without help, and knows very well how to dress herself without the aid of a fille de chambre.

But here I am on this fourth large page, and not even yet noted the contents of your letter. The photograph! I am sorry that you withheld it, I should have been very glad to receive it, if you would entrust it to me, and I still hope you will decide to do so. I should prize it, but I cannot say when I should be able to return the favor. I have no photographs[Pg 109] either good or bad. I am never able to go to a gallery to sit for one. The last time was in Paris. All I ever had have been picked away long ago. I am the debtor of all my friends for pictures, some of them several times over, but they know how it is, and I hope excuse me. If I should ever again be in condition to sit, and can get a result that my friends will accept, I will take them by the hundred and relieve myself from embarrassment, but you should know that as a picture my photograph is not at all to be coveted. If natural, it must be uncomely. I was never what the world calls even “good-looking,” leaving out of the case all such terms as “handsome,” and “pretty.” My features were strong and square, cheek-bones high, mouth large, complexion dark; my best feature was perhaps a luxuriant growth of glossy dark hair shading to blackness, but that is comparatively thin now, and silver gray, all within the last three years. It changed from its original blackness to its present shade in the first six weeks of this present illness in 1874. I never cared for dress, and have no accomplishments, so you will find me plain and prosy both in representation and reality if ever you should chance to meet either. I beg you to believe this and to remember it to avoid any disappointment which might possibly occur. Not that I think it could change the friendship of a sensible person, but I like people, and especially my friends, to know me as I am, and not hold a false estimate of me.

Of poor Miss R. (Lorraine Raymond) I never hear a word. It is charitable to attribute her silence to want of scholarship, but I am inclined to disbelieve the verity of this. I believe her to be a very fair scholar, and an average (to say the least of it) correspondent; but she seldom writes, I know. She wrote me a few letters from Europe years ago, none of late years. She has a kind heart, and I am so so sorry for her.

I hope the trial of your brother will not result disastrously to him. Perhaps one cannot easily control a dislike, but he has certainly chosen a most powerful foe, and the odds seem unequal. I agree with you in more than word, when you declare the Imperial Family of Germany to be a respectable one; it is all of that, nothing in Europe stands before it, and those of it whom I have known personally are of the highest excellence and purest worth. I am sure the more intimately they are known, the better they must be beloved. The Grand Duchess[Pg 110] of Baden is to me the loveliest woman on the earth; in this term I mean to combine all qualities of both mind and body; both nature and culture have made her a Princess. And I cannot see why she is not as good a Republican as if she had been born a peasant, or a Suisse, or American citizen; in no position would she knowingly do a wrong or commit an act of tyranny to the lowest human being whether subject or not. “Tired of Republics,” you say. Perhaps if you study your own meaning closely you will find that you are rather tired of politics than Republics. And, my esteemed and valued friend, let me in all childlike simplicity suggest what does not perhaps clearly appear to you, viz., that the standpoint one occupies, the surroundings one has, the outlook one takes, have a great deal to do in forming the opinion and swaying the judgment. I am sorry that you must perforce see our country, its political, moral, and social sides, through the slum, and mire, and haze of a lens like New York City. Out on our millions of acres of hills, valleys, and plains is a better, purer, nobler population, the force of whose earnestness and honesty will save our Nation long ages after the pollution of its cities would have turned it into a Sodom and Gomorrah. There is a true, steady, honest pulse beating in the veins of the yeomanry of this land that never throbbed a second in a city like New York, and never will; but when the trial comes, it is the pulse that will tell. Tweed and his “ring” didn’t go to the farmers sweating in their hay-fields with their bargains. They went to the politicians, and burrowed in the cities and made their nests like the bats and owls, under the eaves of churches and in halls and steeples; they can plan, and connive, and twiddle and fiddle with the lines a long time while the farmers work in their fields, but when real danger appears, when the load topples and is likely to upset, stouter hearts than theirs will come to the front, stronger hands than theirs will take the reins, and bring out the load in safety. We are not so near destruction as it would seem from your standpoint, and because a few poor, vain, foolish women, with little money and less brains and shriveled hearts, have betaken themselves to the boarding-houses of New York City, and are living false, empty, silly, idle lives for show, it does not make it that this is the character or life of all the women of America, nor that well-regulated homelife is not the rule of the country, for it is; and I, who am a[Pg 111] part of it, and have lived it, and over and among it, all my lifetime, know it well. Shall we judge France and its whole people by the courtesans of Paris, or Germany by Berlin? Oh! my friend and brother, do, I beseech of you, get another standpoint, and a wider outlook and a clearer, purer atmosphere than New York City with its floodtide of immigration before you judge, in final judgment, the whole population, male and female, of this great country.

I thank you very much for the hope expressed that we may meet in Paris in ’78, but there is small prospect of this. I shall scarcely cross the ocean again. I have much to do to save my strength with no unnecessary waste, but the hope expressed that we may meet before that time is something nearer home, and more within the range of possibilities. I should never dare by any means to invite you to visit me, and I never go to your part of the country, so the prospect of our meeting is small. Perhaps I ought to explain the above remark, having very incautiously made it, and I will. I am a so much more simple person in my mode of life than you have probably ever seen (except those whom poverty compelled to simplicity) that you would not feel happy or homelike in my house. I am simple in my tastes, and plain, avoiding luxuries from choice and principle, both about my house and in its dress, and my table and its furnishings. My living is simple as a hermit’s, heavy meats, and wines, teas, and coffees are unknown at my table, my rooms plain. I have only my housekeeper—no retinue of servants at all, no show, no ornaments, no excuses; but with all this there is great peace and quiet, no worry, no fret, no fears of what the world will think or say, no pressure in any direction, abundant supplies for all necessities, no scandal either spoken or listened to, no backbiting, and no “skeleton in the closet,” not even the shadow of one. Now, all this simplicity and plainness, and the absence of excitement and luxurious surroundings and living, must be so different from all that you are accustomed to that you could not be happy or even comfortable among it, so I should never dare invite you to visit me, even if you were journeying near me, and so, when you see that I do not, you will understand the true reason and assign the right motive on my part and not feel piqued or slighted, or that I am cold, or eccentric, or reserved, or in any way unaccountable, or any other thing, but just what I am,[Pg 112] a plain woman with enough of common sense to perceive that our modes of life are so different that you could not enjoy visiting me, and fearless candor enough to tell you so.

Your sincere friend

Clara Barton

How Clara Barton was regarded at Dansville is shown in many ways, as in the following cutting from the Dansville “Advertiser” of June 7, 1877, giving account of an exercise on the previous Memorial Day:

Ovation to Miss Clara Barton

Toward noon on Memorial Day the bustle of preparation to go downtown to the procession and oration seemed to arouse a new impulse of gratitude to the soldiers’ friend, Miss Clara Barton, which spread rapidly through Our Home, and soon organized itself in a programme of proceedings for the evening, when she should have rested a little from the fatigue of her participation in the public celebration.

By six o’clock a goodly number of men and women and children had gathered in Brightside and on the surrounding lawn. Soon this company, consisting of doctors and other officials, the stronger patients and helpers from the Cure, a few near-by neighbors, and the inmates of Brightside, were marshaled two by two on the walk before the gate. Of the hundred nosegays which the girls had hastily tied up and heaped on a server, none were left when each person had taken one; and these, with numerous “flags a-floating,” made the procession gay as it moved on, led by the clergy. The Conesus brass band, taking tea at the seminary, had patriotically agreed to add to the dignity of the enterprise by their numbers and their music. Meanwhile one of the company had casually (apparently) in a neighborly way dropped into Miss Barton’s parlor, and lured her on to the front piazza in time to witness the approach as the allies joined their forces. Being entirely taken by surprise, she could only exclaim to her attendant, “What does it all mean? What shall I do?” when she saw the battalion bearing down—rather up—on her castle. Evidently she was completely subjugated without a gun being fired, and looked helplessly and speechlessly around on the[Pg 113] lines of exultant faces which, filing right and left, had environed the piazza in a semicircle. It still required some gentle force, however, to seat her on the chair in readiness for her. At this juncture Miss Austin, stepping forward, said:

Miss Barton: After joining our sympathies with our fellow citizens at large in paying a tribute of respect and gratitude to the brave men who fought and suffered and died for their country’s salvation, the inmates of Our Home come with gladness to greet a living woman—one who worked and suffered and gave her strength and health in alleviating the pains and sorrows, the homesickness and heart-sickness of our soldiers. And we are thankful that your mission was not alone to our soldiers, but that you represented a vastly broader and nobler sentiment than mere patriotism—that you were actuated by that grand humanity which forbade you even in war-times to know any North or any South; but that every man to whom you could in any way minister was your brother. We rejoice in this, because you then represented the selfsame spirit which must yet bridge over the chasm that has hitherto divided the two sections and make us one united brotherhood—a happy and prosperous country.

But, dear Miss Barton, your life and labors have carried you beyond our country, and through you we hold fraternal bonds to the whole world. In foreign countries and in a foreign war, you spent your sympathies and your efforts, not on the Germans, nor on the French, nor on any nationality; but everywhere, every man, every woman, every little child who needed help or loving succor, received these from you in the full measure of your capacity to bestow.

We come, then, to lay our honors at your feet as a citizen of the world, as a friend to humanity, as a lover of your race; recognizing the work which you have done as a foreshadowing of that time when men shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, when nations shall not lift up sword against nations, neither shall they learn war any more.

Miss Austin then introduced Reverend Miss Anna Oliver, of Passaic, New Jersey, who said:

The feeling of enthusiastic admiration with which I have long regarded one whose course has reflected honor upon her country, upon womanhood and humanity, prevent me from making a set speech on this occasion.

Several years ago I had the pleasure, Miss Barton,—I may say the sad pleasure,—of visiting Andersonville Prison, and the cemetery laid out under your supervision, placing a flower on each of those several thousand graves. During that visit through the South, I frequently heard the name of Miss Barton mentioned with gratitude and love, both by those who had served in the Confederate and in the Union armies.

War is terrible, and we all know, of course, that no such thing as a necessary war ever occurred. But as long as wars are actualities, how blessed is the thought that the barbarities of past ages may be superseded by the gentle Christian ministrations, a representative of which we delight to honor to-day.

[Pg 114]

We mourn the fratricidal strife
That digs each soldier’s grave;
We strew the flowers on the sod
In honor of the brave;
But most of all we rev’rence those
Who seek man’s life to save.

They marched on the advancing foe
They nobly fought and fell;
But there were those attending near,
’Mid shower of shot and shell,
As brave in a diviner cause,
Who did their part as well.

To-day we pay our tribute of respect to the names of Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton.

Dr. Jackson then, being called by Miss Barton to her aid, thanked her friends in her behalf and happily expressed what he imagined might be her feelings on the occasion. When he had finished, the “Star-Spangled Banner” was sung by the choir.

Miss Barton now spoke briefly and feelingly of the honor done her and the happy memory to be cherished. Sometime she might express herself better. The most she could do now was simply to offer these friends a hand-grasp.

Then each person laid down his offering of flowers till her lap was piled high and her feet were buried deep in a pink-and-white mound, each as he passed claiming the promised hand-shake. While this was going on, the band played an inspiring air and the people of the hillside retired with the pleasant consciousness of having enjoyed a happy half-hour.

Afterward Miss Barton had a personal introduction to each member of the band, who had so kindly assisted in paying honor to one enjoying the reverence and affection of the American people, as of all classes, from the lowest peasantry to the crowned heads in Europe.

[Pg 115]


When Clara Barton began her ministry in the Civil War, she had practically no knowledge concerning work that had been done in America or elsewhere for the relief of wounded soldiers. She did not remember even to have heard of Florence Nightingale until she was actually engaged in work of a similar character. When, at Port Royal, she was serenaded and hailed as “the Florence Nightingale of America,” she knew what it meant, but she had not known very long. She took up the duty just as Dorothea Dix and other brave women did, in an earnest effort to do the thing that needed to be done, and she learned how to do it by doing it. She discovered the defects in other systems then employed, but did not criticize them. She realized the difficulties under which volunteer workers were working, and she carefully refrained from passing any unkind judgments upon organizations that were laboring under almost insuperable difficulties. But she found her own method of work, and she performed it with a success which, without robbing any other brave woman of any portion of her due fame, wrought for Clara Barton a crown of unfading laurel.

Not until she found herself in Switzerland, and was asked by Swiss representatives of the Red Cross why America had refused to join in that movement, had she found occasion to study the history of movements for the relief of wounded on the battle-field.

The sick and wounded in the wars of the Crusades were[Pg 116] cared for, inadequately but nobly, by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta. These Christian knights ministered alike to Christian and Saracen. In some of the subsequent wars of Europe the Sisters of Charity of the Roman Catholic Church rendered such service as they were able.

And yet the history of the care of the wounded in all the wars, from the dawn of history, is one of cruel and, in many respects, of needless suffering.

During the Crimean War Florence Nightingale with thirty-eight nurses went from England to Scutari, across the Bosphorus from Constantinople, and rendered service which made her name a household word the world around. It was Clara Barton’s lifelong regret that she did not meet Florence Nightingale during her long stay in England, but she was sick and so was Miss Nightingale, and neither thought of the other as being within call.

The real beginning of the movement which resulted in the organization of the Red Cross began with Henri Dunant, who was born at Geneva in 1828. When he was thirty-one years of age, in 1859, the forces of Sardinia and of Victor Emmanuel, with the allied army of France under Napoleon III, waged war against Austria for the freedom of northern Italy. At the battle of Solferino, forty thousand soldiers were killed or wounded. The defeated Austrians retreated, and the French and Italians pursued, leaving the wounded almost deserted. Surgeons at that time were not protected from attack, and the surgeons of each army moved on with the army. Dunant gathered women of the neighborhood and gave what relief he could without distinction of nationality.

On his return to Geneva, filled with tragic memories of[Pg 117] the scenes of horror he had witnessed, he issued a pamphlet entitled “Souvenir de Solferino.” In this he described the scenes which he had witnessed, and propounded this question: “Would it not be possible to found and organize in all civilized countries volunteers which in time of war would render succor to the wounded without distinction of nationality?”

Geneva had an organization for philanthropic and humane work, known as the “Society of Public Utility.” Its president was Monsieur Gustave Moynier. He was deeply moved by Dunant’s pamphlet, and sent out an invitation for a conference to organize “An International Conference for Investigating Means to Supplement the Inadequacy of Medical Services of Armies in Campaigns.”

This led to the conference of August, 1864, to which reference has already been made, in which the United States was unofficially represented by Mr. George C. Fogg, American Minister to Switzerland, and Mr. Charles S. P. Bowles, European Agent of the Sanitary Commission.

All this Clara Barton learned as she studied the history which lay behind a movement in which she was to have so important a share. Of movements in the United States she already knew.

The United States Sanitary Commission was organized in New York City on May 18, 1861, with the Reverend Henry W. Bellows, D.D., as president. The good which it did in the Civil War was incalculable. In cooperation with it was the Western Sanitary Commission, organized in St. Louis on September 5, 1861.

The Young Men’s Christian Associations of the country led in the organization of the United States Christian[Pg 118] Commission, which was formed in New York, November 16, 1861. Besides these were innumerable societies which were formed by women for the furnishing of supplies, the establishment of rest homes, and the distribution of comforts to soldiers.

When, in 1864, the United States was asked to participate in the work of the Red Cross, there was very little inclination on the part of Government officials, to treat this request with any more courtesy than official etiquette required. The Government did not feel very kindly toward European Governments for their attitude during the war of our rebellion. We had established our own agencies for the relief of suffering, and had no inclination to add another.

When the war was over, however, Dr. Bellows was confident America would join in the International Red Cross. He issued a long letter addressed to Monsieur Henri Dunant, who was acting as “Secrétaire du Comité International de Secours aux Militairet Blessés.” This Dr. Bellows did as President of “The American Association for the Relief of Misery of Battle-fields.” On its title-page was emblazoned a Red Cross as the insignia of the organization, the first time that symbol was used in America, and, until Clara Barton’s day, the last.

In this long and earnest and discriminating letter, intended to arouse public sentiment in America, Dr. Bellows told, with great plainness of speech, of the inadequacy of even those splendid organizations with which he himself had been associated. He said:

Good intentions and humane sentiments are not alone qualifications for this duty.... Volunteer agents are the dearest that can be used.... It is useless to expect correct information[Pg 119] on the wants of the soldier from the Government, or the Medical Bureau, or even the General Officers. The last thing to which a Government attends in an active war is the sick and wounded. The Medical is the least interesting bureau to it, and as a rule army surgeons have hard and coarse views of humanity to soldiers. General officers seldom see with their own eyes the details of want and suffering.

He paid a high tribute to the work of the women in the war. He said that virtually the whole womanhood of the Nation was engaged in it. He spoke of the women in hospitals, and said that some of them had done well, but that “detailed men are the appropriate nurses in military hospitals. Women are rarely in place at the front, or even at the base of armies.” He said that, of the women who went to the front, “most of them were in the way, with a few rare exceptions, where tact and humanity were united with force and endurance.” His letters to Clara Barton leave no doubt as to one whom he considered in the forefront of these exceptions, combining, as she did, tact and humanity with force and endurance.

Dr. Bellows’s effort fell completely flat so far as the organization of the society was concerned. He became thoroughly discouraged and gave it up, and years afterward rejoiced when he saw Clara Barton accomplish what he had vainly striven to do.

This was the situation as Clara Barton learned it, when returning health brought back to her the strong purpose of proceeding at once to the organization of an American Red Cross.

[Pg 120]


For several years after the Franco-Prussian War, Europe was at peace. But trouble was brewing between Russia and Turkey, and no one knew what the end of it would be. The probability that there would be war in Europe appeared to Clara Barton to indicate a possibly favorable condition of public sentiment in America for the consideration of the Red Cross. If there was to be war in Europe, and we were to be asked to help in the relief of the suffering it would cause, it would seem fitting that there should be some international organization by which relief could be gathered on this side and distributed upon the other. The American public would then see some reason why America should be interested in an organization of this character.

Clara Barton communicated with Dr. Louis Appia, who had called upon her in Switzerland, and with whom she had been associated in the Franco-Prussian War, offering to assist, in such way as she might be able, in effecting a suitable organization.

From Dr. Appia and from President Gustave Moynier, she received prompt letters, and, with these, official appointment to represent in America the International Committee of the Red Cross. This correspondence is lengthy, but of the greatest possible value and must be included in full:

[Pg 121]

Dansville, May 17, 1877

Dr. Louis Appia
Member Société Internationale of the Red Cross of Geneva
My Esteemed and dear Friend:

If years have passed since any word from my pen told you of my existence, and if the precious letter from you has lain many months unanswered, it has not been the fault of my memory, nor the loss of friendship, nor interest in you nor in the glorious and holy work which engrosses and fills your noble life. It has been simply that, ill, weak, worn, and suffering, I have been lost to the work of the world, and to the friends I honored and loved. Four long years have found and held me powerless to strike a blow on the great anvil of humanity, or labor one day in its vineyards, and for the most part too weak even to hear of those who did. But the strong brothers and sisters have toiled bravely on while I waited. The great wheels have slowly turned, until they have ceased to crush me so low, and grind me so small, and once more I begin, under God’s Providence, to reach out my hands into the passing atmosphere of life and feel the breezes blow over the seared and fevered palms. Once more I dare turn my eyes toward the labor-fields and their faithful workers; in my land, bright with its western sunbeams, aglow with beauty and abounding in plenty, they sew and glean in peaceful valleys.

But beyond the eastern waves, in that dear old land that four years of life there taught me to love so well, I see again the flash of the bayonet, the march of armies trampling down the harvests; the terror-stricken fly for rescue, and the wounded cry for help. Again the Red Cross, like the bow of promise, rises over the scene, again the shout from its inspired origination rings out amid the din of arms, and its clear, brave tones reach me even here in my quiet chambers, and my heart, with all its old memories stirred to their depths, goes out in response; it bids me seize my pen and say to you that what there is of me is still ready for my work; that like the old war horse that has rested long in quiet pastures, I recognize the bugle-note that calls me to my place, and, though I may not do what I once could, I am come to offer what I may. Then, would I have taken the next steamer, and in two weeks have stood beside you, asking where to go, and what to do, but as that[Pg 122] is not for me now, my brain and heart must do what my hands cannot. My plans are made, and, such as they are, I send them to you for acceptance and coöperation.

First, I cannot quite rid myself of the lingering hope that the terrible vision of war before you will vanish before its full realization, but if not and the nations are drawn into its vortex, God only knows the end. I cannot foresee it, but I can foresee that my country will open its heart and its hand in aid as soon as the cry of want and suffering shall reach it; this never fails. The American nature is free and impulsive, its sympathies are quick and responsive, and it has neither power nor desire to withhold aught from the distressed. But, ready as America will be, she is far away from the scene, can understand but vaguely the steps necessary to the proper gathering, sending, and bestowal of her gifts. So without some definite and well-arranged organization, however large and generous her donations, she will fail of accomplishing any real or perceptible good, as she has always failed before in all similar efforts, at foreign aids. Foreseeing this, I would, if possible, step in to fill this place, and hold back this waste of waters till they can be turned into their proper channels. And for this, my honored friend and brother, I write to you, to ask if I can be of service in this direction. If so, I will do my best to form such an organization in America, if you and your Committee desire it. As it is now, in spite of all efforts which you have so generously made to spread the knowledge of your society and its great objects in this country, it is almost unknown, and the Red Cross, in America, is a Mystery. I am safe in asserting that not one person in a hundred on this side of the Atlantic ever heard of it; not one in five hundred has any clear idea of its uses or design. The Franco-German War failed entirely in introducing it either to the people or the Government, and so will this present war, unless some active hand takes hold of it, to organize the war reliefs under its escutcheon. It is not enough that some good person stands inactively as the representative of the society in this broad country. To be learned it must be brought into active use. It must have a National Headquarters, sanctioned by the Government, where the flag of the beautiful Red Cross floats day and night, in war and in peace. It must have its different State organizations, and its smaller relief societies all working under its insignia.[Pg 123] This accomplished, the charities gathered from the people should be passed to the State and thence to the National Headquarters, and, these being always in communication with you, they would be shipped intelligently and reach at once a field in need of them. My heart aches when I think of all the thousands upon thousands of dollars in goods and grains sent to France in the best of faith by our people in 1871 and wasted; lost, squandered, and sold on its borders, it being impossible to gain transportation or penetrate the army lines; and all for the want of the proper knowledge and organization at home. It will be the same thing again unless some method is taken to centralize, organize, and prevent.

I have only a word more to add, and I feel called to make the suggestion I make by the fact that I am perhaps almost the only American who you can feel has been a co-worker with you, whose manner of work you know something of, and whom you can class as a personal friend and thus address familiarly. And my suggestion is, that if you feel that I can serve your cause, and humanity through it, in the manner I have described, you will let me know your desires at once. If you will write me immediately upon receipt of this, asking in your own name or that of the International Society, that I do all in my power to aid you in the work, and to use my power with my people and my Government, so that it can be seen here that such a want is felt, such a work needed, and that the call is from the highest and original source of international relief in war, investing it with the highest importance, I will have your letter placed before our President and Government and ask their sanction and approval, if not the pecuniary aid; for that I never ask. And if it is inclined to be so gracious, it may perhaps appoint a Head to the work, thus, by its notice, investing it with an importance, and throwing about it a protection, which it could in no other wise secure. This would forever establish the knowledge and the work of the Red Cross for which its noble founders have striven so bravely and faithfully in every mile of American soil. The soldier would learn to trust it, the father would honor and bless it, the mother would bind it over her torn and aching heart as she kissed her soldier boy good-bye, and the little children even in the wilds would come to know and love its beautiful face.

Now, my honored friend, this is not an appeal that you[Pg 124] make me the head of your noble order in this country, the active working head I mean, for I have little ambition at best and none now, but it is to tell you that such a head must be made before the order here can ever come to be of the smallest possible use to the world. Thus far it has failed, and I see no way to establish it but by a call coming earnestly from you and being actively and unselfishly and powerfully and wisely placed before the moving powers of this Nation and the people. If you have already some person in your mind who will do this, or who you prefer should attempt it, then it is all well, only see that he does his duty and is not asleep at his post. There is no more time for this. But if you have not such a person in mind, and feel that I can serve you acceptably, you have but to let me know and I will do all in my power. Please write me at once. The stronger your appeal to me, the better use I can make of it, and meanwhile I shall not be idle or inactive, but will hope to hear from you within the next six weeks, say by the 1st of July.

Please accept my most grateful thanks for the kind sympathies expressed in your letters of last year which I was too ill to answer, and remember me in great respect to your family and the mutual friends in my home in Geneva.

Perhaps to you, as a physician, it would be proper to state that my long illness has been, as you most likely would suspect, “prostration of the nervous system,” and you know how slowly one rallies from this, and with what difficulty the strength is regained. I am now at my best by far since 1873; am about my house and grounds, ride, walk, meet friends, and sleep tolerably well, not as in the old days on the ground without bed or pillow, but comfortably, and am always gaining a little in strength.

I trust this may find you well, and it will carry to you the best wishes and most sincere esteem of

Your friend

Clara Barton


Paris, June 14, 1877

Miss Barton, and Honored Friend:

It is in French that I write to you, for you would laugh at my bad English. I am at present in Paris on a visit at my[Pg 125] brother’s. I hear that Mr. Moynier has written to you on the same subject which will make the contents of this letter. I expect Mr. Moynier in Paris in a few days, which will give me the opportunity to talk the proposition over with him, which we both wish you to take an interest in.

Mr. Moynier has undoubtedly told you that our Committee has tried for these last ten years to give to an American Committee an active existence, but we failed. In the first years our communications were made through a Mr. Bowles, then residing at Paris, with whom we ceased to correspond, not seeing that we arrived to any certain result by this channel. Later we have been in direct communication with Dr. Henry W. Bellows, President of a phantom Committee in New York, from whom we seldom receive an answer. Having therefore no proof that that committee was active, we ceased to correspond, and we at last learned officially that that committee was officially and entirely dead. From that time, about a year since, we considered the Red Cross as not existing any more in America. I need not speak here of the disease which has caused that death. You are an American and you know better than we the temperament of your Nation. Our hope to entertain the life has been nourished in us by the reading of the admirable work which America had made for the care of the wounded during the Secession War. We spoke of it at length in the thick volume which Mr. Moynier and myself have published under the title, “The War and Charity,” and which obtained the integral prize of the central committee in Berlin. Mr. Moynier has told you, without doubt, how happy we should be to see a work come into life again in your rich and generous America, which had shone with such a bright luster at the epoch when it was stimulated by the mighty auxiliary of the patriotic motive. We know little what America has done for the victims of the Franco-German War, which you have seen and during which we have for some time worked together, and I am not surprised that many generous gifts have been lost for want of a good organization, and especially for want of being able to establish regular communications with the armies by the channel of an American auxiliary committee residing in Europe and which would offer all the security.

If you, my honored friend, could succeed in organizing something durable in America, in relation to the Oriental War[Pg 126] which appears only in its beginning, you would have nobly crowned the work of devotedness to which you have consecrated your life. I do not know what means of execution Mr. Moynier proposed. I shall write again upon that subject, when I shall have seen him, so that we agree completely together in what we tell you. Permit me, however, now to communicate to you some ideas. You can without doubt become the soul of this revising work, but you cannot be its body. America is not so different from Europe that my experience cannot profit you for your country. Now, medicine teaches us that a soul without a body has no life at all, at least upon earth. Perhaps even it is better that a woman should be the soul; her moral influence, her earnest entreaties near the Governments and authorities are often better accepted and consequently more efficacious. I do not therefore see any inconvenience that you should be for America the head of the Order, the active working head,—why not? If you feel to have the brain power as much as I know you have the moral power, but then create immediately under that head a body, arms to write, to arrange methodically, to publish, to keep the correspondence, either alone or under your dictation, for copying, etc., after that, feet for running, to go, to come, to collect, to buy, to make multitudes of visits and receive visitors, as we were obliged to do in Geneva in 1870, where during two months my ten rooms were never empty all day long, each one containing a secretary, man or woman, to write and to receive a host of visits which would have killed a President, and of which hardly a quarter had really any other practical use than to enlighten the public and to keep up its zeal, not always rational.

Surround yourself at once with a little body of persons full of good-will and capacity, docile to your directions, either women or young men, especially doctors. Amongst the latter choose a secretary who must be entirely at your service and who probably ought to be paid.

1. The first work seems to me to be to awaken the attention, the sympathy, and the confidence of the public. Without the public, no money, and without money no material help. You know as well as myself the means to attain this end is publicity, the power of which is, I believe, greater in America than in any other country.

[Pg 127]

2. Complete study of the practical and sure means to carry an efficacious relief to the armies in the Orient. To that effect one needs to correspond very often with all the relief committees of Russia, of Rumania, of Serbia, of Montenegro, and even of Constantinople. It is necessary not to conceal to one’s self that these intercourses, easy enough on paper, are very difficult in reality, if one does not want the money or the relief to be lost to the profit of the war, rather than to the profit of the unhappy victims.

In order to obtain this, and our Committee can be of use to you, and between Mr. Moynier and myself we shall do all we can to help to enlighten you. But you must also have direct intercourse with the relief committees of the different countries which are at this moment engaged in the war, although administratively the international communications from neutral countries are made by the International Committee. You know by experience that many letters are in that case lost in the hands of employees, subordinates, or men too much occupied, and that one needs to throw the bait often and on several sides, at the risk of losing much time.

3. You must put yourself in direct communication with your President. I see in it the use, first, to augment your credit in the country; second, especially to obtain that your letters and your sendings be given up by persons in high positions and influential, in particular ambassadors and consuls. You know that question by your experience in the American war better than I do, and I shall not enlarge upon it.

4. You must have money, and you know the means to procure it. The Sanitary Commission has collected sixty millions of francs during your war, especially by immense bazaars. In our country bazaars always succeed, much more so than collections, and produce three to four times as much. They always succeed, while collections oftentimes fail.

5. Once having the necessary money, the question rises, if it would be advisable to choose two commissaries,—for example, two young physicians supplied with a recommendation from your President,—who should go together to Europe with instructions and plein-pouvoir from your new Committee, directed to go first to Geneva to the International Committee and from there to go directly to the Headquarters of the Russian army, in order to make its acquaintance and to obtain[Pg 128] from it the authorization to circulate in the army and to gather all the information necessary for your work. It would be desirable that they speak tolerable French, this language being the official one in Europe; if they speak and write only English, they would lose time and would not always be understood. Those two or three commissaries should be posted on the theater seat of the war and should give you all the news by an active correspondence. They ought probably to engage themselves not to write on politics. I never did it in war-time of Italy, Schleswig, and France. Besides these commissaries, you need an office or an agency in Europe to whom all the relief funds must be addressed and who would take the charge of sending them on wherever the commissaries indicate. I do not know what our International Committee will decide upon this, but I think it will be disposed to be an intermediary between America and the belligerent armies, as it has done during the War of 1870 by the agency residing at Bâle placed there by us. This agency has received five hundred letters, besides other correspondence, every day, either for France or Germany. Notice, however, that our Committee wish to show an absolute neutrality and should certainly refuse to coöperate in anything like a political party. It is, therefore, necessary that your publications speak out your intention to remain neutral and to carry the relief indifferently to all those who suffer. That will not hinder you to correspond more particularly with the Russian army, which for you is more accessible, with whom the communications are easier, and for whom I believe America has more political sympathy; but you must insist on your principle of neutrality in your publications and let this position be known in Constantinople, and especially to the Committee newly formed in that city. Your commissaries, after their arrival at Geneva, might remain there some days in order to study a little our library which contains everything that has appeared since the beginning of our work. It would be desirable, however, that the Committee of the Red Cross in America should buy the principal works, and that there should be a commission of several established persons who would take it upon themselves to study them and to give an account of them; there is a little in every language.

I have sent you a number of our International Bulletins which appear every three months, and in which I have spoken[Pg 129] of you. The annual subscription being only six francs, your Committee would take two subscriptions and by it would know all that is done in the different countries. Last year we sent three delegates to Montenegro, an interesting little country, where with material help and money we can do a great deal of good, and where one is received like a Divinity by this enthusiastic population, but which is also jealous and suspicious.

Our old delegates being at Geneva, yours could receive numerous and useful information. Before realizing this ambassador, we had three months’ study and treating.

I send you my discourse made in Brussels, which for your case does not contain any immediate application. I might give one to your hypothetical delegates as they pass through Geneva.

As you see, Miss Barton, and honored friend, I began with the idea that the American Society of the Red Cross should revise and assure its stable existence by an immediate employment of its power through a practical application; relief funds to send to the belligerent armies of the Oriental War. Once consecrated by action by the remembrance of what it has done, its basis will be firmer, its credit more assured, and then you will be able to give it a definite form and shape which experience will have shown you to be the most useful.

Not knowing yet what Mr. Moynier has done during my absence, I shall not send you the letter which I wish to address to your President, but shall do it as soon as I shall have seen him, if he has not already done it.

Write to me at any time concerning the affairs of the Red Cross and I shall reply as well as I can, being always in accordance with Mr. Moynier’s wishes, who does not know English.

You would do well to have Mr. Moynier’s pamphlet translated into English, “What the Red Cross is.” My little volume, entitled “The Surgeon at the Ambulance,” has been translated into English either in England or in America; perhaps it would be well to have a new edition of it for the circumstance. At last our volume “The War and Charity” has also been translated into English. For all our publications of the International Committee and its members it suffices to address Mr. George, Librarian at Geneva. Perhaps it would be necessary and useful, after you have plenty of money and[Pg 130] fellow-laborers, to publish every three months a small bulletin of your work in one of the good American journals.

And now, my dear Miss Barton, I have talked enough to you about the Red Cross. I have given you my ideas provisionally, expecting better ones later. You see, I have spoken to you familiarly and with an entire confidence and fraternal friendship which our intercourse and our common work in Europe has brought forth.

May God sustain you, if you do undertake this new work, and, in entertaining and augmenting your corporal strength and brain power, may He continue to inspire you with that moral irresistible power, that invincible strength, which He alone can give and which the incredulous humanitarian never can give.

Accept, Miss Barton, and honored friend, the assurance of my respectful friendship.

Louis Appia, Dr.

Dansville, July 1st, 1877

Docteur Louis Appia
Membre Comité International de Secours aux Militaires blessés, Geneva
Docteur and Honored Friend:

I cannot find the words to properly express to you my gratitude for the kind and careful manner in which you have treated my letter. But first allow me to thank Madame Appia for her generous part, and all the prompt care she took to place it in the proper hands, and let me thank both for the excellent photograph, so welcome now, and for all the future to be preserved among my choicest and most honored keepsakes.

How kind it was of you, my good friend, to give me so much of your time and labor, embodied in that long letter so filled with valuable suggestions! If nothing more comes of it, it will at least bring us to an understanding in reference to the actual existence and standing of the Order of the Red Cross in America. I was extremely guarded in my letter, not at all knowing how you stood in regard to your selected representative in this country, for I knew you had one, and, if you were satisfied, I did not wish to ripple the calm waters of confidence and security by even one pebble of discontent or doubt. I wrote cautiously like a woman. You have spoken out like a[Pg 131] man, and it is well. With the pains your Comité have taken, the Red Cross should have been known and honored in every household in America to-day. It has not died here: it was still-born; it has never once gasped on our shores; the nurses to whom you delivered it have never even uncovered its face, and America does not know that this holy child was ever an applicant for her adoption. She would have received it with open arms at the close of our war, when her own wounds were unhealed, and her memories fresh and tender. She will be less enthusiastic now at the end of a ten years’ peace, and no prospect of war. Still, the understanding and heart of the American people will lead them to examine and promote whatever cause has for its object the benefit of mankind, or the alleviation of human woe. I think I know my people, and although, through want of proper opportunities, or physical strength, or mental capacity, I may not be able to move them in this matter, this fact will in no way affect their general character, and, when all things combine for the proper presentation of this subject to them by whomsoever it may be, it will be received and adopted by them. Your suggestions are excellent and lay out much such a field of labor as I had looked forward to, and all this would be easy of accomplishment in America, if an urgent necessity existed. Until it does, it would be, I suspect, a difficult task to work up sufficient enthusiasm, but it was in anticipation of such a necessity that I was endeavoring to prepare the way. The simple war between Russia and Turkey might not be able to awaken the people, for we have a comparatively small element of either nationality among our populations, but if other European nations engage and Germany, France, and England, or all become involved, the interest in America will be scarcely less than on the other side. Then would be a repetition of the old sad days of the Franco-Prussian War, when every heart was sad and every purse open, they tell me, and half America in mourning.

Now, my idea was, in anticipation of such a state of affairs in Europe as should call for the sympathies and aid of the Americans, to be prepared with an organization, which would be only the body of clay, like the first man Adam, until the breath of life was breathed into its nostrils. This breath would be the necessity and the call for help from the suffering fields and peoples of Europe; then it would be well that the body[Pg 132] were created to receive it. The first step, it seems to me, is to find and appoint to the head of the work some person in America who will have the spirit, the interest, the enterprise, the determination to push the work, and bring it before the country and the people, or the honest conscience to resign the position in favor of some one who will, and not hold it for years, as an empty honor, smothering out its life, and leaving the country in ignorance of its existence.

I am very grateful to you for the kindly interest you take in the subject of my health. My sleep, which I know to be the great want, is always gaining, and digestion improving, and these without the slightest artificial aid. I never took a grain of morphia in my life, and probably never in all combined a tablespoonful of medicine to produce sleep, and now I take nothing; for the last three years not one particle of medicine, relying entirely upon my food, rest, and open air for my restoration. All I have gained has been by the aid of nature alone; thus I know the foundation is solid and sure. I allow nothing to trouble me, as indeed I have no cause for trouble. I walk, or work in my garden, or lie on my stretcher like a soldier under the trees several hours every day; and here come around me the memories of the past, the busy present, and the needful future. I wonder what you are all doing over this broad world, and how I can help you. If I find myself able to carry on a work I shall do it; if not, I shall endeavor to inspire those who are.

Your friend

Clara Barton


To Miss Clara Barton
Dansville, Livingston Co., N.Y.
Miss Barton, and Worthy Friend:

According to my promise I write to you after having seen Mr. Moynier, although I have nothing very new to tell you, and have only to confirm what I have written to you in detail. I can therefore be brief this second time. Mr. Moynier and myself are equally sympathetic to your plan, and we shall be happy if you succeed in founding in America a permanent work of the Red Cross. And we shall help you in it with our influence to the extent of our power.

[Pg 133]

Mr. Moynier has written me that he has already told you so. He has added to his communication a suggestion which indeed is very important, i.e., that you obtain from the Government of the United States the signing of the Convention of Geneva, which has already been done by all other civilized states in Europe and out of Europe. Without this signature, the private work of the Red Cross is paralyzed. Here is an example of what has very recently taken place in Montenegro, of which we have asked the signature before putting ourselves in relation with it, and before sending to it our three delegates with help for their wounded. All succeeded very well, and Montenegro has entered eagerly into the general alliance of the Convention of Geneva. It will be the same with America, we will hope, which has remained back until now. But in order to ensure its success, it will probably be necessary to make a summary communication to the Government what the Convention of Geneva is, its destiny, and what the Red Cross is. You will find all the desirable details upon this point in the pamphlets or works which Monsieur Moynier mentions or sends to you. It will be necessary that some person take cognizance of this work with you, and assist you in it. The Red Cross has existed since 1863. Since then it has given birth to an entire new literature, so as to make by itself a real library.

And now, my worthy friend, go on courageously with faith and hope. The cause is good: let us defend it everywhere and let us be firm in upholding the banner of charity. It will be ever the surest means of combating the principle of war.

Write to me when you have done something, with or without translation. My previous letter will give you all the details of my manner of viewing it.

As to our participation in your sending of secours, I think with Mr. Moynier that it would be better that we offer our coöperation directly, when we succeed this time in founding an International Agency. As formerly in 1870 we have founded one in Basle, which has been very active and useful, and consequently if you have any substance or provisions to send, it would be better that you send directly.

Besides we shall always be at your service to help and advise you, and we shall be very glad to be kept informed what you are doing, and we shall publish your work in our trimonthly Bulletin.

[Pg 134]

I could not see again Mr. Moynier, but I know he has nothing important to add to what I say and to what he has already written to you. I believe, therefore, you have from us all the indications and information which we can give you. There remains nothing else for me, Miss Barton, than to repeat my good wishes for your useful enterprise. May you feel your physical strength to keep up and increase, as much as your moral, for the good of others and for your own satisfaction.

I have nothing more to add, and I will not put off any longer this last letter.

Accept, Miss Barton, and worthy friend, the expression of my respectful devotion,

Louis Appia, Dr.

[Rough draft of letter without date, but evidently written about July 1st, 1877]

Monsieur S. Moynier
Président du Comité International de la Croix rouge
My Esteemed Friend:

Permit me to thank you, as I do most sincerely, for your kind and excellent letter of June 20th, and say how happy I am to find you so fully concurring with the ideas I had advanced in relation to the action to be taken in the attempted establishment of your beautiful Order of the Red Cross in America. It is unnecessary for me to assure you that I will do all that lies in my power to accomplish this end, believing as I do most implicitly that every step taken toward softening and humanizing the conditions of war is a double step toward its extirpation from a place among the codes of nations. This proves itself by the unfailing fact that the more barbarous a nation and the more inhuman its modes of warfare, the more frequent and unmitigated its wars. This conviction, added to the strong desire which has grown within me to lessen the sufferings of those who must compose armies while they do exist among the nations of the earth, will prove a sufficient stimulus to all the powers of my nature, and I will bring to the object the fullest strength I possess, and then, if with your best aid I fail in my purpose, I must be content to submit to the inevitable.

My intelligent friend and your compatriot, Mademoiselle Küpfer, has begged to add a letter to you, which I am most[Pg 135] thankful for, as she can speak to you in your own tongue, and with a clearness of expression which I could not. I shall be very busy for the few coming hot weeks of August translating the many valuable pamphlets so kindly sent me, from which I hope to gather a knowledge of the action of the Society and familiarity with its spirit, which may enable me to convince my Government of the right and propriety of what we ask it to do, the wrong and absurdity of withholding it, and secure from it at least an official reply to your invitation to join the Convention.

I will not make this communication longer, excepting to repeat my thanks for your kind letter, and the generous spirit in which it was written, and assure you of the great pleasure it will afford me to be of never so small a service in a cause so noble and holy. With assurances of the highest esteem I remain,

Most honored Sir
Very truly

Clara Barton

Dansville, Livingston Co., N.Y.
Sept. 27, 1877

Monsieur Moynier
Esteemed Sir:

Your communication of the 19th August, enclosing a letter addressed to the President of the United States, arrived in due time, and my impulse was to write at once assuring you how kind and satisfactory I found them both to be. But at that moment I hoped it would be possible to see the President and present your letter very soon, and thought it better to defer my reply to you until this were accomplished, and I had some results to communicate. But you will perhaps have observed that the President and several members of his Cabinet are making very extensive travels over the country this summer, and since the arrival of your letter he has never been in Washington or acting in his official capacity in any place, long enough for me to reach him. We had expected an extra session of Congress to be convened on the 3rd of October, which would have ensured his presence in Washington, but even this being now uncertain, I feel that I must not longer[Pg 136] delay my letter to you, with the assurance that it shall be my pleasure to present your letter to the President at the earliest moment in which I can reach him, and whenever this is done, I shall at once transmit to you the results as well as the nature of the interview.

With kind regards to Dr. Appia and sentiments of the highest esteem for yourself,

I am
Very truly

Clara Barton

Washington, D.C., United States
January 14, 1878

Doctor Louis Appia
Geneva, Switzerland.
My Esteemed Friend:

I feel that it is time I should tell you gentlemen of Geneva what I am doing or trying to do in America with our favorite subject of the Red Cross, but, as my present letter, from the incompleteness of my work, cannot take the form of a report, I will address it, not to Monsieur Moynier, as the President of the Convention, but familiarly to you, as my friend and co-worker.

I remember to have written in the autumn that I could not get an opportunity to present the letter of Monsieur Moynier to our President until his summer journeyings were ended. But when he returned to Washington in October, I came here also, a distance of some four hundred miles, and commenced slowly and carefully my work.

I found the great difficulty to consist, not in the opposition I should meet at first, but in the facts that no one understood the subject, and there was no printed literature pertaining to it in the language familiar to the people to whom I desired to present it (with the exception of our State Department, which is, of course, conversant with all languages).

Thus my only method was to translate, write and rewrite, and explain until an understanding and interest were created. I did not think it wise to present the letter of Monsieur Moynier to President Hayes until the subject was somewhat understood by the parties to whom he would be compelled to refer it, viz., the State and War Departments, leading members of the Bar,[Pg 137] as counsellors, and some of the prominent members of Congress. I accordingly commenced with these parties myself, explaining the subject, and doing my best to create an interest and secure coöperation whenever the matter should come up for discussion or decision. From Congress I proceeded to the heads of departments and their assistants, and, gaining an audience, explained the cause to them one by one. The interviews were frequently very long, and I have, with most of them, not only left a full translation of the Resolutions, but read them with them, hearing their queries, and explaining the practical working of the system as I had seen and known it.

When I thought I had sufficiently guarded the outposts, I ventured to ask audience of the President (this was only last week) and presented to him the letter of Monsieur Moynier and a copy of the Resolutions.

President Hayes received the letter with great respect and will refer it to the Secretary of State for decision.

I had previously found, by examination at the State Department, that the subject had once come before our Government at the time of the Convention in Paris, and been declined by President Grant, and his Secretary of State, Mr. Fish, on the ground of danger from entangling alliances, which it was a fundamental principle of our Government to avoid. This record stands in my way, and the greatest difficulty I shall have to meet and overcome will be this previous decision. If it had never been presented at all, and I had thus no former decision to reverse, I should hope for a comparatively easy task, but formalities and courtesies stand greatly in the way of reversing or setting aside the decisions of a previous authority, and especially such authority as General Grant and his popular Secretary, Mr. Fish. This adverse decision I hold to have been the result of a hasty and improper presentation of the subject without suitable explanation, and, from the lack of a full understanding of the system, it was considered wisdom on the part of our Government to let it alone.

Now, I do not despair of success in the end, for I have met only the greatest courtesy and most patient attention on the part of all officials, and I promised the President that I would wait within call, in order to be ready to make any explanations and answer any questions which he or the members of his[Pg 138] Cabinet might desire to ask. I have no definite idea of the length of time they may hold the matter under consideration before deciding, but it is so far progressed that my own attorney can probably assist me, and he will arrive here in a day or two. This is the Honorable Judge Hale, of the State of New York, one of the best counsellors in the country, and is not only my personal attorney of many years, but also a near relative. I did not call him until I had thoroughly prepared the ground, but now that the heads of the Government understand the subject properly through my explanations, I must wait and let them make their points of law upon it and decide. One thing I am certain of, that it would have been of very little use for any one to have presented the request in an ordinary manner, or who had not time to spend upon it, or was not willing to work for the cause. With that previous refusal in the way, it will require great care, labor, and perseverance to gain the point desired, but I shall not despair until I must. I regret that I have not in all this time a more certain progress to report, but I thought it proper to let you know what stage of the work I am in, and that all that is possible is being done. It is almost three months since I left home and came here to work for this cause. My health has not suffered, but has held firm beyond any expectation of mine. I must think this is largely due to the great kindness and friendly courtesy which has been extended to me on every hand. Every official person listens patiently to all I have to say, and asks with the greatest kindness what I would like him to do to further my wishes or aid my cause, and I know that, if in the end the Government refuses to sign, it will be only upon a strict point of law, which it feels bound not to overstep (after mature deliberation), and it will be grieved to feel compelled to disappoint either the members of the Convention or myself. The Government of so vast a country as the United States is a great body to move, and, in order to accomplish anything under it, it is necessary that one have some knowledge of it, some weight with it, and an endless patience and perseverance.

I hope it will not be another three months before I can send some more decisive information, which I shall not fail to do at the earliest moment.

My address while in this city will be in the care of that most worthy and estimable representative of your Republic, the[Pg 139] Honorable John Hitz, Consul-General of Switzerland, whose guest I am.

Begging pardon for so long a letter which tells so little, and hoping that this finds both you and Mrs. Appia in excellent health, and with most respectful regards to Monsieur Moynier, I remain, my esteemed friend,

With assurances of the highest esteem

Truly yours

Clara Barton

Armed with this authority, Clara Barton now undertook to secure public interest in and official recognition for the Red Cross which existed in Europe, but in America had no existence whatever excepting in her dream and hope and prayer. There still are extant a very few copies of the thin little pamphlet which she issued in 1878 addressed to the people of the United States and the Senators and Representatives in Congress. It will bear quoting entire. It contains the sum total of the knowledge which America had of the Red Cross in 1878:

By Clara Barton

To the people of the United States, Senators and Representatives in Congress:

Having had the honor conferred upon me of appointment by the Central Commission holding the Geneva Convention, to present that treaty to this Government, and to take in charge the formation of a national organization according to the plan pursued by the committees working under the treaty, it seems to me but proper, that, while I ask the Government to sign it, the people and their representatives should be made acquainted with its origin, designs, methods of work, etc. To this end I have prepared the following statement, and present it to my countrymen and women, hoping they will be led to endorse and sustain a benevolence so grand in[Pg 140] its character, and already almost universal in its recognition and adoption by the civilized world.

