Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dead Letters Office

Robert Reyes from the President Street Station Museum in Baltimore recently sent me this enlightening article:

oourtesy of
"WHY not write Dead Soldiers' Letters at once?" says a voice at my elbow.
     Only out of respect to the old logical rule requiring the perfect definition of a class to embrace all the individuals composing it. It is a sad truth that too many of these missives that have been wandering about in the mail-bags are the letters, and the last letters—the last written expression of thought or wish—of men who have dared to die for their country. Many of these rough-looking, soiled, and torn envelopes now lying in the Dead-letter Office, after a fruitless journey in search of friends to read their contents, are filled with strange tales of blood and battle, or breathe sentiments that should stir the very soul of patriotism, and fire the heart and nerve the arm of every man who perils his life in the cause of his country's honor. Outside, it is a shapeless and uninviting mass of worn and crumpled envelopes, soiled with the dust and smoke of every camp and battle-field on the continent; within, are the thoughts, wishes, last words, and dying prayers of those who have offered their own lives to save the life of the nation.   
     Up to the last of August soldiers' letters, written from camps or head-quarters, and containing no valuable inclosure [sic], when returned from the local post-offices to the Dead-letter Office because they were "not called for," have been destroyed, because they could not, like ordinary letters, be returned to the writers. Armies are always upon the move, and the ten or twelve weeks that must expire between the date of a soldier's letter in camp and its return to Washington as a "dead-letter" render any attempt to place it again in the hands of the writer as impossible as it is useless. The Department having once sent the letter to its place of destination, and advertised it there, has no legal authority to incur further trouble or expense in the matter. Hence the practice that obtained in the opening-room of the Dead-letter Office, of throwing into the waste-basket all "dead-letters" containing no valuable inclosure, which had been written by soldiers from camps or head-quarters. As the war progressed and great battles were fought, consecrating in history such names as Pea Ridge, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Fair Oaks, and Malvern Hill, and marking the boundaries of each field of bloody strife with the tumuli of buried heroes, it came to be noticed that many of the soldiers' letters, written upon the eve or at the close of these fierce struggles for a nation's life, contained matter of the gravest interest to the friends and relatives at home. Some of these lost missives, containing the words of father, brother, son, or husband, who had gone down in the storm of battle, or survived to tell the fate of other martyrs in the holy cause, and which had failed in the first effort to place them in the hands of the persons addressed, were rightly conceived to be of as much importance to the soldiers' friends as the letter inclosing a part of his pay to the wife and little ones at home.
     The subject having attracted the attention of Mr. Zevely, the Third Assistant Postmaster-General, who has charge of the Dead-letter Office, and whose hand is as open as his heart is warm in the cause of aiding the soldier in the field and his family at home, he at once determined to have this class of dead-letters examined by a competent clerk, and all that were likely to be of interest or importance again forwarded to the post-offices originally addressed. As the law authorized no additional expense for such an enterprise, one of the clerks volunteered to perform the work out of office-hours; and so a second effort is being made to get these soldiers' letters into the hands of their friends.
     An interview with the clerk who spends his evenings and mornings in this work brought me to a knowledge of the enterprise, and I write this sketch with the purpose of bringing the matter to public notice, and thus to aid in getting these lost letters into the hands of those for whom they were intended. I learn from the gentleman who has charge of the work that four or five hundred letters a day of this class come into the Dead-letter Office. As they are opened, all soldiers' letters containing no valuable inclosure are placed in his hands, and after office-hours he proceeds to examine them, and select such as can be again sent to the local post-offices with some prospect of reaching the parties addressed. Each letter thus re-sent is entered upon a blank form addressed to the postmaster, and charging him to use "all diligence to secure its delivery." This form contains not only the name of the person addressed on the envelope, but the name of the writer and of the place where the letter was dated. This schedule, or catalogue of letters, is to be conspicuously posted for one month, and any letters upon it that are not delivered in that time are to be returned to the Dead-letter Office at Washington, to be destroyed. The whole thing is a work of grace on the part of the Postmaster-General, there being no charge made for the second transportation of the letters or their delivery at the local post-offices. This being the case, it is proper to add, for the benefit of the Department, and to save people from unnecessary trouble, that it is quite useless to address inquiries to anyone in the General Post-office respecting letters of this description. No record is kept of them, and those not re-sent are immediately destroyed. Anyone looking for such a letter, known to have been advertised at a local post-office and returned as "dead" to Washington, should watch the posted catalogue of "Soldiers' Letters," which, for the smaller offices, is forwarded at the close of each month, and once a week or fortnight to the large city offices.
     With a proper care not to violate the confidence and privacy peculiarly strict in this office, I have been allowed to notice the character of some of these letters. Here is one written by T. F. H., Lieutenant-Colonel Fifth Ohio Cavalry, and very fully and carefully directed, yet it has failed to reach its destination; and lest a second effort should prove as fruitless as the first, I am permitted to make an extract, in the hope that it may reach the eyes of the bereaved parents. The letter is written from Zanesville, Ohio, under date of May 27th, and addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, Baleyville, near Minneapolis, Minnesota, and reads thus:
FRIENDS,—On the evening of Monday, April 7, 1862, about five o'clock, after my regiment had been halted in its pursuit of the fleeing hordes of rebels, I rode slowly around the field, meditating on the result of that bloody action [Shiloh], and observing the effect of the "bolts of war" on the dead bodies which covered the ground. Various were the attitudes and expressions of the fallen heroes; yet as I rode along one smooth-faced lad, whose features were lit up by a smile, so attracted and riveted my attention as to cause me to dismount and examine him. His uniform was neat as an old soldier's, his buttons polished, his person clean, his hair well combed, lying squarely on his back, his face toward the enemy, his wounds in front, from which the last life-drops were slowly ebbing, his hands crossed on his breast, and a peaceful, heavenly smile resting on his marble features. I almost envied his fate as I thought,

