Women's History Wednesday

Clara Barton: Angel of the Battlefield

This is the Script that I wrote for my 1st person portrayal  of Clara Barton at the Northeast Georgia History Center.
They called me Clara Barton, Angel of the Battlefield….

Clara Barton
I was a welcome sight as I arrived at the Battle of Antietam. It was about noon when I pulled up to the edge of the cornfield with three wagon loads of supplies. The troops had moved so fast that the army’s medical supplies couldn’t keep up, but my team drove all night to get there.

The Doctors at Antietam had run out of bandages and where using cornhusks to dress the soldier’s wounds. Thankfully I had personally collected bandages along with other medical supplies over the past year. As you could imagine, the doctors were incredibly thankful.

Once I had delivered the supplies, I got to work. The battle was raging not far away. Bullets were whizzing overhead and I could feel the earth shake with artillery fire.
I must have looked rather out of place with my bonnet and skirts among the soldiers. I prepared food for them in a local farm house, and I brought water to the wounded.
As I knelt down to give one man a drink, I felt my sleeve quiver. I looked down and found a bullet hole in my sleeve, and the man who I had been helping dead… I never did mend that hole…

“A ball has passed between my body and the right arm which supported him, cutting through his chest from shoulder to shoulder. There was no more to be done for him and I left him to his rest. I have never mended that hole in my sleeve. I wonder if a soldier ever does mend a bullet hole in his coat?” (Clara Barton at Antietam)

I tried to comfort the men the best I could and I tried helped the surgeons with their work. After the sun set, I brought lanterns to the surgeons so they could continue operating.

The Battle of Antietam only lasted a day, and it was the bloodiest day in American History.
A few days after the battle, the Confederates retreated and wagons of extra medical supplies rolled into Sharpsburg. That’s when I collapsed from lack of sleep and a budding case of typhoid fever. I was taken back to Washington D.C in a wagon, but I don’t remember most of that trip.

As soon as I was physically able I returned to the battlefields. I saw some of the ugliest battles the war had to offer, the battle of Cedar Mountain, the battle of Second Manassas, and the battle of Fredericksburg.

The war ended in 1865, but that didn’t mean the suffering did. I saw so many men during the war, so many husbands, fathers, and brothers that were now missing, so I opened the Missing Soldiers office. I launched a nationwide campaign to identify missing soldiers. I published lists of names in newspapers, exchanged letters with veterans and soldiers’ families. I was a part of the effort to identify 13,000 unknown Union dead at the horrific prisoner-of-war camp in Andersonville, Georgia. In total, my team and I were able to locate 22,000 missing soldiers, some of which were still alive.

All of this work took its toll on my body, and my Doctors recommended that I take a restful trip to Europe. I can’t say it was the most restful trip, but while abroad I learned about a new organization called the Red Cross. Since it’s creation, the Red Cross has provided humane services to all victims during wartime under a flag of neutrality.

When I returned to the United States, I established the American Red Cross. The U.S government was reluctant at first. They could not imagine the country ever again being involved in an armed conflict after the Civil War, but finally I was able to persuade the government to recognize the Red Cross as an organization to provide relief for natural disasters.

The American Red Cross has now been serving victims of disaster for over 100 years.

“In my feeble estimation, General McClellan, with all his laurels, sinks into insignificance beside the true heroine of the age, the angel of the battlefield.” – Dr. James Dunn, Surgeon at the Battle of Antietam

“Clara Barton at Antietam.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, http://www.nps.gov/anti/learn/historyculture/clarabarton.htm.
“Clara Barton.” Civil War Trust, Civil War Trust, http://www.civilwar.org/learn/biographies/clara-barton.
“Clara’s Story.” Clara Barton Museum, http://www.clarabartonmuseum.org/clarasstory/.

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