Clara Barton
Washington, D.C.


A confederation of relief societies in different countries, acting under the Geneva Convention, carries on its work under the sign of the Red Cross. The aim of these societies is to ameliorate the condition of wounded soldiers in the armies in campaign on land or sea.

The societies had their rise in the conviction of certain philanthropic men that the official sanitary service in wars is usually insufficient, and that the charity of the people, which at such times exhibits itself munificently, should be organized for the best possible utilization. An international public conference was called at Geneva, Switzerland, in 1863, which, though it had not an official character, brought together representatives from a number of Governments. At this conference a treaty was drawn up, afterward remodeled and improved, which twenty-five Governments have signed.

The treaty provides for the neutrality of all sanitary supplies, ambulances, surgeons, nurses, attendants, and sick or wounded men, and their safe-conduct, when they bear the sign of the organization, viz., the Red Cross.

Although the convention which originated the organization was necessarily international, the relief societies themselves are entirely national and independent; each one governing itself and making its own laws according to the genius of its nationality and needs.

It was necessary for recognizance and safety, and for carrying out the general provisions of the treaty, that a uniform badge should be agreed upon. The Red Cross was chosen out of compliment to the Swiss Republic, where the first convention was held, and in which the Central Commission has its headquarters. The Swiss colors being a white cross on a red ground, the badge chosen was these colors reversed.

There are no “members of the Red Cross,” but only members of societies whose sign it is. There is no “Order of the Red Cross.” The relief societies use, each according to its convenience, whatever methods seem best suited to prepare[Pg 141] in times of peace for the necessities of sanitary service in times of war. They gather and store gifts of money and supplies; arrange hospitals, ambulances, methods of transportation of wounded men, bureaus of information, correspondence, etc. All that the most ingenious philanthropy could devise and execute has been attempted in this direction.

In the Franco-Prussian War this was abundantly tested. That Prussia acknowledged its beneficence is proven by the fact that the Emperor affixed the Red Cross to the Iron Cross of Merit.

Although the societies are not international, there is a tacit compact between them, arising from their common origin, identity of aim, and mutual relation to the treaty. This compact embraces four principles, viz., centralization, preparation, impartiality, and solidarity.

1. Centralization. The efficiency of relief in time of war depends on unity of direction; therefore in every country the relief societies have a common central head to which they send their supplies, and which communicates for them with the seat of war or with the surgical military authorities, and it is through this central commission they have governmental recognition.

2. Preparation. It is understood that societies working under the Red Cross shall occupy themselves with preparatory work in times of peace. This gives them a permanence they could not otherwise have.

3. Impartiality. The societies of belligerent nations cannot always carry aid to their wounded countrymen who are captured by the enemy; this is counterbalanced by the regulation that the aid of the Red Cross societies shall be extended alike to friend and foe.

4. Solidarity. This provides that the societies of nations not engaged in war may afford aid to the sick and wounded of belligerent nations without affecting any principle of non-interference to which their Governments may be pledged. This must be done through the Central Commission, and not through either of the belligerent parties; this ensures impartiality of relief.

That these principles are practical has been thoroughly tested during the fifteen years the Red Cross has existed.

The Convention of Geneva does not exist as a society, but[Pg 142] is simply a treaty under which all the relief societies of the Red Cross are enabled to carry on their work effectually. In time of war, the members and agents of the societies who go to the seat of war are obliged to have their badges vizéed by the Central Commission, and by one of the belligerents—this is in order to prevent fraud. Thus the societies and the treaty complement each other. The societies find and execute the relief, the treaty affords them the immunities which enable them to execute.

And it may be further made a part of the raison d’être of these national relief societies to afford ready succor and assistance to sufferers in time of national or widespread calamities, such as plagues, cholera, yellow fever and the like, devastating fires or floods, railway disasters, mining catastrophes, etc. The readiness of organizations like those of the Red Cross to extend help at the instant of need renders the aid of quadruple value and efficiency compared with that gathered hastily and irresponsibly, in the bewilderment and shock which always accompanies such calamities. The trained nurses and attendants subject to the relief societies in such cases would accompany the supplies sent and remain in action as long as needed. Organized in every State, the relief societies of the Red Cross would be ready with money, nurses, and supplies, to go on call to the instant relief of all who were overwhelmed by any of those sudden calamities which occasionally visit us. In case of yellow fever, there being an organization in every State, the nurses and attendants would be first chosen from the nearest societies, and, being acclimated, would incur far less risk to life than if sent from distant localities. It is true that the Government is always ready in these times of public need to furnish transportation, and often does much more. In the Mississippi flood, a few years ago, it ordered rations distributed under the direction of army officers; in the case of the explosion at the navy yard, it voted a relief fund, and in our recent affliction at the South, a like course was pursued. But in such cases one of the greatest difficulties is that there is no organized method of administering the relief which the Government or liberal citizens are willing to bestow, nor trained and acclimated nurses ready to give intelligent care to the sick; or, if there be organization, it is hastily formed in the time of need, and is therefore comparatively[Pg 143] inefficient and wasteful. It would seem to be full time that, in consideration of the growth and rapidly accumulating necessities of our country, we should learn to economize our charities, and ensure from them the greatest possible practical benevolence. Although we in the United States may fondly hope to be seldom visited by the calamities of war, yet the misfortunes of other nations with which we are on terms of amity appeal to our sympathies; our southern coasts are periodically visited by the scourge of yellow fever; the valleys of the Mississippi are subject to destructive inundations; the plains of the West are devastated by insects and drought, and our cities and country are swept by consuming fires. In all such cases, to gather and dispense the profuse liberality of our people, without waste of time or material, requires the wisdom that comes of experience and permanent organization. Still more does it concern, if not our safety, at least our honor, to signify our approval of those principles of humanity acknowledged by every other civilized nation.

[Pg 144]


It is important that this book shall make plain, by means of all necessary emphasis, and if need be by reiteration, that the United States did not come automatically or promptly into the sisterhood of nations associated under the banner of the Red Cross. From 1864 until 1881 was a period of seventeen years. The United States was the last of the great civilized nations of the world to ratify the treaty. It is also important to make plain that the work of securing this tardy recognition of the Red Cross on the part of the United States did not devolve upon an organization in this country, or upon a group of people laboring together. If ever a great enterprise came into being as the result of the persistent, indefatigable effort of one person, that result was achieved by Clara Barton in securing the adhesion of her own country to the international agreement which included the Red Cross.

Clara Barton undertook to secure national recognition for this organization during the administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes. She had already begun work in this direction as early as 1876, and it seemed that she had every requisite for success when, in 1877, President Moynier addressed an official letter to President Hayes informing him of Miss Barton’s appointment, and asking that the United States come into the agreement. But the promised success was delayed.

President Hayes received Miss Barton at the White House, and listened courteously but not enthusiastically[Pg 145] to her story. So did the Attorney-General of the United States, the Honorable Charles Devens, to whom the President referred her, and who found no serious legal obstacle in the way of her desire. Each sent her with a note of introduction to the Secretary of State. President Hayes wrote the following little note:

Executive Mansion
Washington, 4 Jany, 1878

My dear Sir:

Miss Clara Barton of New York State has some plans regarding the mitigation of the cruelties of war which she wishes to present to you. Please give her a hearing and such aid and encouragement as may be deemed by you fit.


R. B. Hayes

Hon. W. M. Evarts
etc., etc.

But the movement encountered apathy and quiet but determined opposition, and resulted in no executive action.

In a little scratch-book I find Clara Barton’s own account of this disappointment. Her narrative goes back to Civil War days and then proceeds with her experience overseas, and her service in the Franco-Prussian War:

As I journeyed on and saw the work of the Red Cross Society, more accomplished in four months under their systematic organization than in our four years without it, no mistakes, no needless suffering, no starving, no lack of care, no waste, no confusion,—all busy and at work, a whole continent marshaled under the banner of the Red Cross, working instead of weeping, nursing instead of waiting,—as I saw all this and journeyed and worked with it, I said to myself, “If I live to return to my country I will try to let her people understand the Red Cross.” I did more than resolve; I promised other nations I would do it. In 1873 I returned, more broken than I went. There had been years of helplessness in which I forgot[Pg 146] how to walk; still I remembered my resolution and my promise. I came to Dansville and I brought that resolution and that promise with me. After about two years I was able to go to Washington with a letter from the International Committee of Geneva to the President of the United States asking once more that America sign the Treaty of Geneva.

Being made the official bearer of this letter, I presented it in 1877 in person to President Hayes. He received it kindly and referred it and me to his Secretary of State, Mr. Evarts, who in his turn referred it to his Assistant Secretary, Mr. Frederick Seward, as the person who would know all about it, examine it, and report for decision. Mr. Seward had been the Assistant Secretary of his father and of Secretary Fish when it had been previously presented. He remembered this refusal and referred me to the record. He regarded it as a settled thing. I saw that it was all made to depend on one man, and that man regarded it as settled. I had nothing to hope for then, but did not press the matter to a third refusal. It waited and so did I.

Nor had she any better success in her approach to members of Congress. They were either apathetic or positively hostile. They knew nothing about the Red Cross and they cared less. The United States was not going to have any more wars. If it ever should have any wars, this country would manage them in its own way. It did not care that any one in Europe should tell it how to provide for the care of sick and wounded men. As for relief to be sent from America to any countries in Europe that might be in war, the American people were fully competent to create their own agencies on this side of the water, and to distribute relief through such agencies as they might select or constitute upon the other side.

Even Miss Barton’s staunch friends in the Senate and in the House could give her very little aid or comfort. If she could enlist the interest of the President or of the[Pg 147] Secretary of State, something might possibly be done. Otherwise, it was useless to try.

So far as is known, Clara Barton’s little eight-page pamphlet, issued in 1878, had no more effect than Dr. Bellows’s sixteen-page pamphlet in 1866. If a single newspaper had taken it up and commented favorably upon it, Clara Barton would have been practically certain to have clipped and treasured the article or editorial. There is not in her papers a single letter or newspaper clipping which indicates that any man, woman, or child in the United States responded favorably to her published letter which was quoted in the last chapter. She used her pen and her voice and her power of personal persuasion without avail. The seed of that sowing appeared to fall upon the rocks, and it took no root.

In November, 1880, James A. Garfield was elected President of the United States. Miss Barton knew him somewhat. She wrote him a letter of congratulation, to which he returned a brief but gracious reply. Soon after his inauguration she called on him at the White House and presented the following letter which nearly four years before she had brought to the attention of President Hayes:

International Committee for the Relief of Wounded Soldiers
, August 19, 1877

To the President of the United States, at Washington:

Mr. President: The International Committee of the Red Cross desires most earnestly that the United States should be associated with them in their work, and they take the liberty of addressing themselves to you, with the hope that you will second their efforts. In order that the functions of the National Society of the Red Cross be faithfully performed, it is indispensable that it should have the sympathy and protection of the Government.

[Pg 148]

It would be irrational to establish an association upon the principles of the Convention of Geneva, without the association having the assurance that the army of its own country, of which it should be an auxiliary, would be guided, should the case occur, by the same principles. It would consequently be useless for us to appeal to the people of the country, inasmuch as the United States, as a Government, has made no declaration of adhering officially to the principles laid down by the Convention of the 22d August, 1864.

Such is, then, Mr. President, the principal object of the present request. We do not doubt but this will meet with a favorable reception from you, for the United States is in advance of Europe upon the subject of war, and the celebrated “Instructions of the American Army” are a monument which does honor to the United States.

You are aware, Mr. President, that the Government of the United States was officially represented at the Conference of Geneva, in 1864, by two delegates, and this mark of approbation given to the work which was being accomplished was then considered by every one as a precursor of a legal ratification. Until the present time, however, this confirmation has not taken place, and we think that this formality, which would have no other bearing than to express publicly the acquiescence of the United States in those humanitarian principles now admitted by all civilized people, has only been retarded because the occasion has not offered itself. We flatter ourselves with the hope that appealing directly to your generous sentiments will determine you to take the necessary measures to put an end to a situation so much to be regretted. We only wait such good news, Mr. President, in order to urge the founding of an American Society of the Red Cross.

We have already an able and devoted assistant in Miss Clara Barton, to whom we confide the care of handing to you this present request.

It would be very desirable that the projected asseveration should be under your distinguished patronage, and we hope that you will not refuse us this favor.

Receive, Mr. President, the assurance of our highest consideration.

For the International Committee:

G. Moynier, President

[Pg 149]

President Garfield heard her story with genuine cordiality. He knew her and the work she had done both in this country and abroad. He assured her of his warm personal interest and referred her to the Secretary of State for a further discussion of the matter. His note was brief and to the point:

Executive Mansion, Washington

Will the Sec’y of State please hear Miss Barton on the subject herein referred to?

J. A. Garfield

March 30, 1881

It was several days before Clara Barton succeeded in securing an appointment with Secretary Blaine; she did not want merely to present the President’s note, but to have time to tell the story of the Red Cross. Mr. Blaine agreed to see her on Monday, April 11, 1881. Her nephew, Stephen, who had come to Washington for a few days, accompanied her on this visit; and it is fully recorded in his diary. The beginning of the interview was not encouraging; for Mr. Blaine, after appointing the time, apparently forgot about it, and was occupied when they called.

The appointment had been made for 11.30 at the Department of State. Clara and Stephen waited for an hour in the Diplomatic Chamber. At the end of that time Mr. Blaine came in accompanied by Mrs. Dr. Loring, of Massachusetts. Introductions ensued, Mrs. Loring said she would “esteem it an honor to make the acquaintance of Miss Barton,” and arranged for an interchange of calls. Mr. Blaine referred to Miss Barton’s call at his residence, and “hoped it would not be the last.” Mrs. Loring then withdrew, and Mr. Blaine[Pg 150] apologized for having kept Miss Barton waiting. She told him the nature of her visit and presented the letter of President Garfield. Mr. Blaine told her that he knew practically nothing about the Red Cross, and asked her to state briefly its object. He thought it would come more clearly under the supervision of the Secretary of War, but she explained the necessity for the treaty. The international aspect of the organization had not previously occurred to Mr. Blaine; he had supposed it would be purely an American Society operating under the War Department; and that any encouragement given by the Secretary of State would be incidental and personal; Miss Barton replied that if he could give her time she would like to tell him in detail what was involved in the relation of the United States to the Red Cross. He replied, “Miss Barton, I can give you all the time you need.”

Clara then told him the whole story from beginning to end, and Mr. Blaine listened with intent interest.

He inquired why President Hayes had not pushed the matter to a successful conclusion, and she told him of Mr. Seward’s objections which went back to his father’s secretaryship in Civil War days, and based upon the Monroe Doctrine.

Mr. Blaine replied that “the Monroe Doctrine was not made to ward off humanity.” He told her that “the grounds for Mr. Seward’s objection would not stand in the way of the present Administration.” He assured her that he was “in full sympathy with her proposal,” and promised her that he “would coöperate fully with her in carrying the matter successfully through.” As for the official letter from M. Moynier, he assured her that he would be prepared to reply to that letter approvingly[Pg 151] now on the sole basis of her statement of the case; but he said that he wanted to do more than this.

She replied that she knew it would be necessary for the Senate to approve. He told her, “if it needed the action of the Senate, that could be had.” The confidence with which he spoke was most reassuring. He asked her to leave her little pamphlet with him for a few days that he might become a little more familiar with the history of the movement. It was all new to him; but it was obviously a thing in which the United States should have its part with other nations; he could promise her that it would be done, and done promptly.

Mr. Blaine suggested that it would be well for Miss Barton to talk over the matter of the Red Cross with the Secretary of War. On the following day she went by appointment to see Secretary Robert T. Lincoln. Again Stephen accompanied her and made a record of it.

Miss Barton first expressed to Mr. Lincoln her appreciation of the kindness of his father. Stephen wrote, “He was much affected and very grateful.”

The adhesion of the United States to the treaty was a matter for the State Department; but Robert Lincoln was greatly interested, and assured Miss Barton of his support in the operation of the Red Cross in case the Administration agreed to it.

In the next few days she made calls on other members of the Cabinet. Nowhere did she encounter opposition or apathy. The interest of President Garfield and Secretary Blaine appeared to be contagious. All official Washington seemed suddenly to have wakened to the importance of the Red Cross. She called upon several Senators and was introduced by Senator Conger, who[Pg 152] told them of Clara Barton’s work in Michigan. With this introduction and a knowledge of the President’s approval, they met her with prompt and unreserved approval of her plans. Most of them had never heard of the Red Cross, but, when she told them how many other nations had approved it, and that the President and Secretary of State were ready to approve the treaty, they gave her on the spot their heartiest endorsement. She thought she understood Secretary Blaine’s complete confidence that the Senate would ratify the treaty as a matter of course.

More than a month elapsed before anything else occurred. Nothing unfavorable developed. On the other hand, neither the President nor Mr. Blaine took any immediate steps. The Conkling difficulty had arisen and both Garfield and Blaine had many other things to think about. Clara Barton began to wonder whether she could induce the Senate to remind the Secretary of State of his interest in the matter.

On May 17, 1881, the Honorable Omar D. Conger, of Michigan, submitted to the United States Senate the following resolution:

Resolved, That the Secretary of State be requested to furnish to the Senate copies (translations) of the Articles of Convention signed at Geneva, Switzerland, August 22, 1864, touching the treatment of those wounded in war, together with the forms of ratification employed by the several Governments, parties thereto.

It took a little time for the Department of State to gather the documents necessary to answer the request of the Senate. But Secretary Blaine did not wait for this formality. He remembered that there was an[Pg 153] earnest little woman awaiting some definite answer from him, and he sent her the following letter:

Department of State,
, May 20, 1881

Miss Clara Barton
American Representative of the Red Cross, etc.
Dear Madam:

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the letter addressed by Mr. Moynier, President of the Red Cross International Convention, to the President of the United States, bearing the date of the 19th August, 1877, and referred by president Garfield on the 30th March, 1881, to this Department.

It appears from a careful perusal of the letter that Mr. Moynier is anxious that the Government of the United States should join with other Governments of the world in this International Convention.

Will you be pleased to say to Mr. Moynier, in reply to his letter, that the President of the United States and the officers of this Government are in full sympathy with anywise measures tending toward the amelioration of the suffering incident to warfare? The Constitution of the United States has, however, lodged the entire war-making power in the Congress of the United States; and as the participation of the United States in an International Convention of this character is consequent upon and auxiliary to the war-making power of the Nation, legislation by Congress is needful to accomplish the humane end that your society has in view. It gives me, however, great pleasure to state that I shall be happy to give any measures which you may propose careful attention and consideration, and should the President, as I doubt not he will, approve of the matter, the Administration will recommend to Congress the adoption of the international treaty which you desire.

I am, madam, with very great respect, your obedient servant,

James G. Blaine

It would be interesting to know just how Clara Barton received the news. Unfortunately, her diary affords us no information. She must have gone forth from the[Pg 154] office of the Secretary of State with wings upon her feet. There still would be months before Congress could act, but she sent the glad news at once to President Moynier and received from him an official reply which she transmitted to the Secretary of State.

Geneva, June 13, 1881

To the Honorable the Secretary of State
James G. Blaine, Washington

Sir: Miss Clara Barton has just communicated to me the letter which she has had the honor to receive from you, bearing date of May 23, 1881, and I hasten to express to you how much satisfaction I have experienced from it. I do not doubt now, thanks to your favorable consideration and that of President Garfield, that the United States may soon be counted among the number of signers of the Geneva Convention, since you have been kind enough to allow me to hope that the proposition for it will be made to Congress by the Administration.

I thank you, as well as President Garfield, for having been willing to take into serious consideration the wish contained in my letter of August 19, 1877, assuredly a very natural wish, since it tended to unite your country with a work of charity and civilization for which it is one of the best qualified.

Since my letter of 1877 was written, several new governmental adhesions have been given to the Geneva Convention, and I think that these precedents will be much more encouraging to the United States from the fact that they have been given by America. It was under the influence of events of the recent war of the Pacific that Bolivia signed the treaty the 16th of October, 1879, Chili on the 15th of November, 1879, Argentine Republic on the 25th of November, 1879, and Peru on the 22d of April, 1881. This argument in favor of the adhesion of your country is the only one I can add to my request, and to the printed documents that Miss Barton has placed in your hands, to aid your judgment and that of Congress.

I now await with full confidence the final result of your sympathetic efforts, and I beg you to accept, sir, the assurance of my high consideration.

G. Moynier, President

[Pg 155]

There lies before me as I write a little pad of paper, about three by five inches in size, of which more than half the sheets have been used and torn off, and of the remainder all but the top six leaves are blank. Those six pages are filled with writing in pencil, and the writing is that of Clara Barton. It is just such a pad as she habitually kept by her hard and narrow cot, with a candle and a pencil at hand, so that when she woke in the night she might sit up and write the thoughts that came to her. She seldom retired before eleven o’clock, and was habitually up as early as five, but if she had waking hours between, and she often had them, she wrote down what was in her mind, put out the candle, and finished what was for her a good night’s rest by sunrise or before.

“In almost any part of the world except the United States,” the tablet begins, “the words Red Cross, and the emblem for which they stand, would be as familiar as are to us the words Internal Revenue or National Board of Health.”

Was there ever such a time? Most of us have forgotten whether there is a National Board of Health, but “the words Red Cross, and the emblem for which they stand,” have become as familiar as the Stars and Stripes.

Yet there was a time when all other countries knew of it, but in the United States we knew of Internal Revenue and of the National Board of Health, but not of the Red Cross!

The little tablet is not dated, but I have no difficulty in supplying the date. These six pages were penciled on a night between June 9 and July 1, 1881. They appear to have been intended as the basis of an article for the Associated Press, endeavoring to call a little more attention[Pg 156] to the fact that on May 21 of that year the American Red Cross had actually been organized and that on June 9 it had elected officers. The Associated Press had sent out a paragraph announcing the organization, May 21, and this was to tell that “A subsequent meeting has been held, and the following officers elected: President, Miss Clara Barton; secretary, George Kennan,” and so on. She might have told, but did not, that her own name as president was presented by President Garfield himself.

She had to explain what the Red Cross was for, although “During the last three or four years the public eye has been growing familiar with the term,” through constant efforts to secure for it such recognition in America as it long had had abroad.

“Nation after nation has recognized its benign mission,” the narrative runs on, “until twenty-seven countries have welcomed, received, and incorporated its humane principle into laws which govern their rules of warfare. In twenty-seven lands, wherever the national emblem is thrown to the breeze in token of war, there floats beside it this beautiful emblem of mercy, pity, justice, charity, and neutral care for the wounded, comfort for the dying, and burial for the dead. To us alone it is a stranger. For seventeen years it has knocked at our door, but our great, noisy family failed to hear.”

That was her first great triumph!

So she obtained her official recognition, and then on the very next day held her meeting for organization, and that fall secured her incorporation, and the next year the treaty, and so on, and so on, one step leading to another; and when she had gotten the consent of the White House, she undertook to educate the great American[Pg 157] Republic, and let them know what the Red Cross stood for. She hoped the time would come when the name and symbol would be as well known in America as the words Internal Revenue or National Board of Health.

She had no publicity organization, nor press committee; but one night she sat up in bed, lighted her candle, took her little pad and pencil, and began to write:

“In almost any part of the world except the United States of America the words Red Cross, and the emblem for which it stands, would be as familiar—” and so on.

She did not finish the article in this form, though I find what use she made of it later in that year, in a pamphlet entitled “A Sketch of the History of the Red Cross.” That document was reissued with added material in 1883, after the adoption of the international treaty. The two lie before me, the completed pamphlet, with the endorsement of Secretary Blaine, and the nomination, by President Garfield himself, of Clara Barton to be president of the American Red Cross Association, and the three-cent pencil tablet on which Clara Barton began, on one night very soon after June 9, 1881, to teach the great American people what the words Red Cross and its emblem were intended to represent. She was not much given to weeping, but her tears would have wet through the little pad of paper many times before she accomplished what she undertook. But she succeeded. She lived to see the name and emblem of the Red Cross as familiar in her own country as in any of the twenty-seven that had previously adopted it. And that was what she hoped and prayed to do.

It will be noted that all these documents from the President and the Secretary of State, on the one hand,[Pg 158] and from President Moynier and Dr. Appia on the other, are addressed to Clara Barton. So far as is now known there was no other person in America to whom they might have been properly addressed. From the time when she returned from the Franco-Prussian War until the President and the Congress of the United States had officially approved the Red Cross, and the Senate had agreed to the Treaty of Geneva, there was, so far as is known, precisely one Red Cross in the United States, and that was the one which Clara Barton had brought back from the red fields of France.

Not only so, but so far as is now known, in all those years no other voice than hers, after Dr. Bellows gave up hope, was raised on behalf of it. No one else had a vision of its possible relation to the future life of the United States. One little woman, barely recovered from her nervous prostration, trudged wearily from desk to desk in Washington, and with voice and pen pleaded in season and out of season until the American Red Cross became a fact.

Yes, the American Red Cross was now a fact. The President had consented; the Secretary of State had become an enthusiastic protagonist of the treaty; the Secretary of War heartily favored it; and the entire Senate appeared a unit in its favor. The preliminary resolution had passed the Senate without a single dissenting voice. There were certain formalities which needed to be completed before the treaty could actually be signed and ratified, but that was not worth worrying about. President Garfield and Secretary Blaine encouraged Miss Barton to go straight ahead and complete her organization.

[Pg 159]

She asked President Garfield to become the president of the American Red Cross, but he declined. She told him that in other countries kings and chief magistrates were its presidents; but President Garfield thought he knew a person to whom that honor belonged in America. When the American Red Cross was actually organized, Clara Barton was made its president on nomination of James A. Garfield, President of the United States.

On the very next day after receipt of Secretary Blaine’s letter, Clara Barton held a meeting and organized a National Society of the Red Cross. The society was duly and promptly incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia.

At a subsequent meeting, held on the 9th of June, 1881, the following officers were elected:

Miss Clara Barton, President.
Judge William Lawrence, First Vice-President.
Dr. Alexander Y. P. Garnett, Vice-President of the District of Columbia.
A. S. Solomons, Treasurer.
George Kennan, Secretary.


Judge William Lawrence, Chairman.
Dr. George B. Loring.
Gen. S. D. Sturgis.
Mrs. S. A. Martha Canfield.
Mr. Walter P. Phillips.
Miss Clara Barton.
Mr. Walker Blaine.
Col. Richard J. Hinton.
Mrs. F. B. Taylor.
Mr. Wm. F. Sliney.
Mr. John R. Van Wormer.
Gen. R. D. Mussey, Consulting Counsel of the Association.
Miss Clara Barton, Corresponding Secretary.

Nothing could have seemed more auspicious than the outlook of the American Red Cross on the day of its organization. It had the support of the President, his Cabinet, and the Senate, and its birth was hailed with[Pg 160] satisfaction by all civilized nations. The signing and approval of the treaty appeared a trivial formality.

Just when everything was proceeding finely, President Garfield was shot by a fanatic on July 2, 1881. He lingered through the summer, and on September 19th he died.

The Red Cross Treaty had not been signed.

[Pg 161]


The methods of treaty-making in the United States have varied. In a few instances the Senate has taken the initiative and asked the President’s concurrent action. In at least one instance the President has negotiated the treaty without the assistance of the Senate and requested the Senate to adopt it without change. In several cases the coördinate treaty-making powers have moved together, the President concurring with the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations. In the matter of the Red Cross Treaty, as we have seen, the President took the initiative in coöperation with the Secretary of State, and the Senate in due time requested the Secretary of State to submit the documents bearing upon the matter. This was the status when President Garfield was shot. During the weeks of his illness the Nation’s interest centered in his sick-room.

It is interesting to know that the first local organization of the Red Cross was established at Dansville, New York. Clara Barton returned thither after the shooting of President Garfield, and without waiting for his death or recovery, called the people of that village together and established a local organization, the first in the United States. Some years afterward the Dansville “Express” went back over its files and found material for this brief article:

[Pg 162]


The First Local Society in the United States was Organized in Dansville

From the files of the Dansville Express of Aug. 25, 1881, we find the first local Red Cross Society in the United States was organized in this village Aug. 22d, 1881, at a meeting held in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, called for that purpose. Rev. P. A. Strobel, pastor of the church, presided and Dr. B. P. Andrews acted as secretary. Miss Clara Barton, then a resident of Dansville, explained the objects of the society.

Rev. Geo. K. Ward, Dr. J. H. Jackson, Rev. P. A. Strobel, Rev. A. P. Brush, Mrs. Mary R. Smith, and Mrs. James Faulkner, Jr., were made a committee to present a constitution, and they reported the same. Wm. Kramer and Dr. J. H. Jackson were a committee to secure names of members and 57 were recorded.

The officers elected were: President—Geo. A. Sweet; vice-president—Mrs. Fanny B. Johnson; secretary—Mrs. Mary Colvin; treasurer—Jas. Faulkner, Jr., executive board—Miss Clara Barton, Major Mark J. Bunnell, G. Bastian, Jas. H. Jackson, Major E. H. Pratt, Mrs. Geo. Hartman, Thomas E. Gallagher, Wm. Kramer, Oscar Woodruff, Mrs. Reuben Whiteman, Mrs. L. Q. Galpin.

Later, Major Bunnell was made secretary of the executive board and Hon. J. A. VanDerlip consulting counsel.

The society was active in good works for a few years and when Miss Barton moved to Washington it was allowed to die.

Soon after the inauguration of President Arthur, Clara Barton returned to Washington from a summer spent at Dansville. She was already acquainted with President Arthur; she had met him at the White House, and he had expressed interest in her undertaking. She now called on him again and reminded him that President Garfield had promised her his assistance; that there already had gone forth a letter signed by the Secretary of State, committing the United States to the Red Cross[Pg 163] Treaty; and that there still lay on the President’s desk the official request of the Senate for information concerning the Treaty of Geneva.

President Arthur gave to Miss Barton a most cordial reception. He assured her of his own personal interest and of the obligation under which he felt to carry out every promise made by President Garfield. He promised her to call the attention of the Senate to the matter in his first address to Congress, and he kept his promise in the following paragraphs:

I cannot too strongly urge upon you my conviction that every consideration of national safety, economy, and honor imperatively demands a thorough rehabilitation of our Navy.

We have for many years maintained with foreign Governments the relations of honorable peace, and that such relations may be permanent is desired by every patriotic citizen of the Republic.

But if we heed the teachings of history we shall not forget that in the life of every nation emergencies may arise when a resort to arms can alone save it from dishonor.

No danger from abroad now threatens this people, nor have we any cause to distrust the friendly professions of other Governments.

But, for avoiding as well as for repelling dangers that may threaten us in the future, we must be prepared to enforce any policy which we think wise to adopt.

At its last extra session the Senate called for the text of the Geneva Convention for the relief of the wounded in war. I trust that this action foreshadows such interest in the subject as will result in the adhesion of the United States to that humane and commendable engagement.

This part of the message was immediately taken up in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, consisting of the following named gentlemen, to wit: Hon. William Windom, Minnesota; Hon. George F. Edmunds, Vermont; Hon. John Miller, California;[Pg 164] Hon. Thomas W. Ferry, Michigan; Hon. Elbridge G. Lapham, New York; Hon. John W. Johnston, Virginia; Hon. J. T. Morgan, Alabama; Hon. George H. Pendleton, Ohio; Hon. Benjamin H. Hill, Georgia.

The Committee on Foreign Relations opened its door wide to Clara Barton and listened with the greatest interest to her story. President Arthur followed the recommendation of his message with a special communication in response to the Senate’s request of the preceding May:

(Senate Ex. Doc. No. 6, 47th Congress, 1st Session)

Message from the President of the United States, transmitting in response to Senate resolution of May 17th, 1881, a report of the Secretary of State, with accompanying papers, touching the Geneva Convention for the relief of the wounded in war.

December 12, 1881.—Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and ordered to be printed.

To Senate of the United States:

I transmit herewith, in response to the resolution of the Senate of the seventeenth of May last, a report of the Secretary of State, with accompanying papers, touching the Geneva Convention for the relief of the wounded in war.

Chester A. Arthur

Executive Mansion
Washington, December 12, 1881

To the President:

The Secretary of State, to whom was addressed a resolution of the Senate, dated the seventeenth of May, 1881, requesting him “to furnish to the Senate copies (translations) of Articles of Convention signed at Geneva, Switzerland, August 22, 1864, touching the treatment of those wounded in war, together with the forms of ratification employed by the several governments, parties thereto,” has the honor to lay before the President the papers called for by the resolution.

In view of the reference made, in the annual message of the[Pg 165] President, to the Geneva convention, the Secretary of State deems it unnecessary now to enlarge upon the advisability of the adhesion of the United States to an international compact at once so humane in its character and so universal in its application as to commend itself to the adoption of nearly all the civilized powers.

James G. Blaine

Department of State
, December 10, 1881

With such support from the President and the Secretary of State, and with the Senate a unit in support of the treaty, the end of the struggle appeared to be in sight. But many anxious months had yet to pass before Clara Barton’s dream came true.

Even after the movement was inaugurated and recognized by Congress, very few people in America attached to it any considerable degree of importance. Among those who appreciated its full significance and hastened to give Clara Barton full credit for her splendid achievement was the man who had labored so faithfully for the organization of an American Red Cross at the close of the Civil War, Dr. Henry W. Bellows. He had labored in earlier years and had given it up, but rejoiced in the prospect of her success:

New York, 232 E. 15
Nov. 21, 1881

My dear Miss Barton:

It has been a sore disappointment and mortification to those who inaugurated the plan of organized relief, by private contributions, for sick and wounded soldiers in our late war, since so largely followed by other nations, that they should still find the United States the only great Government that refuses to join in the treaty, framed by the International Convention of Geneva, for neutralizing battle-fields after the battle, and making the persons of surgeons and nurses flying to the relief of the wounded and dying free from arrest. This great international[Pg 166] agreement for mitigating the horrors of war finds its chief defect in the conspicuous refusal of the United States Government to join in the treaty! The importance of our national concurrence with other Governments in this noble treaty has been urged upon every administration since the war, but has thus far met only the reply that our national policy did not allow us to enter into entangling alliances with other powers. I rejoice to hear from you that our late President and his chief official advisers were of a different opinion, and encouraged the hope that in the interests of mercy and humanity it might be safe to agree by treaty with all the civilized world, that we would soften to non-combatants the hateful conditions that made relief to the wounded on battle-fields a peril or forbidden act. I trust you will press this matter upon our present administration with all the weight of your well-earned influence. Having myself somewhat ignominiously failed to get any encouragement for this measure from two administrations, I leave it, in your more fortunate hands, hoping that the time is ripe for a less jealous policy than American self-isolation in international movements for extending and universalizing mercy towards the victims of war.

Yours truly

H. W. Bellows

Public sentiment in America is a strange and somewhat capricious thing. Clara Barton issued her little booklet in 1878 and it appeared to fall flat. The newspapers paid no attention to it; Congress treated it with complete indifference if not with hostility, and the President and his Cabinet ignored it. She reissued it in 1881 with added matter, and not less than three hundred newspapers and periodicals spoke kindly of it, many of them more than once, so that more than five hundred press clippings were collated as the result of that and Miss Barton’s little article written for the Associated Press. Congress, that had been partly hostile and where not hostile apathetic, became suddenly and unanimously[Pg 167] interested. The Honorable William Windom, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, and afterward a member of President Garfield’s Cabinet, became a stanch friend, perhaps the first genuinely interested and largely influential friend of the movement. Senators Hoar and Wilson, of Massachusetts, and Hawley, of Connecticut, and Edmunds, of Vermont, lent to the movement intelligent and vigorous support. The Honorable Omar D. Conger, of Michigan, first in the House and afterward in the Senate, took an active part in promoting the cause. When the matter began to be discussed in Congress as the body which alone could declare war, and later came before the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate on the proposal to ratify the Geneva Treaty, there was not a dissenting voice in either house, nor was there in the press through the country, so far as is known, a single unfavorable comment. Clara Barton’s campaign of publicity had been a little handful of corn upon the top of the mountains and the fruit thereof shook like the Cedars of Lebanon. The whole Nation was suddenly converted to faith in the Red Cross.

Foreign nations stood in amazement when they saw this change of sentiment. They were unable to account for it, nor could any one else explain it to them. After eighteen years of indifference and hostility America came over to the banner of the Red Cross with whole-hearted acceptance of its humane principles.

But still the question was asked why America need concern herself with an organization for war, when she was never going to have another war. The answer to this question contained one of the distinctive principles of[Pg 168] the American Red Cross as compared with the Red Cross in other countries. In Europe, the Red Cross was organized solely for relief in time of war. In America, it was organized to meet any great public need.

As yet, however, the Red Cross was proceeding without official authority. The death of President Garfield delayed for several months the official adherence of the United States to the Treaty of Geneva. Meantime, the Red Cross was in existence, by advice of President Garfield. It had, however, only a single local organization, but it cherished national and international aims and hopes. Miss Barton herself recorded the history of the organization:

The National Red Cross of America was formed nearly a year before the accession to the treaty. This was done by the advice of President Garfield, in order to aid as far as possible the accession. “Accordingly a meeting was held in Washington, D.C., May 21, 1881, which resulted in the formation of an association to be known as the American National Association of the Red Cross.”

Several years of previous illness on the part of its president had resulted in fixing her country home at Dansville, New York, the seat of the great Jackson and Austin Sanitarium and the acknowledged foundation of the hundreds of health institutions of that kind which bless the country to-day. The establishment of the National Red Cross in Washington had attracted the attention of persons outside, who, of course, knew very little of it; but among others, the people of Dansville, the home of the president, felt that if she were engaged in some public movement, they too might at least offer to aid. Accordingly, on her return to them in midsummer, they waited upon her with a request to that effect, which resulted in the formation of a society of the Red Cross, this being the first body in aid of the National Association formed in the United States. It is possible I cannot make that more clear than by giving an extract from their report of that date, which was as follows:

[Pg 169]

In reply to your request, given through the secretary of your association, that we make report to you concerning the inauguration of our society, its subsequent proceedings and present condition, the committee has the honor to submit the following statement:

Dansville, Livingston County, New York, being the country residence of Miss Clara Barton, president of the American Association of the Red Cross, its citizens, desirous of paying a compliment to her, and at the same time of doing an honor to themselves, conceived the idea of organizing in their town the first local society of the Red Cross in the United States. To this end, a general preliminary meeting was held in the Presbyterian Church, when the principles of the Treaty of Geneva and the nature of its societies were defined in a clear and practical manner by Miss Barton, who had been invited to address the meeting. Shortly after, on the twenty-second of August, 1881, a second meeting, for the purpose of organization, held in the Lutheran Church and presided over by the pastor, Rev. Dr. Strobel, was attended by the citizens generally, including nearly all the religious denominations of the town, with their respective pastors. The purpose of the meeting was explained by your president, a constitution was presented and very largely signed, and officers were elected.

Thus we are able to announce that on the eighteenth anniversary of the Treaty of Geneva, in Switzerland, August 22, 1864, was formed the first local society of the Red Cross in the United States of America.

While the Red Cross hung, like the coffin of Mohammed, between heaven and earth, a disastrous forest fire occurred in Michigan. Clara Barton at once issued, in the name of the Red Cross, an appeal for help. The first city to respond was Rochester, forty miles from Dansville, and Syracuse followed. The money was placed in the hands of the County Clerk of Livingston County, New York, who went at once to Michigan, and distributed financial help under direction of Clara Barton. She also went to Michigan, and took care of the distribution of food and clothing.

Here, in Michigan, for the first time on American soil, the banner of the Red Cross was displayed above the supply tent of Clara Barton. A part of the report of that first effort follows:

Before a month had passed, before a thought of practical application to business had arisen, we were forcibly and sadly[Pg 170] taught again the old lesson that we need but to build the altar, God will Himself provide the sacrifice. If we did not hear the crackling of the flames, our skies grew murky and dark and our atmosphere bitter with the drifting smoke that rolled over from the blazing fields of our neighbors of Michigan, whose living thousands fled in terror, whose dying hundreds writhed in the embers, and whose dead blackened in the ashes of their hard-earned homes. Instantly we felt the help and strength of our organization, young and untried as it was. We were grateful that in this first ordeal your sympathetic president was with us. We were deeply grateful for your prompt call to action, given through her, which rallied us to our work. Our relief rooms were instantly secured and our white banner, with its bright scarlet cross, which has never been furled since that hour, was thrown to the breeze, telling to every looker-on what we were there to do, and pointing to every generous heart an outlet for its sympathy. We had not mistaken the spirit of our people; our scarce-opened doorway was filled with men, women, and children bearing their gifts of pity and love. Tables and shelves were piled, our working committee of ladies took every article under inspection, their faithful hands made all garments whole and strong; lastly, each article received the stamp of the society and of the Red Cross, and all were carefully and quickly consigned to the firm packing-cases awaiting them. Eight large boxes were shipped at first, others followed directly, and so continued until notified by the Relief Committee of Michigan that no more were needed.

Among the fruits of Clara Barton’s work in Michigan was the confidence and friendship of Senator Omar D. Conger and of Mrs. Conger, who, seeing the actual workings of the Red Cross, under direct control of Clara Barton, became its enthusiastic supporters, and her fast friends. The Michigan experience also exhibited to the Nation the value of such an organization, and showed that a country which did not intend ever to have another war might still find use for the Red Cross.

But still the treaty halted. No one was opposing it.[Pg 171] Every known influence was favorable to it. Its adoption and signature were the merest formality. Clara Barton was at liberty to go on with her work with the full approval of the President and his Cabinet, and wait for the adoption of the treaty which was certain to follow.

It did follow; but before it was adopted the heart of Clara Barton was well-nigh broken. She had learned the weariness and pain of working alone; she was now to learn the keener sorrow which emerges when one undertakes to work with others.

Clara Barton had succeeded; no one questioned her success. But the treaty was not yet adopted.

[Pg 172]


Few people now remember that Clara Barton’s success encountered any difficulties at this point in her career. Her published writings make no reference to them. Her book on the Red Cross tells the story as though events proceeded automatically through this period of transition. President Garfield became interested and referred the matter to Secretary Blaine, who became heartily enthusiastic, and he and President Garfield told her to proceed with assurance that the United States would approve the treaty. She did so, and, although President Garfield was shot, his successor made the promise good, and the Senate unanimously concurred. That would seem to have been the whole story. But, as a matter of fact the months that followed the published approval of Secretary Blaine and President Garfield, and the formal approval of the treaty, were among the most anxious and sorrowful of Clara Barton’s whole life.

The nation-wide publicity which now was freely accorded the movement introduced Clara Barton to a new form of difficulty. She was well schooled in the discipline of disappointment and deferred hope. Now she came to know of the embarrassments of success. Swiftly after the Red Cross came to recognition there rose competing organizations, seeking to capitalize her success. The first day of August, 1881, saw the issue of Volume I, Number 1, of “The Red Cross.” It was a monthly magazine, of which there may have been no[Pg 173] subsequent issues, the official organ of a society known as the Red Cross. It copied Clara Barton’s Associated Press article, and said:

We must say it is rather late for Miss Barton, or any one else, to talk about organizing the Red Cross.

It then proceeded to tell that this organization had been in existence since 1879:

We did not attempt to make this a national affair, as we were not in condition to do so. This country was not going to war, at any time, and the promoters first considered the propriety of getting the order on a good foundation. ’Tis true, we have not undertaken any public work as yet, but it is a very great undertaking when the territory to be gone over is taken into consideration. We have organized a body of men that no country in Europe can excel for the purpose of carrying out our objects.

The real and original Red Cross was, therefore, according to this journal, ready now to become national, and it warned Miss Clara Barton that it had the right of way. It also published a portrait of the real founder of the Red Cross, a gentleman born in England, who had come to this country when young, and engaged in “several enterprises which proved successful,” none of which were named; studied law, but gave it up; studied medicine, but apparently did not practice. He was, however, according to this journal, a very great and widely known man; and his portrait showed him with so many badges and decorations upon his right breast he would surely have had difficulty in drawing his sword. He was the “Organizer and Supreme Commander.” A “Grand Promenade Concert” was given in his honor in a very obscure hall in one of the American cities, with a programme which the magazine printed in full, consisting[Pg 174] chiefly in a recitation (selected) by Miss Sadie Merryman; a song (selected) by Miss Mary C. Andrews; a reading (selected) by Miss Mary Prescott; a piano solo (selected) by Miss Mary C. Andrews; a reading (selected) by Elmer E. Prescott, and selected songs with guitar by the Misses Biederman and father. Besides these there was an “Address of Welcome,” and a “Response” by the much-decorated “Organizer and Supreme Commander.”

Clara Barton had a sense of humor. She could not only smile but laugh heartily at competition of this bombastic character. She collected and filed the literature, and it may be presumed that her files contain the only preserved mementoes of this organization which served notice on her that her Red Cross was an innovation.

But, nevertheless, this was a warning, and one which she had occasion to heed. For immediately a considerable number of competing organizations sprang up in several parts of the country, and some of them gave her great anxiety.

She was not superstitious, and apparently did not notice that the second Friday in January, 1882, fell on the 13th. But she recorded that it was a bad Friday for her. Two days before, she had notice that the wife of a United States Senator desired to call on her, and bring one or two other ladies with her. She had moved into her new quarters that very week, and not all her household goods were in place; so she hastened to put up her curtains and finish her unpacking; for it had rained on Monday when she expected to move, and her plans had been disarranged.

[Pg 175]

Friday afternoon the wife of the Senator came, and with her another lady.

She said she had come partly on business; that she had some months before joined a society called the “Ladies’ National Red Star Association”;[2] that this society had a meeting this week, and the question of a counter-society came up; that this counter-society was said to be called the Red Cross, and appeared to have been organized to step in and do the work which they were doing; and it was decided to adjourn the meeting for one week to inform themselves in relation to this Red Cross Society. What was it? What did it propose to do? What had it done? She said she learned near the close of the meeting that I was the head of that society, and she came to ask if it was true, and what did the Red Cross have to say for itself?

I told her I believed I was the head of the Society of which she wished to learn.

She asked what Bills we proposed to present to Congress; and I told her, None.

Why, yes, she said, they told her at the meeting that I had something before Congress.

I told her I had a treaty, which I had presented for four years.

She wanted to know what work we had done, and I told her of our work in Michigan.

She said she knew nothing about the Red Cross; had seen something about it, but thought it was some Catholic thing; where did we get our authority? Was it a national thing? Had I anything published about it?

I had a little pamphlet of two leaves, four years old. I gave her one. She said she was sorry not to get the information she came after. She left, evidently disappointed. I was sorry, also. I have no idea whether she came officially or at her own option, openly or as a spy.

[Pg 176]

Whatever the motive of the wife of the Senator who came to Miss Barton, the organization was one of which she had occasion to learn not a little. It was one that sprang up on the heels of her first success, and it crowded her hard before it was left behind and forgotten.

Clara Barton felt uneasy. The treaty was not yet ratified, and she knew not how many wives of Senators were in this rival organization, pushed by ambitious women and seeking Government approval. Not very much of such competition at that stage of the affair would be necessary to kill the treaty and the Red Cross. She went next day to see a man whose judgment she felt she could trust. She did not find him in his office, but on Sunday he called on her:

He had no special advice; was very busy. So are they all. All are busy; and I am to go on with this alone, as I plainly see. I shall make up my mind to let them all go, and I must gird myself for the work and go on with it by myself. I do not believe any member of my Society will be of any help to me in this hard work. They are all too busy.

The next day she went to the trial of Guiteau, and heard the closing pleas. She was recognized, and given a seat inside the rail, and “treated with marked attention,” which gratified her. That afternoon she went to see Senator Lapham, and asked him to take charge of the treaty in the Senate, and he cheerfully consented. She told him frankly that opposing organizations were already seeking recognition, but he encouraged her. A day or two later she saw Senator Windom, of the Foreign Relations Committee, on whose support she had counted; and he seemed to her to have grown sad and distant, and she felt sure he had been approached by those who were opposing her.

[Pg 177]

She found, too, that her return to Washington, with its late dinners, was not good for her. She resolved to forego heavy dinners; to eat her last hearty meal at three o’clock, and enjoy a big red apple before going to bed. A big red apple was always a means of grace to Clara Barton. On one of the most desolate of these nights, when she came home late in the rain after a disappointing day, she gratefully records that her apple was good.