“How sleep the brave who sink to rest”
By all their country's wishes blest!
By fairy hands their knell is rung,
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
Lo! Honor comes, a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay,
And Freedom shall a while repair
To dwell a weeping hermit there!"

     I asked the by-standers who that lad was. No one could tell. Hoping to find some mark on his clothing by which I could distinguish him, I unbuttoned his roundabout, and in the breast pocket found a Bible, on the fly-leaf of which was an inscription by his mother to "John Elliott." In the same pocket was a letter from his mother, and one he had written to his uncle, both dabbled with blood. Pleased with getting these data from which to trace his family, I determined to preserve the Bible and letters and send them to you. I have since regretted that I did not examine all his pockets and save whatever may have been in them; but my time was short, and I felt that the Bible he had so faithfully carried would be treasure enough for you, and in the hurry of the moment I did not think to look for anything else. His remains received decent sepulture that night, and he now sleeps in a soldier's grave.
     And now, my dear friends, I would have written to you weeks ago, but was long sick in camp, was sent to Ohio low with fever, and am but just able to begin to sit up. You have doubtless wept over your dead boy. No human sympathy could assuage your grief. Yet He who guides and governs the universe of man and matter, I doubt not, has thrown around you "everlasting arms," and supported your faint, bereft, and bleeding hearts.
     After a while, when time shall have healed the wounds that war has inflicted, it will be a heritage of glory for you to reflect that your boy died in the cause of human rights and to save the life of a great nation; and you can with righteous pride boast that he fell in the thickest of the fight, with dead rebels all around him, his face to the foe, and in the "very forefront of the battle."
He died a young hero and martyr in the holy cause of freedom, and Elijah riding up the heavens in a chariot of fire had not a prouder entrance to the Celestial City than your boy. Let your hearts rejoice that there is one more waiting to welcome you back to the "shining shore."
     Here is a brief extract from the letter of a surgeon on the Peninsula to a friend at home:
Almost the first one I came to was our poor little friend Dick, the bright-eyed but pale-faced drummer boy, who broke from the warm embrace of his mother and rushed into the wild storm of war at the first call to arms. He was still alive, and able to speak in a low voice. I raised his head and gave him some water. He smiled his thanks, and said, "Doctor, tell mother I wasn't afraid to die. Tell brother Jimmy he can have my pony; and Sis can have all my books; and they mustn't cry about me, for I think I have done right. And take the drum to them; and bury this little flag with me—and that's all!" And that was all; and a moment afterward the spirit of the young hero went up to heaven.
     Here is a letter from a wife to her husband in the Peninsular army. It arrived too late, and is on its way back to the writer, with the simple indorsement on the envelope, by an officer of his regiment: "Was killed yesterday in the battle of Malvern Hill."
     These are a few examples of what may be found in the "Soldiers' Dead-letters;" and if local post-masters will manifest the same disposition exhibited in the action of the Department at Washington, thousands of these lost epistles will find their way to the rightful owners, and serve to comfort and console many a bereaved and breaking heart.

