American Minute with Bill Federer MAY 20 - Clara Barton & the American Red Cross
American Minute with Bill Federer
MAY 20 - Clara Barton & the American Red Cross
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The American Red Cross was organized MAY 21, 1881, by a schoolteacher named Clara Barton.
The first woman to be a clerk at the U.S. Patent Office, Clara Barton moved to Washington at the outbreak of the Civil War.
distributed relief supplies to wounded soldiers and, at the request of
President Lincoln, aided for nearly four years in searching for missing
After attempting to carry a wounded soldier off the battlefield of Antietam, September 17, 1862, Clara Barton wrote:
ball had passed between my body and the right arm which supported him,
cutting through the sleeve and passing through his chest from shoulder
to shoulder. There was no more to be done for him and I left him to his
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 was present at some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War: Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.
The National Park Service recorded that Clara Barton first visited Chatham or "Lacy House" in early August 1862, bringing food and hospital supplies to help "her boys."
She returned during the Fredericksburg Campaign, December 1862.
Clara Barton helped care for the wounded soldiers of both sides that were brought into the house.
A physician requested her help in the city, which required her to cross a pontoon bridge over the river.
As she stepped off, an officer offered her his hand.
Suddenly a shell passed under their arms, tearing away part of her skirt and his coattail. He later died.
Clara Barton set up a soup kitchen at the Lacy House, which became a makeshift hospital for the Union 2nd Corps.
With doctors too busy to keep medical records, Clara wrote in her diary the names of the men who died and where they were buried. Her diary is at the Clara Barton National Historic Site in Maryland.
On December 13, 1862, the day of the heaviest fighting, Clara
was in the doorway of the Lacy House when an exploding shell severed a
soldier's artery. She applied the tourniquet that saved his life.
the river again, a Union provost marshall thought she was a civilian
and volunteered to escort her to safety, but looking at the thousands of
Union soldiers, she politely declined the offer saying she was the best
protected woman in the world.
When a shell struck the door of the room she was in, 'she did not flinch, but continued her duties' assisting the doctors.
The next two weeks at Chatham, Clara saw 'hundreds of the worst wounded men I have ever seen,' occupying every room of the house.
'covered every foot of the floors and porticos' and stair landings. A
man 'thought himself rich' if he laid under a table where he would not
be stepped on.
saw five men stuffed onto four shelves of a cupboard. Others shivered
in the cold muddy yard on blankets, waiting for someone inside to die so
they could be brought in.
Clara set up a soup kitchen in a tent in the yard to help them.
The Library of Congress has the letter Clara Barton
wrote to her cousin from the Head Quarters of the 2nd Division, 9th
Army Corps-Army of the Potomac Camp near Falmouth, Virginia, December
12th, 1862, 2 o'clock a.m.:
dear Cousin Vira: Five minutes time with you; and God only knows what
those five minutes might be worth to the many-doomed thousands sleeping
around me. It is the night before a battle.
Fredericksburg, and its mighty entrenchments lie before us, the river
between - at tomorrow's dawn our troops will assay to cross, and the
guns of the enemy will sweep those frail bridges at every breath. The
moon is shining through the soft haze with a brightness almost
the last half hour I have stood alone in the awful stillness of its
glimmering light gazing upon the strange sad scene around me striving to
say, 'Thy will Oh God be done.'
The camp fires blaze with
unwanted brightness, the sentry's tread is still but quick - the acres
of little shelter tents are dark and still as death, no wonder for us as
I gazed sorrowfully upon them.