She had cheering word about her finances. Her business affairs, left in the hands of reliable New York bankers, had prospered during her absence abroad. She had used while in Europe considerably less than her income; her principal had swelled somewhat, and her annual income was more by quite a little than she had expected. About the middle of January she received her complete account, and found that she had more money than she thought; and this was a comfort. Her expenses at Dansville, though much increased by her hospitality, had kept well within her annual receipts, and she was safely provided for for life. She need never worry so far as money was concerned.

But she was worried. She began to question whether her dream of an American Red Cross would ever come true. It was bitter hard to have it fail after she had won over three Presidents, Hayes, Garfield, and Arthur; but fail she thought it must, even after it had shown in Michigan how useful it could be. She seriously thought of returning to Europe, and letting some one else take up her thankless task. She wrote:

I am so tired. I sleep very poorly. I can only think of some good way of getting out of this country. I feel as if I should be willing to let all go, if only I could get out, and hear no[Pg 178] more strife and bickering lies. Why should I let my life be spoiled by those who are now opposing me, and who take the joy out of my sunshine?

Why, indeed? She had money enough to live upon, in Dansville, or in Oxford, or for that matter in Washington; and she owned homes in each of those three places, and had income enough to live upon in any one of them or in Europe. Why should she expose herself longer to weariness, misrepresentation, and cruel disappointment?

It will be seen that Clara Barton had some reason to apprehend trouble growing out of the visit of the wife of the Senator. Powerful backing had already been secured for the first of the opposing organizations that gave her pain and sorrow.

But she prevailed, and the Senate at length ratified the treaty without a dissenting vote. Either the Senator’s wife was more favorably impressed than Clara Barton thought, or her husband refused to be guided by her opposition.

But the opponents of Clara Barton were active to the very hour when the treaty was ratified, and there were days when it seemed that she was working at a hopeless task. She went to see influential people, only to find them out or occupied or indifferent or strangely uncommunicative. She was almost in despair.

There came a day, Monday, February 6, 1882, when her own feelings changed:

It did not seem like other days. There was either much to do or nothing to do. I knelt at my bedside, and asked earnestly, tearfully, for guidance. I only want to know my way. I feel that I can walk it, if I can be made to see it. I am so weary of all this strife, this unrest, this doubt. I am willing to let the work go into other hands. If all goes as hoped, I[Pg 179] can call an executive committee meeting, announce the ratification of the treaty, hand in my resignation, and get out of it all. If they want the Society, they can keep it; if not, it will die if let alone and some other can be organized, or they can take the one that is now opposing me. Then I can go and rest. It has been my part to do the work of the treaty. I have tried to do it faithfully, and it has met with little moral support, even from my own committee. I will try with God’s help to go on faithfully to the end, with no support but His; and if He will give it, when this is done, I shall be ready to lay the burden down, even if my enemies gain the advantage of it. This has been a day of instruction and discipline, and, I dare hope, not lost.

She went to the State Department. Mr. Adee reassured her. He did not think there would be any trouble about the treaty, or that she need fear the opposition.

She had notice of the committee meeting, and she went to the Senate. She was misdirected, and went to one or two wrong rooms, but finally found the Committee on Foreign Relations, with Senator Windom in the chair. He greeted her cordially, which surprised her after his recent apparent coldness and evasiveness. He introduced her to Senator Edmunds, but that Senator insisted upon greeting her as an old friend. They heard her with sympathy; took her little four-year-old two-leaved tract, and spoke no word about the opposition.

A few days later Senator Lapham called and told her things were not going as well as he had hoped. Senator Windom, he said, was favorable, but troubled. The matter seemed hung up at the State Department.

She told him she would go to the State Department herself and see what was the trouble.

“His good kind heart was touched, and his eyes were full.”

[Pg 180]

He did not know any other way than for her to do this. And so she went.

She was admitted immediately to the Department of State, and told confidentially that it was all right. The Secretary of State had conferred with the President, and they were all ready to recommend the treaty to the Senate.

Would she like to see the treaty?

Would she? Indeed, she would!

It must be a secret; unsigned documents were not supposed to be shown; but the Secretary of State would be pleased to know whether this treaty was exactly what she wanted.

She had never seen a treaty, and did not know what it looked like. It was a volume, a kind of unbound book, of soft parchment, something like fourteen inches square. She sat down and read it, word for word, the Secretary of State watching her intermittently as he busied himself about other matters. Line by line the full significance of it came over her. It quoted in full the text of the 1864 Convention, and recited in effect the whole situation into which this would bring the United States in its relation to other nations. It was a great and solemn document, such as she had never before handled; and her life and hope were bound up in it. At the very end were the formal words of ratification, with blank spaces for the signature of the President and Secretary of State, and a place for the big seal of the United States of America.

I had kept my eyes clear enough to read to the very end; but then I could hold up no longer, and how long a cry I indulged in, I do not know. But I know that it rested me; and[Pg 181] after a while he stepped over and asked, very gently, “How does it suit you?” I told him it was all I could have hoped for, but I was ashamed to have done so badly myself. He, laughing, said that was all right. I asked him when it would be signed, and he said, “Any time, now.”

At last it was done!

Why had she worried so much about it?

She worried because she knew there was reason to worry; and because there were so few to worry; and because she did not know whether her worrying would do any good.

For it is necessary to tell a little, a very little, about why she worried.

There lie before me as I write certain letters written to Clara Barton by a woman who came to her in the latter part of her struggle to secure the recognition of the Red Cross, and who wrote to Miss Barton that to be associated with her in such work would be the crowning glory of her life:

I should think it a greater glory to be a doorkeeper in such a society as the Red Cross than to be—well, Mrs. President of the United States. If in the humblest way I can help you, I am at your service. There may be nothing for me to do, but if there is, command me.

Sadly, in after years, Clara Barton gathered up these and other documents, arranged them neatly in order, and endorsed them:

The enclosed papers will serve to show in part what the Red Cross had to meet in its incipiency before we had the treaty. This woman had been our secretary and trusted friend, but by some means became a strong competitor, and organized an opposing society.

That is all she said about it; no word of bitterness or of self-justification. But this was not the only woman[Pg 182] who rushed to her when she first gained publicity, proclaimed that she would be a servant of the servants of Clara Barton, learned all her confidential affairs, and then betrayed her.

This volume will make no catalogue of those who ate of her bread and accepted her confidences and who proved base and ungrateful. This particular woman is mentioned because it seemed to Clara Barton that she might very possibly defeat all that Clara Barton was working for. She gained friends in high places, and she knew just whom Clara Barton counted to be her friends, and how to approach some of them.

There lie before the author, also, certain anonymous letters, received at this time, some of them written in one city and sent to other cities to be mailed. There were also some vicious newspaper articles, one of them first published in a remote Southern city, and later copied into Washington and Philadelphia papers, and these Clara Barton clipped, and labeled with the name of the person who, without any question, she believed to be their author. These and the anonymous letters and the letters of affection are all in the same package. Clara Barton arranged them, and she thought she knew.

Now, on the day that Clara Barton visited the office of the Secretary of State, she was so overjoyed that she went straight to the White House to thank the President. Mr. Arthur was not in, but her little note was accepted by his secretary, who smiled and assured her that he understood, and that the President would be glad to receive it. And she went home with a happy heart. And Senator Lapham sent her a big bouquet of roses that night.

[Pg 183]

The next Monday was the day set for Mr. Blaine to deliver the memorial address on President Garfield, and she had a seat in the gallery of the House of Representatives; which was a much-coveted honor. She rose in full expectation of going; and she went.

But at breakfast she received her mail; and there was a letter from her rival:

It was the most abusive of all I have ever received from her. She charged me with all little meannesses, and warned me if I do not stop people’s tongues, she will take redress upon me, either through the press or by law.

It had the effect to stun or daze me until I did not want to go to the Address. But I did go.

That was one of the things that was oppressing Clara Barton in those days. That was why she was troubled when the wife of a Senator came to see her and ask whether there was such a thing as the Red Cross, and what it was, and why it was opposing another organization of which the Senator’s wife was a member. That was why she was worried when the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations grew strangely distant.

But she went to hear Mr. Blaine, and she met prominent people, some of whom knew her.

Two days later she had confidential tidings that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had unanimously approved the treaty, and that it would doubtless be discussed in executive session of the Senate on the following Tuesday.

But it hung on for another month, a month through which it was hard for her to go, but through which she went bravely.

On Thursday, March 16, she felt as though hope was[Pg 184] almost hopeless. She “had no heart to speak” that day; “had more tears than words.” “It has been a sad day.”

She wrote these words that evening, “weary and heart-sick”; but at this point was interrupted by a note from Senator Lapham. The note will bear printing:

U.S. Senate Chamber
, March 16, 1882

Miss Barton:

I have the gratifying privilege of informing you of the ratification by the Senate of the Geneva Convention; of the full assent of the United States to the same, by the action of the Senate this afternoon. I had the injunction of secrecy removed so that it could be published at once. The whole is in print, and if I get time I will send you some copies in the morning. I go home to-morrow to be gone a week.

Laus Deo!

Very truly

E. S. Lapham

It ought to have brought her joy; but she wrote:

I had waited so long, and was so weak and broken, I could not even feel glad. I laid down the letter, and wiped my tired eyes.

Before she got to bed she had another sad tale to hear, of dissensions among those who should have been rejoicing with her, but were displeased. And she went to bed ill.

Many of the people who from this time came to Clara Barton with an earnest desire to be permitted to share in her labor were thoroughly and permanently loyal, and some of them are to this day among the foremost of those who hold her name in reverence. There were others, however, not less sincere, who were an embarrassment to her, coming in some cases with a maximum of enthusiasm and a minimum of discretion. There were[Pg 185] still others who, after working with her long enough to gain her confidence, became fired with an ambition to organize societies of their own. There was a Blue Anchor Society, now entirely forgotten, but which caused her a great deal of anxiety. It was established by a woman whom she counted a sincere friend, who learned about the Red Cross from Clara Barton and utilized her knowledge in the formation of a rival society which at one time threatened to be more prominent in high places than the Red Cross itself. Later there was organized a White Cross Society, which gained such recognition that, in one of the Dewey parades at the end of the Spanish War, it was placed ahead of the Red Cross. It had powerful friends, and the bill for its recognition by Congress passed the Senate, but did not pass the House.

These rival organizations appear very puerile and futile now, but at the time they were a source of great anxiety to Clara Barton. It sometimes seemed to her that there were not many people whom she could trust to maintain permanently high and unselfish motives like her own. If she failed, as she was charged with failing, to share responsibility with her associates, that failure had behind it some very unhappy experiences that need not here be recorded.

Just at the point when her success, as we now view it, was practically assured, she went one Saturday to call on an influential woman whose friendship she had won in the work for the sufferers from the Michigan fires. Her heart sank within her when she found on this friend’s desk the literature of an opposing organization with an invitation to join. She wondered if this friend too would[Pg 186] desert her, and she went home greatly depressed. So far as that friend was concerned, her fears were groundless. This woman and her husband had seen her work and they remained loyal to her through life. The next day was a family anniversary, and it set her to remembering her childhood. She wrote in her diary that day:

I wish I had always remained a little girl. I did not begin like other children; did not learn how to be a child, still less how to be a young girl and woman; and so had no knowledge of the right way to get on in society. I have made only mistakes, and have always been so sensitive that I could not bear the consequences of my mistakes. The longer I live the worse it gets, until now the menacing spirits hover about my poor beset pathway, darkening it with the shadows of approaching night; there is not a ray of brightness nor even of safety; they wait like robbers to see me far enough along to set upon me and slay me outright. But there is no way but to go on; I cannot hide. I wonder if it would not have been better if I had gone, the little five-year-old girl that was snatched from death? I often revert to that sharp illness, which I can remember, as the time when perhaps it would have been better if no remedy had been found. What years of unrest, pain to myself and to others it would have wiped out, and all the world would have been as well if not better! Looking at it as calmly as I am able and with my best judgment, I can only see failure of it all. There have been no successes in my life, only attempts at success and no realization.

At such times she felt her lack of experience in social matters. The women who organized these opposing societies were able to hold parlor meetings in aristocratic homes; to organize committees with long lists of names of society women as patronesses; to secure publicity, and to enlist strong political influence. She wrote in her diary:

I am very low-spirited. I am cold, alone, surrounded by harmful spirits. All the society people of the city and country[Pg 187] seem to be arrayed in arms against me, with only my single hand, sore heart, and silent tongue to make my way against misrepresentation, malice, and selfish ambition.

These were some of the reasons why Clara Barton was not jubilant when her success finally came. She was too tired, too heart-sore to care very much. She was weary of Washington, and she thought she was ready now to go to one of her other homes and live the rest of her life in peace. The Red Cross was now an established fact; the treaty was signed and ratified. She had only to hand in her resignation and leave the work to be carried on by others; whether they were her enemies or friends, she did not greatly care, her part was done.

That was what she said in her diary, but a few days later the meeting occurred for the perfecting of the organization in its new and accredited character. She went to the meeting only partially recovered from her depression, but she returned in high spirits. “This has been a red-letter day for me,” she wrote; “the meeting was largely attended.” Quite a number of prominent people seemed eager to sign the constitution and become members of her organization. The cry from the flooded district along the Mississippi was loud and strong; there was work to be done immediately; it was no time for Clara Barton to resign. She wrote no more of the cruel things which she had been suffering, but went straight forward in her work of relief. It was many years before she had time to think again of resigning.

On the first day of March, 1882, the President, by his signature, gave the accession of the United States to the Treaty of Geneva of August 22, 1864, and also to that of October 20, 1868, and transmitted to the Senate the[Pg 188] following message, declaration, and proposed adoption of the same:

Message from the President of the United States, transmitting an accession of the United States to the Convention concluded at Geneva on the twenty-second August, 1864, between various powers, for the amelioration of the wounded of armies in the field, and to the additional articles thereto, signed at Geneva on the twentieth October, 1868.

March 3, 1882.—Read; accession read the first time referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, and, together with the message, ordered to be printed in confidence, for the use of the Senate.

March 16, 1882.—Ratified and injunction of secrecy removed therefrom.

To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit to the Senate for its action thereon, the accession of the United States to the convention concluded at Geneva on the twenty-second August, 1864, between various powers, for the amelioration of the wounded of armies in the field, and to the additional articles thereto, signed at Geneva on the twentieth of October, 1868.

Chester A. Arthur

Washington, March 3, 1882

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of August, 1864, a convention was concluded at Geneva, in Switzerland, between the Grand Duchy of Baden and the Swiss Confederation, the Kingdom of Belgium, the Kingdom of Denmark, the Kingdom of Spain, the French Empire, the Grand Duchy of Hesse, the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Kingdom of Portugal, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Kingdom of Würtemberg, for the amelioration of the wounded in armies in the field, the tenor of which convention is as follows!

[Here followed the treaty and additional articles.]

Now, therefore, the President of the United States of America, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, hereby declares that the United States accede to the said convention of the twenty-second August, 1864, and also accede to the said convention of October 20, 1868.

Done at Washington this first day of March in the year of[Pg 189] our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-two, and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and sixth.

(Seal) Chester A. Arthur

By the President:
Fred’k T. Frelinghuysen
Secretary of State

When the Senate finally took favorable action and President Arthur added his signature, Clara Barton did not wait for mail, but cabled the joyful news to Geneva, and received in reply the following official letter:

Geneva, March 24, 1882

Miss Clara Barton
President of the American Society of the Red Cross

Mademoiselle: At last, on the 17th instant, I received your glorious telegram. I delayed replying to it in order to communicate its contents to my colleagues of the International Committee, so as to be able to thank you in the name of all of us and to tell you of the joy it gives us. You must feel happy, too, and proud to have at last attained your object, thanks to a perseverance and a zeal which surmounted every obstacle.

Please, if opportunity offers, to be our interpreter with President Arthur and present him our warmest congratulations.

I suppose your Government will now notify the Swiss Federal Council of its decision in the matter, and the latter will then inform the other Powers which have signed the Red Cross Treaty.

Only after this formality shall have been complied with can we occupy ourselves with fixing the official international status of your society. We have, however, already considered the circular which we intend to address to all the societies of the Red Cross, and with regard thereto we have found that it will be necessary for us as a preliminary measure to be furnished with a document certifying that your society has attained the second of its objects, i.e., that it has been (officially) recognized by the American Government.

[Pg 190]

It is important that we be able to certify that your Government is prepared to accept your services in case of war; that it will readily enter into cooperation with you and will encourage the centralization under your direction of all the voluntary aid. We have no doubt that you will readily obtain from the competent authorities an official declaration to that effect, and we believe that this matter will be merely a formality, but we attach the greatest importance to the fact in order to cover our responsibility, especially in view of the pretensions of rival societies which might claim to be acknowledged by us.

It is your society alone and none other that we will patronize, because it inspires us with confidence and we would be placed in a false position if you failed to obtain for it a privileged position by a formal recognizance of the Government.

We hope that you will appreciate the motives of caution which guide us in this matter, and that you may soon enable us to act in the premises.

Wishing to testify to you its gratitude for the services you have already rendered to the Red Cross, the committee decided to offer to you one of the medals which a German engraver caused to be struck off in 1870 in honor of the Red Cross. It will be sent to you in a few days. It is of very small intrinsic value indeed, but such as it is, we have no other means of recompensing the most meritorious of our assistants. Please to regard it only as a simple memorial, and as a proof of the esteem and gratitude we feel for you.

Accept, Mademoiselle, the assurance of my most distinguished sentiments,

G. Moynier

On the 26th of July, 1882, the following proclamation was issued by the President:

By the President of the United States of America:


Whereas, on the 22d day of August, 1864, a convention was concluded at Geneva, in Switzerland, between the Grand Duchy of Baden and the Swiss Confederation, the Kingdom of Belgium, the Kingdom of Denmark, the Kingdom of Spain,[Pg 191] the French Empire, the Grand Duchy of Hesse, the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Kingdom of Portugal, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Kingdom of Würtemberg, for the amelioration of the wounded in armies in the field, the tenor of which convention is hereinafter subjoined;

And whereas the several contracting parties to the said Convention exchanged the ratifications thereof at Geneva on the 22d day of June, 1865;

And whereas the several states hereinafter named have adhered to the said Convention in virtue of Article IX thereof to wit:

Sweden December 13, 1864.
Greece January 5-17, 1865.
Great Britain February 18, 1865.
Mecklenburg-Schwerin March 9, 1865.
Turkey July 5, 1865.
Würtemberg June 2, 1866.
Hesse June 22, 1866.
Bavaria June 30, 1866.
Austria July 21, 1866.
Persia December 5, 1874.
Salvador December 30, 1874.
Montenegro November 17-29, 1875.
Servia March 24, 1876.
Bolivia October 16, 1879.
Chili November 15, 1879.
Argentine Republic November 25, 1879.
Peru April 22, 1880.

And whereas the Swiss Confederation, in virtue of the said Article IX of said Convention, has invited the United States of America to accede thereto;

And whereas on the 20th October, 1868, the following additional articles were proposed and signed at Geneva, on behalf of Great Britain, Austria, Baden, Bavaria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, North Germany, Sweden and Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, and Würtemberg, the tenor of which additional articles is hereinafter subjoined;

And whereas the President of the United States of America, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, did, on the first day of March, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-two,[Pg 192] declare that the United States accede to the said Convention of the 22d of August, 1864, and also accede to the said Convention of October 20, 1868;

And whereas, on the ninth day of June, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-two, the Federal Council of the Swiss Confederation, in virtue of the final provision of a certain minute of the exchange of the ratifications of the said Convention at Berne, December 22, 1864, did, by a formal declaration, accept the said adhesion of the United States of America, as well in the name of the Swiss Confederation as in that of the other contracting states;

And whereas, furthermore, the Government of the Swiss Confederation has informed the Government of the United States that the exchange of the ratifications of the aforesaid additional articles of the 22d October, 1868, to which the United States of America have, in like manner, adhered as aforesaid, has not yet taken place between the contracting parties, and that these articles cannot be regarded as a treaty in full force and effect:

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States of America, have caused the said Convention of August 22, 1864, to be made public, to the end that the same and every article and clause thereof may be observed and fulfilled with good faith by the United States and the citizens thereof; reserving, however, the promulgation of the hereinbefore mentioned additional articles of October 20, 1868, notwithstanding the accession of the United States of America thereto, until the exchange of the ratifications thereof between the several contracting states shall have been effected, and the said additional articles shall have acquired full force and effect as an international treaty.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this twenty-sixth day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-two, and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and seventh.


Chester A. Arthur

By the President:
Fred’k T. Frelinghuysen
Secretary of State

[Pg 193]

United States of America, Department of State, to all to whom these presents shall come, greeting:

I certify that the foregoing is a true copy of the original on file in the Department of State.

In testimony whereof I, John Davis, Acting Secretary of State of the United States, have hereunto subscribed my name and caused the seal of the Department of State to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 9th day of August, a.d. 1882, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and seventh.


John Davis

Thus was the American Association of the Red Cross welcomed into the fellowship of kindred associations in thirty-one other nations, the most prosperous and civilized on the globe, its position assured, and its future course made simple, direct, and untroubled.

The Official Bulletin of the International Committee also hailed the accession of the United States to the treaty in an article of characteristic caution, and of great significance. In that article the distinction was carefully pointed out between that which had already been fully agreed to, and had become invested with all the force and solemnity of international treaties, and the proposed treaty, which had been drawn up and considered with a view to ultimate adoption. This proposed treaty had received the sanction and signature of the International Committee at Geneva without ever having been formally adopted by any nation. The United States had, at the same moment, adopted both, thus becoming the thirty-second nation to adhere to the treaty of August 22, 1864, and the first to adopt that of October 20, 1868.[3] We quote the entire article:

[Pg 194]



Nous référant à l’article inséré dans notre précédent Bulletin, nous sommes heureux de pouvoir annoncer que l’acte d’adhésion, que nous pressentions, a été signé à Washington le 16 mars, à la suite d’un vote par lequel les membres du Sénat l’ont approuvé à l’unanimité. Nos lecteurs seront sans doute surpris, comme nous, qu’après la longue et systématique résistance du gouvernement des États-Unis pour se rallier à la Convention de Genève, il ne se soit pas trouvé dans la législature américaine, lorsque la question a été portée devant elle, un seul représentant de l’opposition. Un revirement d’opinion aussi complet ne peut s’expliquer, que si l’on admet que les chefs de la nation avaient nourri jusqu’à présent des préjugés à l’égard de la Convention de Genève, préjugés qui se sont évanouis le jour où ils ont bien compris ce que l’on attendait d’eux, et reconnu qu’il n’y avait là rien de compremettant pour la politique de leur pays.

Dans leur zèle de néophytes, ils ont même dépassé le but, car ils ont voté leur adhésion, non-seulement à la convention du 22 août 1864, mais encore au projet d’articles additionnels du 20 octobre 1868, qui n’était pas en cause puisqu’il n’a jamais eu force de loi. Nous ne donnons du moins cette nouvelle que sous toute réserve, car nous avons reçu à son sujet des renseignements contradictoires. Si ce vice de forme[Pg 195] se trouve dans la pièce officielle qui sera envoyée au Conseil Fédéral Suisse, on peut craindre qu’il ne retarde la conclusion tant désirée de cette importante affaire, mais il ne faudra pas trop le regretter, puisqu’il aura permis de connaître l’opinion de la grande république transatlantique, sur les questions maritimes relatives à la Croix rouge.


United States International Bulletin for April

No. 50, p. 92


Referring to the article inserted in our preceding Bulletin, p. 42, we are happy to be able to announce that the act of adhesion which we presented was signed at Washington the 16th of March, in pursuance of a vote by which the members of the Senate gave their approval with unanimity. Our readers will doubtless be surprised, as we are, that after the long and systematic resistance of the Government of the United States against rallying to the Convention of Geneva, there cannot be found in the American legislature a single representative of the opposition. So complete a reversal of opinion cannot be explained, unless we admit that the chief officers of the nation had cherished, up to the present time, prejudices in regard to the Convention of Geneva—prejudices which vanished as soon as they fully comprehended what was expected of them, and recognized that there was nothing compromising in it to the political condition of their country.

With the zeal of new converts, they have even gone beyond the mark, inasmuch as they have voted their adhesion not only to the convention of the 22d of August, 1864, but also to the plan of Additional Articles of the 20th of October, 1868, which was not the matter in question, since that had never had the force of law; we give this news only under every reserve, because we have received contradictory information on the subject. If this defect in form is found in the official document which will be sent to the Swiss Federal Council one could fear it might retard the so much desired conclusion of this important affair, but it need not be too much regretted, since[Pg 196] it will enable us to understand the opinion of the great Transatlantic Republic upon maritime questions as they relate to the Red Cross.

We have seen how the final vote of the Senate, approving the treaty, found Clara Barton too weary and too ill to feel at the moment any thrill of joy in her success. The strength of will that held her to the end of these struggles was not born of sustained enthusiasm; it was the tenacity of a courage that had grown very weary, but that never gave up. It was not the joy of success that called her back to interest in life, but the stern call of duty. While the Senate was considering the treaty, the Mississippi River was rising higher and higher. That was her call back to life and labor.

The work done in Michigan had served widely to advertise the Red Cross, and it made way for a wider appeal. The first funds distributed by it were collected locally, in the two cities nearest to the summer home of Miss Barton.

The disastrous Mississippi flood occurred in the spring of 1882. Clara Barton at once called together her advisers and laid her plans for relief. It seemed to them wise that public appeal should be delayed until the Senate, then considering the treaty, should have taken favorable action; lest precipitate effort for temporary relief might prejudice the success of the greater end that now was almost in sight. But the preparations for relief were made, even though the public appeal was, for good reason, a little delayed. Indeed, before there was any official recognition, the Red Cross had its agents on the ground, effecting local organizations that became permanent. Of this Clara Barton wrote:

[Pg 197]

Again our infant organization sent its field agent, Dr. Hubbell, to the scene of disaster, where millions of acres of the richest valley, cotton, and sugar lands of America, and thousands upon thousands of homes were under the waters of the mightiest of rivers—where the swift rising floods overtook alike man and beast in their flight of terror, sweeping them ruthlessly to the gulf beyond, or leaving them clinging in famishing despair to some trembling roof or swaying tree-top till relief could reach and rescue them.

The National Association, with no general fund, sent of its personal resources what it was able to do, and so acceptable did these prove and so convincing were the beneficences of the work that the cities of Memphis, Vicksburg, and New Orleans desired to be permitted to form associate societies and work under the National Association. This was permitted, and those societies have remained until the present time, New Orleans organizing for the entire State of Louisiana. The city of Rochester, proud and grateful of its success in the disaster a few months before, again came to the front and again rendered excellent service.

A few days were required to complete the official recognition. Then the American Red Cross issued its first national appeal to the American people, a copy of which appeal is still preserved:

Appeal to the American People

The President having signed the Treaty of the Geneva Conference, and the Senate having, on the 16th instant, ratified the President’s action, the American Association of the Red Cross, organized under provisions of said treaty, purposes to send its agents at once among the sufferers by the recent floods, with a view to the ameliorating of their condition so far as can be done by human aid and the means at hand will permit.

Contributions are urgently solicited. Remittances in money may be made to Hon. Charles J. Folger, Secretary of the Treasury, chairman of the board of trustees, or to his associates, Hon. Robert T. Lincoln, Secretary of War, and Hon. George B. Loring, Commissioner of Agriculture. Contributions of wearing apparel, bedding, and provisions should be[Pg 198] addressed to “The Red Cross Agent,” at Memphis, Tenn., Vicksburg, Miss., and Helena, Ark.

Clara Barton
J. C. Bancroft Davis
Frederick Douglass
Alex. Y. P. Garnett
Mrs. Omar D. Conger
A. S. Solomons
Mrs. S. A. Martha Canfield
R. D. Mussey

Washington, D.C., March 23, 1882

The response to this appeal was generous. The Red Cross immediately effected its permanent organization; and during the next twenty years it was seldom without a task of some kind.


[2] This is not precisely the name which this rival organization assumed. There would appear to be no good reason for recording it; but the fact that there were several such organizations which sprang into being immediately after President Garfield’s recognition of Clara Barton should not be forgotten.

[3] Of this proposed treaty of October 20, 1868, the 9th article was as follows:

Art. IX. The military hospital ships remain under martial law in all that concerns their stores; they become the property of the captor, but the latter must not divert them from their special appropriation during the continuance of the war.

[The vessels not equipped for fighting, which, during peace, the Government shall have officially declared to be intended to serve as floating hospital ships, shall, however, enjoy during the war complete neutrality, both as regards stores, and also as regards their staff, provided their equipment is exclusively appropriated to the special service on which they are employed.]

In the published English text, from which this version of the Additional Articles is taken, the paragraph thus marked in brackets appears in continuation of Article IX. It is not, however, found in the original French text adopted by the Geneva conference, October 20, 1868.

By an instruction sent to the United States minister at Berne, January 20, 1883, the right is reserved to omit this paragraph from the English text, and to make any other necessary corrections, if at any time hereafter the Additional Articles shall be completed by the exchange of the ratifications hereof between the several signatory and adhering powers.

[Pg 199]


It will be well at this point to make plain three points which were not clearly understood at the outset, and have sometimes been misunderstood since.

The first is that Clara Barton, in establishing the Red Cross in America, was not seeking primarily to provide a place for herself. At this period she had three homes, and money enough to support herself comfortably in any one of them. We have an interesting look into the Dansville home in a letter of her brother David to his daughter, Ida Barton Riccius. He was ill, and she, not yet recovered from her own illness, took him in and nursed him back to health. He wrote:

Dansville, June 13, 1880

Clara’s friends met us at the cars and rendered all necessary assistance. I was very weak and tired.

Clara lives in a very splendid old mansion, in a location unsurpassed, and a grand view of all the surroundings. Her house is filled with almost everything that adds to health, comfort, and happiness. Clara is very attentive to me. I think it came rather hard on her the first part of the time. Perhaps she will stand it a little better now that I am better and can possibly assist her a little. I have been gradually gaining since I arrived, considering how miserable I was when I came.

The living here agrees with me exceedingly well. We have plenty of good fresh milk, fresh graham bread from the bakery, fresh graham meal to make puddings, butter, cheese, apple-sauce, any kind of canned fruit we choose, which generally constitutes our breakfast. For dinner we have meat, fish, beans, potatoes, and things of that kind. For supper we have[Pg 200] bread, butter, tea or coffee, cheese, and fruit of any kind. This is the way we live and I enjoy it much. Clara has nearly all sorts of canned fruit in abundance, but what is best of all is plenty of nice fresh apples which I go into without mercy.

Clara Barton would have smiled a little at her brother’s arrangement of her menus. She probably would have said that she had a simple breakfast of graham bread, fresh butter, and fruit; a hearty midday meal of meat or fish and vegetables; and a light supper of bread, butter, cheese, and fruit, with abundance of sweet milk and an unlimited supply of good red apples.

This was the kind of home which Clara Barton left when she went to Washington to plead for the Red Cross. She often longed for it, and thought of going back there. Yet the purpose which had taken her to Dansville had been accomplished in her restored health. There was no important work for her to do there, or at Oxford. She could have a roof and red apples in either place, but she wanted to be promoting what had become the great object in life for her. That was what brought her back to Washington.

If, in all the weary months when she was fighting her lonely battles for the Red Cross, it ever occurred to her that this organization would give to her a life position, or bring to her either money or other emoluments, there is no hint of it in her diaries. So far as one may judge from these intimate self-revelations, her purpose was as genuinely altruistic as human nature is capable of becoming.

Nor is there any indication that she supposed that this would bring her additional honor. She already had more honors of certain desirable kinds than any other woman[Pg 201] in America. Her Civil War record was known throughout the Nation. The lecture platform offered her an inviting and remunerative invitation to return if she cared to take it up. She had brought back with her from Europe official decorations such as royalty neither before nor since has ever bestowed upon an American woman.

Secretary Blaine inquired about these with interest one day, and a few days later she handed three of them to his secretary with the following letter:

Washington, D.C., Oct. 31, 1881

To the Hon. Secretary of State
Washington, D.C.
Dear Mr. Blaine:

After the words unintentionally dropped at the interview so kindly granted me on Saturday, it occurs to me that it is perhaps the suitable thing for me to do, possibly a duty, to explain to you, as the Head of our foreign relations, my own connection in that direction. I will with your kind permission take the liberty to pass in, by the hand of your secretary, the accompanying “Decorations”:

The “Iron Cross of Merit” issued to me in 1872 by the Emperor and Empress of Germany on the occasion of the seventy-fifth birthday of the Emperor.

The “Gold Cross of Remembrance” presented to me by the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Baden at the close of the Franco-German War.

The “Red Cross of Geneva,” brought to Strassburg and placed upon my neck by the Grand Duchess of Baden, near whose court I suppose by courtesy I in a manner belong, as the winter of 1872 was passed there, and I left with the faithful promise to return to Europe once in two years, and pass each alternate winter with her, a promise which circumstances alone have prevented me from keeping,—the first four years after my return to America in 1873 were passed as a broken-down invalid, mainly confined to my room or bed. The four last, since on my feet, I have been held here by my efforts, and my promise given repeatedly abroad, to plant the Red Cross[Pg 202] on our own soil, and hang its peaceful humane flag beside our “Stars and Stripes.”

I am glad, Mr. Secretary, that you have seen it, as you have in the late celebration, for you will be the better able, it may be, to comprehend and excuse my persistency. Except for this constant and exhaustive occupation, I should have passed either of the last winters at Carlsruhe; but it has been sufficient to consume my entire time, strength, and spare means, and must continue to do so, until the treaty is disposed of and the Societies of the Red Cross, so indispensable to the effectiveness and utility of the treaty, are understood by the people, and measurably established throughout the country. To this end, I have at this moment in press a small work of a hundred or so pages, explaining the entire subject, its origin, history, and purposes, and of which I have ordered five thousand copies for gratuitous circulation. They will be ready at the opening of Congress or before, and I have four thoroughly formed societies, one National in this city, completed and incorporated, one Local in Dansville, New York, one in the city of Rochester, New York, for the county of Monroe, and one similarly organized in Syracuse, New York. Both Rochester and Syracuse are forming local, town societies under them, and all, in the happy absence of war, are using up their surplus energies on the burnt fields of Michigan, to which their agents have already taken thousands of dollars to the hungry, and thousands of garments to the naked.

I must beg, Mr. Blaine, that you do not misinterpret my motive in making this little revelation of foreign recognition. If the incentive had been mere personal vanity, I should probably have found a way to make the facts known, short of a decade, but it comes to me now, that it is perhaps, under the circumstances, a kind of duty that I should report to you on “Foreign Affairs.”

Begging your pardon for my too long letter, I remain, Mr. Secretary, with the most grateful respect,

Very truly
Clara Barton

The next thing that should be kept clearly in mind is that she did not establish an organization dependent[Pg 203] upon Government appropriations. In this respect her organization was quite unlike some of those that were hastily organized to oppose her. At least one of these was organized with an eye keenly intent upon one form of then existing Government service, with which it might possibly be affiliated, with an inviting prospect of salaried positions and official appointments. When the Treaty of Geneva was ratified, and not only the Senate but House of Representatives stood ready to do almost anything for Clara Barton, many of her friends in Congress assumed that the next step would be a request for a Congressional appropriation to cover the administrative expense of the Red Cross organization. To every such suggestion Clara Barton returned an emphatic negative. This was her little creed announced at the outset, and often reiterated:

The Red Cross means, not national aid for the needs of the people, but the people’s aid for the needs of the Nation.

She would not accept a salary or permit any friend of hers in Congress to introduce a bill for her financial advantage.

How keenly she felt the importance of establishing the Red Cross upon this basis, and how sensitive she was to the opposition which grew formidable just before the treaty was adopted, is shown in a letter of hers to her long-time friend Frances Willard, who wrote to ask the reason why she was not moving faster in her work for the relief of the people in the flooded district along the Mississippi:

Washington, Feby. 11, 1882

Dear Frances Willard:

Yes, I did get your letter telling me about the state of things in Mississippi and that all was lost there. I have no[Pg 204] doubt but that it is the same the country through. It is hard and heavy and bitter; the shots of malice and detraction fall thick, but I must stand at the helm and steer my ship safely into port. The Treaty of Geneva must first be secured. I have but one passage to take it through and that is lined thick on every side with guns manned by the Society ladies of the Capital of the Nation. The Red Cross, a little stranger craft from a foreign land, bearing only the banner of peace and love, and her messages of world-wide mercy begging shelter and acceptance in our capacious harbor, has chosen me for her pilot to bring her in. Besides these guns that open upon her on all sides she runs against the chains which have so long held her out—fancied Government defenses of “Non-intervention,” “Self-isolation,” beware of “Entangling alliances,” “Washington’s Farewell Address,” “Monroe Doctrine,” apathy, inertia, general ignorance, national conceit, national distrust, a desire to retain the old-time barbarous privileges of privateering and piracy which we have hugged as a precious boon against every humane treaty since we began. All these my little ship has had to meet and breast and bear down, before this new and personal attack was opened upon her, so you see I cannot turn aside from my duties of a true pilot to contest a new foe. I must bring my ship through the natural dangers and anchor it safely in port, though it and I be riddled with shot. I have thrown over all extra weight, put on all sail, muzzled my guns, put my poor tired wounded crew to the pumps, nailed the little flag to the mast; and so you see us without other word or sign, plunging through the surf, breaking down chain after chain, through the fire and smoke, making for the shore. Never a messenger of mercy met a more inhospitable welcome, but the poor battered pilot has faith in the craft, and faith in God, and at no distant day, in spite of all, we shall throw out a sturdy old iron anchor to grapple with the reefs of the coast, and run up a little pennant beside the cross, “Treaty Ratified.” After this we shall be freed from our national disgrace, relieved from the charge and duties of safe conduct for our course, and then if there is call for arbitration we will be ready.

The success of her work along the Mississippi made it[Pg 205] evident that she must continue the direction of the Red Cross. But that did not by any means convince her that she was to give up everything else and stay in Washington. She began to look for something else to do, and something that would take her far away from the seat of government.

She rather coveted than otherwise the opportunity to show without advertising the fact that she had other and visible means of support, and that her work for the Red Cross was not undertaken for lack of other employment. Moreover, it was expected that its organization would be kept simple, and its work done promptly in times of emergency. That was why almost immediately after the Red Cross had become an actual organization, and she had been constituted its official head by Presidential nomination and international appointment, and all the opposing organizations had withered and died, she was willing to accept a salaried position in work of another kind.

About this time she had a letter from Governor Butler of Massachusetts. He knew her well and had seen much of her work during the Civil War. Out of a clear sky came his invitation to her.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Department

Boston, January 8, 1883

My dear Miss Barton:

There is a vacancy in the office of Superintendent of the Woman’s Reformatory Prison of Massachusetts. It wants a woman at once of executive ability and kind-heartedness, with an honest love of the work of reformation and care of her living fellow creatures. How would that suit you? The salary is not very large. It is $1500.00 a year and house and expenses[Pg 206] of living. Please let me hear from you at your earliest convenience. I am,

Very truly yours

Benj. F. Butler

To Miss Clara Barton
Dansville, New York

Nothing could have surprised her more than this invitation and it was four months before she decided to accept it. Even then she accepted with the stipulation that she would need to close her service in time to attend the International Convention of the Red Cross in Vienna in the following year.

Her acceptance of the position involved the giving of a bond of $10,000. With her customary independence she declined to ask any one to sign her bond, but deposited with the State Treasurer of Massachusetts $10,000 of interest-bearing bonds and became her own guarantor.

Prison work was something of which Clara Barton knew nothing and she did not bring to it any considerable number of theories as to how it ought to be performed. In her first report, rendered at the end of six months, she took pains to give large credit to those who had preceded her. She disclaimed for herself either knowledge or achievement. A portion of this report will bear record here:

With only the little experience of six months, you will readily concede that it cannot be considered my work; it would be unjust arrogance in me to assume it. The noble women and men who toiled for its existence, the faithful, tireless body of commissioners, who have watched, prayed, and labored unpaid for it, often unthanked since with its first baby breath it cried aloud. We, the women of the old Commonwealth, and more than all perhaps the two grand women who have preceded me in its charge, are entitled to consider Sherborn[Pg 207] Prison their work. The strong brave-hearted woman, Mrs. Atkinson, who first dared to lay her hand, untried, upon that mass of chaos, and command order and law, life and reformation, to come out of it, was braver than a general. The peaceful, skillful, beloved Dr. Mosher who had the womanly courage to follow her, and strive and labor to shape still more perfectly the swelling, yeasty mass of human sin and misery till, like a wounded color-bearer she fell, bravely praying some comrade to bear them on to victory. These are the people whose work that prison is, and in their name, and theirs only, let me speak of it a moment and commend it to your loving interest and tender care.

Last May I found, as I entered its great halls, 230 women convicts. It has at present 275 to 280 women convicts, and, with those who so kindly care for them, make up a family of something over 300. These convicts I am expected to feed, clothe, work, and govern, they in turn to be fed, clothed, to work and obey. The most comprehensive and I believe correct report I could make would be, that we all faithfully perform what is expected of us. The manner in which it is accomplished, and the causes which lead to the necessity for such accomplishment, are, then, the remaining points of importance. The causes are as various and widespread as the sins and mishaps which beset erring humanity, but if you asked me what proportion I thought would be left, after all the temptations of liquor and men were removed, I should not require a large sheet on which to write it down.

Sherborn Reformatory is classed as a State’s Prison, and is thus squared by the same rule of discipline as ordinary State Prisons for the retention of State criminals.

And yet it is to be remembered that not a one-fourth part of these women are guilty of, or convicted of, any real crime, simply offenses—drunkenness and unseemly appearance upon the streets; and yet these poor hopeless, misguided, rum-wrecked women and night-walking girls are sentenced to the same servitude, subjected to the same code of discipline, and go out with the same brand of shame upon the brow, nay, far deeper than the clear-headed, cool, intelligent, calculating men of Concord, where every inmate is convicted of a crime. The sad conviction settles down upon me every day that the soul, brains of the crime of the Commonwealth are in Concord;[Pg 208] the wrecks they have made are in Sherborn; and in my dealing with these women, I cannot lose sight of this fact. They are more weak than wicked, often more sinned against than sinning. This, to my mind, invites a parental, maternal system of government, and to this they are all amenable; even the most obstinate yields to a rule of kindness, firmly and steadily administered.

The records of this period are necessarily meager. Yet there have come to the author unsought testimonials of the great work which Clara Barton accomplished while there. While she never criticized her predecessors, but gave them generous praise, she stood not at all on any precedent established by them. She changed the atmosphere of the place from an institution of punishment to one of instruction and character-building. One who visited the prison while she was there has told the author of Clara Barton’s power over the incorrigible; how women that were violent and untamable by the ordinary methods became docile under her direction. As for the younger women who were not hardened, and were often more sinned against than sinning, they idolized her. She established two letter-boxes in the halls, one to receive letters addressed to herself. Any one of the three hundred inmates was at liberty to write to Miss Barton. A number of the letters which she received were preserved by her and have been read by her biographer. They were a pathetic group, some of them absurd in their requests, and others tragic in their appeal for help. The gratitude of others was quite beyond the poor power of expression possessed by these girls. In many instances these letters were followed by personal conferences very fruitful of good.

The other box was for letters of complaint addressed[Pg 209] to the Board of Managers. Any inmate was at liberty to write a letter and place it there, assured that it would go direct, and that neither Miss Barton nor any of her assistants would read it. The first box was in constant use, the second scarcely ever contained a letter.

This was work for which Clara Barton had no natural liking. It was very far from the type of work she would have chosen. She never supposed it to be a permanent position. She accepted it because she felt that her health was sufficiently assured to justify her in undertaking some definite responsibility, and this was a place where she could go for a limited time and from it honorably retire. She was glad of a definite position in some other work than the Red Cross, yet one which did not compel her to resign her responsibilities in that organization. She found time while at Sherborn to attend a national gathering of philanthropic organizations in Denver, and deliver an address on the Red Cross. And she continued general oversight of its affairs. She retired from the work with no desire ever to see the inside of another prison; but also with a deepened interest in all work of that character, and with increased faith that in such work, as everywhere, kindness and an appeal to honor and self-respect were more effective than punishments which degrade and destroy hope.

She continued her work at Sherborn a little longer than she intended, because the term of Governor Butler was drawing to a close, and he did not wish to make a temporary appointment. She withdrew at the close of his term, and the day of her departure was a day of mourning in the prison at Sherborn.

A few months afterward an international conference[Pg 210] was held at Saratoga and she was invited to deliver an address on prison reform. The notes of that address are preserved:

Some steps in life are accounted unwise, some foolish, some foolhardy. Until the present hour perhaps the most foolhardy step I have ever been led to take was the temporary superintendence of a State Prison for the management, control, and reformation of women.

Though consenting, however unwillingly, to undertake a work of which I knew nothing, and under such circumstances, I did undertake it. But, good, kind, and loving friends, in point of temerity and foolhardiness the effort of this present hour beggars that. That I, with literally no experience, no knowledge of the subject, with thoughts running always in other channels,—should in any way, however tacitly, have given consent to take my place at this desk this evening beside these gentlemen who embody in themselves the experimental knowledge of the world upon this subject, and before this audience, trained to thought, the cultivated cream of the land, is to me past human comprehension. The Lord directs—let us obey.

In May, 1883, after four months of combined importunity from the then Governor, General Butler, and all the people interested in and controlling the penal institutions of the State of Massachusetts, that I take the superintendency of Sherborn Reformatory Prison (and it was, I believe, the only point upon which the Governor and the people ever did agree), I decided to take it for six months. I remained something longer.

I entered that prison feeling myself so ignorant of all that pertained to its line of work and methods and thought, that it seemed to me positively wicked, to waste my own time and that of the community and those who must come under me, in the strengthless, thoughtless vacancy of my attempted work—I seemed to myself a kind of empty balloon.

At the end of eight months I went out of it, with a burden of thoughts, plans, ways and means, possible and impossible, under which my body could scarcely hold itself erect or my feet carry me away.

[Pg 211]

I seemed more to myself like an already heavy-ladened ship, which had met another in distress and taken on shipwrecked passengers and crew, till her gunwales hugged the water and her laboring wheels wearily tugged for the land.

So piled, so criss-crossed, so intricate, so vast, contradictory, perplexing, so vexed by customs, so hampered by foolish laws, so bound by mercenary ends, so fettered by political ambitions, aspirations, asperities and jealousies, to say nothing of the immutable laws of natural descent as related to crime—so discouraging was all this to be faced from the latter half of a busy life that I wearily and gladly turned and laid the burden down on the hands of you skilled laborers, and have mainly been content to feel and leave it there.

The subject of prison reform seems to me to be so vast, and the methods by which it is to be attempted so varied, that it can scarcely be touched in one talk.

The first question might be, What is meant by prison reform? and in what degree? Palliation or cure? I well remember the one question which always confronted me from visitors at Sherborn—“Miss Barton, how is it, do you really reform any one here?” My reply was, “That depends upon what you consider reform to consist in. If you mean to ask if we take women here, badly born, worse raised, with inherited, habitual, vagrant crime in their natures, with the grogshop and the brothel for their teachers, who never lived a decent day or knew a decent night, filthy inside and out, and that by a residence of a few months here we are able to send them out to you not only good, well-behaved, industrious, cleanly, sober, orderly, honest, respectable members of society,—something they never were before,—infallible, proof against all the temptations and vices which you of the free community on the outside may throw in their path, so they shall never fall again; then, No, we reform no one, and our prison is a failure; but, if reform may mean that the habits which must incidentally grow up in the minds, characters, and tastes of these women during a term of two years of sober, industrious, and instructed life, in which they shall see only cleanliness and order, where the workroom shall replace the street, the quiet cell, the school-room, and the chapel in the place of the grogshop and the brothel, kindly spoken words of advice, prayer, praise, and song in the place of oaths and vulgarity, and a resolution at[Pg 212] least to try to lead a better life,—if all this may be accounted in the direction of reform, then, Yes, a thousand times Yes, we reform all that come within our reach.”

The prison in itself is all well, but the danger lies beyond in the temptations, the lures, and the traps of the community into which this poor, weak creature is plunged in her first hour of regained liberty. I never saw one of these women go out with her little bundle of freedom suit, and watched the eager yet timid and half-frightened look on her face, and felt the childlike, clinging grasp upon mine, and heard the universal “Good-bye, don’t forget me,” that through the tears a great prayer did not rise up in my heart, “O God, strengthen her weakness—guard her from the temptations and the snares leading her down to death, of Thy virtuous and free, outside these prison walls.”