Courtesy of

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Victory Via Civilian Support

     Civil War history is overflowing with grand and romantic stories about the big battles, colorful generals, sneaky spies, and dramatic politicians pressing their agendas.  One rarely hears about the quiet civilian folks who traveled to the front to offer their services, stayed back from the field at large depots, and supported the war effort from home.  U. S. Grant and President Lincoln’s herculean efforts cannot trump those of ordinary civilians.   Many of them certainly were as interesting as their military commanders and others, but Americans remember little of anything of civilian contributions that supported the war effort.   My research paper will reveal some of the extraordinary accomplishments by civilians lost in the quagmire of Civil War history.
     Without civilian support, neither army could have held the field for long, and critical support for the Union army contributed to their victory as much if not more than any other factor.  In December 1860, little more than 16,000 men filled the army ranks.  The United States had a historically persistent uneasiness to large standing armies.  Therefore, when Lincoln called up the initial 75,000 men to put down the rebellion, the call disastrously overloaded the military system with men reporting for duty in Washington.  The military provided no food, shelter or clothing for the troops.  Only one hospital existed in the army, at Fort Riley, Kansas with a scant 40 beds.  The army expected regiments to subsist on what they brought with them.  Overwhelming numbers caused make shift camps in any and every open space, with little to no attention to sanitation, resulting in medical epidemics robbing some regiments of 50 percent of their strength.  Time did not improve conditions much on the military’s part.  The soldiers needed civilian support, and concerned civilians were eager to give it.[1]
     Besides a great deal of monetary support, civilians volunteered as hospital workers of every type, spies, military guides, provided tons of material, humanitarians, military/soldier advocates, moral supporters and event witnesses, most of them as volunteers.  They also supplemented the military as laundresses, contract surgeons, teamsters, administrative clerks, and manufacturers.  Any army of that time could not have campaigned without the huge support system organized and provided by civilians even though many commanders loathed admitting it and tried to deny needing or wanting any of it.[2]
     Of course, their contributions were not always positive, such as journalists who gave away information to the enemy and drummed critical information in their papers that affected elections and caused some chaos in Washington.  For this service, however, the federal government arrested and imprisoned citizens without real cause, some dying from horrible prison conditions, some held for the duration of the war, especially after Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus.[3] 
     Women provided the greatest amount of support, working largely through relief societies, as camp “followers” or those local to the armies and campaigns.  Anxious women with a variety of talents longed to contribute to the war effort.  Most stayed at home, operated businesses in the absence of men, gave labor and/or goods, or organized and administered the efforts.  Army wives following the military in camp could launder soldiers clothes, act as nurses (cooking and cleaning rather than the modern conception of nursing), supplementing the family income, a slim and irregular issue for enlisted soldiers and some junior officers.  Several civilians acted from within the relief societies as inspectors and soldier advocates, in attempts to ensure the best living conditions possible for the masses of soldiers necessary to conduct operations.[4]    
     The most under-appreciated must be locals caught up by the military on campaign.  The small farming communities in mid-western Maryland received as guests around 120,000 in number during the Maryland Campaign of 1862.  Hungry, thirsty soldiers arrived needing food water and shelter, resisting futile since they traveled with plenty of weapons for coercion.  The Pry family (and their relatives) are a good example of the civilian battlefield experience.  The Battle of Antietam took place just before the harvest in September 1862.  In the week that General McClellan used their property as army headquarters, their losses were the equivalent to that caused by a natural disaster.  Their crops were taken for forage, fencing used as firewood, livestock consumed by the army, furniture ruined, property trampled, an entire warehouse of wood used to make hospitals, the house and barn utilized for several months as hospitals, and even Mrs. Pry’s personal effects taken by soldiers.  Since the Union army remained around the area for six weeks, all the locals worked as nurses, doctors, buried the dead, burned dead animals, and survived dependent on army rations when available.  The Pry family never recovered, sold their farm and properties, and moved to Tennessee for a fresh start.[5] 
     If appreciation for white volunteerism is undervalued, it is nothing compared to the plight of African-Americans, volunteers or not.  Many worked in servitude, quite a few served to gain their freedom and assist in making it permanent for others.  Their class level under women made exploitation of them a sure thing.  Some were able to work on a limited basis as laundresses and cooks for pay, and even as nurses, although jobs assignments placed African-Americans in positions whites generally thought were beneath them.  When historians began compiling the numbers, African-Americans made up approximately ten  percent of the civilian workforce for both men and women. Studying their role is quite difficult, however, due to the lack of documentation and recognition.[6]
     American society allowed women to support the war effort in limited ways, including appointing them as moral authorities.  Earlier in the nineteenth century, men assigned women the role of moral educators and watchdogs.  The assignment led to women’s public activities promoting moral reform.  Because of the critical need for support, many women could work in areas forbidden to them in antebellum America.   This work was a natural extension of reform activism and would assist women’s call to reform in civic areas afterward.[7] 
     Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and friends, through their Women’s Central Association of Relief  organization, and the popularity of Florence Nightingale’s humanitarian work in the Crimean War, organized what became the largest and only government recognized relief agency, the U. S. Sanitary Commission (USSC).  Women’s status in the country- a lack of recognition as equals to men and therefore second-class citizens necessitated the recruitment of prominent men as commissioners for the organization.  Dr. Henry Bellows, a notable doctor from New York, lobbied for and received the recognition from officials in Washington.  Men inside the organization acted as administrators, field agents, and delivered much of the provisions to the army, but a network of organized regional and local aid societies provided most of what the military received. Approximately 7000 smaller aid societies contributed to efforts with twelve major regional branches.  Their efforts sent millions of dollars worth of food, medicine and clothing to the front.  Women primarily administered and operated these agencies independent of the Washington commissioners.[8] 
     The USSC absorbed the role of inspectors of military facilities, provided recommendations for improvements, relief supplies for the troops, published booklets on personal hygiene, health and welfare, and advocated for the soldier and medical department in Washington.  Their massive donations of money and material to the government gave them great influence in Congress, and they significantly improved the medical system; This power eventually trickled down to the public after the war and continues to do so to this day.  The Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, allowed the USSC to name the new Surgeon General of the Army in 1862, who updated and implemented many of the medical changes necessary to care for the thousands of wounded created by new weapons technology.  The USSC recommended Dr. William A. Hammond, a young army doctor with progressive ideas. Dr. Hammond and his staff designed and constructed large-scale hospitals for recovery and rehabilitation never seen before in the U. S., complete with baths and indoor toilet facilities.[9]  
     Additionally, the USSC organized massive fund-raising fairs across the North and Northwest.  The fairs not only acquired monetary support for the war effort, but also emotional relief for anxious families and furloughed soldiers through games, exhibits, restaurants and entertainment offered at the event.  Post war estimates credit these events with producing over three million dollars for the military. Lack of records or a scattering of them prevents the attempt of a compilation of volunteer labor hours. Estimated contributions by the USSC alone were approximately five hundred million dollars.[10] 
     Other large organizations contributed even more support.  The Young Men’s Christian Association felt compelled to help, and created the U. S. Christian Commission (USCC) as their wartime organization dedicated to soldier spiritual and emotional needs.  The USCC provided volunteer chaplains and worked cooperatively with military chaplains to supplement their work.  In this capacity, they accompanied the armies in the field and provided much needed emergency assistance to the wounded after battles.  Estimates for material relief from the USCC include the distribution of almost one million bibles and tens of thousands of other books and pamphlets.  Additionally, they provided coffee wagons and distributed soldier comfort supplies to the troops.[11] 
     As the war progressed, these organizations served not only soldiers, but acted as a link between soldiers and their families.  The USSC, USCC, and smaller organizations provided writing materials and even mail service for soldiers in camp and on campaign.  They also provided investigative services for families of missing soldiers.  The USCC reportedly wrote 92,000 letters for soldiers by the end of the war.[12]  Due to the lack of resources within the military, the USSC played a significant role in handling the dead.  After the Battle of Gettysburg, they compiled a list of over 8000 dead.  They figured a 70 percent reply rate on inquiries.  The U. S. government would not establish a military agency to deal with burials until July, 1864.[13]
     With the only formally trained nurses, the Catholic Church also significantly contributed to the war effort.  Surgeons at military hospitals preferred Catholic nuns trained in nursing to civilian women.  Often, authorities accused female volunteers of husband hunting, inappropriate gossiping, delicacy, and incompetence.  This led Army Nursing Superintendent Dorothea Dix to require volunteers be over thirty, plain in looks, and conservative.  Surgeons preferred nuns over civilian nurses because their devotion to God, training and habits ensured their competence and faithfulness to duty.  Nuns in Emmitsburg, MD, the Sisters of Charity, responded quickly to care for the wounded during the Antietam and Gettysburg Campaigns.  History often forgets these selfless women of the Civil War.[14]
     There was a great demand for nurses during the war because of the sheer numbers of sick and wounded.  The army initially used convalescing soldiers as nurses but quickly became overwhelmed.  So many women and men came forward to serve that many were turned away.  Nurses provided support to the wounded by not only cooking and cleaning, but reading to and writing for them, assisting them with difficult tasks such as bathing, feeding those unable to feed themselves, or just comforting them while they died.  Often nurses wrote letters for soldiers unable to do so themselves, or notified families of the death of their loved ones.  Surgeons might allow competent and trusted nurses to change bandages and assist in giving medications.[15]  
     Walt Whitman served in the hospitals in Washington D. C.  Already a famous poet, Whitman wrote and published his experiences for the public; papers that are still quoted and studied almost 150 years later.  He fell into service after observing the wounded in hospitals while searching for his wounded brother.  During his tenure, almost 50,000 men came and went as patients through the Washington hospitals.  Whitman spent seven to eight hours a day consoling the wounded with treats, stamps, small amounts of money and letter writing. [16]
     The Civil War was life changing for Miss Clara Barton, a clerk working at the Patent Office as a copyist.  Barton longed to join the army but could not bring herself to don a uniform and disguise as a man.  Her father, a veteran of the Indian Wars, encouraged her to assist the war effort.  The 6th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment hailed from Worcester, close to her hometown, and compelled her to act on their behalf after she learned they were the militia attacked by secessionist protesters in Baltimore on their way to Washington.  Realizing the military was unable to provide even the most basic comforts to soldiers, she determined to become a one-woman relief agency.  Her requests to distribute supplies on the field were ignored until she pleaded her case to an influential officer in the Quartermaster Department after she admitted she had gathered more than three warehouses full of supplies.  The astonished officer, Major Daniel H. Rucker would eventually become Quartermaster General of the Army.[17] 
