The youngest of five children in a middle-class family, Clara Barton was born on Christmas Day 1821 in Oxford, Massachusetts. Although she was educated at home, Clara began teaching school herself at the age of fifteen in various elementary schools in Massachusetts and New Jersey between the years 1836 and 1854. Prior to the Civil War, Clara's most noteworthy achievement was the establishment of a free public school in Bordentown, New Jersey. Additionally, her only medical experience prior to the war was when she cared for her invalid brother David for two years.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Clara lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked at the U.S. Patent Office. Following the Baltimore Riots, upon the 6th Massachusetts Regiment arriving in Washington, it was Clara who organized a relief program for the soldiers, starting her lifelong career as a nurse and humanitarian.
After the First Battle of Bull Run at the start of the Civil War, Clara soon learned that many of the wounded soldiers had suffered from a lack of medical supplies.
Devoting herself to correcting this problem, she advertised for donations to buy supplies in Worcester, Massachusetts and began her own operation to distribute these supplies. Her operation a success, she was soon given a general pass by the U.S. Surgeon General, William Hammond, to travel with army ambulances.
For the next three years Barton traveled along with the army operations throughout Virginia and South Carolina, especially in the area of Charleston. Following the Battle of the Wilderness, she cared for the wounded at Fredericksburg, Virginia, so well that she attracted national attention. From this point she then served as superintendent of nurses in Major General Benjamin Butler's command. In addition to nursing, Clara also formed a program at Camp Parole, Maryland, whereby she attempted...