I recall once an official visit from about twenty members of the State Legislature, at Boston, for the purpose of overlooking the prison and seeing what it might need and how it could be best officially served; accordingly they appealed to me for my opinion generally—if the prison were what it should be in its appointments, if it were large enough or too large, etc., and in a general way what I would recommend to them to do; as by recent Act they had made me not only Superintendent but Treasurer and Steward as well. I replied: “This Prison is all very well—a model prison and certainly as large as it ought to be for the size of the State; and it is very probable that there is not very much that you can directly do for it at present, as an Institution; but, Gentlemen, the Institution from which you come has the making of the laws by which this Institution exists; any time when you there will find a way to make it impossible for the people of this State to get intoxicating liquors, upon which to get drunk, I will guarantee that in six months the State of Massachusetts may rent Sherborn for a shoe manufactory.” I am not sure that they believed what I said, but I did and still do.

True, crime will exist without drunkenness, but to no such extent as to require two miles of prison galleries for the women of Massachusetts.

In this country I regard drunkenness as the great father of crime, and the mother of prisons, almshouses, asylums, and workhouses—the parent of vice and want and the instigator[Pg 213] of murder. Whatever bears ever so little against this is to my mind “Prison Reform.”

Then follow in their mournful train the sin-bound cortège of primal and secondary causes of vice and crime and which make necessary the various methods of treatment which have been so ably discovered that no words of mine could throw a single ray of added light upon the subject. I can only concur, or perhaps express suggestively some preferences which may have presented themselves to me.

In regard to intermediate sentences: I may not be sufficiently clear upon the technical points as presented by our good brother, but in a general way I would say I am unequivocally in favor of an unfixed term of imprisonment when the sentence is given. A fixed time of release is an independence to the prisoner beyond the power of his keepers and stands directly in the way of all reform.

I would earnestly advocate everywhere, in all prisons, police stations, houses of detention—in short, everywhere, the placing of arrested women and women prisoners in charge of women only, and men in charge of men. It is just and right for every reason of virtue and decency; here again it is largely this contact that has destroyed; it cannot restore.

I would, for every consideration of humanity, have the most careful, intelligent, and scientific investigation made in all prisons for any possible tendency to insanity on the part of any prisoner. The willful subjection to prison rules and penalties of those from whose benighted souls the light of reason and the power of self-control have been withdrawn is cruelty inexcusable and accursed in the sight of God and man.

In the name of all mercy single these out and take them to their own place.

Again, I would in the name of humanity lessen so far as possible the stimulating qualities of the food generally given out in prisons—more of grains, vegetables, and fruit, and less of meat. The result of this I am confident would be seen in the better temper, more tractable natures, lessened irritability, and happier frame of minds on the part of all convicts. I would have the food plentiful, but unstimulating, and the cooking wholesome. The records of the punishments in a prison could not fail in time to demonstrate the beneficial result of this course.

[Pg 214]

Cannot this thought find somewhere and sometime a little consideration in your deliberations? In the name of humanity I suggest it.

There remains but one subject more which I would name, and but a word of that—simply the relations and feeling to be maintained between the inmates of a prison and those in charge of them. I would recommend not only a uniform kindness and firmness of course on the part of every attendant, but a uniform politeness as well. Like begets like in spite of everything. It increases self-respect. This they have lost, and this they need to have restored so far as may be. Make punishment as rare as possible, but sure, and in all instances as light as the case will admit of. I regard undue severity of punishment as far more harmful than no correction at all. Cultivate the love of the convicts by all proper means; it is more potent than punishment.

I believe the record of my last month at Sherborn shows not a single punishment among between three and four hundred women. They grew to feel that the only hurt of their punishment was the pain it gave me. When I met them for the last night in the chapel, and told them we should not meet again, and invited each to come and bid me good-bye, the sobs and wails that went out, and the tears that went over my hands as I held theirs for the last time, were harder for me than all the eight months’ work I had done among them. As I passed down the long corridors in the dark, unheard by them, at ten o’clock, and the low moans and sobs were still going out, it was too much to bear. I sought my own room—sank down, cold and shivering with the terrible thought that rushed over me—Had it not been all wrong? Was I far enough removed from them? Surely we must be too near alike, if not akin, or they would never have clung to me with that pitiful love.

I went out from the prison walls of Sherborn next morning. I have never seen a face there since. I have never returned and I have no desire to.

[Pg 215]


The Red Cross as organized in Europe, and as Clara Barton learned of it there, had no ministry except in times of war. It was one of the distinctive features of Clara Barton’s plan that the American Red Cross should give service in any time of national, or possibly of international, calamity. So far as the Red Cross existed by virtue of an international treaty, its work was to care for the wounded of the battle-field; but the American Red Cross, as incorporated in the District of Columbia, and as operated under the direction of Clara Barton, offered an agency immediately available for the relief of suffering wherever the need was greater than could be met by local benefactions.

It will be remembered that the first service of the American Red Cross was in the autumn of 1881, in the forest fires of Michigan, almost a year before the official accession of the United States to the Treaty of Geneva. The report which reached Clara Barton and the Nation that half the State of Michigan was on fire, was, of course, an exaggeration, and she was not deceived by it, but she knew that the need was greater than could be met by local philanthropy. Already there had been organized a single unit of the Red Cross, at Dansville, New York. Clara Barton flung out the Red Cross flag in front of her home, and called her organization into activity. The two neighboring cities of Rochester and Syracuse came immediately to her assistance. Contributions which[Pg 216] aggregated three thousand dollars were placed immediately at her disposal. Miss Barton’s home became a center of activity, a dépôt for the packing and shipping of supplies. The second auxiliary of the Red Cross in the United States was organized at Rochester, with a membership of two hundred and fifty; that at Syracuse followed immediately. The total amount received and distributed by the Red Cross in money and material amounted to eighty thousand dollars.

The Michigan fires brought to Miss Barton’s assistance Dr. Julian B. Hubbell. She had known him in Dansville as an instructor in the Seminary which was located there. She knew him as a man to be relied upon. When the forest fires occurred, Dr. Hubbell was a medical student in the University of Michigan. She wired him at once to proceed to the scene of the fire and give her accurate information. Dr. Hubbell reported that hundreds of people had been suffocated and burned to death in the rapid sweep of the flames, and that many thousands were homeless and in need of shelter, food, clothing, and medical care. Miss Barton at once commissioned Dr. Hubbell as field agent of the Red Cross. This was the beginning of a relationship which was never broken until the death of Clara Barton. Dr. Hubbell completed his medical course, and was commissioned as general field officer of the American National Red Cross. This position he occupied from 1881 until her resignation in 1904. He was with her in every one of the American fields of service; accompanied her to Turkey at the time of the Armenian massacres; went with her to Cuba at the time of the Spanish War; and was as indispensable to her as her own right hand. After the termination of her presidency[Pg 217] of the American Red Cross, he remained near her, was with her in her last illness, and stood beside her when she died. With her nephew Stephen, he accompanied her body to the old home in Oxford and wept beside her grave. He was among the friends, and their number was not small, who were faithful to her to the very end of life.

It is not the purpose of the present author to relate in detail the story of the work of the Red Cross during the next twenty-three years. Clara Barton herself has done that in a large octavo volume of nearly seven hundred pages. To that book reference must be had for any adequate idea of her service for almost a quarter of a century. Almost every year beheld a calamity of sufficient magnitude to call for the official activity of the American Red Cross. The mere list of the fields of its service is notable:

1881, the Michigan forest fires.
1882, the Mississippi River floods.
1883, the Mississippi River floods.
1883, the tornado in Louisiana and Alabama.
1883, the Balkan War.
1884, the Ohio and Mississippi River floods.
1885, the Texas famine.
1886, the Charleston earthquake.
1888, the tornado at Mt. Vernon, Illinois.
1888, the Florida yellow-fever epidemic.
1889, the Johnstown flood.
1892, the Russian famine.
1893, the tornado at Pomeroy, Iowa.
1893 and 94, the hurricane and tidal wave in the South Carolina islands.
1896, the Armenian massacres in Turkey in Asia Minor.
1898 to 1900, the Cuban Reconcentrado relief.
1898, the Spanish-American War.
1900, the Galveston storm and tidal wave.
1904, the typhoid fever epidemic at Butler, Pennsylvania.

[Pg 218]

In almost every instance Clara Barton went in person to the field. Where she went was order, efficiency, sympathy, and comfort. In the days of the Civil War the official sign of a hospital was the yellow banner, still used in the quarantine service to designate a hospital for the treatment of contagious diseases. It was and is a respectable and worthy emblem, but there was nothing very inspiring about it. Where Clara Barton went on her missions of mercy, two flags floated, the Stars and Stripes and the beautiful white flag with its cross of blazing red.

Clara Barton loved the color red. The red rose was the flower of her family. A dash of red she almost invariably had about her clothing somewhere. It was altogether in keeping with her personal tastes that the emblem which came to symbolize her life-work was of the color which never failed to gladden her eye. In 1881 she set out, as she herself related in her first article for the Associated Press, to make the name and emblem of the Red Cross as familiar in America, as for many years it had been in almost every other civilized nation. She succeeded in doing this, not simply by a campaign of publicity, but by the practical agency of applied mercy. When fire or famine or flood devastated a region, and its victims were homeless and despairing, and local agencies for relief were overworked and working aimlessly or at cross-purposes, the unfurling of the flag of the Red Cross was the sign of hope. It meant not only human kindness and sympathy, but confidence and efficiency and success.

From every one of these twenty fields Clara Barton came back laden down with the grateful testimonials of[Pg 219] the communities to which she had brought comfort and help.

A very brief outline of her work in these several fields may be summarized from her own reports. The work for the Michigan forest fires has already been referred to, and reference has been made to the first expedition of the Red Cross for the relief of the sufferers from the Mississippi floods. A further word should be said concerning the service of the Red Cross during the floods, and then a brief summary of the work in each of the other fields.

Mississippi and Ohio River Floods—1882-83

The spring rise of the waters of the Mississippi brought great devastation, and a cry went over the country in regard to the sufferings of the inhabitants of the Mississippi Valley. For hundreds of miles the great river was out of its bed and raging madly over the country, sweeping in its course not only the homes, but often the people, the animals, and many times the land itself. This constituted a work of the relief clearly within the bounds of the civil part of our treaty, and again we prepared for work. Again our infant organization sent its field agent, Dr. Hubbell, to the scene of disaster, where millions of acres of the richest valley, cotton and sugar lands of America, and thousands upon thousands of homes under the waters of the mightiest of rivers—where the swift-rising floods overtook alike man and beast in their flight of terror, sweeping them ruthlessly to the Gulf beyond, or leaving them clinging in famishing despair to some trembling roof or swaying tree-top till relief could reach and rescue them.

The National Association, with no general fund, sent of its personal resources what it was able to do, and so acceptable did these prove and so convincing were the beneficences of the work that the cities of Memphis, Vicksburg, and New Orleans desired to be permitted to form associate societies and work under the National Association. This was permitted, and those societies have remained until the present time, New Orleans organizing for the entire State of Louisiana. The[Pg 220] city of Rochester, proud and grateful of its success in the disaster a few months before, again came to the front and again rendered excellent service.

In the spring of 1883 occurred the first great rise of the Ohio River; one thousand miles in extent. This river, although smaller than the Mississippi, is more rapid in its course, and its valleys hold the richest grain lands, the most cultivated farms, representing, in fact, the best farming interests of America.

The destruction of property was even greater here than in the cotton and cane lands of the Mississippi. Again our field agent was dispatched and did excellent work. The entire country was aroused, and so liberal were the contributions to the various committees of relief that when Dr. Hubbell retired from the field, having completed the work, he had still unexpended funds in hand. But they were soon needed.

The Louisiana and Mississippi Tornado of 1883

In less than a month occurred the fearful tornado of Louisiana and Mississippi, which cut a swath clear of all standing objects for thirty miles in width and several hundred miles in length, running southeast from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Our special agent for the South, Colonel F. R. Southmayd, took charge of the Red Cross relief in this disaster, and so efficient was his work that societies struggled for organization under him and the Red Cross was hailed as a benediction wherever he passed. This was in May, 1883.

Our association now enjoyed for eight months a respite from active work. It was surely needed. It was the longest rest we had yet known, and afforded some small opportunity to gather up its records of past labors, organize some societies, and compile a history of the Red Cross, so much needed for the information of our people and so earnestly asked for by them as well as by the United States Senate.

The Ohio River Floods of 1884

The rapidly melting snows of February, 1884, brought the thousand miles of the Ohio River again out of its bed. A cry went out all over the country for help. The Government,[Pg 221] through Congress, took immediate action and appropriated several hundred thousand dollars for relief, to be applied through the War Department. The Red Cross agents must again repair to the field, its societies be again notified.

But its president felt that, if she were to be called every year to direct the relief work of the association in these inundations, it was incumbent upon her to visit the scene in person, to see for herself what floods were like, to learn the necessities and be able to direct with the wisdom born of actual knowledge of the subject; and accordingly, with ten hours’ preparation, she joined Dr. Hubbell on his way and proceeded to Pittsburgh, the head of the Ohio River. There the societies were telegraphed that Cincinnati would be headquarters and that money and supplies should be sent there. This done, we proceeded to Cincinnati by rail.

Any description of this city upon our entrance would fall so far short of the reality as to render it useless.

The surging river had climbed up the bluffs like a devouring monster and possessed the town; large steamers could have plied along its business streets; ordinary vocations were abandoned. Bankers and merchants stood in its relief houses and fed the hungry populace, and men and women were out in boats passing baskets of food to pale, trembling hands stretched out to reach it from third-story windows of the stately blocks and warehouses of that beautiful city. Sometimes the water soaked away the foundations and the structure fell with a crash and was lost in the floods below; in one instance seven lives went out with the falling building; and this was one city, and probably the best protected and provided locality in a thousand miles of thickly populated country.

It had not been my intention to remain at the scene of disaster, but rather to see, investigate, establish an agency, and return to national headquarters at Washington, which in the haste of departure had been left imperfectly cared for. But I might almost say, in military parlance, that I was “surprised and captured.”

I had made no call beyond the Red Cross societies,—expected no supplies from other sources,—but scarcely had news of our arrival at Cincinnati found its way to the public press when telegrams of money and checks, from all sides and sources, commenced to come in, with letters announcing the[Pg 222] sending of material. The express office and freight depots began filling up until within two weeks we were compelled to open large supply rooms, which were generously tendered to the use of the Red Cross. A description could no more do justice to our flood of supplies than to the flood of waters which had made them necessary—cases, barrels and bales of clothing, food, household supplies, new and old; all that intelligent awakened sympathy could suggest was there in such profusion that, so far from thinking of leaving it, one must call all available help for its care and distribution.

The Government would supply the destitute people with food, tents, and army blankets, and had placed its military boats upon the river to rescue the people and issue rations until the first great need should be supplied.

The work of the Red Cross is supplemental and it sought for the special wants likely to be overlooked in this great general supply and the necessities outside the limits of governmental aid. The search was not difficult. The Government provided neither fuel nor clothing. It was but little past midwinter. A cyclone struck the lower half of the river with the water at its greatest height and whole villages were swept away in a night. The inhabitants escaped in boats, naked and homeless. Hail fell to the depth of several inches and the entire country was encased in sleet and ice. The water had filled the coal mines, so abundant in that vicinity, until no fuel could be obtained. The people were more likely to freeze than starve, and against this there was no provision.

We quickly removed our headquarters from Cincinnati to Evansville, three hundred miles below and at the head of the recent scene of disaster. A new stanch steamer of four hundred tons’ burden was immediately chartered and laden to the water’s edge with clothing and coal; good assistants, both men and women, were taken on board; the Red Cross flag was hoisted and, as night was setting in, after a day of intense cold—amid surging waters and crashing ice, the floating wrecks of towns and villages, great uprooted giants of the forest plunging madly to the sea, the suddenly unhoused people wandering about the river-banks, or huddled in strange houses with fireless hearths—the clear-toned bell and shrill whistle of the Josh V. Throop announced to the generous inhabitants of a noble city that from the wharves of Evansville[Pg 223] was putting out the first Red Cross relief boat that ever floated on American waters.

The destroyed villages and hamlets lay thick on either bank, and the steamer wove its course diagonally from side to side calling the people to the boat, finding a committee to receive and distribute, and, learning as nearly as possible the number of destitute persons, put off the requisite quantity of clothing and coal, and steamed away quickly and quietly, leaving sometimes an astonished few, sometimes a multitude to gaze after and wonder who she was, whence she came, what that strange flag meant, and, most of all, to thank God with tears and prayers for what she brought.

In this manner the Red Cross proceeded to Cairo, a distance of four hundred miles, where the Ohio joins the Mississippi River, which latter at that time had not risen and was exciting no apprehension. Returning, we revisited and resupplied the destitute points. The Government boats running over the same track were genial and friendly with us, and faithful and efficient in their work.

It should be said that, notwithstanding all the material we had shipped and distributed, so abundant had been the liberality of the people that, on our return to Evansville, we found our supply greater than at any previous time.

At this moment, and most unexpectedly, commenced the great rise of the Mississippi River, and a second cry went out to the Government and the people for instant help. The strongest levees were giving way under the sudden pressure, and even the inundation of the city of New Orleans was threatened. Again the Government appropriated money, and the War Department sent out its rescue and ration boats, and again the Red Cross prepared for its supplemental work.

In an overflow of the Mississippi, owing to the level face of the country and the immense body of water, the valley is inundated at times thirty miles in width, thus rendering it impossible to get animals to a place of safety. Great numbers drown and the remainder, in a prolonged overflow, have largely starved, the Government having never included the domestic animals in its work of relief. This seemed an omission of vital importance, both humanely and economically considered, and the Red Cross prepared to go to the relief of the starving animals of the Mississippi Valley. It would also supply[Pg 224] clothing to the destitute people whom the Government would feed.

The navigation of the Mississippi River calls for its own style of boats and pilotage, the latter being both difficult and dangerous, especially with the changed channels and yawning crevasses of a flood.

The steamer Throop was left at Evansville and the Mattie Bell chartered at St. Louis and laden with corn, oats, hay, meal, and salt for cattle; clothing and cooking utensils for the destitute people; tea, coffee, rice, sugar, and medicines for the sick; and as quickly as possible followed the Government steamers leaving the same port with rations of meat and meal.

We finished the voyage of relief, having covered the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Cairo and back twice, and the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans and return, occupying four months’ time on the rivers, in our own chartered boats, finishing at Pittsburgh and taking rail for Washington on the first of July, having traveled over eight thousand miles, and distributed in relief, of money and estimated material, $175,000.

The Government had expended an appropriation from the Treasury on the same waters of $150,000 in money, and distributed it well. The difference was that ours was not appropriated; we gathered it as we used it.

The Texas Famine of 1885-86

Occasional rumors reached us in the years 1885 and 1886 about a drouth in Texas and consequent suffering, but they were so contradictory and widely at variance that the public took little or no heed of them. During the year of 1886 the Reverend John Brown, a North Presbyterian minister, located at Albany, Shackelford County, Texas, began making appeals by circular and oral address to the people of the Northern States, in which he asserted that there were a hundred thousand families in northwestern Texas who were utterly destitute and on the verge of starvation. He stated that since the close of the war a large number of poor families had been constantly crowding into Texas from the Southern States principally, induced thither by land agents and others, who gave glowing representations of the character of the soil for farming purposes.

These poor people, by hard labor and industry, had been generally able to make a living and nothing more. The last[Pg 225] fall they had planted wheat and other grain quite extensively, but the rains came not and everything perished; and in the following spring and summer, too, everything put into the ground was blasted by the hot winds, so that not a thing was raised for man or beast. For fifteen months no rain had fallen, and the condition of the people was pitiable and called aloud to the charitable throughout the land for relief. They must be carried through to the next summer or they would perish. At a meeting of the citizens of Albany, Texas, they decided that the task of relieving the sufferers was greater than the well-to-do people of the State were able to undertake, and that an appeal should be made to the good-hearted people of the North for immediate aid. The Governor of Texas also published an appeal to the people of the whole land, asking for food for these people. But as there was no concerned action, and so many denials of the stories of suffering, little or nothing in the way of relief work was accomplished for some time. Spasmodic attempts were made, and some food for man and beast was contributed, but not enough to relieve a hundredth part of the needy.

The Reverend Doctor Brown went to the State Capital and endeavored to interest the Legislature in the matter, but there were seemingly so much misunderstanding and unbelief, and so many conflicting interests to reconcile, that he failed to receive any substantial assurances and left the place in disgust. When the citizens of Texas could not agree as to the necessities of their own people, it was not to be expected that the citizens of the country would take much interest in them, hence the relief movement languished from inanition.

About the middle of January, 1887, Dr. Brown came to Washington and, as solicitor and receiving agent for the committee which had issued an appeal to the country, appealed to me, as president of the American National Red Cross, asking our organization to come to the relief of the people, who were in a deplorable state, greatly needing food and clothing. I immediately shipped to Texas all the stores that were then in our warehouse, but they were no great quantity.

An appeal direct to the Red Cross required immediate attention, and I at once sought a conference with President Cleveland, who was greatly worried over the contradictory stories that were constantly printed, and was anxious to learn[Pg 226] the truth about the matter. When I said that I should go to Texas and see for myself, he was greatly pleased, and requested me to report to him the exact situation just as soon as I had satisfied myself by personal investigation.

Dr. Hubbell and I proceeded directly to Albany, Texas, where we arrived near the end of January. We were met by the leading citizens and most heartily welcomed and accorded every privilege and attention. We began our investigations at once in a systematic way, carefully noting everything we heard and saw; and in the course of a two weeks’ trip over the afflicted region, we learned the extent of the need and formulated plans for its relief.

Making Albany our object point, we traveled by private conveyance over such territory as we thought sufficient to give a correct knowledge of the condition of the country and the people. We met large numbers of the residents, both collectively and at their homes, and learned from them personally and by actual observation their condition and what they had to depend upon during the next few months. It will be borne in mind that when we entered upon this investigation little or no relief had come from the State, and none was positively assured.

Almost no rain had fallen during a period of eighteen months; two planted crops had perished in the ground, and the seed wheat sown the previous fall gave no signs of life. The dust was rolling over the great wind-swept fields, where the people had hidden their last little forlorn hope of borrowed seed, and literally a heaven of brass looked down upon an earth of iron.

Here were twenty to forty counties, of a size commensurate with Texan dimensions, occupied by new settlers, making their first efforts in the pioneer work of developing home life in an untried country, soil, and climate. They had put their all into the new home and the little stock they could afford for its use. They had toiled faithfully, planted two and three times, as long as there was anything to plant or sow, and in most instances failed to get back their seed. Many had grown discouraged and left the country. The people were not actually starving, but they were in the direst want for many of the necessities of life, and it was only a matter of days when they would have reached the condition of the reconcentrados as we later found them in Cuba. Hundreds of thousands of[Pg 227] cattle had died for the want of food and water, and their drying carcasses and bleaching bones could be seen in every direction as the eye wandered over the parched surface of the plains.

I at once saw that in the vastness of its territory and varying interests the real need of these suffering communities was not understood by the Texas people—it had not come home to them; but that once comprehending, it would be their wish to have it known and cared for by themselves and not by others outside of the State.

Assuring these poor people that their actual condition should be made known to their own people, through the authoritative means of the Red Cross, and that they should be speedily cared for, we bade them farewell and hurried away to Dallas, where we intended to send out a statement to the people of the State.

Arriving there, we sought an interview with Colonel Belo, of the Dallas “News,” and laid before him the result of our observations. He placed the columns of his paper at our disposal, and through them we enlightened the people of the true status of affairs in their own State. The response was as quick as it was gratifying, and thence onward there was no further necessity for appealing to any one outside of the State limits. Indeed, that act in the first place was the greatest mistake, as to the average Texan, feeling a genuine pride in the State’s wealth and resources, it savored of frauds and imposition, and prejudiced him against the brother who would pass him by and appeal to outsiders.

The Texas Legislature appropriated one hundred thousand dollars for food, and in the meantime rain began to fall and the entire aspect of affairs began to change for the better. But there were still many needs unprovided for—clothing, fuel, seeds for gardens and fields, live stock, and many other things—and it was necessary to place these needs before the people. This the “News” took upon itself to do; and upon my suggestion it opened a popular subscription and announced that it would receive contributions of seed or cash and would publish the same from day to day and turn them over to the constituted authorities appointed to disburse them. In order to encourage the movement I inaugurated it with the first subscription, and from that time until now I do not believe any[Pg 228] one has heard of any need in Texas that has not been taken care of by her own people.

The Texas famine brought into sharp relief the ideals of Clara Barton in emergencies of this character. It was at first proposed to meet the situation by a Government appropriation; and a bill for such relief, passed by both houses of Congress, was promptly vetoed by President Cleveland. This veto brought severe criticism upon the President, but Clara Barton sustained him. What was needed in such an emergency, as she believed, was not to fly to Congress with appeals for an appropriation, but to call upon the people to send relief through an accredited agency that would account for the money and disburse it in systematic fashion. Her success in the Texas famine abundantly proved the wisdom of her course.

The Mount Vernon, Illinois, Tornado

On Sunday, February 19, 1888, a destructive tornado occurred at Mount Vernon, Illinois. Within three minutes after the fury of the storm had struck the town, thirty people had been killed and scores of others injured, and an immense amount of property destroyed.

To add to the horrors already wrought, fire broke out in a dozen places. Those who were uninjured quickly came to the rescue, quenching the flames and exerting themselves to relieve the unfortunate victims, who were, in most cases, pinned down under the wreckage of their houses. All night long these brave men and women worked, and when morning came the few houses that remained standing were filled with the dead and injured.

Appeals for assistance were sent out to the people of the country, but, through an improper statement of the situation, the public was misled, and, not realizing the pressing needs of the stricken community, failed to take up the matter in a business-like manner, and the town was left to suffer for a little of the great abundance that was around them. In their extremity[Pg 229] the despairing citizens appealed to the Red Cross for aid, which responded at once.

A most deplorable situation was presented: the people were homeless and helpless, neglected, and in a state of mind bordering on insanity.

After a somewhat hasty examination of the situation, the following simple message was sent to both the Associated and the United Press:

The pitiless snow is falling on the heads of three thousand people who are without homes, without food or clothing and without money.

Clara Barton

With only this little word to explain the needs, our generous American people responded promptly and liberally, as they always do when they fully understand what is needed.

It was unnecessary to remain longer than two weeks with these people, who, as soon as they recovered from the first shock of their great misfortune, and when they felt that kind friends were by their side, lending them moral and substantial support, manfully commenced to bring order out of chaos, to rebuild their town and resume their usual vocations. Large quantities of relief supplies of all kinds quickly came to hand, and, when we were ready to leave them, the Citizens’ Committee had in its treasury a cash balance of ninety thousand dollars. And thus, with their blessings ringing in our ears, we left them.

The Yellow Fever Epidemic in Florida in 1888

During the month of August, 1888, yellow fever broke out in Jacksonville, and in September it was declared to be epidemic, the usual alarm and exodus of citizens taking place. On September 8, heroic measures to depopulate the city were taken. Every person that was still well and could leave was requested to go; very little urging was necessary. Camps were established outside of the city, where those who had not the means to go farther and get better quarters were enabled to live under medical surveillance, and away from the seat of infection.

The mayor of Jacksonville had made an appeal for doctors and nurses, which had been quickly responded to, and they were doing everything possible to attend to the rapidly increasing number of patients.

[Pg 230]

On the formation of the Red Cross Society of New Orleans in 1893, it had been carefully and wisely arranged that, in case of yellow fever becoming epidemic in any place, no unacclimated persons, or those not immune, should be sent as assistants by the Red Cross. New Orleans was the home of the famous “Old Howard Association,” that had won its reputation and worn its grateful renown from the horrors of Memphis to the present time. This body freely united with the Red Cross of New Orleans, and it was arranged that the Southern States, through this society, should provide all Red Cross nurses for yellow fever, and that the northern portion of the country should raise the money to pay and provide them. We felt this to be a security, and an immediate provision which the country had never before known. Fearing that this might not, at its first inception, be fully understood, I called at once on Dr. Hamilton, then in charge of the Marine Hospital, explaining it to him, and offering all the nurses that could be required, even to hundreds, all experienced and organized for immediate action. Perhaps it was not strange that a provision, so new and so unknown in the sad history of plagues and epidemics, should have seemed Utopian, and as such been brushed aside as not only useless, but self-seeking and obtrusive. Like the entire organization of which it was a part, it had to wait and win its way against custom or even prejudice, by honest worth and stern necessity. It was the “old, old story.” The world takes reform hard and slow.

As it was, however, we did what we could. Headquarters were established at the Riggs House in Washington. The good-hearted people of the North, who felt that they must go to Florida, had by some means gotten the idea that they must have a pass from the Central Committee of the Red Cross in order to go. They came to us in hundreds and were mercifully held back from a scourge for which they would have been both food and fuel, whilst the entire people of the country, in pity and horror at the reports received, were holding meetings, raising money, and pouring funds like water into the doomed city of Jacksonville, where the scourge had centered, and to which every effort was made to confine it.

Not realizing the opposition there might prove to be to our nurses, we called upon their old-time leader, Colonel F. R. Southmayd, the efficient secretary of the Red Cross Society[Pg 231] of New Orleans, instructing him to enlist a body of nurses and take them at once to the fever district. He enlisted thirty, both men and women, white and colored, took a part with him, the remainder following next day.

Refugees who had fled from Jacksonville carried the plague to several smaller places in the surrounding country, where in some instances it acquired quite a foothold; but, owing to their obscurity and the lack of communication with the outside world, they were left alone to fight the disease as best they could. Among these places was the little town of MacClenny, where, as soon as it became known that there was a case of fever within its limits, all trains were ordered to rush through without stopping, and an armed quarantine was placed around it with orders to shoot any one attempting to leave the town. Thus left to their fate, without doctors, nurses, or food, in any quantity, their situation was pitiable. There were a number of volunteers who had made attempts to get into MacClenny, but, owing to the unreasoning panic existing, they were not permitted to enter the place.

Colonel Southmayd had heard of these neglected people, and he succeeded while en route to Jacksonville in dropping off ten nurses so much needed at MacClenny. How he did this, I have told in a little brochure entitled “The MacClenny Nurses,” that was issued at the close of the year 1888.

The fever spread during the fall to several points in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and resulted in the usual panic and flight from many places; but happily the disease got no great headway before the frost put an end to its career.

It was late in November when we closed this work; worn and disheartened as we were by both the needful and the needless hardships of the campaign, we were glad of the two or three months in which no call for action was made upon us.

The Johnstown Flood of 1889

On the 30th of May, 1889, occurred the calamity of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, with all its horrors. So frightful and improbable were the reports that it required twenty-four hours to satisfy ourselves that it was not a canard.

In order to get an intelligent idea of this disaster and the terrible damage wrought by the irresistible waters, it may be well to give a short sketch of the city of Johnstown and its[Pg 232] adjacent surroundings. Before the flood there were thirty thousand people in this busy community, which embraced the city of Johnstown proper and numerous suburbs. The city is situated at the junction of Stony Creek and the Little Conemaugh, forming the Conemaugh River. These streams are liable to sudden overflows, and, owing to the contraction of the waterway in the lower part of the city by the dumping of cinders and slag from the large ironworks on the banks of the stream, and also encroachments by riparian owners, the upper portion of the city is liable to inundations. About nine miles above the city a dam had been thrown across the Little Conemaugh River many years ago for commercial purposes, but had been abandoned and the site with much surrounding property had been subsequently purchased by a sporting club, whose membership embraced some of the wealthiest citizens of Pennsylvania. These gentlemen were attracted by the picturesque scenery and the hunting and fishing of the vicinity, and they spent thousands of dollars in improving and beautifying their holdings. The dam was raised to a height of over seventy feet and held an immense body of water covering many acres.

This large mass of water was a constant source of fear to the inhabitants of the lower valleys, who were aware of the danger that threatened them, and many protests were made against the continuance of the danger; but owing to the prominence of the owners of the dam, and the strong social and political influence they exerted, they remained unmolested in the possession of the monster that was to break its bounds and carry death and destruction in its pitiless pathway.

A steady rainfall for several days in the latter part of May caused overflows in all the streams in western Pennsylvania, and much of the city of Johnstown was already under water to a depth of from two to ten feet, when suddenly the dam over the Little Conemaugh gave way, and its flood, resembling a moving mountain of water thirty feet high, was precipitated upon the doomed city. Numbers of the inhabitants, who had carried the fear of this disaster in their minds for years, had become so alarmed by the long-continued rains, and the floods that were already upon them, took their families and fled to the high grounds on the hillsides. But the great majority of the people, who, though fully aware of the danger, had lived[Pg 233] with it so long that they had become careless and indifferent, took no precautions whatever. These were overwhelmed by the tide almost without warning, and before they could seek safety were swept away.

The number of lives lost will never be accurately known; but in all probability it reached in the entire valley nearly five thousand. It is said that property to the amount of twelve millions of dollars was absolutely lost.

It was at the moment of supreme affliction when we arrived at Johnstown. The waters had subsided, and those of the inhabitants who had escaped the fate of their fellows were gazing over the scene of destruction and trying to arouse themselves from the lethargy that had taken hold of them when they were stunned by the realization of all the woe that had been visited upon them. How nobly they responded to the call of duty! How much of the heroic there is in our people when it is needed! No idle murmurings of fate, but, true to the godlike instincts of manhood and fraternal love, they quickly banded together to do the best that the wisest among them could suggest.

For five weary months it was our portion to live amid these scenes of destruction, desolation, poverty, want, and woe; sometimes in tents, sometimes without; in rain and mud, and a lack of the commonest comforts, until we could build houses to shelter ourselves and those around us. Without a safe, and with a dry-goods box for a desk, we conducted financial affairs in money and material to the extent of nearly half a million dollars.

When our five months’ work was completed, we had only to turn over to the hands of the leaders of the town, our warehouse with its entire remaining stock, amounting to some thousands of dollars; the care of the infirmary; one of our trained clerks, with all papers and accounts of our relief work from the day of its inception; one of our experienced working men to handle transportation—to fit up for them large, warm rooms for winter use; give them our blessing; accept theirs in fullest measure; say good-bye to them and to our faithful helpers, with heavy hearts and choking voices, and return to our home, bearing the record of a few months of faithful endeavor among a people as patient and brave as people are made, as noble and grateful as falls to the lot of human nature[Pg 234] to be. Enterprising, industrious, and hopeful, the new Johnstown, phœnix-like, rose from its ruins more beautiful than the old, with a ceaseless throb of grateful memory for every kind act rendered, and every thought of sympathy given her in her great hour of desolation and woe. God bless her, and God bless all who helped save her!

We had employed during our sojourn in Johnstown a working force of fifty men and women, whom we had housed, fed, and paid, with the exception of the volunteers who worked for the good they could do and would accept nothing. The means which we so largely handled came from everywhere; accounts were rendered for everything, and no word of business complication ever came to us. There never has in all our work.

There was much to do in Johnstown after we left; buildings to remove and property to care for when it had served its purpose and the ground became needed. But there is always a right time for any benevolent work to cease; a time when the community is ready to resume its own burdens, and when an offered charity is an insult to the honest and independent, and a degradation to the careless and improvident, tending to pauperize and make them an added burden on their better-minded fellow citizens. And then, the moment the tradesman is able to reëstablish himself, he looks with jealous eyes on any agency that diverts possible business from his channels. Thus it is not only wise, but just to all concerned to withdraw all gratuities from a people the instant they are able to gain even a meager self-support.

A rather curious circumstance, somewhat on the line of this reflection, fell to our lot after leaving Johnstown. The houses that we had built and furnished were indispensable to the tenants during the winter, when there were no other houses to be had; but in the spring the city, rejuvenated, began to build up again, and we were notified that the land on which our large houses were standing was needed by the owners, who wished to use it for their own purposes, and they requested the Red Cross to remove its buildings. We promptly sent an agent to attend to the matter, and he began the work of vacating the premises. There was no hardship involved in this, as all the tenants were by this time in condition to pay rent, the relief fund of $1,600,000 having been distributed among them in proportion to their losses, and there were houses that they[Pg 235] could get; in a few days our houses were empty. Then a new factor entered into the situation. When it became generally known that the Red Cross must remove these immense houses, and that a large quantity of lumber and house furnishings were to be disposed of, the self-interests of the dealers in those commodities were at once aroused, and they strongly protested against the gratuitous distribution of those articles among the people of Johnstown, asserting that the inhabitants were now prospering and had the means to buy everything they needed, and that a gift from us of any of these things would be an injustice to the honest traders who were trying to reëstablish themselves.

We saw the justice of their objection and gave assurances that no injury should be done them; still, to have fully conformed to their idea and transported the entire material to some other point would have put the Red Cross to an amount of trouble and cost unjust to itself.

I am not prepared to say that our quiet field agent in charge of the work did not find resting-places for very much of this material in still needy homes, where it did no harm to any one and for which no one but the pitiful recipients were the wiser.

Notwithstanding the fact that we took away from Johnstown as little material and furniture as was possible, after quietly disposing of the greater part of it, and this at an expense and inconvenience to ourselves which we could ill afford, there were those who could not understand why we should take anything away; and their unkind misconstruction and criticisms have scarcely ceased echoing even to this late day.

The paths of charity are over roadways of ashes; and he who would tread them must be prepared to meet opposition, misconstruction, jealousy, and calumny. Let his work be that of angels, still it will not satisfy all.

There is always an aftermath of attempted relief where none is needed, and more or less criticism of any work, for it is always so much easier to say how a thing ought to be done than it is to do it.

These little unpleasantnesses, however, cannot deprive us of the thousand memories of gratitude, appreciation, and kindnesses exchanged, which were mutually helpful; nor of the many lifelong friendships formed which will bless us all our day.

[Pg 236]

As Miss Barton was leaving Johnstown the “Daily Tribune” of that city published the following editorial:

How shall we thank Miss Clara Barton and the Red Cross for the help they have given us? It cannot be done; and if it could, Miss Barton does not want our thanks. She has simply done her duty as she saw it and received her pay—the consciousness of a duty performed to the best of her ability. To see us upon our feet, struggling forward, helping ourselves, caring for the sick and infirm and impoverished—that is enough for Miss Barton. Her idea has been fully worked out, all her plans accomplished. What more could such a woman wish?

We cannot thank Miss Barton in words. Hunt the dictionaries of all languages through and you will not find the signs to express our appreciation of her and her work. Try to describe the sunshine. Try to describe the starlight. Words fail, and in dumbness and silence we bow to the idea which brought her here. God and humanity! Never were they more closely linked than in stricken Johnstown.

Governor Beaver of Pennsylvania expressed the appreciation of the people of the State in the following letter:

In this matter of sheltering the people, as in others of like importance, Miss Clara Barton, president of the Red Cross Association, was most helpful. At a time when there was a doubt if the Flood Commission could furnish houses of suitable character and with the requisite promptness, she offered to assume charge, and she erected with the funds of the association three large apartment houses which afforded comfortable lodgings for many houseless people. She was among the first to arrive on the scene of calamity, bringing with her Dr. Hubbell, the field officer of the Red Cross Association, and a staff of skilled assistants. She made her own organization for relief work in every form, disposing of the large resources under her control with such wisdom and tenderness that the charity of the Red Cross had no sting, and its recipients are not Miss Barton’s dependents, but her friends. She was also the last of the ministering spirits to leave the scene of her labors, and[Pg 237] she left her apartment houses for use during the winter, and turned over her warehouse, with its store of furniture, bedding and clothing and a well-equipped infirmary, to the Union Benevolent Association of the Conemaugh Valley, the organization of which she advised and helped to form; and its lady visitors have so well performed their work that the dreaded winter has no terrors, mendicancy has been repressed, and not a single case of unrelieved suffering is known to have occurred in all the flooded district.

The Russian Famine of 1891-92

To understand properly the Russian Famine of 1891-92, and the relief work of the Red Cross connected therewith, one needs to keep in mind the ordinary moral and economic condition of the Russian peasantry. They were, many of them, not long ago serfs attached to the land in a condition but little better than American slaves. Though the liberation of the serfs made their legal condition better, it left them in condition scarcely less discouraging than before. They were subject to all the disabilities of hard bargains on every side, from the exactions of taxes levied in one way or another, and payable in services or goods, all of which called for an ever-increasing sacrifice. They were subject to onerous military service, and penal exactions for violations of the law. These conditions surrounded them with an atmosphere of depressing poverty, fear, and hopeless endurance, if not of despair. They have not felt the stimulating habitual influence of hope, of courage, of enterprise. They are not educated to surmount discouragements by overcoming them. Difficulties do not down easily before them; they go down before difficulties and disasters in something like apathetic despondency, or live in an amazing light-hearted, careless recklessness that easily turns to drink, to idleness, weakness, disease, and early death. Fear is with them always, as if fate was over and against them.

The climate of Russia is cold in winter, and the means of cooking and artificial warmth are scanty, and not easily procured at any time; thus, when the famine really came upon them, observers were divided in opinion whether the famine, or fear of famine, or of something worse, destroyed or paralyzed these people the more.

The harvest yields of 1889 and 1890 had been much less than[Pg 238] an average, and at the beginning of 1891 but little of the old supplies of grain was left over. The harvest of 1891 was nearly a total failure throughout a vast region in central Russia extending from Moscow, roughly speaking, say, three hundred miles in a northeasterly direction over a plain eight hundred to a thousand miles in width, beyond the Ural Mountains, and some distance into Siberia in Asiatic Russia—a district of nearly a million square miles. Ordinarily this is the most productive part of the Empire, upon which the remainder of the country had been accustomed to draw for food supplies in the frequent cases of deficiency elsewhere. The appearance of the country is similar to our prairie States in the early days before the growth of the planted trees; and the soil is a rich, black loam that usually produces good harvests.

It was estimated by those best qualified to judge that from thirty to thirty-five millions of people were sufferers by the famine of 1891.

Count Tolstoy gave up his whole time to mitigating the suffering caused by this great disaster, and to understanding the situation broadly. He went into the homes of the people, and studied their needs sympathetically; he placed himself by their side, and with his dramatic instinct understood them, ascertained where the hurt was felt, and how it could be cured, if it could be cured at all.

At that time the Count wrote of these poor unfortunates: “I asked them what sort of a harvest they had had, and how they were getting along; and they replied in a blithe, offhand manner: ‘Oh, right enough, God be praised!’ And yet these people who reside in the most distressed districts of the government of Toula, cannot possibly live through the winter, unless they bestir themselves in time. They are bound to die of hunger, or some disease engendered by hunger, as surely as a hive of bees left to face the rigors of a northern winter, without honey or sweets, must perish miserably before the advent of spring. The all-important question, therefore, is this: Will they exert themselves while yet they possess the strength, if, indeed, it be not already wholly exhausted? Everything that I saw or heard pointed with terrible distinctness to a negative reply. One of these farmers had sold out the meager possessions which he could call his own, and had left for Moscow to work or beg. The others stayed on and waited with naïve curiosity watching[Pg 239] for what would happen next, like children, who, having fallen into a hole in the ice, or lost their way in a dense forest and not realizing at first the terrible danger of their situation, heartily laugh at its unwontedness.”

“Unless they bestir themselves in time”—what a text is this! They are all the time overborne by the apathy of fear, of unused powers, of suppression and depression. Courage, hope, enterprise to bestir themselves, where will they come from? Not, surely, from fear and more discouragement.

The work of the American National Red Cross in the Russian famine of 1891-92 was comparatively less than in some others of the conspicuous fields in which it had done its work. The impulse to help in the work of that relief sprang up simultaneously in many American hearts and homes, in New York, in Philadelphia, in Minnesota, and Iowa. In Iowa it took the form of a veritable crusade for a most holy cause; beginning in the fervid and indomitable spirit of Miss Alice French—the “Octave Thanet” of literature—it quickly enlisted Mr. B. F. Tillinghast, editor of the “Davenport Democrat,” who became its director-in-chief and organizing force, everywhere organizing it, and promoting it in every direction and in every form. The movement was taken up by the women of Iowa, and Governor Boies became a prime mover, till the whole State at last joined in a triumphal march bearing corn, God’s best gift to man, to the Atlantic coast in a procession of two hundred and twenty-five carloads, exceeding five hundred bushels in each car. The corn was consigned to Clara Barton in New York and reached her agents there without accident or delay.

The American National Red Cross had authentic intelligence of the famine in Russia before it had attracted general attention; it had placed itself in communication with the Secretary of State, the Honorable James G. Blaine, and the Russian Chargé d’Affaires at Washington, Mr. Alexander Gregor, and had ascertained that Russia would gladly receive any donations of relief that the people of America might send to her famine-stricken people. Not only would they receive supplies, but would send their ships for them, and provide inland transportation from Russian ports to the destitute people for whom these benefactions were intended. America declined to allow her suffering sister nation to cross the seas to get this food, and quickly arranged to carry it to her. All the American agencies[Pg 240] concerned in this movement met it in the noblest spirit; railroad companies gave free transportation, telegraph companies the free use of wires, brokers and steamship agents declined their usual commissions, and some insurance companies even gave premiums for the safe delivery of the precious cargo into the hands of the starving people. Funds to charter a steamship to carry the cargo to Russia were soon raised and placed in the hands of the Red Cross.

Dr. Hubbell, representative of the Red Cross to the international conference of the Red Cross to be held at Rome, and authorized to proceed to Riga and receive and distribute with the Russian Red Cross this gift of Iowa, was already on his ocean voyage and ready to do his part in this beautiful blending of international courtesies and services that it is the mission of the Red Cross to devise and to carry out wherever it can make or find the fitting opportunity. Dr. Hubbell arrived on time at Riga and superintended the distribution of the cargo.

The Sea Islands Hurricane of 1893-94

It is probable that there are few instances on record where a movement toward relief of such magnitude, commenced under circumstances so new, so unexpected, so unprepared, and so adverse, was ever carried on for such a length of time and closed with results so entirely satisfactory to both those served and those serving, as this disaster, which, if remembered at all at the present day, is designated as the “Hurricane and Tidal Wave of the Sea Islands off the Coast of South Carolina.” The descriptions of this fearful catastrophe I shall leave to the reports of those who saw, shared its dangers, and lived within its tide of death. They will tell how from three thousand to five thousand human beings (for no one knew the number) went down in a night; how in the blackness of despair they clung to the swaying tree-tops till the roots gave way, and together they were covered in the sands or washed out to the reckless billows of the great mad ocean that had sent for them; of the want, woe, and nothingness that the ensuing days revealed when the winds were hushed, the waters stilled, and the frightened survivors began to look for the lost home and the loved ones, and hunger presaged the gaunt figure of famine that silently drew near and stared them in the[Pg 241] face; how, with all vegetable growth destroyed, all animals, even to fowls, swept away, all fresh water turned to salt—not even a sweet well remaining—not one little house in five hundred left upright, if left at all; the victims with the clothing torn and washed off them, till they were more nearly naked than clothed—how these thirty thousand people patiently stood and faced this silent second messenger of death threatening them hour by hour. Largely ignorant, knowing nothing of the world, with no real dependencies upon any section of its people, they could only wait its charity, its pity, its rescue, and its care—wait and pray—does any one who knows the negro characteristics and attributes doubt this latter? Surely, if angels do listen, they heard pleading enough in those hours of agony to save even the last man and woman and the helpless babe. Something saved them, for there is no record of one who died of starvation or perished through lack of care.

About the 28th or 29th of August, 1893, the press commenced to give notice, such as it could get over wrecked roads and broken wires, of a fearful storm coming up from the West Indies that had struck our coast in the region of South Carolina, sweeping entirely over its adjacent range of islands, known as the Old Port Royal group, covering them from the sea to a depth of sixteen feet, with the wind at a rate of one hundred and twenty miles an hour—that its destructive power was so great that it had not only swept the islands, but had extended several miles on to the mainland of the State.

I chanced to be familiar with the geography and topography of that group of islands, having lived on them in the capacity of war relief many months during the siege of Charleston in 1863-64. Knowing that they scarcely averaged four feet rise above the sea level, with no mountains, not even hills that could be called such, that the soft, sandy soil could not be trusted to hold its tree roots firm, that the habitations were only huts, to be washed away like little piles of boards—I thought I saw no escape for the inhabitants and that all must have perished; and so replied to all inquiries at first made as to whether this were not a disaster for the Red Cross to relieve, “No, there was nothing left to relieve.” Later and more reliable news brought the astonishing fact that it was estimated that from thirty to forty thousand had survived and were in[Pg 242] the direst need. Was not this a call for the Red Cross? Still more emphatically, “No; if that is the case, it is beyond the Red Cross. Only the State of South Carolina or the general Government can cope with that”; and again we closed our ears and proceeded with our work.