     Barton enabled the medical department to use her as a loophole to deliver medical supplies to the army in the field, circumventing the established system.  Because she was a civilian, she did not fall under military jurisdiction and did not have to travel in the accustomed military order within the supply train.  After receiving her first pass to the front, Barton, after becoming exceedingly annoyed at the supply train pace, ingeniously pulled out of line during the day and traveled at night while the train rested, bypassing the entire train and arriving at the field of battle a day earlier than her peers.  She distributed critically needed supplies to 13 field hospitals the same day the USSC and USCC supply trains left Washington – on the day of the battle.  Barton rode out to the battle line, worked as a medic assisting the wounded to field hospitals under fire and spent the entire night assisting the surgeon in charge at the Samuel Poffenberger farmhouse.[18]
     Barton’s experiences did not end in 1865.  Now internationally famous due to her exploits, early in the year she began to receive letters from families looking for missing soldiers.  Moved by their acute anxiety and the failure of others to meet the need, Barton proposed establishing a bureau to assist these families to her patron, Senator Henry Wilson, Chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee.  She asked Wilson to accompany her to the White House to present the idea to President Lincoln.  Wilson could not go with her, but presented the idea to Lincoln.  The President referred the idea to the War Department for recommendation, but rather than wait for their reply, posted a notice in a Washington paper for interested parties to contact Barton with or for information.  In the following days, Barton began receiving up to three hundred letters a day.  Although Barton hoped to establish an official bureau in the Federal government to support the effort, she contributed over $17,000.00 over four years, and received reimbursement of $15,000.00 from Congress in bonds.  To help fund the project, Barton went on the lecture circuit and made a profit of $12,000.00.  Dangerously declining health forced Barton to close the office and travel to Europe to regain her strength.[19]
     Barton’s trip to Europe cemented her desire to see a permanent organization along the lines of the Sanitary Commission established in the United States.  While vacationing in Switzerland, the leaders of the recently formed International Red Cross called to ask why the U. S. had not signed and ratified the Geneva Convention of 1864.  The U. S. sent Henry Bellows as their delegate.  Barton had never heard of the organization or treaty, and agreed to investigate upon her return to the States.  Before she had fully recovered her health, the IRC began providing support for the Franco-Prussian War, and Barton could not resist their call to duty.  She traveled to France and helped civilian refugees rebuild and recover from local fighting that devastated their city.  By the time Barton returned to the U. S., she determined to establish a Red Cross society for the nation and convince the federal government to sign the Geneva Convention treaty.  Although it would take Barton close to a decade to accomplish her goal, The American Red Cross became chartered by the U. S. government (with an expansion to include natural disasters giving it a peacetime purpose), the treaty ratified by Congress, and the organization she founded would go on to become one of the biggest and most influential relief agencies in the world.  Dr. Henry Bellows wrote a letter of congratulations to Barton, lamenting that he was unable to accomplish the feat.[20] 
    Clara Barton prevailed despite many seemingly impregnable obstacles thrown in her way by military authorities and jealous colleagues, but she was not alone.  Dr. Mary Walker navigated through heavy prejudices and attacks on her reputation to assist wounded soldiers as a physician during the Civil War.  Walker decided on a career in medicine and graduated from medical school in 1855.  She married and practiced alongside her husband until they separated four years later due to her eccentricities and his unfaithfulness.  A dedicated champion of dress reform and women’s rights, Walker pushed her way into contracted positions as an assistant surgeon through volunteerism and persistence during the war.  The first woman awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for work in the field in 1865, Walker’s flamboyance continued to rankle those around her, losing her clerkship at the Patent Office in a sexual harassment scandal in the 1880s.  Her work and advocacy of women’s rights opened the door for women in medicine.[21] 
     Although civilians such as Clara Barton and Walt Whitman receive recognition for their contributions during the war, the scope of the significance of civilian support goes unnoticed as historians focus on battles and military and political leaders.  The rise of social history and interest in women’s history have come a long way in promoting individual contributions, but the best lessons learned regarding public participation in wartime continue to receive little attention.  The organizations and dedicated work on the part of civilians during the Civil War has contributed not only to the war effort during the conflict, but changed the lives and improved humanity from their establishment to the present day.  Civilian contributions to this critical period in American history changed social views of the abilities of women, especially for themselves, created innovation that benefited society after the war, and led to a movement to establish humanitarian relief on a national scale and during peacetime.[22]
     The continued ignorance of these facts may lead a general misjudgment regarding the consequences of conflict, with realization of a commitment made too late to retract.  Since the purpose of history is to inform others of the past for understanding of how it may influence our present and future, it seems logical to understand consequences and act rather than react after war is initiated.  It is important to recognize civilian participation and contributions during the Civil War to offer both warning and hope when the storm of war approaches.  Perhaps then history can serve its purpose of assisting decision making and improving the lives of everyone.