I thought I could almost hear
the slow flap of the grim messenger's wings, as one by one he sought and
selected his victims for the morning sacrifice. Sleep weary one, sleep
and rest for tomorrow's toil. Oh! Sleep and visit in dreams once more
the loved ones nestling at home..."
may yet live to dream of you, cold lifeless and bloody, but this dream,
soldier, is thy last, paint it brightly, dream it well.
northern mothers, wives and sisters, all unconscious of the hour, would
to Heaven that I could bear for you the concentrated woe which is so
soon to follow, would that Christ would teach my soul a prayer that
would plead to the Father for grace sufficient for you. God pity and
strengthen you every one.
are not the only waking hours, the light yet burns brightly in our kind
hearted General's tent where he pens what may be a last farewell to his
wife and children and thinks sadly of his fated men.
the roll of the moving artillery is sounded in my ears. The battle draws
near and I must catch one hour's sleep for tomorrow's labor.
night, dear cousin, and Heaven grant you strength for your more
peaceful and less terrible, but not less weary days than mine. Yours in
Clara Barton wrote of the soldiers:
"What could I do but go with them, or work for them and my country? The patriot blood of my father was warm in my veins."
Clara Barton then went to Europe during the Franco-German War, where she worked with Henri Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross.
Henri Dunant was the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
founded the Geneva chapter of the YMCA (Young Men's Christian
Association) and proposed Jews repopulate Palestine, being one of the
few non-Jews to attend the First Zionist Congress in Basel, 1897.
Theodore Herzl first used the term, "Christian Zionist" in reference to Henri Dunant.
Inspired by Henri Dunant's International Red Cross, Clara Barton established the American Red Cross Society, MAY 21, 1881, serving as its head until 1904.
Clara Barton stated:
institution or reform movement that is not selfish, must originate in
the recognition of some evil that is adding to the sum of human
suffering, or diminishing the sum of happiness.
I may be
compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can
stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them. I am well and
strong and young - young enough to go to the front. If I cannot be a
soldier, I'll help soldiers."
Clara Barton helped in hospitals in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
time of peace we must prepare for war, and it is no less a wise
benevolence that makes preparation in the hour of peace for assuaging
the ills that are sure to accompany war."
President William McKinley stated regarding Clara Barton in his Second Annual Message, December 5, 1898:
"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.
in conjunction with the governmental authorities and under their
sanction and approval, and with the enthusiastic cooperation 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."
President McKinley continued:
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.
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."
President Woodrow Wilson mentioned the Red Cross in his Proclamation of a Contribution Day for the aid of stricken Jewish people, January 11, 1916:
in the various countries now engaged in war there are nine millions of
Jews, the great majority of whom are destitute of food, shelter, and
clothing; and...have been driven from their homes without warning,
deprived of an opportunity to make provision for their most elementary
wants, causing starvation, disease and untold suffering; and
the people of the United States of America have learned with sorrow of
this terrible plight of millions of human beings and have most
generously responded to the cry for help...
Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States...do
appoint and proclaim January 27, 1916, as a day upon which the people of
the United States may make such contributions as they feel disposed for
the aid of the stricken Jewish people.
Contributions may be addressed to the American Red Cross, Washington, D.C., which will care for their proper distribution."
Opening the Second Red Cross Drive in New York City, President Woodrow Wilson stated, May 18, 1918:
"Being members of the American Red Cross...a
great fraternity and fellowship which extends all over the world...this
cross which these ladies bore here today is an emblem of Christianity
When you think of this, you realize how the people of
the United States are being drawn together into a great intimate family
whose heart is being used for the service of the soldiers not only, but
for the long night of suffering and terror, in order that they and men
everywhere may see the dawn of a day of righteousness and justice and
On December 8, 1918, in an appeal of support for the American Red Cross just a month after the fighting in World War I had ceased, President Woodrow Wilson stated:
"One year ago, twenty-two million Americans, by enrolling as members of the Red Cross at Christmas time, sent to the men who were fighting our battles overseas a stimulating message of cheer and good-will...
Now, by God's grace, the Red Cross Christmas message of 1918 is to be a message of peace as well as a message of good-will."
On May 1, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt greeted the chairman of the American National Red Cross, Norman H. Davis, in Washington, D.C.:
"The great International Red Cross organization, founded 76 years ago to bring mercy to the battlefield...
am confident that whatever may be the problems which intensification of
warfare may bring, the American people will respond to any appeal for
funds when the Red Cross deems it necessary to call upon them for additional aid.
such response we can aid in sustaining the spirit and morale of those
in distress abroad until the happy day we all pray for, when hostilities