But the first week of September brought pitiful paragraphs from various Southern sources—one I recall from the governor of the State, in which he proclaimed his perplexity and great distress at the condition of these poor people, needing everything, and who, at that season of the year, with crops all destroyed, would continue to need; and closed by wondering “if the Red Cross could perhaps do anything for them.”

It would not do to close our ears or eyes against this suggestion, and I at once sought our congressional neighbor, General M. C. Butler, of South Carolina, then in the Senate, asking his views. The response was such as would not have been looked for in that busy, hard-worked Senator, surrounded by a network of political wires, some of them only too likely to be “live”; he dropped all business, telegraphed at once to Governor Tillman at Columbia to learn the conditions, and urgently requested us to go, and he would even leave his seat and go with us as soon as we could be ready. Time is never a question with the Red Cross, and the next night, in a dark, cheerless September mist, with only two assistants, I closed a door behind me for ten months, went to the station to meet General Butler, prompt and kind, and proceeded on our way. At Columbia we were joyfully surprised at meeting Governor Tillman, prepared to accompany us with a member of his staff, and thus powerfully reënforced we made our entrance into Beaufort.

The work of relief had been wisely placed at first in the hands of committees from both Beaufort and Charleston, comprising the best business men of each city—its lawyers, merchants, bankers, all men of prominence and known practical ability. They had done and were doing all possible for them to do, with hearts full of pity, hands full of work, themselves large losers by the storm, business nearly wrecked, and needing every remaining energy for the repairing of their own damages and those of the citizens about them.

The governor, at whose request they had formed, realizing the necessities of the case, sought to release them, calling them[Pg 243] together in each city and successively relieving them, placing the Red Cross in full charge of the relief. With the little knowledge we had of the conditions and surroundings, it would have been madness to accept, at least until both more knowledge and more numerical force were gained, and the refusal was as prompt as the proffer had been. We, however, promised to remain in Beaufort, meet with the committee each day, advise with them, study the situation and report our conclusions when we could safely arrive at them.

Thus we remained until the first day of October, realizing that the relief coming in from outside would soon diminish as the excitement should wear away, that the sum in hand was painfully small, that the number of destitute was steadily increasing, that the winter was approaching and that they must be carried through in some manner till the next year’s crops could grow; and that, in order to do this a fixed system of relief must be adopted, a rigid economy enforced, and every person who could do so must be made to work for his food and receive food and raiment only in return for labor; that this could come only from persons who had no interests but these to subserve and with the light of all experience that could be called to the task. Even then a successful result was questionable; but there was no question of the fatal result of any other course, and after a thoughtful council of our official board (which had meanwhile become nearly filled) on the night of September 30 it was decided that the Red Cross would accept the appointment of the governor and enter upon its duties the following day.

Accordingly, at the meeting of the next day, October 1, 4 P.M., the Beaufort Relief Commission, as appointed by the governor, was formally released as a committee and immediately reëlected by the Red Cross as its “advisory board,” to meet and advise with us as we had done with them.

Through all these years the tenderness springs to my heart and gathers in my eyes as I recall the kindly and affectionate intercourse of months, without one break, that grew up between us. And although some have been called to higher service and greener fields, I am confident that none of us will ever seek on this side a better, more trusted, kindlier association than were found in these.

If it be desirable to understand when to commence a work of[Pg 244] relief, to know if the objects presented are actually such as to be benefited by the assistance which would be rendered, it is no less desirable and indispensable that one knows when to end such relief, in order to avoid, first, the weakening of effort and powers for self-sustenance; second, the encouragement of a tendency to beggary and pauperism, by dependence upon others which should be assumed by the persons themselves. It has always been the practice of the Red Cross to watch this matter closely and leave a field at the suitable moment when it could do so without injury or unnecessary suffering, thus leaving a wholesome stimulus on the part of the beneficiaries to help not only themselves individually, but each other.

Seldom a field, or any considerable work of relief which may have attracted public notice, comes to a close that there does not some person or body of persons arise and propose to continue the work under some new form, but using the former well-established sources of supplies; to put out new appeals to old patrons, detailing great need, newly discovered, and thus keep the sympathetic public forever on the anxious seats of never-ending pity and help. We have been compelled to guard against this at the close of every long-continued field, notably Johnstown, where it became necessary for the citizens to organize a “Home Relief” to keep sensational strangers off the ground, and their well-arranged “Benevolent Union” of to-day is the result.

The Sea Islands were no exception, and at the last moment of our stay a well-drawn petition was discovered (for it was to be kept concealed until we were gone), and was checked only by the vigorous aid of the Charleston “News and Courier,” of June 25, 1894, always our stay and friend in time of trouble.

Armenia in 1895 and 1896

In November, 1895, the press commenced to warn us of a possible call for the relief of the terrible sufferings of Armenia, which were engaging the attention of the civilized world. These warnings were followed later by a letter from the Reverend Judson Smith, D.D., of Boston, secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, referring his suggestion back to the Reverend Henry O. Dwight, D.D., of the American Board of Foreign Missions at Constantinople. The American Red Cross was requested by these[Pg 245] representative gentlemen to undertake the distribution of relief funds among the sufferers of Armenia. Owing to the disturbed condition of the country and of its strict laws, combined as they were with existing racial and religious differences, it was found almost impossible at the moment to distribute the relief needed. The faithful but distressed resident missionaries were themselves helpless sufferers to a great extent and practically prisoners in their own houses. These had not always been spared to them in the wild excitement which reigned for several months previous, otherwise they would have been the normal channels for distributing aid. This written request from Dr. Smith was nearly identical with a similar one from Mr. Spencer Trask, of New York, who, with others, was about to form a National Armenian Relief Committee, to be established in that city. Following their letters, both of these gentlemen, Dr. Smith and Mr. Trask, came to Washington personally to urge our compliance with the request that we accept the charge of this distribution of relief funds. Accustomed to the trials, responsibilities, and hardships of field relief labor, this proposition seemed something to be shrunk from rather than accepted and we naturally hesitated. The idea, however, became public, and a general importunity on the part of the people became prevalent. The necessity for immediate action was urged; human beings were starving and could not be reached, hundreds of towns and villages had not been heard from since the fire and sword went over them, and no one else was so well prepared for the work of field relief, it was said, as ourselves. It was urged that we had a trained force of field workers, and as Turkey was one of the signatory powers to the Red Cross Treaty of Geneva, having given its adhesion as long ago as July, 1865, it must consequently be familiar with its methods and humanitarian ideas. Thus it was hoped that she would the more readily accept its presence than that of a more strange body of workers. These are only a shadowing of the reasons urged on behalf of our acceptance. Under this pressure, coupled with our strong sympathies, the subject was taken into serious consideration with the simple demand on our part of two positive assurances: first, we must be assured by the committees that we were the choice of the people of the entire country, that there was no opposition to us, and that there was perfect unanimity between themselves;[Pg 246] there must be nowhere any discord; the task would be difficult enough under the best conditions. Second, that they had the funds to distribute. Assured on both these points, our promise was given that we would go and do our best to make the desired distribution in the interior of Asia Minor.

With this ray of hope that something might be done, the pent-up sympathies of the people burst forth. Public meetings were held, addresses made, Armenian conditions estimated, horrors reproduced, responsibilities placed, causes canvassed, and opinions expressed; honest, humane, and entirely natural, precisely the course to rouse public sentiment and indignation, if that were the only or the main object in view. In consideration, however, of the relief effort, it was of questionable wisdom, perhaps, when it is borne in mind that we had yet to ask the opening of a door hitherto closed against the world, when we needed permission to enter, in order to reach the starving sufferers with the relief that was planning for them. In the enthusiasm of the hour, this fact seemed to be entirely lost sight of. It also seemed to be forgotten that if this difficult and delicate task were to be assigned to the Red Cross and its officers, the making of their mission, or of themselves personally, prominent or laudatory features of public gatherings where Ottoman officials or representatives were always listeners, could not fail to render the post more difficult and prospects of success more doubtful.

The international and neutral character of the Red Cross, as a medium of relief in mitigation of war or overwhelming calamity, appeared to be overlooked or wholly misunderstood. It was not recognized that only by abstaining from discordant opinions could we be in a position to perform our work. By the obligations of the Geneva Treaty, all national controversies, racial distinctions, and differences in creed must be held in abeyance and only the needs of humanity considered. In this spirit alone can the Red Cross meet its obligations as the representative of the nations and governments of the world acting under it. But American enthusiasm is boundless, and its expression limitless; and the same breath that crushed the Ottoman Empire, scattered it to the winds or sunk it in the lowest depths, elevated the Red Cross and its proposed relief out of sight among the clouds. Precautionary remonstrance from us was in vain, but it was not until after we had publicly[Pg 247] given our consent, made all arrangements and appointed our aids, that the fruits of these ardent demonstrations became visible in a pronunciamento through the Turkish Minister resident at Washington, prohibiting the Red Cross from entering Turkey.

I found this decision on the part of the Bey and his Government very natural and politically justifiable—our own Government and people would probably have done the same or even more under similar conditions, provided similar conditions could have existed among them. I was ready to abide by the decision and remain at home. This, neither people nor committees would consent to. Of course our selected force of more than a score of trained and experienced field workers, each a specialist, must be given up. If any relief were now attempted it could only be individual, with two or three officers from headquarters as indispensable aids.

Previous to the announcement of the Turkish Minister prohibiting the Red Cross from entering Turkey, the promise had been gained from us to leave by the steamship New York on the 22d of January, and notwithstanding the reply to a cablegram from the Department of State to Constantinople, asking if the prohibition against the entrance of the Red Cross was really official and from the Government itself, or but semi-official, had not been received, our promise was kept and we sailed with this uncertainty resting over us.

The picture of that scene is still vivid in my memory. Crowded piers, wild with hurrahs, white with parting salutes, hearts beating with exultation and expectation—a little shorn band of five, prohibited, unsustained either by Government or other authority, destined to a port five thousand miles away, from approach to which even the powers of the world had shrunk. What was it expected to do or how to do it? Visions of Don Quixote and his windmills loomed up, as I turned away and wondered.

A week at sea, to be met at midnight at Southampton, by messenger down from London, to say that the prohibition was sustained, the Red Cross was forbidden, but that such persons as our minister, Mr. Terrell, would appoint, would be received. Here was another delicate uncertainty which could not be committed to Ottoman telegraph, and Dr. Hubbell was dispatched alone to Constantinople (while we waited in London)[Pg 248] to learn from Mr. Terrell his attitude toward ourselves and our mission. Under favorable responses we proceeded, and reached Constantinople on February 15; met a most cordial reception from all our own Government officials, and located pro tem. at Pera Palace Hotel; it being so recently after the Stamboul massacres that no less public place was deemed safe.

The following day we received in a body the members of the Missionary Board in Constantinople, including its treasurer, W. W. Peet, and Dr. Washburn, president of Robert College, and here commenced that friendly intercourse which continued without interruption, strengthening as the days wore on through the half-year that followed, till moistened eyes and warm hand-grasp at parting told more plainly than words how fraught with confidence that intercourse had been. If one would look for peers of this accomplished Christian body of our countrymen, they would only be found in the noble band of women, who, as wives, mothers, and teachers, aid their labors and share their hardships, privations, and dangers. I shall always feel it a privilege and an honor to have been called, even in a small way, to assist the efforts of this chosen body of our countrymen and women, whose faithful and devoted lives are made sacred to the service of God and their fellow men.

The first step was to procure an introduction to the Government which had in one sense refused me; and accompanied by Minister Terrell and his premier interpreter, Gargiulo, perhaps the longest serving and one of the most experienced diplomatic officers in Constantinople, I called by appointment upon Tewfik Pasha, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs or Minister of State. To those conversant with the personages connected with Turkish affairs, I need not say that Tewfik Pasha is probably the foremost man of the Government; a manly man, with a kind, fine face, and genial, polished manners. Educated abroad, with advanced views on general subjects, he impresses one as a man who would sanction no wrong it was in his power to avert.

We were received at the Department of State in an uninterrupted interview lasting over an hour. As this was the main interview and the base of all our work, it is perhaps proper that I give it somewhat in detail. Mr. Terrell’s introduction was most appropriate and well expressed, bearing with strong emphasis upon the suffering condition of the people of the interior[Pg 249] in consequence of the massacres, and the great sympathy of the people of America, their intense desire to help them, the heartfelt interest in their missionaries whose burdens were greater than they ought to bear, and the desire to aid them, and that for all these reasons we had been asked to come; that our objects were purely humanitarian, having neither political, racial, nor religious bearing as such; that as the head of the organization thus represented I could have no other ideas, and it was the privilege of putting these ideas into practice and the protection required meanwhile that the people of America, through him and through me, were asking.

The Pasha listened most attentively to the speech of Mr. Terrell, thanked him, and replied that this was well understood; that they knew the Red Cross and its president, and, turning to me, repeated: “We know you, Miss Barton; have long known you and your work. We would like to hear your plans for relief and what you desire.”

I proceeded to state them, bearing fully upon the fact that the condition to which the people of the interior of Asia Minor had been reduced by recent events had aroused the sympathy of the entire American people until they asked, almost to the extent of a demand, that assistance from them should be allowed to go directly to these sufferers, hundreds of whom had friends and relatives in America—a fact which naturally strengthened both the interest and the demand; that it was at the request of our people, en masse, that I and a few assistants had come; that our object would be to use the funds ourselves among the people needing them wherever they were found, in helping them to resume their former positions and vocations, thus relieving them from continued distress, the State from the burden of providing for them, and other nations and people from a torrent of sympathy which was both hard to endure and unwholesome in its effects; that I had brought skilled agents, practical and experienced farmers whose first efforts would be to get the people back to their deserted fields and provide them with farming implements and material wherewith to put in summer crops and thus enable them to feed themselves. These would embrace ploughs, hoes, spades, seed-corn, wheat, and, later, sickles, scythes, etc., for harvesting, with which to save the miles of autumn grain which we had heard of as growing on the great plains already in the ground before the trouble;[Pg 250] also to provide for them such cattle and other animals as it would be possible to purchase or to get back; that if some such thing were not done before another winter, unless we had been greatly misinformed, the suffering there would shock the entire civilized world. None of us knew from personal observations, as yet, the full need of assistance, but had reason to believe it very great. That if my agents were permitted to go, such need as they found they would be prompt to relieve. On the other hand, if they did not find the need existing there, none would leave the field so gladly as they. There would be no respecting of persons; humanity alone would be their guide. “We have,” I added, “brought only ourselves, no correspondent has accompanied us, and we shall have none, and shall not go home to write a book on Turkey. We are not here for that. Nothing shall be done in any concealed manner. All dispatches which we send will go openly through your own telegraph, and I should be glad if all that we shall write could be seen by your Government. I cannot, of course, say what its character will be, but can vouch for its truth, fairness, and integrity, and for the conduct of every leading man who shall be sent. I shall never counsel nor permit a sly or underhand action with your Government, and you will pardon me, Pasha, if I say that I shall expect the same treatment in return—such as I give I shall expect to receive.”

Almost without a breath he replied—“And you shall have it. We honor your position and your wishes will be respected. Such aid and protection as we are able to, we shall render.”

I then asked if it were necessary for me to see other officials. “No,” he replied, “I speak for my Government.” And with cordial good wishes, our interview closed.

I never spoke personally with this gentleman again; all further business being officially transacted through the officers of our Legation. Yet I can truly say, as I have said of my first meeting with our matchless band of missionary workers, that here commenced an acquaintance which proved invaluable, and here were given pledges of mutual faith of which not a word was ever broken or invalidated on either side, and to which I owe what we were able to do through all Asia Minor. It is to the strong escorts ordered from the Sublime Porte for our expeditions and men that I owe the fact that they all came[Pg 251] back to me, and that I bring them home to you, tired and worn, but saved and useful still.

Dr. Hubbell and the leaders of the five expeditions tell us that they were never, even for a portion of a day, without an escort for protection, and this at the expense of the Turkish Government, and that without this protection they must not and could not have proceeded.

At length the task was accomplished. One by one the expeditions closed and withdrew, returning by Sivas and Samsoun and coming out by the Black Sea. By that time it is probable that no one questioned the propriety of their route or longer wondered at their method of work. The perplexed frowns of our anxious committees and sympathetic people had long given way to smiles of confidence and approval, and glad hands would have reached far over the waters to meet ours as warmly extended to them.

With the return of the expeditions we closed the field, but before leaving Constantinople, funds from both the New York and Boston committees came to us amounting to some fifteen thousand dollars. This was happily placed with Mr. Peet, treasurer of the Board of Foreign Missions at Stamboul, for the building of little houses in the interior as a winter shelter and protection where all had been destroyed.

The appearance of our men on their arrival at Constantinople confirmed the impression that they had not been recalled too soon. They had gone out through the snows and ice of winter and without change or rest had come back through the scorching suns of midsummer—five months of rough, uncivilized life, faring and sharing with their beasts of burden, well-nigh out of communication with the civilized world, but never out of danger, it seemed but just to themselves and to others who might yet need them that change and rest be given them.

Since our entrance upon Turkish soil no general disturbance had taken place. One heard only the low rumbling of the thunder after the storm, the clouds were drifting southward and settling over Crete and Macedonia, and we felt that we might take at least some steps toward home. It was only when this movement commenced that we began truly to realize how deep the roots of friendship, comradeship, confidence, and love had struck back among our newly found friends and countrymen; how much a part of ourselves—educational, humanitarian,[Pg 252] and official—their work and interest had become, and surely from them we learned anew the lesson of reciprocity.

Some days of physical rest were needful for the men of the expeditions after reaching Constantinople before commencing another journey of thousands of miles, worn as they were by exposure, hardship, and incessant labor, both physical and mental. This interval of time was, however, mainly employed by them in the preparation of the reports submitted with this, and in attention to the letters which followed them from their various fields, telling of further need, but more largely overflowing with gratitude and blessing for what had been done.

For our financial secretary and myself there could be neither rest nor respite while we remained at a disbursing post so well known as ours. Indeed there never had been. From the time of our arrival in February to our embarkation in August there were but two days not strictly devoted to business, the 4th of July and the 5th of August—the last a farewell to our friends. For both of these occasions we were indebted to the hospitality of treasurer and Mrs. W. W. Peet, and although held in the open air, on the crowning point of Proti, one of the Princes’ Islands, with the Marmora, Bosporus, and Golden Horn in full view, the spires and minarets of Constantinople and Scutari telling us of a land we knew little of, with peoples and customs strange and incomprehensible to us, still there was no lack of the emblem that makes every American at home, and its wavy folds of red, white, and blue shaded the tables and flecked the tasteful viands around which sat the renowned leaders of the American missionary element of Asia Minor.

Henry O. Dwight, D.D., the accomplished gentleman and diplomatic head, who was the first to suggest an appeal to the Red Cross, and I am glad to feel he has never repented him of his decision. One fact in regard to Dr. Dwight may be of interest to some hundreds of thousands of our people. On first meeting him I was not quite sure of the title by which to address him, if reverend or doctor, and took the courage to ask him. He turned a glance full of amused meaning upon me as he replied: “That is of little consequence; the title I prize most is Captain Dwight.” “Of what?” I asked. “Company D, Twentieth Ohio Volunteers, in our late war.” The recognition which followed can well be imagined by the comrades for whose interest I have named the incident.

[Pg 253]

The Reverend Joseph K. Greene, D.D., and his amiable wife, to whom so much is due toward the well-being of the missionary work of Constantinople. I regret that I am not able to reproduce the eloquent and patriotic remarks of Dr. Greene on both these occasions, so true to our country, our government, and our laws. The Reverend George P. Knapp, formerly of Bitlis, whose courage no one questions. Mrs. Lee of Marash, and Mrs. Dr. George Washburn of Robert College, the worthy and efficient daughters of the Reverend Doctor Cyrus Hamlin, the veteran missionary and founder of Robert College, living in Lexington, Massachusetts. A half-score of teachers, whose grand lives will one day grace the pages of religious history. And last, though by no means least, our host, the man of few words and much work, who bears the burden of monetary relief for the woes and wants of Asia Minor, W. W. Peet.

It was a great satisfaction that most of our field agents were able to be present at the last of these beautiful occasions and personally render an account of their stewardship to those who had watched their course with such interest. The pleasure of these two days of recreation will ever remain a golden light in our memories.

As the first official act of the relief work after our arrival in Constantinople was my formal presentation to the Sublime Porte by the American Minister, the Honorable A. W. Terrell, diplomatic courtesy demanded that I take proper occasion to notify the Turkish Government of our departure and return thanks for its assistance, which was done formally at “Selamlik,” a religious ceremony held on the Turkish Sabbath, which corresponds to our Friday. The Court Chamberlain delivered my message to the palace. It was received and responded to through the same medium and I took my departure, having finished my diplomatic work with that Government which had from first to last treated me with respect, assisted my work, and protected my workers.

To correct certain impressions and expressions which have been circulating more or less extensively in this country, and for the correct information of the people who through their loyal interest deserve to know the facts, I make known my entire social relations while residing in Turkey. Personally I did not go beyond Constantinople. The proper conduct of our work demanded the continuous presence of both our financial[Pg 254] secretary and myself at headquarters. I never saw, to communicate with personally, any member of the Turkish Government excepting its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tewfik Pasha, as named previously. I never spoke with the Sultan and have never seen him excepting in his carriage on the way to his mosque.

On being informed through our Legation that the Turkish Minister at Washington, Mavroyeni Bey, had been recalled and that his successor was about to leave for his new position, I felt that national courtesy required that I call upon him and, attended by a member of our Legation, my secretary and myself crossed the Bosporusto, a magnificent estate on the Asiatic shore, the palatial home of Moustapha Tahsin Bey, a gentleman of culture, who had resided in New York in some legal capacity, and who, I feel certain, will be socially and officially acceptable to our Government.

I have received a decoration, officially described as follows:

Brevet of Chevalier of the Royal Order of Melusine, founded in 1186, by Sibylle, Queen and spouse of King Guy of Jerusalem, and reinstituted several years since by Marie, Princess of Lusignan. The Order is conferred for humanitarian, scientific and other services of distinction, but especially when such services are rendered to the House of Lusignan, and particularly to the Armenian nation. The Order is worn by a number of reigning sovereigns, and is highly prized by the recipients because of its rare bestowal and its beauty. This decoration is bestowed by His Royal Highness, Guy of Lusignan, Prince of Jerusalem, Cyprus and Armenia.

Some months after returning home I received through our State Department at Washington the Sultan’s decoration of Shefaket and its accompanying diploma in Turkish, a translation of which is here given:

As Miss Barton, American citizen, possesses many great and distinguished qualities and as recompense is due to her, I am pleased therefore to accord to her the second class of my decorations of Shefaket.

Such were the honors which Miss Barton received from the Turkish Government. Her American friends in Constantinople were no less enthusiastic. Among the foremost of American missionaries in Turkey and those longest resident in Constantinople, the Reverend Doctors Dwight and Greene deserve to be quoted as expressing the judgment of the Americans as a body:

[Pg 255]

From the Reverend Doctor H. O. Dwight, one word among the many so generously spoken:

Miss Barton has done a splendid work, sensibly and economically managed. Wherever her agents have been, the missionaries have expressed the strongest approval of their methods and efficiency. The work done has been of great and permanent importance.

From the Reverend Joseph K. Greene, D.D., to the New York “Independent”:

After some six months of service, Miss Clara Barton and her five able assistants have left Constantinople on their return to America. It was only on the earnest solicitation of the missionaries, the officers of the American Board, and many other friends of the suffering Armenians that Miss Barton undertook the relief in this land. The difficulties of the work, arising from the suspicions of the Turkish authorities, the distance from the capital to the sufferers, the perils and discomforts in communicating with them, and from unfamiliarity with the languages and customs of the people of the land, would surely have appalled a less courageous heart. Under such circumstances it is only just and fair that the American public should be apprised of the substantial success of this mission of the Red Cross.

In the first place, Miss Barton has shown a rare faculty in getting on well with everybody. To facilitate her work she, and the assistants whom she loves to call “my men,” laid aside all the insignia of the Red Cross and appeared everywhere simply as private individuals. She clearly understood that she could accomplish her mission only by securing the confidence and good-will of the authorities, and this she did by her patience and repeated explanations, and by the assistance of the American Legation. When the iradé, or imperial decree sanctioning her mission, was delayed, she sent forward her assistants with only a traveling permit for a part of the way, trusting, and not in vain, that the local authorities, instructed from headquarters, would facilitate their way. As a matter of fact, while Mr. Pullman, her secretary and treasurer, remained at Constantinople with Miss Barton, her distributing agents, namely, Dr. Hubbell and Mr. Mason, Mr. Wistar and Mr. Wood, either together or in two parties, traveled inland from Alexandretta to Killis, Aintab, Marash, Zeitoun, Birejik, Oorfa, Diarbekir, Farkin, Harpoot, Palou, Malatia, Arabkir, Egin, Sivas, Tokat, Samsoun, and back to Constantinople without interruption or molestation. They were readily and constantly supplied with guards, and could not with safety have made their perilous four months’ journey without them. Demands are said to have been made that the distribution of aid be made under the supervision of Government officials, but, in fact, Miss Barton’s agents knew how to make their distributions in every place, after careful consultation and examination, without any interference on the part of the authorities.

Miss Barton received in all about $116,000, and an unexpended balance of $15,400 was committed to Mr. Peet, the treasurer of the American Missions in Turkey, to be held as an emergency fund, subject to Miss Barton’s orders. No expense has been incurred for Miss Barton or her[Pg 256] agents save for traveling expenses and the wages of interpreters, and with this exception the entire sum expended has gone to the actual relief of the sufferers. While the fund committed to the Anglo-American Committee, of which Mr. Peet is a member—a sum four to five times the amount committed to Miss Barton—has been expended through the missionaries, largely to save the hungry from starvation, the relief through the agents of the Red Cross has for the most part been wisely devoted to the putting of the poor sufferers on their feet again, and thus helping them to help themselves. Some five hundred liras (a lira is $4.40 of good money) were given for the cure and care of the sick in Marash, Zeitoun, and elsewhere, and some two thousand liras’ worth of cloths, thread, pins and needles were sent inland; but many times this amount was expended in providing material for poor widows; seeds, agricultural implements and oxen for farmers; tools for blacksmiths and carpenters; and looms for weavers. In some places Miss Barton’s agents had the pleasure of seeing vegetable gardens coming forward from seed furnished by the Red Cross, and village farmers reaping the grain with sickles which the Red Cross had given. The great want now—a want which the funds of the Red Cross agents did not permit them to any large extent to meet—is aid to the poor villagers to help them rebuild their burned and ruined houses, and thus provide for themselves shelter against the rigors of the coming winter. The Red Cross agents have, however, gathered a great stock of information; and passing by the horrors of the massacres and the awful abuse of girls and women, as unimpeachable witnesses they can bear testimony to the frightful sufferings and needs of the people. We most sincerely hope and pray that Miss Barton and the agents and friends of the Red Cross will not esteem their work in Turkey done, but knowing now so well just what remains to be done, and what can be done, will bend every effort to secure further relief for the widows and orphans of the more than sixty thousand murdered men—mostly between the ages of eighteen and fifty—whose lives no earthly arm was outstretched to save.

While we gratefully bear witness to the wise and indefatigable efforts of Miss Barton’s agents, permit us to add that during her more than six months’ stay in Constantinople Miss Barton gave herself unremittingly to the work of her mission. She seems to have had no time for sight-seeing, and not a few of her friends are disposed to complain that she had no time to accept the invitations of those who would have been glad to entertain her. The only relaxation she seems to have given herself was on two occasions—the first, a Fourth of July picnic with a few American friends, on one of the Princes’ Islands, and the second, another picnic on the same island, on Wednesday, August 5, when, with three of her “men,” she met some twenty American lady teachers and missionaries, in order to bid them a courteous farewell. The first occasion she unqualifiedly declared to have been the happiest Fourth of July she had ever had; and inspired by the occasion, she penned some verses which she kindly read to her friends on the second gathering, and which we very much wish she would permit the editor of the “Independent” to publish. On the second occasion, at Miss Barton’s request, the financial secretary read his report and Dr. Hubbell and Mr. Wood presented reports of the work of distribution. We gratefully acknowledged the honor done us in permitting us to hear[Pg 257] these reports; and, remembering our concern for Miss Barton while preparing for the work of distribution six months ago, we gladly expressed our joy and congratulations now on the happy return of her faithful and efficient agents, of whom it may be truly said that they went and saw and conquered. We rejoiced that these new friends had come to know so well the American missionaries in Turkey, and were truly thankful for a mutually happy acquaintance. We wished Miss Barton and her “men” a hearty welcome on their arrival, and, now, with all our hearts, we wish them God-speed on their return home.

Miss Barton was already much bedecorated before the formation of the American Red Cross, but she brought back from Turkey additional official decorations presented to her by the Turkish Government and by prominent organizations represented by the Armenians.




1. “Gold Masonic Emblem,” given her by her father and worn by Miss Clara Barton through the Civil War, 1861-1865.

2. “The German official Red Cross Field Badge,” presented by the Grand Duchess of Baden, and worn by Miss Barton through the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871.

3. “The Iron Cross of Germany,” conferred by Emperor William I and Empress Augusta, 1871, in recognition of Miss Barton’s services for humanity in the Franco-Prussian War.

4. “The Gold Cross of Remembrance,” conferred by the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Baden, 1871.

5. “Royal Jewel” (gold-knot brooch), presented by the Grand Duchess of Baden, 1897. When presenting this brooch to Miss Barton the Grand Duchess said, “An unbroken friendship of twenty-six years deserves to be tied by a knot of gold.”

6. The official medal of the “International Red Cross,” presented to Miss Barton when through her efforts the Congress of the United States adopted the treaty of Geneva in 1882. Presented by the International Committee of Geneva.

7. Serbian decoration (silver, red enamel, and silver center), conferred by Queen Nathalie of Serbia, 1883, for services for humanity.

8. Gold badge of the “Waffengenosen” German soldiers in America who took part in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, presented to their Honorary Member Miss Barton in 1885.

9. Silver Medal conferred by Augusta, Empress of Germany, 1885.

10. “Grand Army and Woman’s Relief Corps” (gold with diamonds), presented to Miss Barton, the sole Honorary Member of the Relief Corps, 1886.

11. Royal Jewel (brooch, smoky topaz surrounded with pearls), presented by the Grand Duchess of Baden, 1887.

12. Royal Jewel (red topaz and gold brooch), presented by the Empress Augusta of Germany, 1887.

13. Silver medal of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association, presented in 1887.

14. Gold brooch with diamonds and sapphire setting, presented by the ladies of Johnstown, Pa., at the close of the relief work of the Johnstown flood, 1889.

15. Gold badge of the “Sorosis,” New York, presented to Miss Barton, their Honorary Member, 1890.

16. Gold badge of “The Clara Barton Lodge of the Sisters of the G. A. R. of Gloucester, Mass.,” presented to Miss Barton, their Honorary Member, 1890.

17. Badge of the Loyal Legion of Women of Washington, D.C., presented to their Honorary Member Miss Barton, 1893.

20. Gold Medal of the Vanderbilt Benevolent Association of South Carolina, presented to Miss Barton, their Honorary Member, 1894.

21. Red Cross Insignia (silver and red enamel with diamond star), in commemoration of the American Relief Field, 1896, presented by Miss Barton’s Assistants on the field in memory of the Relief Field of Armenia.

22. Armenian Decoration (silver, blue enamel, and gold), bestowed by His Royal Highness Guy de Lusignan, Prince of Jerusalem, Cyprus, and Armenia, 1896, in recognition of services in relief of the Armenian massacres.

23. The gold badge of the War Veterans and Sons Association of Brooklyn, New York, presented to their Honorary Member Clara Barton, April, 1899.

24. Turkish Decoration (gold, diamonds, and other jewels), conferred by the Sultan Abdul Hamid in 1897 through the State Department, with the request that if America desired to send further relief to his domains, she should send back the missionaries of humanity she sent before.

25. Spanish Decoration of Honor (gold and green enamel), conferred in 1898 by the Spanish Government.

26. Belgian Decoration (silver and red enamel), conferred in 1892 by the Red Cross of Belgium.

27. Russian Decoration (silver and red enamel), conferred by the Czar Nicholas in 1902. Russian famine.

The foregoing outline briefly summarizes the work of Miss Barton and of the American Red Cross in the years following its official recognition and preceding the Spanish-American War. It was a glorious record; it gave to the Red Cross a definition in the mind of America, and a place in the admiration of the world, such as no philanthropic organization ever had attained. It brought to Clara Barton honors which she accepted with modesty and quietly laid away while she devoted herself to preparation for the next field of service.

The work of the Red Cross was now a labor that occupied the whole twelve months. Her salaried force was small; the expense of administration was kept low. She maintained a skeleton organization with a stock of supplies such as did not deteriorate by storage and was certain to be needed when the first news of disaster arrived. She did not employ a large force of idle helpers. She depended upon the emergency bringing its own troop of assistants who worked under her direction and the direction of those whom she had trained.

Clara Barton knew what not all philanthropists know[Pg 258] that it is as important for a philanthropic organization to get out when its work is done as it is for it to go in when its work is needed. In almost every field she met with requests for the continuance of the work after she knew that the time had come for the people to rely upon their own resources. She was determined that the Red Cross should never become a pauperizing institution or furnish employment for an army of official idlers.

[Pg 259]


Strenuous were the years of Miss Barton’s administration of the American Red Cross. There was upon an average practically one disaster a year which called her organization into the field. In some instances the active work of the Red Cross upon the ground lasted only a few weeks; in other cases, as in the matter of the South Carolina Sea Islands, it consumed almost a year. The intervals between disasters were occupied by correspondence, addresses, articles for the press, and attendance to the many duties brought on by a widened acquaintance and a constantly growing interest in the work. They were years, too, in which Miss Barton was sometimes personally short of money. In no other period, as in this, do her diaries so clearly show the necessity which she felt for personal economy for the sake of the work. She declined the four-thousand-dollar salary which was suggested for her; she vetoed every proposal looking toward a Government appropriation for her personal benefit or for the work of the Red Cross. If during this long period she ever thought of the Red Cross in terms of a possible financial advantage to herself, her diaries betray no hint of it. If she ever thought of the possibility that Congress might take care of her, the innumerable letters which passed between her and the members of the two houses of Congress afford no indication of it.

The adhesion of the United States to the Treaty of[Pg 260] Geneva did, however, take her abroad a number of times, once or more at Government expense, as one of the three official representatives of the United States at certain international congresses. The appropriations to cover the expenses of a delegate were never very large; generally two thousand dollars for the expense of three delegates. In connection with one of these journeys an interesting correspondence developed in which one of the delegates exceeded in expenditure his none too ample allowance of less than seven hundred dollars. He wrote a long letter explaining why it had been necessary for him to expend more, and desired Clara Barton to approve his request for an increase. This she declined to do either for herself or for either of the others. For her simple tastes the appropriation was ample; she lived within it and her associates had to do the same or make up the balance out of their own pockets.

Miss Barton had just returned from her arduous labor on behalf of the flood sufferers on the Ohio and Mississippi in the summer of 1884, when Secretary of State Frelinghuysen appointed her one of the three delegates to the International Conference at Geneva. Her associates were her friends Judge Joseph Sheldon, of Connecticut, and Mr. A. S. Sullivan, vice-president of the American Red Cross.

Miss Barton was so wearied with her labors in connection with the flood sufferers that she hesitated about accepting her appointment. To her great joy and to that of Dr. Hubbell, who accompanied her, the voyage proved an excellent tonic. There was not an unpleasant day, and Miss Barton was not ill an hour and did not miss a meal. Toward the close of the voyage she was[Pg 261] called upon to address the passengers, who greeted her with great interest and listened to her with marked and reverent attention. She reached Liverpool on August 26, 1884, and had a happy and prosperous journey to Geneva where the Congress convened in December.

Four hundred distinguished delegates and representatives of the signatory powers to the treaty assembled at Geneva. There were titled rulers, distinguished representatives of nobility, eminent surgeons, noted scientists, and philanthropists whose names were known around the world.

It is not too much to say that Clara Barton was the most noted delegate to that convention and the recipient of its highest honors. There was not one among the four hundred delegates who did not know that it was she who brought the United States, last of all the great nations, to occupy a place in that gathering. Popular interest centered about her; she was pointed out and sought out as the most celebrated delegate to the congress. Not all of her associates were strangers to her; chief among the royal persons present to claim the honor of her acquaintance and introduce her as their friend were the Grand Duke of Baden, the Grand Duchess, and her imperial father, the Emperor of Germany.

It was the direct influence of Miss Barton which caused the introduction of what is known as the “America Amendment.” This amendment was to the effect—

That the Red Cross Society engage in time of peace in humanitarian work analogous to the duties devolving upon them in periods of war, such as taking care of the sick and rendering relief in extraordinary calamities where, as in war, prompt and organized relief is demanded.

[Pg 262]

The adoption of this resolution was a high compliment to Clara Barton. She brought to the congress not only the prestige of America’s accession to the treaty, but a new and notable enlargement of the sphere of Red Cross activity which she had invented, tested, and found practicable in America, and worthy of recommendation to all the world.

At Geneva she was joined by Antoinette Margot, whom she sent for as a companion and interpreter. For, though Clara Barton was fairly at home in conversation in French, she was glad of assistance at times. Antoinette had written her in the years of their separation. Her own life had been none too happy, and she had passed through a religious crisis that led her, though born a Protestant, into the Roman Catholic Church, and later into a cloister. Even this change she credited to Clara Barton! This amused Clara, but Antoinette said that but for Clara she would have remained “a crushed-down little unhappy baby in my father’s house”; Clara had given her courage and strength to face great questions and decide them:

Dear, dear Miss Barton [she wrote]: Never, never I shall forget what I owe to you. I owe you even my perfect actual happiness of being a Catholic, for, without your strong teaching, and your nerving of my heart, I could never have dared to take the step of following my convictions, when I had convictions to follow.

Clara’s comment was:

Poor, simple child! It is all for the best, I think. Hers is one of those unsteady, unbalanced minds that must be controlled. She has no mastery over herself, and nothing but a priest and a confessional can make her happy.

Antoinette poured out her impulsive love in extravagant[Pg 263] protestations of devotion. She wanted to see Miss Barton, to kiss the feet of the woman who had done so much for her, and who stood in the mind of Antoinette as the realization of the noblest ideal of womanhood.

We owe to this impulsive girl, who later entered a convent, a really fine description of Clara Barton as she stood among the representatives of all the nations that were joined in the league of the Red Cross at Geneva:

The Government of the United States has done itself no greater credit than in selecting Clara Barton to represent it among the nations abroad. During the last week I have looked on as she has sat day by day in one of the greatest and grandest assemblies of men that could be gathered—men representing the highest rank among the civilized nations of the earth; men of thought, of wisdom, of power, called together from all over the world to deliberate on great questions, of nautical import, military power, the neutrality of nations, humanity in war, wisdom in peace. In the midst of this assembly of gray-haired men, glittering with military decorations, with national honors, won and conferred, sat this one woman—calm, thoughtful, self-possessed, recognized and acknowledged as possessing every right and privilege belonging to any member of the conference; not merely permitted to be there, but there by the sovereign right of nations; not merely allowed to sit there by the courtesy due to a lady, but by the right due to a nation’s representative; her vote not merely accepted as a matter of form, but expected and watched for; grave questions referred to her as the representative of a great nation, and all deference paid to her judgment: her demeanor so unobtrusive, her actions so wise, that it could not otherwise than reflect merited credit upon her and her country.

But the crowning recognition of her philanthropic labors at home and abroad was given when one of the Italian delegates, springing upon the platform, proposed to the assemblage to vote, by acclamation, that “Mademoiselle Barton bien mérite de l’humanité”.

Even Miss Barton was moved from her usual composure by the thunders of applause. I do not know whether you in[Pg 264] America are familiar with the peculiar significance of that phrase. It is an expression of the highest approbation, honor, and esteem that the French language can convey. It is probable that Miss Barton is the first woman in the world who has ever received such a tribute.

After her return from Geneva, Miss Barton made a journey to California, in 1886, returning by way of Charleston, South Carolina, where she had a share in the relief of that city after the earthquake.

In September, 1887, occurred another international congress of the Red Cross. This was held in Germany, at Carlsruhe, the ducal capital of Alsace and home of the Grand Duchess Louise. Here she met her friends, the Grand Duke and Duchess of Baden and the Emperor of Germany, and besides these the Empress Augusta, Bismarck, and von Moltke. Her honors here were scarcely less brilliant than they had been at Geneva, and her personal joys were more, for she was near the scenes of her labors in the Franco-Prussian War. There she was the guest of royalty; crowned heads bowed respectfully to her. From Baden Baden she wrote a letter home just after the close of the congress:

Baden Baden, Germany, Oct. 28, 1887

The International Red Cross Conference has closed. Most of the delegates have left Carlsruhe, unless, like ourselves, remaining for after-work. The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess, with their Court, have retired to Baden Baden for the customary birthday festivities of Her Majesty the Empress, and the Emperor and his suite would, as also customary, make his yearly visit in honor of the occasion, thus making that lovely and historic old town for the moment, the center of interest for the Empire.

Dr. H. and myself were at breakfast when the hotel porter laid a telegraphic dispatch on my plate. It will be remembered,[Pg 265] at least by personal friends, that three years ago, while in attendance at a similar international conference, the honored pleasure of a meeting with His Majesty the Emperor of Germany had been given me. This dispatch informed me that a like honor again awaited my presence in Baden Baden. Trunks were packed, adieus made, and the midday train of the following day took us in time for the appointed hour. Whoever has visited the interior of the “New Castle,” the Baden Baden palace of the Grand Duke, and been shown through its tasteful apartments, rich in elegance, tradition, and history, will require no further reminder of the place where the interview would be given.

This was, as well, the birthday of the Crown Prince; and in tender paternal sympathy, for the painful affliction resting upon a life so treasured, and for the great anxiety of the German people, His Majesty the Emperor would pass a portion of the day with the beloved daughter and sister, the Grand Duchess, at the castle; and in honoring memory of the occasion, its halls were thronged with visitors who came to manifest both respect and sympathy.

At half-past one o’clock we were ushered in at the great castle doors, by their attendants in livery of “scarlet and gold,” the national colors of Baden; our damp wraps removed—for it was a pouring rain—and after a half-hour sitting by a cheerful fire, among pictures which quite called one out of personal consciousness, we were escorted to the grand reception and drawing room, to the center of a magnificent apartment with no occupant but ourselves. By another door one saw the Emperor surrounded by guests, who paid formal respects. Scores of visitors with coachmen in richest livery had entered while we waited and registered titled names on the open pages.

At length His Majesty turned from the group about him, and, taking the arm of the Grand Duchess, entered our apartment. It was difficult to realize all the ninety years, as he stepped toward us with even, and steady, if no longer elastic, tread. He approached with cordially extended hand, and in his excellent French expressed satisfaction for the meeting. “In the name of humanity, he was glad to meet and welcome those who labored for it.”

In recalling the earlier days of our acquaintance, Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess alluded tenderly to the winter[Pg 266] in Strassburg of ’70 and ’71,—which I had passed among its poor and wounded people after the siege,—and, selecting two from a cluster of decorations which I had worn in honor of the present occasion, drew the attention of the Emperor to them. The one he knew; it was his own, presented upon his seventy-fifth birthday. The other he had never seen. It was the beautiful decoration of the “German Waffengenossen”—the “Warrior Brothers in arms” of Milwaukee.

It was puzzlingly familiar, and yet it was not familiar. There was again the Iron Cross of Germany, but it was on the American shield. The “American Eagle” surmounting the arms for defense; and the colors of Germany, the red, white, and black of the Empire uniting the two. His Majesty gazed upon the expressive emblem, which, with no words, said so much, and turned inquiringly to the Grand Duchess, as if to ask, “Does my daughter understand this?”

The explanation was made that it was from His Majesty’s own soldiers, who, after the “German-Franco War,” had gone to the United States and become citizens; and this device was designed to express, that, as by its shield they were American citizens, and true to the land of their adoption, so by its “Iron Cross,” they were still German; and by the colors of the native land for which every man had offered his life, and risked it, they bound the old home to the new; and by the American Eagle and arms, surmounting all, they were ready to offer their lives again, if need be, in defense of either land.

The smile of the grand old Emperor, as he listened, had in it the “Well done” of the benignant father to a dutiful and successful son. “And they make good citizens?” he would ask. “The best that could be desired,” I said; “industrious, honest, and prosperous, and, sire, they are still yours in heart, still true to the Fatherland and its Emperor.”

“I am glad to hear this; they were good soldiers, and thank God, true men everywhere,” was the earnest and royal response.

His Majesty continued, speaking of America, its growth, its progress, its advancement in science and humanity, its adoption and work of the Red Cross, which meant so much for mankind; and when assured that its people revered and loved the Emperor of Germany, that his life was precious to them, and that thousands of prayers went up for him in that distant land he had never seen, the touching and characteristic response[Pg 267] betrayed the first tremor of the voice the ear had caught in its kindly tones.

“God be praised for this; for it is all from Him. I am only His. Of myself I am nothing. He made us what we are. God is over all.”

We stood with bowed heads while those slowly spoken, earnest, holy words from that most revered of earthly monarchs fell upon us like a benediction.

At length His Majesty gave a hand to both Dr. H. and myself in a parting adieu, and walked a few steps away, when turning back, and again extending a hand, said, in French, “It is probably the last time,” and in pleasant English, “Good-bye.” And again taking the arm of the Grand Duchess walked from the room, leaving His Highness the Grand Duke, one of the kindest and noblest types of manhood, to say the last words, and close the interview; one of the most impressive and memorable of a lifetime.

In another letter she told of her parting with the imperial party as follows:

Baden Baden, Oct. 24, 1887

I do not know if I have written since coming here or if my last was from Carlsruhe. We were here for the “Baden season.” We were invited by the Duke and Duchess to spend a few weeks at Baden Baden, and of course all the Court proper would come. The Empress came also; and the Emperor. They will be here till next Friday, when she goes to Berlin. The Crown Prince’s health is very poor. The Emperor is better than ever—bright and cheerful like a young man. We went the other evening to see him take the train for Berlin. The station reserve rooms were like a drawing-room and all the Court and royal persons were in them, to wait the coming of the Emperor, and the town. The Emperor shook hands with all, saying good-bye, made pretty gifts to some special persons, then entered the royal train, to ride all night. The day before yesterday the Empress sent for me to come to her. I spent a most delightful hour. She had a great deal to say, and made me a lovely parting gift of a ruby brooch. She insisted that we should meet again, that I should come to Europe again, and she should see me. In the P.M. the Grand Duchess sent for us[Pg 268] to go to her and we went and spent two lovely hours. She is charming as ever. Then next evening (last evening) she sent for us to come to dine. We went and had a beautiful time. We are to go again to-morrow for a visit. After the end of this week we go to Strassburg to spend a little time. Shall most likely go to Berlin and back to Strassburg and down the French side of the Rhine to Basle, Bern, Geneva, Paris, London, Liverpool, and then we shall be on our direct way home, but it is some little time yet before we can go home.

From her journey to attend that international congress at Carlsruhe she returned in January, 1888, and was quickly called away to Mount Vernon, Illinois, to care for the sufferers from the tornado. When she returned from this campaign, she went on a short tour delivering addresses before influential bodies. She spoke in Montclair, New Jersey, addressing a State conference of Congregational churches. She then delivered a lecture in Philadelphia, and was received with every consideration and honor. Then she went home to Washington and did her washing. This combination of her work as a world leader and a woman concerned with domestic affairs is contained in two letters to Mrs. Stafford, dated May 4 and May 8, 1888:

Dearest Mamie:

I had intended to write you just a line on the train to and from Philadelphia, but one was in the night—the other so full of other things and the trip so short, I did not get to it.

I can’t think it was a week ago, but so it seems. The first day I met the Society on its Annual Meeting, and spoke to them a little. I attended a lunch party before the meeting and a reception after the opera at the elegant residence of Dr. ——, president of the Philadelphia Red Cross. That made four things after twelve o’clock.

The next day we had informal meetings with officers of the society until two o’clock P.M. Then attended a lecture given in the regular course of the Red Cross Society. Then I gave[Pg 269] a lecture. Then home to dress for the reception to commence at eight.

This was given in Union League Hall, very large, with a band of music. The dignitaries of the city attended in bodies. The physicians—the clergymen—the lawyers—the judges—the military army and navy in uniform. I received and shook hands with all. They left after eleven. It was a splendid reception. There was still a meeting at the hotel (The Colonnade) after our return, so we are only in bed by two o’clock next morning, got a hasty breakfast and hastened to the nine o’clock train for home; found a large mail, and I was very sleepy. I did sleep a day or two mainly, and that is what makes the week seem so short, I think.