[1] Clyde Buckingham, Clara Barton: A Broad Humanity. (Alexandria, VA: Mount Vernon Publishing Company, 1977), pp. 1. Stephen B. Oates, A Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War, (New York: The Free Press, 1994), pp.  17.
[2] Schultz, At The Front, pp. 15-16, 18, 21, 125.
[3] Judith Giesberg, Civil War Sisterhood: The US Sanitary Commission and Women’s Politics in Transition. (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2000), pp. 137.
[4] Ibid., 14, 21.
[5] Kathleen A. Ernst, Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Bookes, 1999), pp. 121-122, 128, 176, 197, 231-232. Jane E. Schultz, Women at the F ront,81, 83. Hospital Workers in Civil War America, (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004), pp. 17.
[6] Schultz, At The Front, 16-17, 19-22, 102-103, 118, 165-166, 213.
[7] Ibid., pp. 6. Marian Moser Jones, The American Red Cross: From Clara Barton to the New Deal, (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), 13.
[8] Schultz, At The Front, pp. 14. Buckingham, Barton, 9-11.
[9] Not all of the influence served to help the soldier.  The USSC pressed Congress to direct soldier pay home to the soldier’s families towards the end of the war, stranding some at the end of the war. Giesberg, Sisterhood,  pp. 137.
 [10] Dorothy Denneen Volo and James M. Volo. Daily Life in Civil War America, Daily Life Series, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998), pp. 169.
[11] Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), pp. 107-110, 136. Schultz, At The Front, 14, 39-40. Clyde Buckingham, Barton, pp. 36.
[12] Faust, Suffering, pp. 105-107, 112-113.
4 Ibid., 113, 116.
[14] Schultz, At The Front, pp. 16.
[15] Ibid., pp. 110, 114, 124, 127.
[16] Ibid., 123.  Whitman's duties were considered nursing at that time.
[17] William E. Barton, The Life of Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross, two volumes, (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922), Vol. 1, 194, 195.
[18] Susan Rosenvold, Clara Barton at Antietam, (Presentation given at annual Save Historic Antietam Foundation Meeting, June 7, 2012). Barton, Founder, 195, 198-199.
[19] Barton, Founder, Vol. 1 pp. 334-348.
[20]  Ibid., Vol. 2, pp. 2-8, 183-184. Oates, Valor, pp. 382. Jones, Red Cross,, pp. 24-25, 31, 33-36.
[21] National Institutes of Health, “Dr. Mary Walker”, Changing the Face of Medicine, accessed 05/24/2014, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_325.html,. Schultz, At The Front , pp. 174, 176-178.
 [22] Buckingham, Barton, 321. Oates, Valor, x, 383. Faust, Suffering, 271.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hold That Thought!

