Clara Barton

wcbbradyDuring the American Civil War Clarissa Harlowe Barton, or Clara as she like to be called, set the foundations for the founding of the American Red Cross. Many obstacles stood in her way, one of which was transportation, as she struggled to reach soldiers on the battlefield. Her transportation to Harper’s Ferry is described in The Life of Clara Barton by Percy Harold Epler:

    You, who are accustomed to see a coach, and a pair of fine horses with a well-dressed gentlemanly driver draw up to your door, will scarcely appreciate the sensation with which I watched the approach of the long and high, white covered, tortoise-motioned vehicle, with its string of little frisky long-eared animals – with the broad shouldered driver astride – and the eternal jerk of the single rein by which he navigated his craft up to my door.

The standard wagon at the time was ten feet long with a canvas top. When it was time to feed the team, a pole was extended so three animals could eat at a time. Most mule teams of the time were six mule hitches.

The mud was an issue for sanitation reasons, it also affected transportation. Clara reported arriving in Washington, DC. area in the spring of 1864 to find “200 six-mule wagons, crowded full of wounded men waiting to be taken upon the boats for Washington….Of the depth of the mud, the best judgement was formed from the fact that no entire hub of a wheel was in site.” Ms. Barton worked hard to impress upon the War Department the seriousness of efficient transportation upon the suffering. She believed that having medical units at the rear of the column, hours or days away from the fighting, was important.

Following the American Civil War, Clara visited Europe where she was introduced to the International Red Cross. By 1881, Barton and her supporters had formed the foundations of the American Red Cross which came into being in 1893.

Removing the wounded. Digital ID: 1150215. New York Public Library