Then just think what a washing there was on hand; had never had time to have a full wash done since our return from Mount Vernon. The Woman’s Council came directly on that, and an address to write for it. Then the conference of churches at Montclair, and another address to write. Then Philadelphia, and another address to write, with all that came between. The wash went to the wall till this week, when it was taken up in its turn and put through in one day, and all ironed yesterday, and clothes put away this very minute, and I haven’t left the warehouse yet, but am just dropped down at the table in front of the window, near the store (Gaby will know all about it) while Alfred brings compost from the stable alongside ready to make up some flower-beds, etc., and I direct him from the window as I scribble, to lose no time. It is just as lovely as it can be. Tell Gaby we have moved the rosebushes all down to the front of the yard, and they didn’t mind it a bit, and went right on putting out buds, and he will appreciate how much better chance we had with a washing of twenty sheets, thirty pillowslips, and other things in proportion, and he knows how quickly and easily it all went out of the way, and no one got much tired, and not any sick.

I haven’t time for more than a word. We are making out our foreign conference accounts for the Government and I have the report to make out directly and a bill to draw up for Congress this next week and a host of correspondence, and we are having Alfred make up our garden, in front of the warehouse, and a pretty little plot it is too. I found time one night by moonlight to plant lettuce and peppergrass and radishes,[Pg 270] and in two days they come up and are green and pretty. Yesterday we set out two dozen tomato plants a foot high, and all of our dozen grapevines are growing; splendid varieties; and when Alfred makes up the flower-beds to-day, we shall find time to plant all the seeds I have. I have no bulbs to set, but I have a dozen nice hollyhocks, fifteen inches high, and all the rosebushes and fleur de lys in bloom and bud. I can’t get time to hunt over the house for the little seeds we want to plant. I have nice seeds for kitchen-garden things from Dansville, but can’t remember where to look for them. I want a pinch of caraway seed and twelve great sage roots and I want some catnip seed for Tommy. There is not a stalk of catnip anywhere about, and I can’t get any seed. Have you some in your catnip herb bag? I like saffran, and red balm such as Julian raises; I can get plenty of elegant plants, but the old, old things are hard to find—and I have not time to look, but should so like to stick a few out in my nice beds. So here is a place for small contributions. I do hope Johny is better. Please give him all the love I can send, and try, all of you, to keep well. We are well, the Saturday work is all done up, and everything is lovely as spring can make it.

The great “Council of Women” is now over [she writes a little later]: the meetings are ended, the people are mainly leaving the city, and this hour my house has had its last visitor. Every day till now my space, and my table, has been filled to the utmost, and in addition to my full part in the “Council,” its meeting, committees, and speeches.

The next morning (yesterday) I had to meet a Senate committee at the Capitol and address them at ten o’clock. Then I go with Mrs. General Logan and others to the War Department to manage business there. And now it is eight-thirty the next morning, and at ten I must be at the War Department with another committee.

Her domestic affairs attended to, she hurried to Boston to deliver an important address and attend a reception. From there she went to Wellesley and delivered an address:

My cold entirely left me, and I have had no trouble with it. So much for right living, and good cool blood. This is the last[Pg 271] day of the convention. I am to speak to-night. I did say a little yesterday, and they all laughed at me; I wish you could have been here. There is to be a reception given me next Friday evening. Steve and Lizzie and Myrtie are invited. I go to the Wellesley College to take tea and speak to the five hundred girls there on Saturday evening. Some things I must miss. I get back as soon as I can, so as to go on home. I am so glad of Sunday; it was a glorious day; so good to see so many together again. I hope the children are well, that you don’t wrestle too much with imaginary dirt, and are getting a little real strength.

Besides her tours abroad she had some interesting journeys in her own country, including a happy camping trip in the Yellowstone Park and the Cascade Mountains, in the autumn of 1891.

The following winter she spent in the Red Cross Headquarters in what had been the home of General Grant in Washington. It was a strenuous winter and an expensive one. She drew upon her personal resources for fuel for the large building, as well as for rent and the care of the home. She wrote to Mrs. Bullock:

17 East F Street, Washington
January 7, 1892

I have wanted to talk with you about coming to see us, but when I think how cold it is here, and how far from nice and cozy it is, I feel reluctant to invite you from a small, snug, pretty home, to this so large and, as it seems to me, less inviting one. If you did not know it, I should not dare to say you might try it, for we are having an exceptionally cold, hard winter. The ground is covered with snow, and the winds have blown an old northeaster these last days, and you will know this is not an easy house to heat. My expenses have been so heavy, and receipts so “nothing,” that I cannot afford to take on more help. I am obliged to have a woman for the work and the house, a man for the fires and walk,—shoveling snow and all the cold rough work,—and an amanuensis as my clerk and typewriter. They are drawing steadily every month;[Pg 272] then my rent is high and no one to help share that, and, besides this, all the world expects me to give it something if it can get through the door and get a letter to me. I have had to economize on myself.

In 1893 she was led into an experiment which caused her much anxiety and proved to have been a mistake. A man and his wife, who had been associated with her in her work along the Ohio River, expressed a desire to dedicate, as a thank offering to humanity, a tract of land more than one square mile in area, or specifically seven hundred and eighty-two acres, as a home for the American Red Cross. This offer deeply touched Miss Barton, who accepted it in the following appreciative letter addressed to the donors:

American National Red Cross
Washington, D.C.
, March 18, 1893

Dear Sir: Referring to your letter of February 10th, made public February 23d, permit me to reply as follows:

In accepting the gift of land, in the State of Indiana, that you so generously dedicate to the American National Red Cross as “the almoner of humanity,” and by which you have so touchingly complimented me personally, allow me to say that the friendship expressed on this and many other occasions by yourself and wife, and the personal aid you have both given of time and labor in great calamities, make me free to accept this gift without reservation, assuring you of my best endeavors to attain the humane results for which this benefaction is intended.

This land, as the property of the American National Red Cross, will be the one piece of neutral ground on the Western Hemisphere protected by international treaty against the tread of hostile feet. It is a perpetual sanctuary against invading armies, and will be so respected and held sacred by the military powers of the world. Forty nations are pledged to hold all material and stores of the Red Cross, and all its followers, neutral in war, and free to go and come as their duties require.

[Pg 273]

While its business headquarters will remain, as before, at the capital of the Nation, this gift still forms a realization of the hope so long cherished—that the National Red Cross may have a place to accumulate and produce material and stores for sudden emergencies and great calamities; and if war should come upon our land, which may God avert, we may be ready to fulfil the mission that our adhesion to the Geneva Treaty has made binding upon us.

I will direct that monuments be erected defining the boundaries of this domain, dedicated to eternal peace and humanity, upon which shall be inscribed the insignia of the Treaty of Geneva, which insignia all the nations of the earth are bound by solemn covenant to respect.

Not only our own people, but the peoples of all civilized nations will have published to their knowledge that the American National Red Cross has a home and a recognized abiding-place through all generations.

For this I have striven for years, mainly misunderstood, often misinterpreted, and it is through your clear intuition and humane thought that the clouds have been swept away and my hopes have been realized.

In accordance with views expressed by you in your letter of gift, I appoint an adviser, which I insist shall be yourself, leaving you free to appoint another to work jointly with you, knowing that in the future, as in the past, your heart will be in the work.

Clara Barton
President American National Red Cross

The gift, as it developed, was not without its conditions; the donors could not quite afford to give it outright, but would sell it for a sum very much less than its value in consideration of the philanthropic purposes to which it was to be dedicated. This seemed not unreasonable, and the deed was accepted subject to the specified conditions. It seemed to Clara Barton a beautiful achievement; there was to be one spot on the Western Hemisphere where in case of war the rights of humanity would be accepted as supreme. Located as it was in the[Pg 274] interior of the country, and removed by rail only a few hours from the great cities of Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Indianapolis, and Toledo, and surrounded by fertile farms, it could become in an emergency a vast storehouse of supplies, a great base hospital for the suffering.

Unfortunately, it did not prove to be all that she had anticipated. The conditions specified and implied proved to be of such a character as to render the gift unsuitable for the purposes which she had hoped to accomplish. The manager into whose hands she committed its care proved incompetent and, in the end, ungrateful. The gift had to be relinquished and the money paid toward it was written down as a total loss.

In 1896 occurred Miss Barton’s experience in Constantinople, where the Red Cross had its headquarters during her memorable work for the Armenians. There she visited Scutari, and gave an address on the scene of Florence Nightingale’s great work. She returned overland through Vienna, Strassburg, Paris, London, and Liverpool. She left London October 8, 1896. On her return to Washington she was given a great banquet attended by some of the most distinguished people in Washington.

The following year, 1897, she was appointed by the President to attend the International Red Cross Congress in Vienna, Austria.

In 1898 she did her notable work in connection with the Spanish-American War, and for the next two years was fully occupied with affairs at home.

In 1902 she went abroad again, this time as a delegate to the conference held in St. Petersburg, the last of the[Pg 275] great conferences which she attended. This journey has its record in two letters, one to her niece, Mrs. Ida Barton Riccius, and the other to her nephew, Stephen E. Barton:

En route from St. Petersburg to the German Frontier
June 18, 1902

The conference is ended, Russia has been visited, and we are well, and well on the way toward home. It has been a most fortunate journey, no accidents, no illness. Attended a great and harmonious conference, royally met and cared for, with nothing to be regretted.

We went first to Havre, France, to Paris for a few days, then to Berlin a few days, then on toward Russia. At the crossing on the frontier, we were met by a Red Cross escort, and taken on, for transportation to St. Petersburg, about the 15th of May. Went into Hôtel de France, where we have remained till yesterday, nearly three weeks. The conference opened on the 16th with two sittings a day, and entertainments at evening unless it was necessary to take the day for some excursion, or visit to some royal entertainment. The conference lasted about eight days; it was composed of delegates from nearly fifty nations; subjects of a humanitarian character were discussed as connected with the work of the Red Cross. In Russia everything is Red Cross, all hospital work, all emergency work, nearly all relief work, care of children, orphans, foundlings. The women are educated to do this work. They enter the schools in the hospitals at eighteen to twenty, serve one year on probation, two as novices, then they may receive and wear the Red Cross and be nurses, at a small sum in money per month, board, clothes, care if sick,—a good home as long as they live. When too old, or no longer able to work, they have pensions given them and may remain in the hospital and be cared for always if they choose, or if they have relatives and want to live with them they can have their pensions and go to them, and return always if they like. The hospital is always their home, if they want it, or they may marry if they choose; then they leave. They seemed so happy, looked so healthy; many of them are orphan girls who had no home; nowhere else to be. They are not Catholic, but of the Protestant Church of Russia, though I see little difference between it and the Catholic. The[Pg 276] churches are magnificent,—such wealth of ornamentation. The bishops seem like Catholic priests. The people are very devout, but still very lively, and kind; they seem to me to be the kindest people I ever saw. All the royal persons look kind; they have good faces; but the kindest face of all is that of the Czar. He is young, handsome, looks like a mature college graduate. The Czarina is also handsome; she was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria; they have four children, are very fond of them, and of each other.

We went on an excursion to Moscow, saw the city Napoleon went to capture, and which he found trouble in getting out of. We went to the Kremlin where he stayed; the rooms he lived in the few days while the city was burning, and the ways by which he retreated. We visited the Grand Duke, who is the Governor-General of Moscow, and whose wife is sister of the Empress, another granddaughter of Victoria, the daughter of Alice of Hesse, who died many years ago of diphtheria while nursing three children through it. The Grand Duchess is said to be the handsomest woman in Russia. I think that may be true, and after I returned to Petersburg she sent me her picture—beautiful!! Everybody was so kind to us all, but I felt they were especially kind to me. I never saw such treatment of guests; they wouldn’t let you spend money. Carriages were at the disposal of all the delegates, all places of amusement free, guides provided; lunches, like dinners, provided each day at the conference, a hundred persons fed somewhere, two or three times a day, and such feeding!! Very many of the delegates were old friends of mine. I had met them in five other conferences; they were so genial and attentive.

As I am going to ask you to let Ada and Mamie read this, and Harold, too, I must tell you about the horses, the finest I have ever seen. They have two choice kinds, the “black Orlorf,” and the dapple gray, good size, carriage horses, and they go like the wind. The Orlorf was brought into St. Petersburg (perhaps into Russia as well) by Count Orlorf a good many years ago. The males are not changed, kept as stallions in full strength and spirit, and, when past active or first-class service, are kept for breeding purposes. They are not allowed to be sold out of Russia, it is said. They weigh from one thousand to fourteen hundred pounds, are jet black, have glossy hair, high arching necks, step as proud as war-horses,[Pg 277] with full even tails, trimmed at the bottom to keep them from touching the ground. The Russian harness is not half the weight of ours, and much less of it; the shafts are kept away from the body, and all horses are round and fat. I have not seen a poor horse in Russia. The grays are much like the black, only dappled, as if painted, so dark, and distinct dapples, with also the heavy beautiful tails. I asked to go through the Royal stalls—the Czar has eight hundred horses in his stud; a part are in Peterhof, ten miles away. The horses were in stalls about two thirds as wide, big stalls as Baba’s, say six to seven feet, with wooden floors, a narrow crack running the whole length to keep them dry, half a foot of clean dry straw in each, a little manger for grain, a little wire rack for hay, a good blanket on each, and you have the entire outfit of this beautiful “stud of Royal horses.” They were gentle and didn’t mind a strange hand on them, and the gentlemanly uniformed groom encouraged it, and smiled at their quiet, good behaviour. Some of the carriages are for two, some four, and some eight horses. The gilded and gemmed carriages are especially for Coronation occasions, some of them one hundred and fifty years old, bright and beautiful as yesterday. Ordinarily the Royal people ride in common carriages and drive a great deal, to hospitals, to all houses of charity, schools, orphanages, and churches. They are the patrons of all these, and give great sums to them.

The Empress has schools of hundreds of young women and young ladies in St. Petersburg studying from the lowest to the highest branches, art and literature, which she visits every week; they are fitting themselves, not alone for society, but to go all over Russia to teach. The Russians have all the societies we have, “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,” which they don’t seem to need as much as we do. I might except temperance societies, which they do not have, and probably need about as much as we, only the Russian doesn’t fight and quarrel when he gets drunk; he goes to sleep.

Have I told you that there is no real night in northern Russia at this season of the year? Ask Saidee to trace it on her atlas and she will find that St. Petersburg is in the same latitude of the southern ends of Alaska and Greenland, consequently they have long days and short nights in summer, and long nights and short days in winter; it being summer now, we[Pg 278] have no real night. The twilight lasted till eleven-thirty sure, and the sun rose at two-thirty. I went to bed by daylight, either at one end or the other of the day. I wrote without a lamp at eleven o’clock at night. The people are in the streets all night, but there is no disturbance, no one is hurt or attacked. The police are always on duty, not in the saloons, waiting to be called to some disturbance, but in the middle of the street, to see that there is no disturbance, and there is none; no people are killed in dark alleys here. The would-be killer would be killed first, unless he threw a bomb, and then he would be killed after.

This is an unmercifully long letter. I wish you would let it go to Ada and Mamie. If I had a typewriter I would duplicate it, and send to each, but I have none, and write all by hand. I will take this on to Berlin to post, where we shall arrive at ten to-morrow morning, for a few days’ stay.

With greatest love to all,

Your always loving

This is my “howdy” to all the loved ones, from Europe.

Hôtel Scribe, Rue Scribe
Paris, July 26, 1902

My dear Steve:

This is Saturday, and I sail to-morrow. I did not intend to write you in time for you to receive it, and perhaps feel that you must fly around to meet me in New York. I only wanted to tell you that—and when I would sail so you could calculate in what country I should most likely be. I go to Boulogne to-morrow, Sunday morning, July 27th, to catch the S.S. Pennsylvania as she steams on for New York. I expect to find Mr. Tillinghast on board, as he has arranged to finish his month’s tour of southern Europe in time to take the Pennsylvania at Hamburg. Boulogne is her last point of land, and any one knowing me would conclude I would stick to the land as long as possible.

We had a glorious conference, and were gloriously received, no kindness or courtesy, and sometimes it seemed as if no luxury, was omitted. There were no errors, and perfect harmony prevailed. We went on an excursion to Moscow for three days, returned to Petersburg, finished all up, did nothing[Pg 279] carelessly, nor in too great haste; wrote my report of the conference, some twenty pages, sent it to President Roosevelt; made out all my accounts with the Government ready to present on my return; and when all was finished, left with Mr. Tillinghast, who took the place of secretary, for Berlin; remained a week, when Mr. Tillinghast started on his journey of sight-seeing. The other delegates had long gone, and I made for Carlsruhe for a stay of two weeks. My time was divided between the Grand Duchess and Princess Salm Salm, who, at present, resides there. The Salm Salm was one of the old high houses of Germany, and greatly venerated for patriotic and noble qualities. The husband of the Princess you will remember historically, perhaps. Prince Felix left Germany to fight in our war; raised a regiment, became its colonel, till the close, then followed Maximilian to Mexico, stayed by him, with the Princess, till he was shot, then returned to Germany to his estates at Gravelotte. Not a bad record!

I remained at Carlsruhe till the “close of the Court Season,” was present by invitation at the closing of the Parliament, heard the Grand Duke deliver his splendid address, spent the evening after socially, and alone, with the Grand Duke and Duchess, till eleven o’clock. At two they started for the mountains, the Princess two days later; and between them I slipped off to Strassburg, then to Geneva, then via Strassburg again to Paris, to wait for my steamer. The Pennsylvania is not a quick but is a steady-going sailer, and will, D.V., get us over in about eight days, when I will quietly slip down home, as if I had never been away. No mistakes have been made, no bad luck, not a day’s illness of any one that I know of. Well enough managed, it seems to me, and fortunately ended, if it does end well the rest of the way.

I didn’t intend to write so much. What you haven’t time to read you can put in your pocket. Love to all.

[Pg 280]


For many years before the outbreak of the war with Spain, Clara Barton had been interested in the situation in Cuba. In a letter written from Washington, February 8, 1874, twenty-four years before the outbreak of the war with Spain, she said:

Spain is still fighting her only or almost sole remaining colony, Cuba. Spain had once immense colonies, but she has been so tyrannical and so careless of their welfare that she has lost nearly all. And Cuba, you know, “has an insurgent army,” of so-called rebels fighting for their freedom. If she ever gets free, she must come to the United States, as she is too small to stand alone against the greed of great powers which will try to gobble her up for her riches in soil and products. The Spanish authorities have just published a new list of orders, very stringent, and they hope to crush out the Cuban insurrection in six months. You must keep watch of that, too, and see how it ends. It will be history by and by to whom Cuba belongs, and, while one has to study so hard to learn past history, it is not worth the while to let slip that which all the time is making in our own day and generation. Comprenez vous?

Her forecast of events proved to be reliable. The relations between Spain and Cuba grew more and more strained. A part of the Spanish policy for stamping out the rebellion in Cuba was the concentration of that portion of the civilian population believed to be hostile to the Spanish Government, in concentration camps, from which the cry of distress was continuous. Sympathy in America grew more and more pronounced, but for a long time there appeared no way in which the United States[Pg 281] could offer relief. The difficulties of the situation were the greater because the Spanish Government believed, with some reason, that a considerable part of the American sentiment favorable to relief in Cuba was intermixed with political designs. There were, indeed, two groups of people demanding relief for Cuba. Clara Barton thus describes them:

They might have properly been classed under two distinct heads. The one, merely the friends of humanity in its simple sense; the other, friends of humanity also, but what seemed to them a broader and deeper sense, far more complex. They sought to remove a cause as well as an effect, and the muffled cry of “Cuba Libre” became their watchword. Naturally, any general movement by the people in favor of the former must have the effect to diminish the contributions of the latter, too small at best for their purpose, and must be wisely discouraged. Thus, whenever an unsuspecting movement was set on foot by some good-hearted, unsophisticated body of people, and began to gain favor with the public and the press, immediately would appear most convincing counter-paragraphs to the effect that it would be useless to send relief, especially by the Red Cross:

First, it would not be permitted to land.

Next, whatever it took would be either seized outright, or “wheedled” out of hand by the Spanish authorities in Havana.

That the Spaniards would be only too glad to have the United States send food and money for the use of Havana.

Again, that the Red Cross, being international, would affiliate with Spain, and ignore the “Cuban Red Cross” already working there and here. As if poor Cuba, with no national government or treaty-making power, could have a legitimate Red Cross that other nations could recognize or work with.

Miss Barton had but recently returned from Armenia. Her experience with the Turkish Government made her keenly aware of all the obstructions which an unsympathetic government can put in the way of philanthropic[Pg 282] relief. It was useless to attempt any assistance for the sufferers in Cuba unless Miss Barton had the full approval of the American Government, and in addition the sympathetic coöperation of the Spanish Government. But if she secured the consent of the Government of Spain, there was real danger that her work of relief would result less in the succor of the distressed people of Cuba than in the aid and comfort of the armies of their oppressors. Spain could not be expected to look with favor upon any kind of relief which promised to strengthen the Cuban rebellion. At length, however, the situation grew intolerable; it became evident that the United States must go into Cuba either with an army of occupation or an agency for the relief of suffering. As a matter of fact, the United States went in both capacities, but the Red Cross went in before the Stars and Stripes. Miss Barton herself has told the story of the invasion:

This state of things continued through the year of 1897, but as the present year of ’98 opened the reports of suffering that came were not to be borne quietly, and I decided to confer with our Government and learn if it had objections to the Red Cross taking steps of its own in direct touch with the people of the country, and proposing their coöperation in the work of relief. I beg pardon for the personality of the statement which follows, but it is history I am asked to write.

Deciding to refer my inquiry to the Secretary of State, I called at his department to see him, but learned that he was with the President. This suiting my purpose, I followed to the Executive Mansion, was kindly informed that the President and Secretary were engaged on a very important matter, and had given orders not to be interrupted. As I turned to leave I was recalled with, “Wait a moment, Miss Barton, and let me present your card.” Returning immediately, I entered the President’s room to find these two men in a perplexed study over the very matter which had called me. Distressed by the reports of the terrible condition of things so new to us, they[Pg 283] were seeking some remedy, and, producing their notes just taken, revealed the fact that they had decided to call me into conference.

The conference was then held. It was decided to form a committee in New York, to ask money and material of the people at large to be shipped to Cuba for the relief of the reconcentrados on that island. The call would be made in the name of the President, and the committee naturally known as the “President’s Committee for Cuban Relief.” I was courteously asked if I would go to New York and assume the oversight of that committee. I declined in favor of Mr. Stephen E. Barton, second vice-president of the National Red Cross, who, on being immediately called, accepted; and with Mr. Charles Schieren as treasurer and Mr. Louis Klopsch, of the “Christian Herald,” as the third member, the committee was at once established; since known as the “Central Cuban Relief Committee.”

The committee was to solicit aid in money and material for the suffering reconcentrados in Cuba, and forward the same to the Consul-General at Havana for distribution. My consent was then asked by all parties to go to Cuba and aid in the distribution of the shipments of food as they should arrive. After all I had so long offered, I could not decline, and hoping my going would not be misunderstood by our authorities there, who would regard me simply as a willing assistant, I accepted. The Consul-General had asked the New York Committee to send to him an assistant to take charge of the warehouse and supplies in Havana. This request was also referred to me, and recommending Mr. J. K. Elwell, nephew of General J. J. Elwell, of Cleveland, Ohio, a gentleman who had resided six years in Santiago in connection with its large shipping interests, a fine business man and speaking Spanish, I decided to accompany him, taking no member of my own staff, but going simply in the capacity of an individual helper in a work already assigned.

On Saturday, February 6, we left Washington for Cuba via Jacksonville, Tampa, and Key West.

Thus, with that simple beginning, with no thought on the part of any person but to do unobtrusively the little that could be done for the lessening of the woes of a small island of people, whom adverse circumstances, racial differences, the inevitable[Pg 284] results of a struggle for freedom, the fate of war, and the terrible features of a system of subjugation of a people, which, if true, is too dark to name, was commenced the relief movement of 1898 which has spread not alone over the entire United States of America from Maine to California, from Vancouver to the Gulf of Mexico, but from the Indias on the west, to the Indias on the east, and uniting in its free-will offerings the gifts of one third of the best nations in the world.

Miss Barton with her cargo of supplies reached Havana on February 9, 1898. Her supplies were unloaded and stored in a convenient warehouse. She began her work of visitation and found scenes beside which, as she wrote, some which she had witnessed in Armenia seemed humane. Six days after her arrival the Maine was blown up. The appalling news reached the United States and brought with it the practical certainty of war. The one cheering message that came as an echo of the explosion was Clara Barton’s telegram, “I am with the wounded.” The comfort of these words found expression in a little poem by James Clarence Harvey, which was published immediately in the “Christian Herald” and widely copied:

“I am with the wounded,” flashed along the wire
From the isle of Cuba, swept with sword and fire.
Angel sweet of mercy, may your cross of red
Cheer the wounded living; bless the wounded dead.

“I am with the starving,” let the message run
From this stricken island, when this task is done;
Food and money plenty wait at your command,
Give in generous measure; fill each outstretched hand.

“I am with the happy,” this we long to hear
From the isle of Cuba, trembling now in fear:
May the great disaster touch the hearts of men,
And, in God’s great mercy, bring back peace again.

[Pg 285]

Miss Barton thus related the story of the sinking of the Maine, and of the work that followed:

The heavy clerical work of that fifteenth day of February held not only myself, but Mr. Elwell as well, busy at our writing-tables until late at night. The house had grown still; the noises on the streets were dying away, when suddenly the table shook from under our hands, the great glass door opening on to the veranda, facing the sea, flew open; everything in the room was in motion or out of place—the deafening roar of such a burst of thunder as perhaps one never heard before, and off to the right, out over the bay, the air was filled with a blaze of light, and this in turn filled with black specks like huge specters flying in all directions. Then it faded away. The bells rang; the whistles blew; and voices in the street were heard for a moment; then all was quiet again. I supposed it to be the bursting of some mammoth mortar or explosion of some magazine. A few hours later came the terrible news of the Maine.

Mr. Elwell was early among the wreckage, and returned to give me news.

She is destroyed. There is no room for comment, only who is lost, who has escaped, and what can be done for them? They tell us that most of the officers were dining out, and thus saved; that Captain Sigsbee is saved. It is thought that two hundred and fifty men are lost, that one hundred are wounded, but still living, some in hospital, some on small boats as picked up. The chief engineer, a quiet, resolute man, and the second officer met me as I passed out of the hotel for the hospital. The latter stopped me saying, “Miss Barton, do you remember you told me on board the Maine that the Red Cross was at our service; for whenever anything took place with that ship, either in naval action or otherwise, some one would be hurt; that she was not of a structure to take misfortune lightly?” I recalled the conversation and the impression which led to it,—such strength would never go out easily.

We proceeded to the Spanish hospital San Ambrosia, to find thirty to forty wounded—bruised, cut, burned; they had been crushed by timbers, cut by iron, scorched by fire, and blown sometimes high in the air, sometimes driven down through the red-hot furnace room and out into the water, senseless, to be[Pg 286] picked up by some boat and gotten ashore. Their wounds are all over them—heads and faces terribly cut, internal wounds, arms, legs, feet, and hands burned to the live flesh. The hair and beards are singed, showing that the burns were from fire and not steam; besides further evidence shows that the burns are where the parts were uncovered. If burned by steam, the clothing would have held the steam and burned all the deeper. As it is, it protected from the heat and the fire and saved their limbs, whilst the faces, hands, and arms are terribly burned. Both men and officers are very reticent in regard to the cause, but all declare it could not have been the result of an internal explosion. That the boilers were at the two ends of the ship, and these were the places from which all escaped who did escape. The trouble was evidently from the center of the ship, where no explosive machinery was located.

I thought to take the names as I passed among them, and, drawing near to the first in the long line, I asked his name. He gave it with his address; then peering out from among the bandages and cotton about his breast and face, he looked earnestly at me and asked: “Isn’t this Miss Barton?” “Yes.” “I thought it must be. I knew you were here, and thought you would come to us. I am so thankful for us all.”

I asked if he wanted anything. “Yes. There is a lady to whom I was to be married. The time is up. She will be frantic if she hears of this accident and nothing more. Could you telegraph her?” “Certainly!” The dispatch went at once: “Wounded, but saved.” Alas, it was only for a little; two days later, and it was all over.

I passed on from one to another, till twelve had been spoken to and the names taken. There were only two of the number who did not recognize me. Their expressions of grateful thanks, spoken under such conditions, were too much. I passed the pencil to another hand and stepped aside.

I am glad to say that every kindness was extended to them. Miss Mary Wilberforce had been at once installed as nurse, and faithful work she performed. The Spanish hospital attendants were tireless in their attentions. Still, there was boundless room for luxuries and comforts, delicate foods, grapes, oranges, wines, cordials, anything that could soothe or interest; and no opportunity was lost, or cost or pains spared, and when two days later the streets filled with hearses bearing[Pg 287] reverently the bodies of martyred heroes; and the crape and the flowers mingled in their tributes of tenderness and beauty, and the muffled drums and tolling bells spoke all that inanimate substance could speak of sorrow and respect; and the silent marching tread of armies fell upon the listening ear,—the heart grew sick in the midst of all this pageant, and the thoughts turned away to the far land, smitten with horror, and the homes wailing in bitter grief for these, so lone, so lost; and one saw only the

Nodding plumes over their bier to wave,
And God’s own hand in that lonely land
To lay them in their grave.

In the days after the sinking of the Maine, Miss Barton led an active life. She journeyed through the nearer provinces, established bases of supplies and returned to Havana, not only unmolested, but with every evidence of appreciation on the part of the Spanish authorities and the Cuban people. The Red Cross supplies were distributed, though in places their distribution was impeded. Miss Barton tells of a delayed distribution at Matanzas, the delay apparently having been accomplished with intent, and how well-meant private philanthropy undertook direct action:

It is not strange that from this event went out the cry of “starving Matanzas,” although at that moment, in addition to our four tons of goods previously sent, the Fern lay in the harbor under the American flag, with fifty tons of American supplies, and fifty rods away lay the Bergen, under the same colors, bearing a cargo of fifty-two tons from the Philadelphia Red Cross, faithfully sent through the New York Committee, by request. So uncontrollable a thing is human excitement that these facts could not be taken in, and the charities of our whole country were called afresh to arms over “starving Matanzas,” which was at that moment by far the best provided city in Cuba. The result of this was an entire train of supplies from Kansas, which, remaining there after the blockade, not being consigned to the Red Cross, was, we were informed, distributed[Pg 288] among the Spanish soldiery by the Spanish officials. Goods bearing the mark of the Red Cross were everywhere respected, and we have no record of any of our goods having been appropriated by the Spanish authorities.

When the methods of relief had been well organized, the work of distribution went mainly to others while Clara Barton devoted her own energy to the maintenance of pleasant relations with the Spanish authorities. This she was able to do until the very end; but events far beyond her control were inevitably driving the two nations into war. Miss Barton tells the story in the following record based upon the entries in her own diary:

I met the Spanish authorities, not merely as a bearer of relief, but as the president of the American National Red Cross, with all the principles of neutrality which that implied, and received in return the unfailing courtesy which the conditions demanded. From our first interview to the last sad day when we decided that it was better to withdraw, giving up all efforts at relief, and leave those thousands of poor, dying wretches to their fate, there was never any change in the attitude of the Spanish authorities, General Blanco, or his staff, toward myself or any member of my staff. One of my last visits before the blockade was to the palace. The same kindly spirit prevailed; I was begged not to leave the island through fear of them; every protection in their power would be given, but there was no guarantee for what might occur in the exigencies of war. I recall an incident of that day: General Blanco led me to the large salon, the walls of which are covered with the portraits of the Spanish officials for generations past, and, pointing to the Spanish authorities under date of 1776, said, with a look of sadness, “When your country was in trouble, Spain was the friend of America. Now Spain is in trouble, America is her enemy.” I knew no answer for this but silence, and we passed out through the corridor of guards, he handing me to my carriage with a farewell and a blessing. I could but recall my experience with the Turkish officials and Government, where I entered with such apprehension and left with such marks of cordiality.

[Pg 289]

During this interval of time important business had called me to Washington, and I only returned to Cuba sometime during the second week of April.

On April 25, 1898, Congress declared war against Spain. For two weeks it had been apparent that such a declaration was to come. American citizens were ordered by the United States Government to leave Havana some days before the outbreak of hostilities. This situation sent Miss Barton out of Cuba and quickly sent her back again. She was not, however, permitted at once to continue her relief for the distressed Cubans. The military and naval authorities of the United States were as anxious not to aid Spain as the Spanish authorities were anxious that she should not aid the rebellious Cubans. Miss Barton tells the story of her departure and return:

The order was for all American citizens to leave Havana, and the order was obeyed, but not without having laid the matter formally in council before my staff of assistants and taking their opinion and advice, which was to the effect that, while personally they would prefer to remain for the chance of the little good that might be accomplished, in view of the distress which we should give our friends at home, and, in fact, the whole country, when it should be known that we were inside that wall of fire that would confront us, with no way of extricating or reaching us, it seemed both wiser and more humane to leave. And the 9th of April saw us again on shipboard, a party of twenty, bound for Tampa. We would not, however, go beyond, but made headquarters there, remaining within easy call of any need there might be for us. Here follow the few weeks of impending war. Do we need to live them over? Do we even want to recall them? Days when the elder men of thought and memory pondered deeply and questioned much! When the mother, patriot though she were, uttered her sentiments through choking voice and tender, trembling words, and the young men, caring nothing, fearing nothing, rushed gallantly on to doom and to death! To how many households,[Pg 290] alas, these days recall themselves in tones never to be forgotten!

Notwithstanding all this excitement and confusion and all the pressure that weighed upon him, our good President still remembered the suffering, dying reconcentrados, and requested that a ship be provided as quickly as possible, loaded from the warerooms of the indefatigable Cuban Relief Committee in New York, and be sent for the relief of the sufferers in Cuba whenever they could be reached. One need not say with what promptness this committee acted, and I was informed that the State of Texas, laden with fourteen hundred tons of food, would shortly leave New York en route for Key West, and it was the desire of that committee and the Government that I take command of the ship, and, with my staff and such assistants as I would select, undertake the getting of that food to its destination.

Some members of the staff were in New York, and with Dr. Hubbell in charge sailed from that port on Saturday, the 23d of April. A hasty trip from Washington, gathering up the waiting staff at Tampa, and pushing on by the earliest train brought us to Key West in time to meet the State of Texas as she arrived, board her and take charge of the snug little ship that was henceforth to take its place in American history. She was well built, but by no means new, nor handsome. Her dull black hull could in no way compare with the snow-white, green and red striped hospital ships, those heralds of relief that afterwards graced the waters of that bay. Still she was firm, sound, heavy-laden, and gave promise of some good to some one at some future day, that day being only when the great war monsters should have pealed out to the world that an entrance was made on the coast of Cuba, and we would be invited to follow.

By the authorities at Washington, the State of Texas had been consigned to the protection of the navy, and accordingly we must report our arrival. This was done to the senior officer, representing Admiral Sampson, in the port, Captain Harrington, of the monitor Puritan. This brought at once a personal call from the captain with an invitation to our entire staff to visit his beautiful ship the following day. The launch of the Puritan was sent to take us, and not only was the ship inspected, but the dainties of his elegant tea-table as well.

[Pg 291]

When all was over, the graceful launch returned us safely to our ship, with grateful memories on the part of the younger members of our company, who had never chanced to form an intimate acquaintance with a piece of shipping at once so beautiful and so terrible as that death-dealing engine of destruction. I record this visit and courtesy on the part of Captain Harrington as the first of an unfailing series of kindnesses extended by the navy to the Red Cross from first to last. There was no favor too great, no courtesy too high to be cheerfully rendered on every occasion.

The memories of pitiful Cuba would not leave us, and, knowing that under our decks were fourteen hundred tons of food, for the want of which its people were dying, the impulse to reach them grew very strong, and a letter was addressed to Admiral Sampson.

This brought immediately the launch of the New York to the side of our ship, and Captain Chadwick, the gallant officer whom no one forgets, stepped lightly on board to deliver the written message from the admiral, or rather to take me to the New York. Nothing could have exceeded the courtesy of the admiral, but we were acting from entirely opposite standpoints. I had been requested to take a ship, and by every means in my power get food into Cuba. He, on the other hand, had been commanded to take a fleet, and by every means in his power keep food out of Cuba. When one compared the two ships lying side by side and thought of a contest of effort between them, the situation was ludicrous, and yet the admiral did not absolutely refuse to give me a flag of truce and attempt an entrance into Havana; but he disapproved it, feared the results for me, and, acting in accordance with his highest wisdom and best judgment, I felt it to be my place to wait.

The delay which resulted was annoying but not wholly unprofitable, and there came a time when the army and navy were glad enough to have the American Red Cross in Cuba. On June 20th the State of Texas sailed from Key West with orders to find Admiral Sampson and report to him. They found him a few days later off Santiago, in time for their share in the stirring events which accompanied[Pg 292] and followed the destruction of Cervera’s fleet, the battle of San Juan Hill, and the surrender on July 17th of the harbor and city of Santiago.

When the city had been formally surrendered and a sufficient number of mines had been removed from the harbor to permit American vessels to enter, a very gracious compliment was paid to Clara Barton by the victorious United States Navy. The first vessel to enter the harbor was not the flagship of either of the Admirals Sampson or Schley, but the State of Texas under command of Clara Barton.

Perhaps that may be called the crowning moment of her life. Clara Barton was more than seventy-eight years old, but she stood erect on the deck of her vessel, modestly appreciative and quietly thankful, not so much for the honor that had come to her as for the opportunity of serving.

Miss Barton returned to Washington in November, 1898. The work which she went to Cuba to perform, that of relieving the Cuban reconcentrados, was never wholly accomplished. That relief came with the freedom of Cuba, and for this she was profoundly thankful; but she never ceased to feel sad when she thought of the people who suffered during those weeks of waiting while her vessel was packed with the supplies which the people so sorely needed. “Cuba was a hard field, full of heartbreaking memories,” she wrote. “It gave the first opportunity to test the first cooperation between the United States and its supplemental hand-maiden the Red Cross.”

While this coöperation was incomplete, its results were most beneficial, as many an American soldier and surgeon can testify.

[Pg 293]

At the close of the war, the Congress of the United States tendered the thanks of the Nation to Clara Barton in the following resolution which was introduced in the Senate by the venerable Senator Hoar, and unanimously adopted:

Resolved, That the thanks of Congress be presented to Clara Barton, of Massachusetts, founder of the institution of the Red Cross, and to the officers and agents of the Society of the Red Cross for their humane and beneficent service to humanity in relieving the distress of the Armenians and other suffering persons in Turkey, and in ministering to the sufferings caused by pestilence in the United States, and for the like ministration and relief given by them to both sides in the Spanish West Indies during the present war.

An even higher mark of appreciation was contained in the annual message of President McKinley:

In this connection it is a pleasure for me to mention in terms of cordial appreciation the timely and useful work of the American National Red Cross both in relief measures preparatory to the campaigns, in sanitary assistance at several of the camps of assemblage, and later, under the able and experienced leadership of the president of the society, Miss Clara Barton, on the fields of battle and in the hospitals at the front in Cuba. Working in conjunction with the governmental authorities and under their sanction and approval, and with the enthusiastic coöperation of many patriotic women and societies in the various States, the Red Cross has fully maintained its already high reputation for intense earnestness and ability to exercise the noble purposes of its international organization, thus justifying the confidence and support which it has received at the hands of the American people. To the members and officers of this society and all who aided them in their philanthropic work, the sincere and lasting gratitude of the soldiers and the public is due and is freely accorded.

In tracing these events we are constantly reminded of our obligations to the Divine Master for his watchful care over us and his safe guidance, for which the nation makes reverent acknowledgment and offers humble prayer for the continuance of his favor.

[Pg 294]


It would have been well if Clara Barton had retired from the active work of the presidency of the American Red Cross at the close of the war with Spain. She had accomplished in her lifetime an almost incredible total of heroic work. She had completed seventy-eight years of service; she had created the American Red Cross and led it successfully in peace and war. On twenty different fields on both sides of the ocean she had raised its banner over areas devastated by fire, flood, famine, and pestilence. She had won the support of her Government to an enterprise till then unknown and but little regarded. She had made the Red Cross in America so useful in times of peace that the Red Cross societies of the world had widened their spheres of operation to incorporate her plans of service. She had crowned her long and arduous career with an achievement that won for her the heart of the American army and navy in Cuba, and brought to her the thanks of the Congress and of the President of the United States. She could have retired with honors such as no woman in America ever had won. If her judgment told her that this was the time for her to transfer her burden of active supervision to some younger person, her heart triumphed over her judgment.

She was eighty years of age when, on September 8, 1900, a tornado and tidal wave submerged Galveston, Texas. Five days later Clara Barton was on the ground.[Pg 295] Difficulties of transportation held her back for twenty-four hours or she would have been there a day sooner.

Her plea for lumber, hardware, and other materials for providing temporary shelter met with a nation-wide response, and supplies of food and clothing, as well as considerable sums of money, were placed at her disposal.

After six weeks spent in Texas, Clara Barton returned, worn out by her exertions, but bringing the grateful thanks of the people of Galveston, and, in addition, an official letter of thanks from the governor of the State of Texas and also of its legislature. The Central Relief Committee of Galveston also tendered her a series of engrossed resolutions, declaring that she deserved to be “exalted above queens,” and that her achievements were “greater than the conquests of nations or the inventions of genius.”

In the following year occurred the seventh International Conference of the Red Cross, already referred to, held at St. Petersburg in Russia and extending from the middle of May until near the end of June of 1902. Clara Barton headed the delegation from the United States. The conference was held under the high patronage of Her Majesty the Empress Dowager Marie Feodorovna. Miss Barton was the guest of the Emperor and Empress. No delegate to the conference was treated with greater consideration than Clara Barton. At the close of the conference she was decorated by the Emperor, who conferred upon Clara Barton the Russian decoration of the Order of the Red Cross.

Two of her letters concerning this journey have been quoted in a previous chapter. Clara Barton returned to her own land crowned with additional honors, but confronting new and wholly unexpected difficulties.

[Pg 296]

The American Red Cross had been reincorporated by Act of Congress June 6, 1900. Under the new form of organization the board and its executive committee possessed large powers. There was a feeling on the part of some members of the board that the American Red Cross was too exclusively under the direction of Clara Barton. Her work for the relief of Galveston had been undertaken almost the moment that she first learned of its great need. She had not waited to call an executive committee meeting. While her work in that field was most heartily commended, there was a feeling on the part of members of the board that the Red Cross, being now virtually a representative organ of the United States Government, its fields of service should be determined, not by the judgment of an individual, but of the governing body of the organization itself. There was further criticism growing out of the fact that, when emergencies arose by reason of any great national disaster, a considerable part of the money was sent direct to Clara Barton on the field, and expended by her without passing through the hands of the treasurer.

Miss Barton admitted that she had made these decisions at times without the formal authority of her executive committee, and that she had received and expended money according to her best judgment when the emergency was at hand. She did not desire to be bound by burdensome restrictions; she wished to be at liberty to meet the need whenever it should arrive, and in the way that seemed to be necessary.

If everything had gone well with the Red Cross during the absence of Clara Barton at St. Petersburg in 1902, it may be that she would have consented to retire on her[Pg 297] return from that notable experience. It was hardly likely that any further honor could have come to her higher than that which she had already received. Theoretically she ought to have been training up assistants who would act effectively in her absence, and in time succeed her. It was in some respects a limitation on her part that she had not found assistants to whom she could delegate authority with confidence that it would be properly used. On the other hand, she had made some experiments in training up associates, and found reason to regret it.

While Clara Barton was on her way to St. Petersburg the disastrous Mont Pelée earthquake occurred. She had left the American Red Cross organized with a board of control which gave it authority to act in such an emergency. She returned from St. Petersburg bitterly disappointed because the American Red Cross played in that disaster, as she felt, a wholly insignificant part. It seemed to her to have displayed a complete lack of that initiative which had always characterized her action under such conditions.

Rightly or wrongly Miss Barton felt that this inability to act promptly and decisively was in some measure the result of a divided authority. She thereupon set in motion an effort to amend the by-laws so as to increase the power of the president. These changed by-laws were adopted at the annual meeting of the American Red Cross in Washington, December 9, 1902. Clara Barton was elected president for life and given the authority which she deemed requisite for effective action.

An earnest protest was made against Miss Barton’s increase of power, and the disaffection increased throughout[Pg 298] the year 1903. On January 2, 1904, President Roosevelt notified Miss Barton that he could no longer serve as an officer of the Red Cross in the condition of unrest which had developed.

Three weeks later, on January 29th, the minority of the American Red Cross presented a memorial to Congress charging that under the new form of organization practically all power was centered in the president of the society, who was elected for life and permitted to choose her own executive committee. A committee of investigation was appointed to inquire into the affairs of the Red Cross. Of this committee Senator Redfield Proctor was chairman.

It would be difficult to describe the emotions of Clara Barton when she knew of the appointment of this committee. She was shocked and horrified. She felt as if it had been a personal disgrace; and what was worse, as she viewed it, she feared that it would result in a dissension that would ruin the American Red Cross. On the other hand, she had no mind to retire while the investigation was on. Whatever happened, she would not resign until the investigation ended.

The committee of investigation appears to have been a very sensible body. It set about gathering such material as it needed, and the examination of such witnesses as were produced by the remonstrants.

The remonstrance did not contain any charges of any dishonesty on the part of Miss Barton in the administration of the affairs of the Red Cross; or, any charge of misappropriation of any property or money by Miss Barton; or any improper act or conduct of any kind which involved any element of moral turpitude.

[Pg 299]

The charges were, in brief:

(a) That proper books of accounts were not kept at all times; and

(b) that the property and funds of the Red Cross were not at all times distributed upon the order of the treasurer of the society, as alleged to be required by the by-laws of the society; and

(c) that a certain tract of land in Lawrence County, Indiana, had been donated to the society by one Joseph Gardner; that the society was reincorporated after such donation, and such donation was never reported to the new corporation.

The reply to these charges, in brief, was that, in the main, proper books of account had been kept, but, in so far as accurate books of account had not been kept, it was due to the impossibility of keeping them while active work was in progress on the field of disaster, and, in so far as the by-laws of the society had not been complied with in the making of disbursements through the treasurer, it was impossible to do so during the stress of active relief work in the field; that so far as the Gardner donation of Indiana land was concerned, no Red Cross money had ever been invested in it; that the title to the real estate was always in the Red Cross and in the then existing corporate entity of the Red Cross, but that the land had not been found to be suited to the work of the Red Cross and the title thereto had been allowed to lapse because of the accumulation of taxes and charges for maintenance which were found to be in excess of the utility of the land to the Red Cross.[4]

[Pg 300]

The committee of investigation held three meetings, on April 12, April 26, and May 2, 1904. Clara Barton did not attend in person, but was represented by counsel. It never became necessary for her to present her defense. At the close of the third meeting the chairman of the committee adjourned the hearing without day and the investigation came to an end. The committee never presented a report; there was no occasion to do so. The proceedings of the committee are obtainable by any one who cares to read them, and they indicate with sufficient clearness the reasons which presumably influenced the committee in terminating the hearing after one side had been presented. There was no reason why the committee needed to hear anything in defense of Clara Barton.

The investigation having ended, Clara Barton presented her resignation June 16, 1904. The resignation was accepted. The American Red Cross came under its new form of organization with the President of the United States as nominal President of the Red Cross. The committee of the opposition had proposed that Clara Barton be made honorary president for life with a salary to continue as long as she lived. She did not accept either the office or the money. She retired from the Red Cross, leaving it to the management of those who with her resignation came into its control. Her own relation with the organization ceased entirely.

Clara Barton was normally responsive to praise and abnormally sensitive to criticism. In all the years of her public life she never recovered from that supersensitiveness[Pg 301] which had characterized her childhood. Fulsome and excessive praise disgusted her, but she enjoyed discriminating appreciation. Straightforward opposition she could meet and bear, but she shrank from criticism at the hands of those who had been her friends, and such criticism hurt her far more than any one could imagine who beheld her self-possession and outward calm. She seemed to the world to take opposition somewhat lightly, but she bled within her armor from wounds which the world never suspected.

