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Builders of Our Country: Book II by  Gertrude van Duyn Southworth

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CLARA BARTON

[252] FORT SUMTER had been fired upon; and in response to Lincoln's call for troops, Massachusetts had sent a regiment to Washington. As the soldiers were passing through Baltimore they were attacked by a mob. Some were killed, and forty were wounded.

Among the anxious crowd waiting about the Washington station for the arrival of the wounded men was Miss Clara Barton. Her heart was full of sympathy when she saw the suffering soldiers. She followed to where they were carried, and gave up her time to nursing them. Hard as the work was, she liked it. And seeing how much she could do to help and comfort the sick soldiers, she nobly offered her services for as long as they might be needed.


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CLARA BARTON.

The women of the North responded to Lincoln's call as promptly as the men. While the troops were gathering to defend the Union, the Northern women were rolling bandages, making delicacies, and collecting comforts to be sent to the front—a work which they kept up throughout the war.

[253] That all these supplies might be handled wisely, the United States appointed the Sanitary Commission. With the money and necessities sent from the different Northern States and, above all, with the help of such women as Mary Livermore, Dorothy Dix, and Clara Barton, this Sanitary Commission did a wonderful work. Many a soldier, wounded in the battles of the West, was carried north on the Mississippi ambulance boat. Still others—and these in thousands—were cared for by nurses on the battlefield or in the camp hospital.

When the war was over, and Miss Barton was no longer needed to attend the country's injured soldiers, she went abroad. She was worn out and needed rest. In the course of her travels she learned that the chief nations of Europe had organized the Red Cross Society, and had pledged themselves to uphold it. The object of this society was to care for all sick or wounded soldiers needing help, whether friend or foe. It had adopted a flag—a red cross on a white ground—the reverse of the flag of Switzerland, where the society had been organized; and it was agreed that even on the battlefield this flag should be respected by both sides alike.

What possibilities lay before such a society! Miss Barton, after her Civil War experience, easily saw what it could do; so she became a member of the Red Cross, and served under its flag on European battlefields.


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THE WORK OF THE RED CROSS IN THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR.

When at last she returned to America, it was with the determination to induce her country to sign the international agreement regarding the Red Cross Society. At this time the United States was at peace, and it was hard to interest people in a society to care for injured soldiers. But after five years of constant effort on Miss Barton's part, the Association of the American Red Cross was formed, with Clara Barton as its president. Not only did [254] the American Red Cross Society pledge itself to the care of wounded soldiers in the time of war; it also agreed to render relief to the victims of any great national calamity.

Great calamities have, in one year and another, befallen the American nation since; and time and again the Red Cross Society has worked to relieve the results of flood, fire, or pestilence. In May, 1889, the breaking of a dam in western Pennsylvania was followed by a flood which nearly swept Johnstown out of existence. Houses were carried away, thousands of people were killed, and those who survived were homeless and without food. To this scene of desolation Miss Barton and her fellow Red Cross members went. And for five months they stayed, sometimes in tents, sometimes shelterless, distributing the money, food, and other supplies sent to the afflicted city.

[255] Nor was this all. Six "Red Cross Hotels" were put up as quickly as possible, and here the homeless people were sheltered and fed. Three thousand houses were built by a general committee, and the Red Cross Society supplied each and every one of them with furniture and made them ready for use. When she went home, Miss Barton left behind her the beginnings of a new and grateful Johnstown.

Nine years later came our war with Spain. Spain owned several of the West Indian Islands, Cuba among them; and the cruel treatment of the Spanish Government had driven Cuba to revolt. For a while America watched the unequal struggle, and then our country ordered Spain to give the Cubans their freedom. She refused, and American soldiers and sailors were sent to win for the Qubans what they could not win for themselves.

Even before our country took a hand in Cuba's war, Clara Barton had visited the island and tried to relieve the terrible misery and starvation caused by Spanish brutality. Then, during the war, while the Red Cross flag waved over the army hospitals, the plucky nurses fed and nursed the wounded soldiers, helped the surgeons at their work, and comforted the dying.

Thirty-seven years lay between the opening of our Civil War and our war with Spain. These thirty-seven years had changed Miss Barton from a young woman to a woman of nearly seventy. Yet she served as energetically, as loyally and unselfishly in Cuba as she had served the boys in blue and gray so many years before.

Through her efforts the Red Cross Society is now firmly planted in America, its members always ready to share the hardships and lessen the sufferings of the victims of future disasters. In years to come, as in years gone by, Americans will richly bless the name of Clara Barton.


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