I feel compelled to explain my absence.  Like Clara sometimes suffered from illness, depression, etc., I have been off taking care of other business for a while.  I have also left the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.  A new, thoughtful post will be coming soon.

Meanwhile, please keep an eye out for the opening of the Missing Soldiers Office, or take a ride to Glen Echo and visit Clara's old home from Red Cross and later, the Clara Barton National Historic Site.  Anyone near Worcester, Massachusetts can visit Clara's birthplace in North Oxford.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


One basic rule of business is to network - make connections - with people that are peers, suppliers, in the non-profit world, potential funders, and fans to use when necessary to grow. If a positive personal relationship is developed, one can usually barter for what they need - a productive symbiotic relationship that benefits everyone. There is no evidence that Clara Barton ever took a business class or read any self-help books about building support for her work, but she was born with an innate ability to network and connect those who could help her that ought to be the envy of all due to her extraordinary success. This support system is rarely mentioned, these important people rarely recognized. In fact, I lobbied for their inclusion as part of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine's upcoming Missing Soldiers Office (MSO) Museum in Washington, but there is just not enough space or time to cover all of Barton much less anyone else. To get these critically important supporters recognized, for their stories are also very interesting and informative, I will have to do that here on the blog.
The list of supporters is a long one, her humanitarian career lasted over 50 years. In fact, her support prior to the war in education and as an independent woman continued to offer help after her focus changed drastically. Just as the U.S. military could not have won the Civil War without the significant help it received from civilians, Clara Barton would be lost to history if not for her friends and fans all over the U. S. A. I have attempted to list these American patriots in something of the level of assistance they gave Barton, although it is all arguable. I am sure to miss quite a few important people since my research has revolved primarily around the Civil War era, and not the later Red Cross years at this point. Most family members are not listed due to their obvious support. My list includes (but is not limited to):
Vice President Henry Wilson - US Senator during the Civil War and Chairman of the Senate Military Senate Affairs Committee, gave significant emotional and material support until his death.

Vice President Henry Wilson

Nephew Stephen E. Barton - Gave emotional and material support all through his adult years.
General Daniel H. Rucker - First officer to assist Barton in getting to the battlefield. In command of the Washington Supply Depots when she first met him, he would eventually be Quartermaster General of the Army. Barton transportation, additional supplies and passes to battlefields.

General Daniel H. Rucker
General (Dr.) William A. Hammond


General William A. Hammond - similar support to Rucker, happy to use Barton to get supplies to the field faster. Sent valuable supplies forward with her for faster delivery.

President Abraham Lincoln - Published a notice naming Barton as head of search for missing soldiers. She never met him in person, although they were in close proximity several times.
Secy of War Edwin Stanton - Gave Barton her only official status as a nurse during the war. When she finally met him in 1865 she was pleasantly surprised to see him walk towards her with hand extended and a smile after hearing of his reputation for roughness.
General Benjamin Butler - Got Barton out to the field in 1864, gave her temporary women's prison reform job after the war.

General Benjamin Butler
Mrs. Frances D. Gage


Frances D. Gage - Barton called her Aunt Fannie and she gave tremendous emotional support. Mrs. Gage helped Barton establish and create funding opportunities for the Missing Soldiers Office.
Annie Childs - Made most of Barton's clothes at no cost during the war. Rallied Women's Aid Societies in Massachusetts to send Barton supplies.
Dorence Atwater - supplied Barton with names of over 13,000 soldiers unreportedly buried at Andersonville Prison, Georgia. Acted as Barton's escort and co-speaker during her initial lecture circuit.

Dorence Atwater

Jules Golay - worked at MSO and provided place for Barton to stay in Europe.
General John J. Elwell - Provided emotional support during Barton's stay in South Carolina. Quartered in a room down the hall, Elwell escorted Barton on many horseback rides, picnics, and dining.

General John J. Elwell
Edward Shaw, Esquire


Edward Shaw - Sublet Barton her rooms on 7th Street during the War. Helped her work at the MSO.
General U.S. Grant - gave Barton and one companion free transportation to assist with MSO and endorsed her work.
Honorable Alexander DeWitt - introduced Barton to Massachusetts society in Washington and helped her get work at the Patent Office.

Honorable Alexander DeWitt
Dr. Jullian Hubbell

Dr. Jullian Hubbell - led field work for Barton during the Red Cross years. Barton's trust of Hubbell cut back on how many disasters she felt compelled to attend to personally. For his loyalty and friendship, Barton left him the Glen Echo home in her will.
General Ethan Allen Hitchcock - endorsed Barton's work, writing her introduction to the Provost Marshall in Annapolis and concurring with Generals Rucker and Grant, and (approved by) President Johnson regarding government printing of the Rolls of Missing Men.
General Ethan Allan Hitchcock
I hope you enjoyed meeting some of Clara Barton's best friends and supporters. Wait! That can not be all?! Can you think of anyone else? Leave a comment with a name of the friend and brief description. Thank you for your contribution in advance!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bully For Clara?