She retired from the Red Cross broken-hearted. Her common sense ought to have saved her from nine tenths of the suffering which she endured in that unhappy experience. She felt that she had been denationalized, repudiated by her own country, expatriated. She thought for a time that she could not continue to live in the United States. She turned her eyes toward Mexico, and thought of going there partly to escape from the sorrows which confronted her, and which she painfully exaggerated, and partly with the thought that she might there establish something corresponding to the American Red Cross. She had a friend in California, Mr. Charles S. Young, who knew much about Mexico. On January 13, 1904, after the appointment of the congressional committee and before any of its hearings, she wrote the following letter which came as near to being hysterical as anything that Clara Barton ever wrote:

You will never know how many times I have thought of you, in this last hard and dreadful year to me. I cannot tell you, I must not, and yet I must. So much of the time, under all the persecution, it has seemed to me I could not remain in this country, and have sought the range of the world for some place among strangers, and out of the way of people and mails, and[Pg 302] longed for some one to point out a quiet place in some other land; my thoughts have fled to you, who could, at least, tell me a road to take outside of America, and who would ask the authorities of Mexico if a woman who could not live in her own country might find a home or a resting-place in theirs.

This will all sound very strange to you—you will wonder if I am “out of my mind.” Let me answer—no. And if you had only a glimpse of what is put upon me to endure, you would not wonder, and in the goodness of your heart would hold open the gate to show me a mile track to some little mountain nook, where I might escape and wait in peace. Don’t think this is common talk with me. I have never said it to others; and yet I think they who know me best mistrust that I cannot bear everything, and will try in some way to relieve myself.

To think of sitting here through an “investigation” by the country I have tried to serve—“in the interest of harmony” they say, when I have never spoken a discordant word in my life, meaningly, but have worked on in silence under the fire of the entire press of the United States for twelve months,—forgiven all, offered friendship,—and still am to be “investigated” for “inharmony,” “unbusinesslike methods,” and “too many years”—all of these I cannot help. I am still unanimously bidden to work on for “life,” bear the burden of an organization—meet its costs myself—and am now threatened with the expense of the “investigation.”

Can you wonder that I ask a bridle track? And that some other country might look inviting to me?

Mr. Young, this unhappy letter is a poor return to make for your friendly courtesy, but so long my dark thoughts have turned to you that I cannot find myself with the privilege of communicating with you, without expressing them. I cannot think where I have found the courage to do it, but I have.

I know how unwise a thing it seems, but if the pressure is too great the bands may break; that may be my case, and fearing that my better judgment might bid me put these sheets in the fire—I send them without once glancing over. You need not forget, but kindly remember, rather, that they are the wail of an aching heart and that is all. Nature has provided a sure and final rest for all the heartaches that mortals are called to endure.

[Pg 303]

If you are in the East again, and I am here, I pray you to come to me.

Receive again my thanks and permit me to remain,

Your friend
Clara Barton

In conversation she said: “The Government which I thought I loved, and loyally tried to serve, has shut every door in my face and stared at me insultingly through its windows. What wonder I want to leave?”

In another conversation, referring to the abandonment of her dream of going to Mexico, she said: “There were but two countries where the Red Cross did not exist, China and Mexico. I did not want to go to China, but did want to go to Mexico, and fully intended to go. My friends finally dissuaded me and perhaps it was for the best, for if I had gone I probably would not have been alive now.”

From this distance it is possible to view the whole situation in perspective. The present author has no hesitation in saying that the time had come for Clara Barton to retire from the active work of the administration of the American Red Cross. The organization had grown well beyond the ability of any one person to manage it in the way that Clara Barton had managed it so successfully in its earlier years. On her return either from Cuba or St. Petersburg, she ought to have retired, accepting the honorary presidency, and giving over the control and active management to younger people. The author has witnessed in not a few instances the pathetic struggle which goes on in the minds of elderly people on their prospective retirement from positions which have outgrown them. It is a situation nothing less than tragic.[Pg 304] A person long identified with an organization comes easily to believe, either that he cannot get on without it, or that it cannot get on without him. Clara Barton had come to believe the latter concerning the American Red Cross. She was mistaken.

There comes a time in the life of almost any organization when, if it is to prosper and enlarge, it must accept new leadership and adapt itself to changed conditions. A woman as sensible as Clara Barton was in most things should have realized this situation and not have permitted herself to be heart-broken by a change as necessary for her as it was for the Red Cross.

Nor is it necessary at this time to refer to the fact that the change might perhaps have been brought about in a kindlier spirit and with less of distress to a noble woman. If there was any lack of consideration for her, it will do no good now to remember it, nor to ascribe unworthy motives to any who had a share in it.

One thing, however, ought to be said concerning this tragic experience. If Clara Barton did not bear this sorrow like a philosopher, she bore it like a Christian. The author has searched her diaries and most intimate papers of this period without finding in any of them any spirit of personal resentment or desire for revenge. She felt that she had been deeply wronged, but she felt it not so much as a wrong done to her as an injury to the cause she loved. Her constant question was not, What will become of me? but, What will become of the Red Cross? Her books had been kept honestly and she knew it; but she also knew that, when money came to her on the field, she had been accustomed to spend it for the necessities of life for those she had come to help, and that not all of it[Pg 305] had passed through the hands of the treasurer. She knew that no committee of Congress could find any of this money in her possession, but she also knew that her system of book-keeping had not been established with a view to a possibility of that kind of an audit. How would it affect the Red Cross if any scandal arose out of her unbusinesslike book-keeping?

She came in time to realize that she had taken this matter too seriously. She came to know the relief of lessened responsibility and to be glad that the Red Cross, with its cares and responsibilities and widening sphere of influence, had been safely transferred to other hands.

The author may be permitted to add a personal word. In his personal conversation with Clara Barton concerning these unhappy events he never heard her speak uncharitably of any of her opponents. He was not with her during the time of the actual difficulty, and has sometimes regretted that he was not there. Had he known all that he now knows from months of labor spent in the examination of her most intimate papers, he would have advised her to retire in 1898 or 1902, and to turn over all her records to her successors, and enjoy for herself a few years of unofficial honor before her long life closed. He did not at that time possess the intimate knowledge which now is in his possession, of the whole life and method of work of the American Red Cross under her administration. He is of the opinion that she ought to have accepted her retirement, not only willingly but gladly, and that she was far more troubled than she had need to be concerning the events which led to her retirement from office.

But this fact he records with sincere admiration for[Pg 306] this noble woman, the author’s friend and kinswoman, that in her conversation with him in the years that followed, and in her diaries and intimate self-revelations of her private papers, he has found no word that seems inspired by selfish ambition, by personal resentment, or by any unworthy motive.


[4] As this second volume goes to press, there is placed in my hands a typewritten brief by General W. H. Sears, who accompanied Miss Barton on many of her fields of service, and who, from his personal knowledge and many compiled documents, answers in detail these charges. I have examined this document of 162 pages with interest, but have not found it necessary to quote from it.

[Pg 307]


Clara Barton loved a home. Although she went forth from her father’s ample and generous house while still she was a young woman, and lived as school-teacher, department clerk, and humanitarian for many years, she never failed to make a home for herself if there was opportunity. Hotel life had no charms for her, and, while she enjoyed entertainment in the homes of her friends and was a gracious and appreciative guest, she always preferred a roof of her own above her head where she could be hostess rather than guest and could minister instead of being ministered unto. While she was a clerk in Washington, she had her own quarters to which she was accustomed to bring homeless women, girls who lacked friendship, and others who were in need. While she was in Europe during the Franco-Prussian War, although at times the guest of royalty, she fled from the too abundant hospitality of her friends and the excessive luxury of hotels, and lived in her own rented lodgings.

She owned, and kept until her death, a summer home in Oxford. But the home of which it is especially proper to speak is that which she erected for herself and the Red Cross, at Glen Echo, Maryland.

More than once Miss Barton had occasion to meditate on the prayer of Peter offered on the Mount of Transfiguration, that the disciples might be permitted to erect three tabernacles and remain with Jesus and the spirits of the glorified saints. “Lord, it is good to be here,” is[Pg 308] the enthusiastic cry of those who, being caught up by the spirit of a noble charity, see no reason why it should not continue permanently. Clara Barton saw to it that her work was discontinued when the need for it had passed.

When she finished her work at Johnstown, she was requested by the lumber dealers not to give away miscellaneously the material which had been used in the erection of her temporary Red Cross buildings. Times were returning to normal; there was employment at good wages for every one who wanted to work; and there was no good reason why people should not buy their lumber or why the lumber business should be demoralized by a thoughtless form of charity. Miss Barton knew that this was good sense. She learned who were the people who really needed and deserved free lumber, and these she assisted; but a portion of the lumber she shipped to Washington and erected at Glen Echo, a few miles out from the city, a permanent home for the American National Red Cross. Here she made her home during the remainder of her life. Now and then she returned for a few weeks to her summer home in Oxford, but the Red Cross Headquarters was where she lived and moved and had her being. There she dwelt and there she died.

It seemed to many to be far from an ideal home for her; it was a bare, barnlike sort of place with two tiers of rooms, the upper tier opening into a gallery as in the cabin of a steamboat. It was erected with reference to use as a possible storehouse and emergency hospital, as well as a central office building for the organization and a shelter for herself and her assistants. One might have expected that a woman who was at heart a tidy housekeeper would have preferred to put her warehouse and[Pg 309] office building under one sufficiently ample roof, and to have erected for herself a little cottage adjacent; but Clara Barton lived and died surrounded by all that went into the daily performance of her work.



The author of this volume confesses to a certain chill and sinking of heart when he first saw the interior of the Glen Echo home. He wanted to take Clara Barton out of it and house her in a cozy little place of her own, where for a few hours of the day she could forget the Red Cross and all its cares. But Clara Barton gloried in those undecorated board walls as if they had been palatial. There she hung her diplomas and testimonials from foreign Governments as proudly as though they had been backed by glorious tapestry of cloth of gold. Her sitting-room was at the south of the house, overlooking the Potomac Canal; there she worked late at night and watched the moon as it rode over the tree-tops and reflected itself in the water. From the windows of her bedroom just above, she habitually witnessed the sunrise. Her narrow bed was a soldier’s cot, and beside it was a little table with a candle, a pad of paper and a pencil. If, as often happened, she lay awake in the night, she did not fret over her insomnia, but lighted her candle, propped herself in bed, wrote down the good thoughts that came to her, and then blew out the candle and went to sleep, and was refreshed for work at five o’clock the next morning.

But there was a certain appropriateness in the construction of the Glen Echo home. One might look down from the bare walls that had seen service in Johnstown to find his feet on a rug presented by a Turkish Pasha; he searched the room in vain for relics, as such, for Clara Barton had no fondness for dust-gathering mementoes,[Pg 310] but he could not fail to see about him inconspicuous trophies from hard-won fields of service. There was no luxury, but there was a simple, homely comfort in the air of the place. The main hall of the building was two stories high, with a gallery around the upper tier of rooms. It was a place for service, and that service was the joy and glory of her life.

Glen Echo is on the banks of a canal along the Potomac, about eight miles from the Capitol in Washington. This site she selected for herself in 1890, but did not occupy it until 1897. Her reasons for building there were that the location gave her convenient access to Washington, with ample space and freedom for outdoor life and opportunity for storage of Red Cross supplies without the excessive cost which an adequate building would have required in Washington.

At the time she erected her home, a Chautauqua Assembly was in operation in Glen Echo, and her house adjoined the grounds. Indeed, her home was almost one of the Chautauqua buildings, the front being of native stone such as was used in the construction of the large auditorium and Hall of Philosophy which stood within a stone’s throw of her house. But the stone front which was the one picturesque feature of the house gave it a prison-like chill on the inside and had to be removed, and the Chautauqua Assembly itself went down and gave place to a summer amusement park. Spite of the changes in the environment, Clara Barton kept her home at Glen Echo. A Ferris wheel was erected at her front door; the roller-coaster went thundering by her window; the dancing in what had been the auditorium kept up till a late hour; and the goddess of folly with cap and bells[Pg 311] superseded divine philosophy in the hall dedicated to the latter; but Clara Barton lived and died in her home in Glen Echo.

The inside of her house was not much more luxurious than the outside. Few homes have been erected with so little attempt at display, or with such modest provision for reasonable comfort.

In one aspect the Glen Echo home was fashioned almost like a cathedral, but in its practical arrangement much more like a ship. It had more windows than either a ship or a cathedral. They were almost as thick as they could be placed and leave any room for walls, but they were very plain windows, except that one on the stairs had a little inexpensive ornamentation and the glass in the two front doors had a red cross in each.

The front door faced north and led into a long wide hall, cool in summer, cold in winter, with an elongated oval well, railed round on the two upper floors, so that from the main deck one looked up to the upper deck and the boat deck of the ship-like building. This central three-deck cabin was ceiled with unpainted wood, not unattractive but unadorned. Doors opened on either side at regular intervals, and between the doors were deep closets where blankets, Horlick’s Malted Milk, canned goods and emergency supplies of various kinds were duly stored and catalogued. If a fire or a flood broke out in any part of the country, Clara Barton was ready to start and had something with which to begin relief.

It was this attempt to combine in one a home, a storehouse, a place of refuge for the needy, and a kind of organization headquarters which struck the visitor so strangely and almost repellently. She might have built[Pg 312] a little bungalow for herself and her offices and housed her supplies in a separate building erected for storage purposes and with emergency sleeping-rooms attached, but she wished it otherwise and she had her way.

If the reader had been privileged to visit Clara Barton there during her lifetime and had made his way down the rather long cabin to her own quarters in the south end of this ship-like cathedral, he would have found Clara Barton at home. It would have made little difference how early or how late the call was made. She was up with the sun and often before, weeding her garden, feeding her chickens, caring for her pets, and looking after her house. She rarely went to bed before midnight. Fourteen to eighteen hours a day of work she did steadily until her death.

Let us suppose that she has an important address to deliver to-morrow night. This is the way she prepares for it. She rises at five this morning and does her own room work. Her bedding is aired, her bed is made, and the carpet sweeper is rolling over her floor before six o’clock gives its warning to other members of the household. She eats a simple breakfast with her household and guests and wastes no time, but still is in no haste about it. She gives no intimation that she is in a hurry, and enjoys the breakfast-table conversation, evincing a keen sense of humor and a hearty interest in all human happenings. She announces that she has attended to her most important correspondence for the morning, and excuses herself to see to the ways of her household. It is the day her curtains are to be washed, and she has to superintend affairs in the laundry and make some changes in her garden. She puts in very nearly the[Pg 313] whole day in physical labor. She knows well how to direct the work of others, but she does not scorn to take the flatiron or the garden trowel in her own hands and show how she wants things done. Moreover, she gets things done the way she wants them. That is a habit of hers.

She lingers after the luncheon and evening meal and engages in cheerful conversation. Instrumental music has no charm for her, but good singing she enjoys if there is a distinct melody and if the words mean something. She likes to hear men sing better than she likes to hear women, and she likes the songs she knows, and is willing to hear them again and again. If among the guests is one who sings, she is a good listener. But the greater part of the evening is spent in conversation. Clara Barton was a good conversationalist. She could listen without restlessness and talk without monopolizing the privilege of talking. She was quick to see a point. She had a voice which was low, and while not sweet or musical was pleasant, and its cadences were those of the gentlewoman. Her sentences were always perfectly formed. Her grammar never needed apology; her speech was precise, but free from pedantry. Her talk was habitually cheerful. She was respectful of the opinions of others and never failed to have an opinion of her own.

After her guests have gone to bed, her light still burns. She sits in her south room, where she said it seemed as if “it was always moonlight,” and in her work she enjoyed the companionship of the woods, the stars, and the many voices of the night. Even the racket of the dancing and the whirl of the merry-go-round with the joyously frightened squeals of the girls descending the roller-coaster[Pg 314] was far less objectionable than it would have been if it had been her habit to retire early.

But she is not yet working on her address. She is taking care of the belated mail which the day has brought and which her duties in the garden and laundry have kept her from attending to, but she has been thinking about the address more or less during the day, although when midnight comes she has not written a word of it. Beside her bed, however, she places a candle, a pencil, and a pad.

Clara Barton’s bed was a cot. It was not a very soft cot either. She was never a poor woman. From her father she inherited a modest patrimony, and she always had more than enough money of her own to supply her needs. She could have had a wide and soft bed if she had wanted it. She had just what she wanted, and she never cared to have people tell her that she ought to have things differently in so far as they related to her own comfort.

Do not think she was an ascetic or slept in a hard bed because she scorned bodily comfort. Comfort she had and exactly as much of it as she wanted. Luxury she did not want. She thanked no one for wasting any pity upon her. Her bed was as wide as she wished it, and as soft as she cared to have it, and in it she slept soundly and was refreshed.

Before it was light she woke and reached for her matches and her pencil, and sitting up in bed she wrote her address as fully as she cared to have it written. She rarely erased a word. Her mind was clear and her speech came to her just in the form in which she wished it. Her years of training as a school-teacher had laid well the foundations of her composition and rhetoric. She wrote,[Pg 315] not rapidly, but accurately, and each word said exactly what she wanted to say.

Her address is finished before daylight, and she puts out the light and takes her final nap, but is up at her accustomed time, having enjoyed a good night’s rest, and is out in the garden and looking after the poultry until she joins her guests at breakfast.

After breakfast she copies her address in ink. Her handwriting is like copper-plate. When it is copied, she lays it aside. The process of copying it has photographed it upon her mind. She can deliver it either with or without manuscript. Although she trembles at the sight of an audience, she has learned to face one with perfect composure and no word of her speech escapes her memory.

Perhaps she excuses herself from lunch to-day and works at her desk, but not at the speech she is to deliver. It is her habit to keep free from any needless accumulation of unfulfilled duties. She sees her guests at the table and is herself within call, but for herself she has ordered an apple, a slice of bread, and a piece of cheese. No member of her household will suggest to her that she ought to eat more, and if one of her guests feels some compunction at eating a more ample repast while her hostess dines on homely fare, it is better that she keep her compunction to herself. If the guest should rise from the table and walk into the other room, carrying some delicacy, she would meet a mild rebuke. “I asked for exactly what I wanted,” Clara would say.

Outside the window at which she sits the mason wasps build their nests of mud. Woe unto the man who molests them! The sparrow finds a house and the swallow a nest in the shelter of the Lord of hosts, and the wasps are as[Pg 316] welcome as the birds to a home at Glen Echo. Two or three wasps fly through the open window and light upon her half-eaten apple. She will not permit them to be driven away. There is enough for the wasps and for herself. Like Saint Francis and the birds, she is at home with every kind of gentle life, and the wasps, she maintains, are gentle if gently treated. She gently pushes them away from her apple when she is ready for another bite, cutting off a piece with her desk-knife and leaving it on the corner of her desk for the wasps. They also have a further portion in the core. They light upon her hand, her forehead, they buzz round her, but they never sting her. She and they are friends.

This is the kind of life Clara Barton lived in Glen Echo; and this is what those were privileged to see who visited her in her home.

[Pg 317]


Clara Barton was a religious woman. Her diaries, her home letters, her intimate confidences, all breathe a deeply religious spirit. But she was reserved concerning her personal religious feelings and convictions. Once, when she was abruptly asked by a stranger in a group of strangers what were her religious opinions, she answered that she could not undertake to answer so large a question in so short a time. She recorded this in her diary, with some resentment that she should have been called upon thus to stand and deliver at sight.

But sitting beside a dying soldier, she had no hesitation in praying with him, nor of telling him unreservedly her own faith in God and immortality.

She was reared a Universalist. In that faith she lived the greater part of her life. She did not, however, join the Universalist Church in her home town, and she went away quite early and never established personal relations with a church.

Her satisfaction in church-going was almost wholly in the sermon. For music she did not care, and there was nothing in ritual that appealed to her. But a well-reasoned sermon she enjoyed. Henry Ward Beecher was her favorite preacher, and she did not miss an opportunity of hearing him if she could help it. A truly great sermon or great address of any kind made a strong impression upon her; nor was it wholly intellectual. She was remarkably receptive and open to spiritual impressions.[Pg 318] A woman of intellect and will, she was also a woman of unusually sensitive feelings and of deep, though controlled, emotions. She was ever eager to learn and had to the end of her life unshaken faith in the discovery and application of new truth.

It was reported in 1908 that Clara Barton had gone over to Christian Science. The report was not wholly correct. She became interested in Christian Science, but she never adopted it. The minister of the Universalist Church in Oxford, the Reverend Mr. Schoppe, became a Christian Science practitioner and reader, and she was much interested through him and his wife in this change on his part.

She was interested in Mrs. Eddy. It seemed to her a notable thing for a woman, alone and against great opposition, to have accomplished what she did.

She once witnessed the wreck of a sight-seeing automobile filled with Christian Science visitors to Boston, and she was impressed by the fortitude with which they bore pain.

Moreover, she had good reason to know that there is much reckless use of medicine and much needless surgery. She had memories of years in which she suffered many things of many physicians and was nothing better, but rather worse. She saw, in war and in peace, much use of the knife that seemed to her bloody and cruel. She saw women hurrying to the operating-table, sometimes, as she believed, for no better reason than to escape the risk of motherhood, and she scorned them. She expressed herself to me in terms anything but gentle concerning married women who willingly deprive themselves of the perilous privilege of motherhood by resort to[Pg 319] surgery. She believed that people who take medicine usually take too much; and that cheerful and wholesome living is better than medicine.

Moreover, she was always ready for a thing that was new. Her delight in the discovery of something hidden and now revealed was intense.

For all these reasons she was disposed to give Christian Science a fair hearing.

In Dr. Epler’s excellent biography, free use is made of Miss Barton’s correspondence with Mr. and Mrs. Schoppe, in which she expressed her interest in their new faith. My own conviction is, that while Clara Barton was thus deeply interested, those letters tend to enlarge the degree of her permanent interest. I am confident that she was less near to being a Christian Scientist than the letters themselves would indicate if taken alone. Indeed, Mr. Schoppe himself gives what I think is a wholly truthful statement, as recorded by Mr. Epler, under date of December 17, 1914:

Clara Barton’s connecting point with Christian Science was on the positives it accented—not from its negative philosophy. She welcomed its doctrine of the Divine presence of God working with us and in us and working upon her own life—present to help. She was exceedingly grateful to Christian Science for bringing out this point of the Divine absoluteness.

Further than that she could not understand it; she could not go. She did not deny, but she believed (unlike the Christian Science negativism) in a perfectly vast realm of material and human progress. She traced it in the wonders of geological ages and historical evolution. She saw God’s handiwork in a colossal complex material creation. She never could bring herself to believe the material or human creation a mortal error!

I regard this as wholly correct. She read “Science[Pg 320] and Health” and endeavored to use the “absent treatment” of the Schoppes. The first night it seemed to do good, and the next night the effect was gone. Her effort to obtain whatever was good in Christian Science was sincere; but her experiments did not make her a Christian Scientist.

She employed physicians till the day of her death, and took medicine. But she believed that spiritual things are the real things, and that man is more than body.

The two ministers whom she selected to have charge of her funeral in the old home in Oxford were both Congregationalists. The Reverend Percy H. Epler was chosen for his long friendship, and the Reverend William E. Barton for that and for his kinship. She did not choose, but would have been happy to have chosen, had her plans been worked out in detail, the Reverend Doctor Tyler, an aged minister of the Universalist faith, to have a share in the services. Happily, he was present, and did participate. He had baptized and buried whole generations of the Oxford Bartons, and it was a benediction to have him standing, like a patriarch, above her coffin, and speaking words of comfort and hope.

Her choice of Congregational ministers to perform this service did not imply a lack of honor for the church of her childhood. Yet, in some respects, her associations in later years were more intimate with Congregationalists than with Universalists.

I have no reason to suppose that she talked with any one more freely than she talked with me about her religion, or about her relations to the Universalist Church. I think I can represent her views essentially as they were.

[Pg 321]

She continued to believe all that was essential in the faith which she had been taught in the church of Hosea Ballou. She trusted in a God whom she believed too great and good to make an eternal hell necessary to his government. If God was infinite and also desired the salvation of all men, if He was not willing that any should perish, but that all should come unto Him and live; if Christ tasted death for every man; then, as it seemed to her, ultimately, sin must be eliminated from the moral universe and with sin must go punishment. She believed, not only with Ballou, but with Beecher, that God will not punish after punishment ceases to do good. That sin brings punishment she believed and knew, but that sin and punishment must go on eternally seemed to her to imply either that God was not wholly good or not wholly Sovereign.

Her Universalism was essentially Calvinistic; it was based on the sovereignty of God. She believed that God was great enough to

“treasure up his bright designs,
And work his sovereign will.”

She believed in the divinity of Christ. She was not a Unitarian. But she held to Christ’s divinity as a divinity of preëminence and not of exclusion. She believed that Jesus became the Son of God by moral processes which are essentially within the reach of men, “that He might be the first-born among many brethren.”

I think I can give a truthful impression about her feeling with regard to Universalism as an independent ecclesiastical organization. She talked freely with me about this, and expressed the definite wish that the Universalist[Pg 322] Church and the Congregational Church might everywhere be reunited. She had something of the same feeling with regard to the Unitarian churches. She loved the memory of Theodore Parker, whom she sometimes felt she recognized as guiding her long years after his death. She honored him, and other of the Unitarian men of his generation. She felt that both Unitarianism and Universalism had been necessary protests against the immoral orthodoxy of the time of their origin.

But she felt that that protest was no longer needed, at least to the same extent. She felt the waste of competing religious organizations. The Universalist Church was the church of her father, but the Congregational Church was the church of his fathers. She had more friends in the latter than in the former. She told me she would be glad to see the liberty of thought which Universalism had stood for sacredly preserved in a union of those denominations.

She said, “What I see in Oxford I see everywhere, a need that churches shall forget old and past disputes, and come into more compact organization, merging denominations, and preserving religious liberty.”

It is a hazardous thing to repeat, after years have gone by, the impressions left by oral conversations. Yet I am confident that in this meager outline I give her essential faith.

She did not talk glibly about her faith. But it was very real, and very definite, and it remained with her to the end.

Concerning revivals of religion she wrote to a niece who, in the widespread religious interest awakened by Mr. Moody in the seventies, had been asked by an evangelist[Pg 323] to take a step which, as she looked back upon it, implied more than she had intended:

Thursday night

If one acts with good intentions, believing they are doing rightly, and later, concludes it was unwise or wrong—there is a mistake somewhere, or has been. It may have been in the act, or it may be in the later conclusion, but it is only a mistake, not a sin, you poor little chick.

Another time when you are requested in prayer meeting to act on a double question, the putter of it mixing up your desire or willingness to stand up before an audience and be made a subject for public prayers with an act of personal courtesy or discourtesy to himself as to whether you want to hear him or not, once leaves you free to vote as you like, and then comes and questions your decision, and asks your reason,—if you feel like answering him at all,—tell him to divide his questions, put one at a time and you will act on each separately. He put two questions together, as a dodge to get all up to be prayed for, thinking and knowing it put every one in a hard place, as all would see that it was a little impolite not to hasten to accept his offer to come and preach. Oh, how tricky.

You have done rightly in it all, my dear little girl. When he asked why you did not side with the Lord you answered that you did. That was right and all he could ask for. When he added, “Then why did you not rise and kneel,” you might tell him you did not understand that request as coming from the Lord, or you should certainly have done so.

I send you a “Banner of Light” to-day. You will find two articles bearing on your subject—the one a lecture by a good sturdy Briton on Mr. Moody’s sermon on “Hell.” I think you will read it with interest just now, and every time you get assaulted in public prayer meeting, and followed by men, I should advise you to run home and calm your hysterical nerves by re-reading that lecture from end to end.

The other longer marked article on “Revivalism” is a fine sermon by a sound Unitarian clergyman who does not believe in special revivals of religion, as gotten up for the occasion, and to fill churches, but thinks religion, as being the best part of man’s nature, will revive itself like all else in nature, and[Pg 324] feels that God does not need to be implored to save from endless pain and loss the poor creatures He has made, but believes that if we do our best to enlighten and elevate those around us we do all we are called upon to do in the way of their salvation.

But read it well and carefully for yourself, or read it again with Ida and “reason together” about it and see if you can find in your own convictions some justification for the course you are taking with the S.S. There is much to be read, before you decide, much to learn and consider; take time and do it and don’t either fall into a trap nor be driven into one.—Selah!

She retained to the end of her life a high regard for the church of her fathers, the Universalist Church. Of it she wrote to Mrs. Jennie S. M. Vinton at Oxford:

I am glad to learn by your valued letter of September 5th that the old church of our fathers is about to be refitted and I thank you for the information. It is thoughtful of you to name the facts of the early history of the church which I am happy to corroborate, both by tradition and recollection. My father was present at the ordination sermon of Hosea Ballou (a white-headed boy he seemed). He was one of the pillars of the church. His family came over the hills of extreme North Oxford, five miles every Sunday, to sit in its high pews. When I was a grown young woman it was decided to build the present church, and no body of church people ever worked harder than we. We held fairs, public and home, begged, and gave all but the clothes we wore; we cleaned windows and scrubbed paint after workmen, bought and nailed down carpets, fitted up the parsonage, and received the bride of the Reverend Albert Barnes, our first settled pastor. And I carried their first baby to the christening.

There are few people there who have memories of harder church work and better church love than I.

Think this over, dear sister, and remember that I have never lost my love for the old church of my fathers, my family, and my childhood.

She believed whole-heartedly in immortality. Not[Pg 325] only so, but she believed that her friends were near. She never recovered from the impression that came to her, after the death of her brother Stephen, that he was an influence, a living influence, for good in her life. That influence was exerted directly. As she woke in the morning while it was yet dark, and faced the duties of the day, she was able to think and plan with such clarity of vision that she felt that she was helped by the presence of those whom she had loved and who had counseled her in life. Through Stephen she felt the influence of her mother, as she believed, and, less directly, that of her father. She said, “I do not believe I am a Spiritualist,” but she could not shake off, and did not desire to shake off, the conviction that those whom she had loved were near her.

The latest, and in some respects the most satisfactory, statement of her faith, was written a year before her death, to Judge A. W. Terrell, of Austin, Texas:

I suppose I am not what the world denominates a church woman. I lay no claim to it. I was born to liberal views, and have lived a liberal creed. I firmly believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Jesus of Nazareth; in His life and death of suffering to save the world from sin, so far as in His power to do. But it would be difficult for me to stop there and believe that this spark of divinity was accorded to none other of God’s creation, who, like the Master, took on the living form, and, like him, lived the human life.

[Pg 326]


At the beginning of her public career, Clara Barton was short of stature and slender as she was short. Her form rounded out in middle life, but she never exhibited any approach to stoutness. She was so well proportioned as to give the impression of being taller than she was. When she spoke in public, if she stood beside a presiding officer, it was seen that she was small of stature, but when she stood alone, she gave the impression of being, and was often described as being, above medium height. Her maximum height, attained in adolescence, was five feet two inches in moderately high-heeled shoes. The author measured her in her later years, and she was exactly five feet tall without her shoes.

Her carriage was erect, except for a slight stoop in the shoulders. There never came any sag in her person, any letting down of her erect standing. Her spine below the shoulders was carried to the end of her life as erect as in youth. As she stood or sat, she never had the bearing of an old person. When seated, she commonly kept her back well away from the back of the chair, depending upon nothing external to assist her in maintaining her erect bearing.

She walked quietly, deliberately, and flat-footedly. She put her whole foot down at once. There was a certain firmness in her gait which indicated strength of character and resolute purpose. She did not dart or rush[Pg 327] or drift or flutter; she walked, and her walk was of moderate speed and of marked decision.

Her hair was brown, and in her younger days she had great wealth of it. She took good care of it; and, while there was less of it in her later years, it retained its fine texture, its soft silky wave, and its rich brown color. The writer asked her once if she had a single gray hair. She replied that she thought she had one, but had forgotten just where it was.

Her eyes were brown, and in some lights appeared black. I find at least one description of her as she appeared on the lecture platform in which she was described as tall, with hair and eyes black as the raven’s wing. The reporter is not to be blamed for his departure from truth. She looked tall when she stood alone, and her eyes and hair appeared as he described them, when seen in some lights.

Her features were regular. Her nose was prominent and straight. Her mouth was large, and very expressive. Her features were remarkably mobile. Her forehead was both high and wide, and in her middle life she wore her hair so that its full breadth and height appeared beneath the graceful parting of the hair. In her later years her hair was combed down over the temples on either side, and remained parted in the middle. Her chin was a very firm chin. It did not protrude, neither did it recede. There was not the slightest suggestion of a lantern-jaw; but there was a clear-cut prominence of the chin that suggested a firm decision and a tenacious purpose. She said to the writer, “Every true Barton knows how to possess an open mind and teachable disposition with a firmness that can be obstinate if necessary, and no one[Pg 328] can be more obstinate than a Barton.” Obstinate she certainly could be, but she was reasonable to a marked degree. No one who saw her shut her mouth when she had made a decision could cherish any doubt of her tenacity of purpose; and her chin was anything but a weak one.

She did not stare, but she had a habit of fixing her eyes upon an object or a person which did not put arrogance or pretense at ease. She could, on occasion, look through a person as if she discerned his inmost thoughts. But ordinarily her look into one’s face was gentle and companionable and sympathetic.

Clara Barton affected none of the arts by which women advanced in years attempt to appear young. On the other hand, she had no intention of growing old. She said to me that she did not see why people should be so curious about anybody’s age; what did it matter? So far as she was concerned, there was no secret about it; but when people had learned the date of her birth, how could they know whether she was old or young?

She did not greatly like to be asked for her “latest photograph.” The photograph which she liked best, the one which she had framed and which the author has just as it stood on her desk, was the familiar Civil War portrait.

On December 30, 1910, she wrote in her diary, concerning her friend, Julia Ward Howe, whose death she mourned, and whose biography she had read through with keen interest:

I notice a strife over the placing of Mrs. Howe’s portrait in Fanueil Hall. The art committee object to it, but the people demand that it be placed there. No reasons on the[Pg 329] part of the art committee are yet given. The painting is by Mr. Elliott, husband of Maude. I wonder at the idea of people having their pictures taken after time and age have robbed them of all their characteristic features. I regard this as a mistake. I want the last picture of the friends I love to show them in their strength and at their best. Mrs. Howe’s picture as now painted would have shocked even herself in strong middle life. Why not show the world the writer of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as she was when she wrote it? Is it the rush of the curious for the “latest photo”? I think the idea wrong. I wish the art committee would insist on a picture of Mrs. Howe at the age of forty years.

When Clara Barton was in her eighties, she often, as was her custom, would sit upon the floor, à la Turk, with her work spread around her. When her work was finished, she would rise, with the suppleness of a girl, without touching her hands to the floor.

She had an almost morbid shrinking from the infliction of pain, or from the taking of life. She was not strictly a vegetarian. If she was at another’s table and meat was offered her, she ate it sparingly.

She carried through life a pulse ten beats slower to the minute than that of an ordinary woman of her years, but her pulse beat steadily and reliably. A half-cup of coffee stimulated her almost to the point of intoxication, and a child’s dose of medicine was too much for her. So simply did she live that when she died at the age of ninety-one there was not a physical lesion, not a diseased organ in her body. Her physician, who for thirty years had been her almost daily companion, Dr. J. B. Hubbell, declared that, barring accident, or some acute attack, such as that which actually caused her death, she could easily have lived to be one hundred years of age and still not have been technically old.

[Pg 330]

There was nothing about her voice or manner that suggested a really aged person. Senility was farther removed from her at ninety than from most women at sixty. A California octogenarian was compiling a book of personal testimonies by aged people and wrote to her asking for the secret of her long life. Her answer was contained in four words, “Low fare, hard work.” If to this she had added anything, it should have been a self-forgetful purpose, a serene spirit, and an upholding faith.

From her father Clara Barton inherited a spirit of broad philanthropy and wide human interest. From her mother she inherited a warm heart and a very hot temper. It was this temper that gave her self-control. She kept it perfectly under her bidding, and that lowered voice was the sign of mighty resolution and smouldering passion under the control of a conquering will.

Clara Barton was a lifelong believer in woman’s suffrage. She was a close friend and a warm admirer of Susan B. Anthony, and shared her aims and hopes for her sex. She believed in women receiving the same wages as men for the same work. She was never as militant an advocate of the rights of women as Miss Anthony, however. Temperamentally she was of quite another disposition. In her later years she saw with marked disapproval what she regarded as the unwomanly efforts of women to advance their cause. This she believed hurt the cause more than it helped it, and whether it helped or hurt she did not like it.

A lady who was about to undertake a long journey by rail spoke to Clara Barton of her dread of it. Railway travel, she said, always tired her out and made her sick. Miss Barton said, “Travel rests me.”

[Pg 331]

Her friend asked her how she managed it. She replied:

“I delegate to the conductor and the engineer the full responsibility for the running of the train. I do not overeat, nor take with me candy or other needless food to upset my digestion just when I am getting less than my usual exercise. I carry with me a book and a note-book. When I think of something that I want to remember, I jot it down; when I see something that interests me, I make note of it. I read as long as I enjoy reading; and when I grow tired of that, I close my eyes and rest, and let the train go on.”

Her friend replied, “That all sounds very simple; I will try it.”

She returned from her journey, reporting that she had had a delightful time, and that she had alighted from the train at each end of the trip less weary than when she started.

The directions which Clara Barton gave were those which she herself had tested.

Clara Barton lived long, and her life had many changes. Account has been given of certain episodes in her young womanhood in which she was loved and did not return the affection of the men who loved her. The question has been asked and should be answered whether in her later years she had any experience which made up for the lack of love in her youth. Some stories, nearly or quite apocryphal, have been told concerning the men who are supposed to have loved her and whom she loved, but whom she refused because she loved her work more.

The lovers of her youth were all good, worthy men, as good as the average New Englander. There is nothing[Pg 332] to be said concerning any one of them that is not to his credit; but no one of them was the equal of Clara Barton. There was no tragedy about her experience, neither was there any consciousness of the ecstasy of a love completely possessing her. These affairs left her something of loneliness, but no memory of bitter grief or cruel disappointment. She could write, and did once write, some tender, sentimental verses about a sad parting, but the sadness did not break her heart, nor permanently cloud that of any of her lovers.

The time came when all this was changed. She lived in Washington, amid a wide circle of friends, among them men of every station in life. No longer was she possessed of ambition beyond that of any man of her age and acquaintance. There were men whom she knew and men whom she liked, who had ambitions equal to her own and ideals with which her own had much in common. During the Civil War she might have chosen any one of scores of grateful men, as her husband. But she seems hardly to have given matrimony a thought in those years. After she became famous, she was less readily accessible to any multitude of lovers, but at least one man to whom she had been kind sought to reward her with his heart and hand, and, after she had returned from Europe, at least one man whom she met abroad pressed upon her his ardent and unrewarded affections. If she had married any one, she would have married an American. No offer of matrimony from a man not of her own land would seem to have made any appeal to her. This offer of marriage she regarded rather with amusement than with serious consideration. It was honorable, but in her judgment most unsuitable, and she refused[Pg 333] with a smile,—not the smile of contempt, but of good-humor and healthy merriment.

Among other friends in middle life there were two whom she would seem to have considered in the aspect of possible lovers.

In the days during and following the Civil War, she came to know intimately an American professor of wide repute, who at that time was pursuing extended researches in Washington. He was a widower of about her own age, a profound scholar, and he became a dear and trusted friend. For several months their paths were thrown together and for a time they boarded at the same table. She was interested, not only in his work, but in himself. The ardor and enthusiasm with which he worked impressed her. Like herself, he was little bound by precedent, and was engaged in a task which he confidently believed would increase the sum of human learning. There was something in a task of this character that made a direct appeal to Clara Barton. Much as she prized any kind of useful knowledge, she especially admired the spirit of the pioneer, and honored the man who blazed new paths and widened the horizons of learning. Such a man was this friend of hers. He read to her in many evenings the results of his investigation, and she shared his enthusiasm for his task. Her two nephews, Bernard and Sam, then in Washington, were wont to poke quiet fun at him and to joke their aunt about the possibility of his becoming an uncle of theirs and swamping the family with his knowledge of subjects which the boys cared little about. She took their raillery in good part. But one day, when she thought it had gone a little too far, she reproved her nephews and made a spirited[Pg 334] defense of the professor. She said, “You need not wonder that, notwithstanding all your attempts to make fun of him, I admire a man of his profound learning and high character.” Her nephews then believed that their respect for each other had merged into affection, but, as the years went by and he and Clara gradually lost sight of each other, they came to think that they might have been mistaken, that the two were good friends and nothing more. So far as the author is aware, there exists no evidence from which an answer can be had to the question of how much they really cared for each other, or, if they cared, why they did not marry. The author has his own conjecture, and it is only a conjecture, but it is this: Both he and she were at that time at the beginnings of a great work. How long either one would need to continue to labor and sacrifice before success was won, neither could determine.

The last and in some respects the most interesting, as certainly the most distinguished, among Clara Barton’s matrimonial possibilities, came to her late in life. During the Civil War she became acquainted with a man who even then was held in high regard, and was attracting the attention of his own State and to some extent of the Nation. Rising largely by his own exertions to a position of eminence, he became one of the leading men of the generation. Through all the years when she was pursuing her war relief work, with scant appropriation for postage, he cheerfully loaned her his frank and was her friend. Through many long years they knew each other and always held each other in esteem. He was in Washington and so was she, and there was little need of interchange of letters between them; nor is there in the letters[Pg 335] that are preserved any indication of personal affection. Those letters grew out of particular events when one or the other of them was away from Washington, and for the most part they had no significance as indicating the extent to which they may have cared for each other.

But there came a time when his work and her work brought them into close and more constant relations. They were both at the zenith of their respective careers. At that time he was a widower. Both were free and they could have married without the sacrifice of any important interest. The home which they might have established would have been a congenial one.

At that time Clara Barton took a brief vacation and went to Oxford where she prepared a new wardrobe, including a white satin dress. To her niece Mamie she confided that an occasion of unusual significance was in prospect, and that more would be known of it later.

Just at this time this distinguished statesman died. His death was a great shock to Clara Barton. She made no public lamentation; she never hinted even to those who were nearest to her that her grief was other than that which she might properly feel for an honored friend of many years. Her nieces believed that his death prevented their marriage. Her nephew, Stephen, says:

Their friendship was long and intimate, and it would not have been strange if they had cared for each other. In many respects their lives would have been well adapted to each other. But if their regard for each other ever expressed itself in terms of love, or approached the prospect of marriage, I do not know it. It may have seemed to either or both of them a pleasant possibility, but they were mature people, each with a great work to do; and if his death cut short what was growing from friendship into love, I do not know it. Such a feeling either one of them might very worthily have held toward the[Pg 336] other. I know that she held him as a dear and trusted and honored friend, and he esteemed her likewise.

If Clara Barton loved this able and good man, she bore her disappointment as she was accustomed to bear her disappointments, in self-restrained and dignified silence. Her silence shall remain unbroken. If they loved, it was a love worthy of them both; if they were good friends and only good friends, it was a friendship honorable to both.

So far as the author has been able to learn from those who were closest to Clara Barton during her lifetime, and so far as it is disclosed by her diary and letters, this is all there is to be known concerning the love affairs of Clara Barton.

There were times when Clara Barton felt keenly her isolation. But, in 1911, she recorded in her diary some of the domestic trials of some of her friends, and added, “After all, Aloneness is not the worst thing in the world.”

While extremely modest, Clara Barton was far from being a prude. She was never terrified by appeals to respectability, nor could she be frightened by any warning concerning men or women whom gossip condemned.

In 1884, when she was on her steamboat, Joseph V. Throop, assisting in the Ohio River floods, the boat one night tied up at a landing, and a goodly number of people came on board. Among the rest were two young women. One of the prominent ladies of the town found opportunity to whisper to her that these were young women whose social standing was not above question. “Then they will need help all the more,” she said; and she gave those two girls an hour of her evening. Such warnings she often received, and, far from accepting them as her basis[Pg 337] of discrimination, she invariably reacted in the other direction.

She never undertook any work without first carefully thinking it through in an effort to discover just where it was to end and how it was to be provided for. She had no sympathy with people who start good movements for other people to support when their well-meant but poorly reckoned endeavor fails. “They get hold of a log they can’t lift,” she said, “and they make a great call for some one to come and lift it for them.” That was never the way in which she did things. She thought them through in advance.

Clara Barton worked slowly. While she formed her decisions promptly in emergencies, she formulated them carefully and with painful precision. It was not by doing things easily she accomplished so much, but by rising early and working late and keeping constantly at the thing she wanted to do. She attempted to use stenographic assistance, but with only moderate success. She had to work out her letters and addresses in her own way. A certain kind of routine work her secretaries did for her, to her great relief, but her real work she had to do herself.

She coveted the ability to work more rapidly. She admired that ability, and perhaps overvalued it, in others. She once wrote to me: “Where do you find time to do so many things? One of the griefs of my life is to see other persons getting things done—really done—and I accomplish so little. I don’t see how they do it.”

No more could they see how she did it; but she did it by working with an industry and devotion that never found an easy way of accomplishing results.

[Pg 338]

A friend of hers was deeply interested in a movement for which he wished the endorsement of Clara Barton. She believed in the work he was doing, and was willing to commend it; but she wanted to know a little more about it, and then she wanted time to think out what she wanted to say about it. He became very desirous of having her commendation in time for a particular use; and his wife invited Clara Barton to their home to dine. She willingly accepted, and enjoyed the visit. She knew the family, and held them in high esteem. After dinner, and some conversation, the man produced a typewritten statement of some length which he had prepared, endorsing his work. This he read to her, and she liked it. But when she understood that he had prepared this for her to sign, she was shocked. She refused to sign it.

Her friend could not at first understand her scruples. Did she not believe in this work? She did. Had she not expressed to him her approval and signified her willingness to furnish him a statement which he would be at liberty to publish? She had. Had she not listened to his reading of this very statement with expressions of hearty approval? She had. Was there anything in it she would like to change? If so, she was at liberty to make any erasure or interlineation she desired. No; there was nothing she cared to change, except that she cared to change everything in it.

He assured her that he was asking nothing of her which men of the highest honor did not do constantly; that in a busy world people had to avail themselves of assistance such as he offered her; that his own standards of honor were high, and he would never think of asking her[Pg 339] to sign a statement which did not fully express her own convictions.

All this she understood, and she did not censure him. But she could not do what he asked of her. The statement which he had prepared was not hers. The opinions expressed were in full accord with her own, and the language was as good as any she could have chosen, and there was nothing in the document to which she could object; but it was not hers.

Her idea of a document which she could sign as her own was one which she should have thought out on first wakening, perhaps in the middle of the night, and sketched in pencil on the pages of the little pad at the head of her bed, and then thoughtfully copied in her own hand with careful weighing of each word and phrase. That would have been her own.

Certainly that was a needlessly narrow conception of the extent to which she might honorably have employed the minds and willing hands of others in her own too heavy toil. But it was a conception grounded in the highest possible conviction of honor.

Clara Barton was a self-willed woman. So was Mother Bickerdyke. So was Dorothea Dix. So, most emphatically and uncomfortably for those who withstood her, was Florence Nightingale. If comparisons were in order, which they certainly are not, she was not the least considerate of the four of other people’s opinion, nor most reluctant to admit herself in the wrong. Like Florence Nightingale, she had opportunities of marriage in her youth, and resolutely turned to other work under force of a strong conviction, and that conviction had mighty impelling power. Lytton Strachey, in his remarkably penetrating sketch, says:

[Pg 340]

Every one knows the popular conception of Florence Nightingale. The saintly, self-sacrificing woman, the delicate maiden of high degree who threw aside the pleasures of a life of ease to succor the afflicted, the Lady with the Lamp, gliding through the horrors of the hospital at Scutari, and consecrating with the radiance of her goodness the dying soldier’s couch—the vision is familiar to all. But the truth was different. The Miss Nightingale of fact was not as facile as fancy painted her. She worked in another fashion, and toward another end; she moved under the stress of an impetus which finds no place in the popular imagination. A Demon possessed her. Now demons, whatever else they may be, are full of interest. And so it happens that in the real Miss Nightingale there was more that was interesting than in the legendary one; there was also less that was agreeable.

The disposition of Florence Nightingale lacked much of being angelic. When she encountered the stupidity of official red-tape or the brutality and indifference of army surgeons, her words blistered. She hurled invectives and she employed sarcastic nicknames, and she denounced everything and everybody who opposed her. But when she arrived in Scutari forty-two wounded men out of every hundred were dying, and when she left them her hospitals showed a death-rate of twenty-two out of every thousand. Clara Barton had a tongue less sharp than Florence Nightingale’s, but she had a will no less inflexible. Both women had soft voices, which they never raised. Men fled from the soft tones and vitriolic words of Florence Nightingale. When Clara Barton grew angry, she lowered her voice. Instead of a woman’s shrill falsetto, men heard a deep and determined tone quietly affirming that the thing was to be done in this way and in no other. Few men withstood that tone.

Some readers of this book, I am sure, have been shocked to read the opinion of Dr. Bellows of the Sanitary[Pg 341] Commission concerning the uselessness and worse of the ordinary woman nurse in war hospitals. That opinion was shared by Dorothea Dix, by Clara Barton, and to an even greater degree by Florence Nightingale.