Recently it is reported in the news that workplace bullying is a reality, viz. a report that found that a former lineman for a professional football team was bullied by coworkers with the full support of the coaching staff.  The man accused of bullying the lineman claims that what happened was not bullying but a method of toughening up a player to make them more aggressive.  The investigator wrote that besides racial and sexual slurs aimed particularly at the player, his family was also threatened.  That seems to be a peculiar way of toughening one up.  It is sad to see that bullying is not just taking place in schools, but in the workplace as well. 

Workplacing bullying at its worst!

One may wonder, what does this have to do with Clara Barton?  She was famously bullied while working at the Patent Office in the 1850s.  She was the first woman to receive a permanent position at the same rate of pay as her male coworkers.  Most biographers cover the period without telling the whole story.  They wrote that the men were jealous of Barton's position and her pay since women were considered second class citizens unable to perform the tasks given men. 

As Paul Harvey used to say, "and now, the rest of the story."  In an interview with Lenora Halstead in 1890, Miss Barton gives some details of her work that shed a good deal of light about how her co-workers treated her.  She told Ms. Halstead,
The carriage of the Comm[issioner] of Patents called with the request that I sh[oul]d get in & drive down to see him. It was a most unusual thing for a woman to go to one of the Dep[ar]t[ment]s; in those days there was not a woman on their payrolls not one.  There were a few women, the d[aughte]rs and widow of a man who had died who did his work & rec’d pay in his name, but this was substitution and was almost unknown.  However, I got into the carriage & went to see the Comm. as requested.  In his room the first person I saw was an old friend of my father’s who had known me from childhood and who welcomed me cordially.  The Comm. asked me, he said after he had presented me, if I know of a man of perfect integrity & trustworthiness, whoed [sic] do some important work for him in finding out  where frauds had been perpetrated in his accounts, and I told him I knew of no such man, but I did know a woman who c[oul]d exactly serve him and he told me to send for her, & so here you are. I tried to disclaim his praises but the Comm w[oul]d  not listen to me & only asked me if I w[oul]d take the place? I said, ‘Why, I don’t know why I sh[oul]dn’t, yes, I will.” “Very well,” said he, “I am delighted to hear it now when you can come?” “There you choose, said I. “Can you stay now?” “Certainly, “ and I took off my bonnet & shawl & staid [sic].  I worked in that office from that time; I found the frauds, & my service was the first woman’s name to go on the payrolls.  It made a great commotion.  The clerks; they knew what it meant, & they tried to make the place too hard for me.  It wasn’t a pleasant experience, in fact, it was very trying, but I thought perhaps there was some question of principle involved & I lived it through. (italics mine)
Now there's the rub-- Barton stated that she was brought into the Office to investigate fraud and she found some, certainly leading to the dismissal of clerks and examiners.  The Commissioner, Judge Charles Mason, became famous as the man who reformed the Patent Office.  Evidently, Barton conducted the investigation.  It seems reasonable that these clerks were not only jealous of Barton's unusual position, but she also posed a direct threat to their employment.  That threat would certainly cause some men to react by making Barton's life miserable.  Perhaps Barton was not the sweet innocent victim of abuse that writers have made her out to be.  It does not excuse the abuse, but it does give a clearer understanding of the situation at the time.  Barton had every right to feel justified in her work exposing illegal activities in the Office, but leaving that tidbit of information out implies Barton did nothing to cause the abuse.

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Charles Mason

I have to admit, it may well be that this story lost credibility with interpreters because of the lateness of the interview.  Barton was 68 years old in March of 1890.  Any well-trained historian knows that the farther away from an event the less accurate it will be.  But then, family and friends remarked on Barton's keen mind up until her death at age 90. 

Unfortunately, there was nothing Barton could do about the bullies, but it is a shame Mason did not do anything to stop it, or some other man at the Patent Office.  Evidently, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, that is not unusual and sometimes, as in the case in football, it appears even conducted or sanctioned by leadership.  The institute points out that workplace bullying actually reduces the productivity and revenue for an organization that does nothing to stop it.  One would think that from a purely business perspective that would be incentive enough for businesses to be pro-active in preventing bullying.  Although no one should have to endure the abuse Barton did, I admire her for her determination to ignore the abuse and continue her work.  She could be one tough lady.

For more information about today's problems with workplace bullying, go to http://www.workplacebullying.org