Not very long after Florence Nightingale had reached Scutari with her thirty-eight nurses, and about the time when she was having to ship some of them back, her official friends in England thought to win her eternal gratitude by sending to her forty-six additional nurses, under the personal direction of her old friend, Miss Stanley. But she refused to accept them, and sent in her resignation. She would not have these “women scampering through the wards” and upsetting all her regulations. “They are like troublesome children,” she said. Even the religious ones were given to what she called “spiritual flirtations” with the soldiers; and, as for those who had not the fear of God or the dread of hell-fire, there were drunken orderlies and dissolute officers and unmarried chaplains to be considered.

I have wondered what Dorothea Dix would have said if forty-six nurses not of her selection had been suddenly dumped upon her; I think she would have gone into hysterics and shipped them all back. Clara Barton, I believe, would have set them to emptying slops and scrubbing floors till she found the few out of whom she could make nurses. She would not have written the kind of letters about them which Florence Nightingale wrote. She would have scolded a little in her diary, and have written the committee who had sent them a letter of thanks, requesting them not to send any more until she asked for them, and meantime to send her some bandages and some lemons. But she would have felt[Pg 342] much as Florence Nightingale felt. They were both self-willed women. They needed all their will-power. It was well they had it.

Many interesting parallels suggest themselves between the work of Clara Barton and that of Florence Nightingale.

They were contemporary in a remarkable degree. Florence Nightingale was a few months the older and died a few months sooner than Clara Barton, but both lived to be more than ninety years of age. Miss Nightingale was born May 12, 1820, and died August 13, 1910; Clara Barton was born December 25, 1821, and died April 12, 1912. They faced the question of marriage in much the same fashion, and each one gave herself in much the same spirit to her life-task. They were not unlike in their religious faith and in its practical expression. The long, confidential letters of Florence Nightingale, written painfully when she ought to have been in bed, remind us of the detailed epistles which Clara Barton found time to write, mostly late at night. Each had a love of humor which stood her in good stead; Miss Barton’s had less sting in it than that of Miss Nightingale, but otherwise it was not unlike, and it was a great help to both of them. Each had a gentle voice, and each knew how to use it effectively without raising it. Each protested to the end of her life that her real work was not that of the popular imagination, that of personally ministering to any considerable number of sick or wounded soldiers, but a work of direction and organization; and neither succeeded in making the public believe it. Not long before her death, Clara Barton relieved her mind in her diary concerning the sort of newspaper article[Pg 343] which invented fairy-tales of this sort: “Oh, these women reporters!” she said in her diary. “They never get anything right. They are forever telling and inventing the same old kind of gush!” Florence Nightingale also had a profound distrust of the limitations of members of her own sex; but also she knew, as did Clara Barton, the brutality, the stupidity, and the inefficiency of men. Miss Nightingale often wondered if there were in all the army enough officers of sympathy and conscience to have saved Sodom. Sometimes she doubted if there was one.

All the women who went to the battle-front and were worth their carfare were women of strong will. Mother Bickerdyke, in her rough and great-hearted way, was a lady; but when she faced an incompetent surgeon and drove him out of the hospital and he appealed to General Sherman, the General confessed himself powerless: “She ranks me,” he said. Dorothea Dix was a lady to the very depth of her sensitive soul, a devoted, consecrated Christian lady; but she could be very properly disagreeable on occasion, and she brooked no interference with her authority. Florence Nightingale was a lady, born and bred; but vitriol was mild compared to some of her outbursts. Clara Barton was a lady to her very finger-tips; and she had had enough of experience in Washington among officials and men of influence so that she knew how on occasion to be much more diplomatic and gracious than most other women with her responsibilities. Moreover, she shrank from giving pain, and was careful of her words. But she had as strong a will as had Florence Nightingale, and, while she was as a rule more amiable than that lady in her more violent[Pg 344] moods, she got things done. People sometimes found her arbitrary, impatient, and obstinate; had she been less so, it had gone hard with the interests which she cherished. She was capable of being arbitrary, impatient, and obstinate, and the same is true of each of the other women whom her name calls to mind. But among them she was not the least gentle, considerate, and self-forgetful. She required that things should move, and move in the direction of her decision; but she was at heart, and on most occasions in her demeanor, quiet, gentle, affectionate, and calm.

Clara Barton had many devoted and loyal friends. They were held by her in warm and enduring affection; and some of them, for her sake and her work’s sake, made generous sacrifices. She had other friends who came to her in bursts of generous enthusiasm. These also were in good part sincere, and if some of them found her habits so simple and her task so heavy as to afford them smaller share than they had hoped in personal association with her, they were none the less generally firm in their friendship. It was not to be expected that every one could live permanently on her high plane of single-mindedness. Some of her friends were a trial to her, for it was not easy for her to understand why, when they once knew the task she was working at, they did not manifest stability of purpose and perseverance in well-doing. But these she counted her friends. When one of these left her roof because the fare was too plain, Clara Barton said, “She is not willing to wash herself seven times in Jordan.”

There were others—and in the course of her long life there were a number of them—who came to her with[Pg 345] ardent protestations of affection and of devotion to her cause, who in time wearied of the strain, or resented her strong hand in management, or who came to believe that they themselves could do better the work which she had undertaken. Some of them betrayed her most sacred confidences, and returned her evil for good.

Few women were so ill-fitted by nature to bear this kind of disappointment as Clara Barton. She was morbidly sensitive, and given to self-accusation. How unworthy she must be, she thought, if these persons did not continue to love her. The wounds of their defection went unhealed. Yet here was one of the finest triumphs of her nature. She never cherished permanent resentment.

One time a friend of hers recalled to her a peculiarly cruel thing that had been done to her some years previous, and Clara Barton did not seem to understand what she was talking about.

“Don’t you remember the wrong that was done you?” she was asked.

Thoughtfully and calmly she answered, “No; I distinctly remember forgetting that.”

Friends deserted Clara Barton, but she never deserted a friend. If a friend of hers was evil-spoken against, that only increased her loyalty. She would not believe evil unless compelled to do so, and, if compelled, she interpreted the wrong, if possible, in terms of charity. Only baseness and treachery and betrayal of trust won her scorn.

At one time, in connection with her relief work on the rivers, a man who had acted as her local agent was arrested for burglary. She was at a distance and wires[Pg 346] were down. She refused to believe him guilty. When later details made it impossible to doubt that he had done essentially the deed with which he was charged, she still believed that there must be some explanation. Later it developed that the offense was technical, and grew out of a dispute as to the ownership of certain premises which he had entered, and the other claimant, instead of suing him for trespass, sought to do him the greater injury by having him arrested for burglary. How the question of the ownership of the property was ultimately settled, I do not know, but her confidence in the man as one incapable of willful crime was justified.

Consul-General Hitz, of Switzerland, long her friend, became a banker in Washington. Apparently he had little talent for the banking business, and undertook to finance the Swedenborgian Church, of which he was a member, out of the revenues of the bank. Of his guilt before the law there appears to have been no question; as to his essential honesty Clara Barton had no doubt. She did not condone the offense, nor question that the amount taken must be made good; but she did not believe that so good a man and so true a friend ought to remain in prison. After high influence had been exercised unavailingly on his behalf, she persisted, and he was released.

Her voice has already been mentioned. Its key was about the average pitch of a woman’s treble voice. In conversation it was flexible, and very pleasant. On the platform it was clear and penetrating. Her tones were not musical, but were distinctly agreeable. Her inflections were those of the gentlewoman of the old school. There was a soothing, conciliatory, almost caressing[Pg 347] quality in her voice. It had no harsh notes. It was diametrically opposite to all that was harsh and strident. It was gentle, winsome, and in every accent suggestive of courtesy and good-breeding. When she lived abroad, no one accused her of a high, harsh, nasal American voice. It was a New England voice, but as soft as that of any Southern lady of the old days.

But when Clara Barton grew very much in earnest, her voice changed. That change was one of the most remarkable things about her. It did not rise. It did not grow harsh or self-asserting. It dropped a half octave or, as it sometimes seemed, a full octave. It was a deep, full voice. It was almost bass. Her eyes darkened as her voice went down, and flashed lightning to her tones’ quiet thunder. She had a temper, which she kept well under control, but when she spoke in a low tone, those who heard her knew that its fires were red.

She was modest in her dress, but she had an eye for bright colors. In her youth she was a painter, and she learned how to mix colors on her palette. She never felt so sure of her good taste in the matter of dress as she did of her ability to make pleasing contrasts on canvas. She trusted much to the good judgment of her friend, Annie Childs. When she followed her own judgment, she inclined to green, which she loved to set off with red. Red was her color, and she said, the Barton rose was the Red Rose, all the way from the Wars of the Roses down. She loved red roses. She loved red apples. She liked to wear red ribbons and trimmings. With a background of green, red was always safe. In her youth and young womanhood she often determined to vary her costume, and repeatedly went to the stores determined to buy[Pg 348] something beside green. Her nieces said, “If Aunt Clara says she is going to town to buy a brown dress, we know that she will buy a brown dress; for Aunt Clara invariably does exactly what she says she will do. So we know that she will select and pay for a brown dress. But we also know that by the time she gets it home the color will have changed; when she opens the package, it is sure to have become green.”

In later years, dressmakers took her in hand, and widened the range of her choice. But she seldom appeared in any gown that did not lend itself to a little dash of red; and when she wore just what delighted her own eyes, her dress was green, with a complementary dash of red.

Something must be said about her habit of economy, and it must be said with some care lest it give a very wrong impression. Clara Barton was economical to a very marked degree. If a list of her actual economies were here given, it would produce on many minds the impression that she was stingy. This would be wide of the truth. If a valid distinction may be made between two words that are nearly synonymous, she was parsimonious, but was not penurious.

She was reared in a community and in a family where want was unknown, but where money was earned by hard work, and capital was accumulated by thrift and economy. It was part of her birthright and of her being. There was about her nothing that inclined her to waste or even extravagance.

She entered into life early as a teacher, at first at a small salary. She had opportunity to save, and she did save. Her necessary expenses were small, and[Pg 349] she began at the outset to save money. She continued to save money. She had good business judgment, and, excepting for a few times when she permitted her sympathies or her friendships to get the better of that judgment, her investments, conservatively made, were remunerative.

When she first went abroad in 1869, she knew that she had money enough to support her as long as she lived. If she recovered her health, the lecture platform was still open to her, and she could earn and save above all expenses from four thousand dollars to six thousand dollars a year. If she returned an invalid, she had the income on about thirty thousand dollars, which was more than she needed. In no year of her life, probably, did she spend upon herself as much as eighteen hundred dollars. Even when she traveled abroad, her expenses were moderate, and she never drew on her principal for her own support. But eighteen hundred dollars or two thousand dollars a year, which was about what her investments brought her, did not invite reckless extravagance, She knew that she must exercise reasonable economy, and her tastes were such that this was no hardship.

When, therefore, she sat up at night rather than take a sleeping-car, it was not wholly that she was unwilling to pay for the price of the berth. She had been accustomed to doing so until an attempt was made to rob her, after which she was greatly disinclined to the use of the sleeper. Her prime reason for sitting up was that she disliked sleepers after that night. But she was not at all averse to saving two dollars. She slept few hours in the night, and was accustomed to sleeping under unfavorable[Pg 350] conditions. She thought she rested quite as well sitting in a corner of her seat as lying in a stuffy and dark berth.

Her lunch at home was often a few crackers and a red apple, and the more nearly she regulated her diet when journeying in accordance with her custom at home, the better life went with her. So her bag often contained a little package of the kind of crackers which she liked, and one or more big red apples. If she sat in her seat and ate these, it was not primarily because she was unwilling to pay a dollar for her lunch; she had the dollar, and she had no ambition to leave any considerable sum of money behind her when she died. On the other hand, she was not unmindful of the good she could do with the dollar in some other way. And she did that good with it. She was parsimonious with herself; she was generous toward others.

To enumerate her economies would misrepresent her. It would seem that she was niggardly. The contrary was true. She abhorred waste. She could not tolerate extravagance. But she could draw her last dollar, and did draw her last dollar from investment, to put into her search for missing soldiers, and she could do it and did do it without whining and without fear. Even the possibility that she might die a pauper did not terrify her or win from her in her diary any more than a half-mirthful recognition. She economized in things she did not greatly care for that she might do the things that were to her of supreme importance.

She did not hoard money. The amount which she had at the end of her lecturing career, she did not greatly increase, nor, until she got deep into the work of the Red[Pg 351] Cross, did it materially diminish. In order to support the Red Cross work in its earlier stages, she drew upon her principal, and she did not to the end of her life restore it to what it had been before. But she never complained of this, nor did it in the least worry her. Year by year she had sufficient income, with reasonable economy, to supply all her needs. Now and then she delivered an address and received a hundred dollars. Occasionally she replied to a request of newspaper or magazine for an article, and received a check in return. For a year she received a salary from the State of Massachusetts as matron of the Reformatory for Women at Sherborn. The annuity paid to her by the Massachusetts General Hospital gave her a little more margin. She was free from worry as to her own finances. I have not found in her diary or her letters a single sentence in which she expressed anxiety about her own financial future. There were several times when she was not sure what she ought to do next, and in her decisions she was not unmindful of financial necessities. But she did not keep in constant thought her own need of saving money for herself. She saved, because it was natural for her to save, and because she had causes at heart which she wished to save for.

Careful in her expenditures upon herself, Clara Barton lavished her love upon others. She cherished her friends, and there was little that she was not willing to do for them. More than once she jeopardized plans of her own for the sake of unselfish ministry to others, some of whom had little claim upon her. She received under her own roof, fed at her table, sheltered at her fireside, and assisted from her purse not a few people who later[Pg 352] proved ungrateful; indeed, those who wrought her most pain were those whom she had befriended and of whom she later learned that they sought not her, but hers.

Yet it would not be fair to give any impression that the number of ingrates among her companions was large. Relatively, it was small. Those who loved her loved with a fervent loyalty; and there are few things more beautiful than the adoring and grateful affection which those bestow upon her memory who knew her longest and best. A strong individualist, she inspired in those who came to know her well that perfect confidence and grateful devotion which are the crowning test of leadership. There were those, who, for her sake and that of any cause which she held dear, would have gone with her singing to the stake, and she would never have permitted one of them to go there unless she went first.

The author was her relative, her friend of many years. He loved her and admired her; but he has felt his own praises weaken and pale and disappear in the presence of those who, working in intimate association with her through the years, proclaimed to him her virtues in terms that but for their sincerity and the knowledge of those who spoke would have seemed extravagant. The surest proof of her genuine goodness is the unfaltering devotion of those who knew her best, and for that reason loved her most.

Clara Barton was a woman of tact. She needed all the tact she had and more. In every field in which she labored, she was flooded with volunteer workers who wanted to help. Some of them were competent; more were not. I recently talked with my long-time friend, Father Field, sometime head of the Cowley Fathers,[Pg 353] and learned that he was at the Johnstown flood, and saw much of Clara Barton. They rode together in a buggy over a road filled with trees and house-roofs and he feared she would be thrown out, but she told him to drive on; she had driven over worse roads, and with bullets besides. He said that her greatest difficulty as he saw it there was the number of people of good impulse but little discretion who rushed into Johnstown to help. Dr. Bellows said a blunt word about the women who made their journey to the battle-field, that most of them were in the way. This was unfortunately true of many of the well-meaning people who rushed to the assistance of Clara Barton in time of flood or fire. Assistance she must have, and must take what was offered. But the handling of this untrained force was a matter which called for the greatest tact as well as executive ability.

Not only so, but, when the work in a particular field was over, there were always those who had come as volunteer workers who insisted on bestowing themselves upon Clara Barton to make Red Cross work their life-work. Some of them were competent, and she was glad of them. But in the course of her years of experience she accumulated a series of misfit volunteer assistants, some of whom it was not easy afterward to get rid of.

She had little love of music. She did not sing or play any musical instrument. When traveling abroad, if forced to attend the opera, she saved the time from utter waste by writing a home letter while singers of world-wide repute performed and sang before her. Having a low and soft voice, she disliked the high notes of women’s voices. Good, melodious quartet music she[Pg 354] heard with mild enjoyment, and if she can be said to have liked any music it was that of male voices. A chorus of men always pleased her. Some of the war songs always thrilled her, though more for the associations than the music. There was one song, popular during the later years of the Civil War, which she never heard often enough. It was the song of an old slave, who, dying years before the war, had believed that he would rise on the day when freedom came to his race. The author also remembers it, as it was taught to him almost before he could walk:

Nicodemus the slave was of African birth,
He was bought for a bagful of gold;
He was reckoned as part of the salt of the earth,
And he died years ago, very old.
’Twas the last word he said as we laid him away
In the stump of an old hollow tree,—
“Wake me up,” was his charge, “at the first break of day,
Wake me up for the great jubilee.”

Then run and tell Elijah to hurry up, Pomp,
To meet us at the gum-tree down in the swamp,
To wake Nicodemus to-day.

It was sung at the minstrel shows after the Emancipation Proclamation; but it was not as a minstrel show song that Clara Barton enjoyed it. There was a solemn dignity about the old slave’s faith that inspired her; and the authoritative tones of the words “Wake Nicodemus” thrilled her through and through.

Her lack of love of music reached its climax in her abhorrence of piano-drumming. For piano music she had some little love, but not enough to compensate for the annoyance for having a piano where it could be[Pg 355] pounded by any visitor, skilled or unskilled. For many years she refused to have a piano in her house. At last she permitted one to be procured, and she gave it house-room, and sometimes heard it played with satisfaction. But when she was hard at work and wanted to concentrate her thought, she found no joy in the thoughtless hammering which an open piano seemed to invite. There was a time for all things, even for piano-playing, and in its proper time and place she could permit it and enjoy a part of it; but she did not want the menace of it from early morn till dewy eve and several hours thereafter. Her home was a very open place of entertainment, and she could not well inquire, before admitting a person who needed shelter, what were his or her habits and ability with respect to the torture of piano keys. So she would have preferred a home with only such music as was brought in where,and when it was wanted. But she accepted the piano as in some sort inevitable, and it did not annoy her as much as she had expected.

If Clara Barton did not care for music, she did dearly love poetry. From her earliest childhood she was reading it, committing it to memory, copying it, and writing original lines of her own. There lies before me, as I write, her first copy-book. The strokes and curves she learned to imitate are there, then the letters, lower case and capitals, then the first words, “thoughtful,” “Nation,” and “National,” and the sentence, chosen perhaps for its varied arrangement of letters with the simplest stem and curve, and partly because it was not well for a New England child at school to begin life with any illusion about its essential character, “Man was made to mourn.”

[Pg 356]

Who was the teacher who set her these copies we do not know, but she copied them well. The first poetic lines that she was given to transcribe were these, melodious but not precisely soothing to the juvenile mind:

Then rose the cry of females, shrill,
As goss-hawks whistle on the hill,
Denouncing misery and ill,
Mingled with childhood’s bubbling thrill
Of curses stammered slow;
Answering, with imprecation dread,
“Sunk be his home in embers red,
And cursed be the meanest shed
That e’er shall hide his houseless head
We doom to want and woe!”

This was rather strong sentiment for a timid and sympathetic little girl, and she would probably have shuddered at it in prose; but in verse she probably committed it to memory as she was in process of copying it.

This completed the childhood work, and the book is filled, in her more mature hand, with complete poems, “The Pilgrim Fathers,—where are they?” “The Burial of Arnold,” “The Hour of Prayer,” “Warren at Bunker Hill,” “The Indian’s Lament,” “The Fall of Tecumseh,” and other poems, heroic, patriotic, devotional, and ending with “Farewell to the Bride.”

Later she procured a bound volume, and in it she copied her favorite poems, and wrote others of her own, in her most careful and painstaking hand. Her “copper-plate” penmanship was never more exquisite than in this volume, in which her own poems and the poems she loved are written in order as she found or composed them.

No quality in Clara Barton was more marked than[Pg 357] the breadth of her sympathies. She shuddered at the thought of needless pain. I have a crude little picture, a page out of a child’s book, which she found in her childhood and preserved to the end of her life. It is entitled “What came of firing a gun.” A dead bird lies on the ground, and is approached on the one side by a boy with a gun in his hand and on the other by a horrified girl. It is not a great work of art, but it tells its story and conveys its lesson.

She never gave needless pain. She regarded all life as akin to the life of God, and sacred with the imprint of God’s own image. She looked upon all life that can suffer or enjoy, the life of bird and beast and fish, as something on which it is a sin to inflict needless pain.

From the time she saw, in her little girlhood, the killing of an ox, and felt that the blow that struck and crushed its skull had struck her own head, she never saw pain without feeling it. She could have said with Whitman of the suffering she saw—

My wounds on me grow livid as I lean
Upon my staff and look.

She did not merely sympathize with suffering; she suffered. She not only was glad of other people’s joy; it was her joy. She rejoiced with those that did rejoice and wept with those that wept. Not often do her diaries record her weeping; and the tears she records as having shed are oftener for others’ sorrows than for her own. Her sympathy was genuine, and of the sort which can truly be called vicarious. She took it upon herself.

Her sympathies were so strong that she would have been useless in the presence of danger and pain but for her remarkable self-control. I asked her once how she[Pg 358] acquired this, and she said it was simply by forgetting herself. She saw something that needed to be done, and went about the doing of it so promptly, so completely absorbed by the necessity of it, that she forgot to be horrified by the sight of blood, forgot to faint as timid females were supposed to do. Days and weeks and months and years of it she would endure and never once give way. Then would come a revulsion and a horror and a weakness and a collapse. Again and again she held herself in hand through nervous strain that would have crushed most women or men, and when it was all over went nervously to pieces.

It appears a pity that, being capable of maintaining her self-control till the end of the crisis, she could not still have maintained it when the need was over. But it was a part of her delicately strung organism to bear any manner of strain while the need lasted, and then to snap. The remarkable fact is, not that she ultimately gave way, but that she endured so long and so much.

Clara Barton was a woman to her finger-tips. Nothing that she saw or suffered ever coarsened her or made her oblivious to the finer things of life. Nothing that came of her association with men—and rough men at that—made her anything less than a woman and a lady. She was distinctly feminine. She had her own way of ignoring any incident occurring in her presence at which she might have been expected to be shocked, but of stickling at any trivial act which implied that she was indifferent to proprieties. Teamsters, with their wagons deep to the hubs in mud, might swear at their mules and she would never hear it; but at night by the camp-fire she could rebuke with a quiet and effective[Pg 359] word or look the slightest approach to impropriety of word or deed. She was no prude when she had a duty to perform, and conventionalities meant little to her in the presence of human need. But on her return to home life, she was gentle, ladylike, and a stickler for proprieties.

She had no love for the mannish woman. She was much in the society of men. In many respects she preferred the society of men to that of women. She entered into their joys and experiences appreciatively. But in it all she was distinctly feminine. She was a woman always, a lady always. People who expected to meet in her a big, aggressive female, with a long stride and a heavy voice and a domineering attitude, were amazed. She was a little, undemonstrative gentlewoman of the old school.

One of Clara Barton’s most outstanding qualities was her almost complete disregard of precedent. The fact that a thing had always been done in a given way was evidence to her that it could be done again in that fashion, but was of almost no value to her as proving that that was the best way to do it. She always had faith in the possibility of something better. It irritated her to be told how things always had been done. She knew that a very large proportion of things that have been done since the creation have been blunderingly done, and she was always ready to listen to suggestions of better ways. Having once decided upon a course that defied the tyranny of precedent, she held true to her declaration of independence, and saw her experiment through.

In this she was not reckless or iconoclastic. She simply[Pg 360] forbade herself the cheap luxury of a closed mind. If no better way presented itself, she was content with the old way of doing. But she was eager for any new thing that might improve upon the past. Hers was preëminently a forward-looking mind and a soul with face ever toward the sunrise.

[Pg 361]


Clara Barton lived for eight years after her retirement from the Red Cross. After her first disappointment and the giving-up of her dream of exile in Mexico, her heart turned to a form of work which already had been much upon her mind. In establishing the American Red Cross, she had determined from the outset that it should be of use in peace as well as in war. The conviction grew upon her that it should be broadened still further so that its activities should not be confined to periods of calamity, but that there should be established under its direction various forms of community service. Particularly did she desire that in every community there should be organizations for home nursing and first aid to the injured.

Before her retirement from the Red Cross, she had proposed to her associates the addition of a First Aid Department as a part of its activities. This did not seem to her board of control an advisable field for the Red Cross to enter at that time. After her resignation from the presidency of the American Red Cross, she organized the “National First Aid Association of America,” which was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia and had its general office in Boston. The plan included a large sustaining membership with a nominal fee of a dollar a year, and an active membership composed of those in every community who attended a course of lectures and passed a physical examination.

[Pg 362]

The plan of this new organization, as originally planned by her for the Red Cross, was fully set forth in a brief manuscript which she prepared:

During the entire period of the present differences among sections of the members of the American National Red Cross, I have never once felt that it was the desire of the American people that I should personally enter within the circle of disturbance, and I have consequently remained a silent and sorrowful spectator of a controversy that appeared to me to be leading where no true, loyal friend of the Red Cross would care to follow.

Every effort I have ever made on behalf of the people of the United States, during the long years of my work, has been met with friendly approval or thoughtful response. These efforts have always been made on behalf of suffering humanity, in times of dire distress and peril, and I have administered with a free but careful hand the benefactions of whatever nature that have been entrusted to me; and as freely I have given of all I possessed of strength, health, and private means.

Never once have I made a suggestion on behalf of myself or my difficulties, and I have therefore had the confidence to feel that nothing was expected of me but a straightforward advance along the natural path of my life-work. So certain have I been of this, and so confident in the firm loyalty, safe counsel, and moral support of the eminent help surrounding me, that I have felt free to devote my energies during the past months to perfecting a plan for so broadening and strengthening the organization of the Red Cross that it may enter on a new field of useful activity—on a work that will appeal directly to the people everywhere, and prepare them, in these times of peaceful well-being, to meet intelligently and successfully any emergency or disaster that may occur, either nationally or individually. It is my desire that this new work shall be the means of creating ample funds to meet any great national calamity, and that the Red Cross may hereafter enter the field fully equipped at the instant the call may come.

In times past urgent calls have come to us and precious time has been lost through lack of funds and suitable equipment. It is most desirable that this condition should be[Pg 363] remedied, and it is to this end that I am making an appeal to the American people—not for their money nor their substance, but that they coöperate with me earnestly in this new work: this effort to benefit themselves, that I am endeavoring to inaugurate. It will be borne in mind that, in the twenty years of its existence, the American National Red Cross has never appealed, never asked for, or sought the control of, a dollar even for relief; but has, as it seeks to do in this, left the people free in the exercise of their own choice and intelligence. The only apparent suspension of this method took place during the active service of the Spanish-American War, when the great committees, formed at the instance of President McKinley, raised money for relief, in the name of the Red Cross, and applied it; the society itself holding its normal position under the attorneyship of the noble Cuban Relief Committee, which did honor to itself and the Nation.

Can it be too much to expect that this one appeal will meet a ready response at the hands of the people?

We are actively organizing a new branch of the Red Cross, to be known as “The First Aid Department” of the American National Red Cross, which department will be largely educational and will concern itself in instructing the people everywhere throughout the United States in the best modern methods of first aid treatment, in all cases of accident and emergency.

There will be two distinct branches of this work. For the first an emergency case, similar to that in use in England, Germany, and other Red Cross Treaty Nations, and this has been adapted to Red Cross needs and methods under the direct supervision of the Medical Board of the Red Cross Hospital. It contains material and surgical dressings of the best class known to modern surgery. A most valuable part of the permanent equipment of this emergency case is a series of emergency charts, arranged for instantaneous reference, giving simple brief instructions for dealing with every conceivable case of accident, pending the arrival of the doctor. This chart is the combined work of a committee of eminent physicians and surgeons; and, apart from the admirable manner of its arrangement, may be regarded as the highest standard of authority upon first aid methods of treatment known to the world.

[Pg 364]

The other branch of the department will undertake the formation of first aid emergency classes in every city in the country. Ambulance corps will be formed among the employees of mills and factories, industrial corporations, railroad employees, the police, and employees of public departments. These employees will be drilled and instructed in first aid methods, and, apart from the value of the knowledge they will obtain for local use and service, they will form an efficient force to draw from as helpers in great national calamities.

These methods are in no way experimental. In many European countries, as Germany, Russia, and even Asiatic Japan, they form one of the strongest features of the Red Cross. They are also in perfect accord with its first principles, viz., the voluntary help of the people for the Government, if in need, and the organized help of the people for each other in misfortune.

This practical work in the united hands of the whole American people should raise the organization far above the need of charitable gifts for its support. The Red Cross belongs to the people; they should be their own almoners and administer their own charities.

The intelligent thought of the philanthropists of the world is behind these methods; tried, well assured, and successful. Do we need to know more?

I make a strong appeal for the formation of local committees everywhere; to coöperate with the headquarters staff of the First Aid Department in the formation of classes. I appeal earnestly to physicians in every town in the United States to render their aid. Next to the stricken victim and immediate friends will the kind-hearted doctor appreciate this timely and intelligent help.

I appeal to every employer of labor throughout the country on behalf of this movement. I need not remind him that it is a duty, for his own kind heart will call him with a tender care to the welfare and safety of those whom circumstances and conditions have, for the time being, made his own. Their well-being is his, and protection from the inevitable dangers surrounding them will be his first care. My own convictions assure me that this appeal will be heard and responded to. I have known my country people—their good judgment,[Pg 365] good hearts, and generous natures—too well to permit a moment’s doubt.

We have established headquarters for this department at 31 East 17th Street (Union Square), New York City, where all inquiries relative to the Red Cross Emergency Corps and the formation of classes should be addressed to the General Superintendent.

The plan of organization includes the formation of a finance committee, consisting of men of national reputation, who shall have entire charge of the funds of the Red Cross. This course is made necessary by the increased scope of the work contemplated, and also because it is desirable, when one returns, worn and weary, from a field of work, that no question shall arise as to the proper distribution of funds.

I offer no excuse for making this appeal, beyond the vast importance of the work and the strong, ever-present desire to see that work which has been a part of my life grow into a great beneficent institution that shall be worthy of this country and its people; to see the Red Cross a badge of honor and distinction, and to know that the time will come when the active members of the American Red Cross will form the Légion d’Honneur of the United States.

This peace-time and year-round activity of the Red Cross was a part of Clara Barton’s programme from the first. It was a distinctive feature of the American Red Cross, as she planned it, that its operation should not be limited to the battle-field. Her work in time of great calamity was taken over by European organizations, which in time went beyond the development of the Red Cross in America, and exhibited the full practicability of what she from the outset had believed. When she retired from the Red Cross, she took up this work as a separate activity; and she lived long enough to see the Red Cross, no longer under her direction, taking up a plan which she had long advocated. She made a little smiling comment upon it in her diary, and wished it success.

[Pg 366]

It would have gratified Clara Barton exceedingly could she have known that during and after the Great World War there would be organized throughout America, under the direction of the American Red Cross, classes for the training of people, especially women, in these and kindred lines of service. It is one more illustration of the wisdom and prevision of Clara Barton.

The years following her retirement found her active in the work of the Woman’s Relief Corps, of which she had long served as national chaplain. She was also a guest of honor at two or more National Grand Army encampments, and was everywhere hailed as the friend of the soldier. During these years she seemed to grow younger rather than older. When she was past eighty-four, a newspaper reporter described her as “a middle-aged woman.”

She made two visits to Chicago in her last years, and the visits did not greatly weary her. The last of these visits was in May, 1910. She was guest at a continuous round of engagements. At the May Festival of the Social Economics Club, she shook hands with nearly two thousand people. She attended a breakfast with eleven hundred guests and shook hands with nearly all of them.

The author of this volume holds this visit in happy memory. It occupied three weeks, one of which Miss Barton spent in the home of her cousin, the author. He accompanied her to a reception given in her honor at Abraham Lincoln Center, and saw her safely on her way to a number of other engagements which she had promised to attend. She met innumerable friends, many of whom called at the house to see her, and she answered scores of letters. She rose very early in the morning[Pg 367] and sat at her desk until late at night, and was always calm, strong, and resolute.

She had promised to speak to the young people at their meeting on Sunday evening; but when this arrangement became known there was a demand for a wider hearing. She cheerfully consented to speak in the large auditorium of the church on Sunday evening. Her voice was clear, and filled the great room; every person present heard distinctly, although she was almost ninety years of age. Nor did she forget to tease her cousin a little over the fact that she spoke to more people in the evening than he in the morning; though his morning congregation was not a small one.

Between her engagements were frequent opportunities during that week for visits with her. She talked calmly about all her experiences. She reviewed her work on the battle-field during the Civil War, and spoke with deep interest of her experiences in Constantinople where she had been near to the scene of the earlier work of Florence Nightingale. She talked of her religious convictions, and of the faith with which she was facing the future. She spoke in detail about the American Red Cross. It is only just to her memory to record that in all her conversation there was no word of bitterness or resentment, or any approach to jealousy as she saw that organization moving forward under the direction of others.

She was happy, full of fun, gracious, considerate, and interested in all that was going on in the world. When she sat in her chair at the end of a strenuous day’s work, she rarely leaned back to touch the back of the seat; she had a back of her own, she said.

[Pg 368]

If the author could give to his readers a truthful impression of that visit, it would be the best possible insight into the character of Clara Barton. She combined in the rarest possible degree self-reliance and modesty. She knew that the work which she had done was a great work, but it confused her when any one told her so. She responded to every suggestion of appreciation, but she grew shy whenever she heard herself praised. Throughout the whole visit she manifested the finest quality of the cultured gentlewoman.

One thing she deeply regretted, and that was that her retirement had not yet brought her sufficient leisure to sort her papers and prepare for the writing of her biography. That such a book would be written she fully realized, and she cared much who wrote it. She was perfectly well in body and clear in mind, and what she hoped to do was to go through a vast accumulation of manuscripts and make the task of writing an easier one.

The author urged her to write the book herself, and she hoped to continue the work which she had begun and to write the story of her life in short sections. One such section she wrote and it is quoted in the first volume of this present work. But she found too much to do in helping the lives of others to pay very much attention to the record of her own life.

So the years went by and her life-work was completed and her biography remained unwritten. She was always thinking of another thing that needed to be accomplished, and saying concerning it, “Until that work is done, I cannot go to heaven.”

[Pg 369]


Clara Barton died young. Even to those who were near her, she never seemed to grow old. At ninety there was no mark of physical infirmity upon her, nor was there any slightest slackening in the interest of the object for which so long she had cared. On her ninetieth birthday she wrote to the Reverend Percy H. Hepler:

Notwithstanding the much and more that has been said of “age” and all the stress laid upon it, I could never see and have never been able to understand how it came to be any business of ours. We have surely no control over its beginning, and, unless criminally, none over its ending. We can neither hasten nor arrest it, and how it is a matter of individual commendation I have never been able to see. I have been able to see painfully that the persistent marking of dates and adding one milestone to every year has a tendency to increase the burden of “age” and encourages a feeling of helplessness and release from activities which might be a pleasure to the possessor. I have given the exact age as recorded, lest I be suspected of trying to conceal it, but I have never, since a child, kept a “birthday” or thought of it only as a reminder by others.

Somehow it has come to me to consider strength and activity, aided so far as possible by right habits of life, as forming a more correct line of limitations than the mere passing of years.

Something similar to this she said to the author. She had no pride in her great age; she did not like to be thought of as an old lady. Years were to her merely opportunities of service, not measures of life. Notwithstanding this attitude, which prolonged her life and kept[Pg 370] her young in spirit, Clara Barton was nearing the end of life’s journey. She had a heavy cold in the winter of 1908 and 1909, but fully recovered, and never seemed better in health than in the summer of 1910 when she made her journey to Chicago referred to in the last chapter. Unfortunately, she reached New England in a cold summer storm, which seemed almost like sleet, and her exposure seriously weakened her.

She returned to Glen Echo in August, but did not fully recover her strength. That winter she had double pneumonia, and her physician told her she had but one chance of life. “I will take that chance,” she said calmly. She took that chance and recovered.

But she did not grow strong again. The news of the death of her niece, Mrs. Riccius, was a great shock to her. Her heart almost ceased to beat. Always her concern for those whom she loved affected her more than anything that could happen to her.

In the summer of 1911 she made her last visit to Oxford. She made the journey with no ill effects, but the summer did not bring her permanent improvement. Long years of constant work and the serious illness of the winter had caused a slight weakness in the muscular action of the heart. Otherwise, her physicians could find no organic ailment.

When she was at work in Galveston in 1900, she was seriously ill. Her physician whispered to her nephew, Stephen, that she could live only a few hours. She overheard the word, and calling Stephen to her whispered to him, “I shall not die; don’t let them frighten you.” In that spirit she had met the numerous predictions of her death in the various illnesses of the years.

[Pg 371]

But it was not so after the summer of 1911. She went back to Glen Echo without her usual invigoration from her weeks in New England.

Still she did not give up. She had periods of old-time vigor. Here is an entry in her diary for Friday and Saturday, February 11 and 12, 1910:

At night I fold the wash of Monday for ironing to-morrow. Up at six: commenced ironing and continued till all was done, at one o’clock. At night took the clothes from the frames and put them in place, and felt that for once one thing was done as it should be. ’Twas finished before leaving.

She commented on the bad behavior of the Suffragettes, whom she believed to be injuring their cause by unwomanly conduct.

A week later:

We moved the large desk to my chambers from the dining-room below. A spacious desk it makes. One should be able to write a History of the World with such accommodations.

She was concerned for her old and faithful horse, Baba; and, when one night he was out in pasture and it turned somewhat cold, she could not sleep, but got up at four o’clock in the morning, fed Baba a full feed of corn, and some fruit from the table, and went back to bed.

Her diaries of 1907 had been neglected. She tried to bring them up to date from her pencil notes:

It seems to have been a hard year for me. It makes me tired to read it.

That spring she trimmed the rosebushes and set out flowers. A fire broke out in her room; the floor grew hot from the burning-out of the soot in a sheet-iron drum;[Pg 372] and she got water and wet the floor till the chimney and pipe had burned out.

She mourned over the death of Mark Twain:

We have lost something very precious in his rich vein of humor. There are losses that are never made good. We have not another Whittier, or another Mark Twain.

The diary for 1911 begins with the multitude of Christmas greetings received and sent. The process took her several days and left her very weary. This led her to reflect that she was kept so busy with inconsequential writing that she had no time to do the writing she so much wanted to do, her Life and the story of her work.

She had an invitation from the “Review of Reviews” to write an article on “Hospitals and Hospital Nurses of the Civil War.” She declined, on the ground that she knew nothing about the subject! She had not been a nurse, and did not pretend to write as if she had been.

This was in January, 1911, and in February she had pneumonia, but recovered.

That summer she had two or more visits from a man who expressed himself with great emphasis on the subject of the immodesty of woman’s dress; she agreed with him, but felt it was hardly fair to talk to her as if she were to blame or needed to be convinced. “But really, he is not without provocation. Huge hats, dangerous hatpins, hobble and harem skirts, and the conduct of the Suffragettes are hard to defend.”

Most of her visitors just ran in from Washington, and ran away, hurrying back to the city. One day an old friend came and spent the afternoon and the night:

This day has been extremely social. It is really refreshing to see a man who has a little time, and not always in a rush[Pg 373] with a watch in his hand to catch the next train. I fail to believe that these nervous persons accomplish the most, or are actually the best business men. Hurry is a habit with them. They make every one uncomfortable with their own selfish plans, and all are relieved to get them off and see them go.

In April she began to feel that she could take up and finish her History of the Red Cross.

In that month, Dr. Hubbell was grafting trees. She had always coveted the learning of that art; so she took lessons in tree-grafting. Also, she began to learn the use of the typewriter, at the age of eighty-nine.

She was interested in the trial of the Los Angeles dynamiters; in the activity of Mr. Bryan, whom she wished the Democrats might have sense enough to nominate; and, if a Democrat had to be elected, she, a Republican, wished it might be he.

She read a “Life” of the Brontë sisters. She read in good English translations “The Apology” of Socrates, the address of Xenophon to his army, some of the orations of Demosthenes, and other good old literature. She read the daily papers, and commented on all important current happenings.

She provided a final home for Baba, eighty miles away in Virginia, bade him a fond farewell, and sent money regularly to keep him well fed.

In May she wrote her will; the same will that was probated a few months later.

She commented on the great Suffrage parade in London, with satisfaction that the cause of Woman Suffrage was gaining, but with rather sad reflection that, fallible as men were, she had found women even more so; and she thought suffrage would be a blessing, but not an unmixed blessing.

[Pg 374]

She salted down eggs in early summer, and in the late fall they were candled and found good. She oversaw the management of her household, and part of the time she did her own cooking, in this, her last summer.

These citations are given, not because they are important in themselves, but because they give little glimpses of her life in her last few months. Certainly she did not permit herself to rust out in mind or body. A physical examination after her recovery from pneumonia in 1911 found her with every bodily organ sound, but with a pulse somewhat easily disturbed.

On Christmas, 1911, her ninetieth birthday, she sent to the world through the press this message:

Please deliver for me a message of peace and good-will to all the world for Christmas. I am feeling much better to-day, and have every hope of spending a pleasant and joyful Christmas, my ninetieth birthday.

Her hope was fulfilled and she celebrated her ninetieth Christmas with quiet but cheerful festivities.

As the rigor of winter came on, she was taken again with double pneumonia. In the weeks that followed, hope alternated with fear, until, on April 12, 1912, at nine o’clock in the morning, she cried out, “Let me go; let me go,” and the earthly life of Clara Barton came to its close.

A few days before she died, she talked with her nephew, Stephen, concerning her funeral, and chose for herself the principal speakers. She desired that her long-time and trusted friend, Mrs. John A. Logan, should say the principal words in a preliminary service to be held in Glen Echo, and that at the main funeral service to be held in Oxford, the chief speakers should be her friend the Reverend Percy Epler, and her cousin, the Reverend[Pg 375] William E. Barton. She mentioned others as those whom she would be glad to have share in the services, and her wishes were carried out.

On Sunday afternoon a brief service was held at Glen Echo. The Reverend John Van Schaick, Jr., pastor of the “Church of our Father,” Universalist, of Washington, read the Scripture and offered prayer.

The Reverend W. W. Curry, a veteran of the Civil War, paid her a brief and heartfelt tribute, which was followed by three addresses, by Chaplain Coudon, of the House of Representatives, Mrs. John A. Logan, and the Honorable Peter V. De Graw.

The body reached Oxford in the early morning of April 16th, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Stephen E. Barton; Francis Atwater, of Meriden, Connecticut; Dr. Eugene Underhill, President of the Nurses’ College of Philadelphia; and Dr. Julian B. Hubbell. It had long since become apparent that no church in Oxford would contain the congregation. The service was held in Memorial Hall, which was filled to overflowing, and it was estimated that as many as five hundred people were unable to secure admission. Delegations were present from many cities, and representatives of various patriotic organizations were in attendance. Floral tributes had been received from many parts of the Nation, and a magnificent wreath was sent by the Grand Duchess of Baden. The casket was almost hidden with flowers. Above it was a great red cross made of carnations, and upon the casket was a large bouquet of red roses, the flowers which all her life she most had loved and which had belonged to her family since the days of the Wars of the Roses.

[Pg 376]

Appropriate music was rendered by the Schumann Quartet of Boston, who sang sympathetically Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar.” The opening words of Scripture, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” and of the comforting sentences, “Let not your heart be troubled,” were recited by the Reverend William E. Barton.

The Reverend John P. Marvin read the Bible lesson. Mrs. Allen L. Joslyn read a beautiful tribute from the Town of Oxford, and Mr. J. Brainard Hall, of Worcester, a veteran of the Civil War, represented the Woman’s Relief Corps in a tribute which included the placing of a silk flag upon her breast as she lay in the casket.

The two formal addresses were then delivered by the ministers whom she had chosen, the Reverend Percy E. Epler, pastor of the Adams Square Congregational Church of Worcester, and the Reverend William E. Barton, of Oak Park, Illinois.

For an hour after the service, the people filed through the hall and past the casket for a last look at her face.

The body was then borne to the hearse, escorted by a guard of the Grand Army of the Republic, its chaplain, H. A. Philbrook, and the color sergeant leading the procession.

The North Oxford Cemetery has a beautiful and sightly elevation, containing the largest lot in the enclosure where for generations the Bartons have been buried. There her body was laid to rest, the hands of old soldiers lowering it to its last resting-place.

It was a glorious day in the spring. The services had begun at one o’clock, and, as the procession entered the cemetery, the sun was near its setting. The cemetery was thronged with people, the crowd containing many[Pg 377] who had been unable to secure admission to the hall. The music in the hall had been rendered by a male quartet. Clara Barton had never cared greatly for music, but the music that she liked best was that rendered by male voices or sung heartily by a congregation. In the cemetery one hymn was sung, “Nearer, my God, to Thee,” the whole great congregation joining in the singing.



CIVIL WAR 1861-1865

DEC. 25, 1821—April 12, 1912


A prayer was offered by a blind soldier, Chaplain Simmons, of Worcester.

The closing scene can hardly be described. Dr. Barton took his place at the head of the grave, holding in his hand a large bunch of red roses, and the place at the foot of the grave was taken by the Reverend Doctor Tyler, “Father Tyler,” a venerable and saintly man, who had buried the fathers and mothers of the Barton family in Oxford. He stood with his long white beard and silver hair irradiated by the sunset; and, in a voice tender, and reverent and comforting, spoke the following words:

In the few words with which I am to close this service, I shall indulge in no repetition of what has been said, and so well said, by the principal speakers on this occasion, eulogistic of the life and the life-work of the most celebrated woman of the world, whose mortal remains we have here deposited in the resting-place of her choice, among the beloved of her family. My thought will lead you in another direction, which has hardly been alluded to, if at all, in the eloquent addresses to which we have listened.

As we look into the grave and bid farewell to the mortal remains of Clara Barton, we instinctively are led to ask ourselves, “Where is Clara Barton who for more than ninety years made them the agencies of her great work in the world?” The life, the spirit, the soul—has that been destroyed by[Pg 378] death? Does utter annihilation follow the development and growth of such a life?

As a Christian minister I feel I give a voice to the scriptural revelation of life and immortality when I say emphatically, “No!” She still lives! She has entered the pearly gates of the Holy City and is now walking the golden streets of the New Jerusalem! She has been born again into the newer life, as Christ taught the inquiring Pharisee, and our aged friend is now among the youngest of the Immortals!

I feel that while the Nation mourns because of her going, all heaven is rejoicing because of her coming! This great gathering of friends who sorrowfully bid her good-bye is but typical of the greater multitude of friends who have gone before her, and who, with smiling faces and extended hands, have given her a heavenly welcome. In a little while, after the pain of our grief has softened, we shall be glad, and bless God that He has taken her to Himself.

Now we know nothing, or but little, of the vocations and employments of the eternal life; except concerning the angels as “ministering spirits” they are nowhere revealed; but reasoning from analogy I am convinced that as doing is necessary to our happiness here, so a busy activity must be essential to the happiness of Heaven. In this regard we may be assured that Clara Barton will not be found wanting.

And so by faith beholding her as a happy spirit in the glorious life to which she has been promoted, we may all join in giving to these relics of her earthly life, as they peacefully rest for always in their last home, a heartfelt, loving


At the close of this brief and touching address, Dr. Barton spoke the words of committal; and, as he uttered, “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes,” dropped upon the lowered casket the large red roses, and pronounced the benediction.

Just then a mother stepped up and whispered, “My little girl was born in Clara Barton’s birthplace; in the very room where she was born. Will you baptize her, and will you do it now?”

[Pg 379]

“Bring her to me,” said the minister, “and I will christen her ‘Clara Barton.’”

So the name was bestowed in that hour upon another little girl, whose parents sought that the spirit that had lived in Clara Barton might live again in the life of their own daughter.

Two years from the following summer, the world witnessed a desolating war, and the months that followed wrought their inevitable destiny by plunging America into the seething conflict. Long before America formally entered the fight, the American Red Cross was active in measures of relief for the sorrowing nations of Europe. When, at length, the United States itself entered the war, the Red Cross blazed forth in every community between the oceans. Churches and town halls and private homes became dépôts where supplies were collected, bandages rolled, and workers trained. Hospitals, in our own country and along the battle-front, were erected and equipped. To them went thousands of American young women, each one of them wearing, on her arm or cap, the symbol which Clara Barton brought back to her own land after the close of the Franco-Prussian War. In their heroism and their deeds of mercy, Clara Barton lived again.



[Pg 381]

Transcriber’s Notes

Page 145: “no executive actio” changed to “no executive action”

Page 146: “stanch friends” changed to “staunch friends”

Page 254: “translaion of which” changed to “translation of which”

Page 345: “selfa-ccusation” changed to “self-accusation”