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Barton, Clara.

Story of the Red Cross, A.


Barton, Clara. A Story Of The Red Cross. Glimpses of Field Work. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1904.
8vo.; tan cloth, stamped in red; spine rubbed; sound and solid. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
First edition of Barton's account of her role in both the International and American Red Cross, published in the year that she was forced to relinquish the presidency of the American organization. A presentation copy, inscribed, To my friend Mr. Graves with pleasant memories and high regards of the author Clara Barton Glen Echo Md August 8, 1904.
Her life's work came to her in the guise of the bedraggled, sick and desperate young men who flooded into the capital from the first engagements of the Civil War. She visited the Bull Run battlefield and was horrified at the lack of supplies and the abundance of chaos. Using her own money-and her own home as a storehouse-she and her friends began distributing medical supplies over the objections of the War Department, and without the cooperation of other voluntary groups like the United States Sanitary Commission and Dorothea Dix's division of female nurses.
She worked not only in the hospitals, but on the battlefields themselves, sometimes under fire. She was present at Second Bull Run, Chantilly, South Mountain and the charnel houses of Antietam and Fredericksburg. She literally waded through blood. "I wrung the blood from the bottom of my clothing," she wrote home to her family, "before I could step, for the weight about my feet." Her reports of the Army's medical inadequacies led to an official investigation and some degree of remediation. The Sanitary Commission then took over most of her activities and Barton spent the remainder of the war traveling to different fronts and performing nursing duties at Port Royal, Fort Wagner, Fredericksburg again, and the Wilderness, before taking the post as head nurse of the Army of the James. After the war she helped in the agonizing search for soldiers listed as missing in action.
In 1868, exhausted by her work and travel on the lecture circuit, Barton suffered a breakdown that led to a European convalescence. There she learned about the International Red Cross-which was founded in 1863 but gained official status with the ratification of the Geneva Treaty in 1864. Learning that her own government had declined to participate in the treaty, Barton suddenly found a new cause. She continued to work with the International group in various wars throughout the 1870s, and in 1881 she helped create the American Association of the Red Cross. It was not until 1882 that her goal of American participation in the Geneva Treaty was realized and it was not until another 18 years passed that Congress provided a federal charter for the group.
Lack of official recognition proved no impediment to her work. She broadened the scope of the Red Cross mission by using it to meet civilian as well as military disasters. A forest fire in Michigan, the Johnstown flood, a yellow fever epidemic in Florida, the Armenian massacres, and the Galveston hurricane-all saw Barton and the American Red Cross in action. She describes many of those exploits in this book, which she wrote, in part, to stem a growing chorus of criticism over her idiosyncratic and highly personalized methods of running the organization.
Congress may have granted the American Red Cross a federal charter, but Barton ran it like a personal fiefdom. The Glen Echo home referenced in the inscription served as the organization's headquarters; she handled all finances and refused to hire an accountant or subject the organization to an audit-taking any suggestions along those lines as a personal insult; relief efforts were not begun unless Barton approved and personally led the work. The size and complexity of the organization convinced several trustees that more orderly procedures were needed in place of the founder's ad hoc touch. An attempted coup was put down in 1902 when Barton convinced enough of the Board to have her declared lifetime president. "Our foes were slain at our feet," she exulted in her diary-but the day of reckoning could only be postponed. The mutinous directors found a sympathetic ear in President Theodore Roosevelt, who withdrew federal support in 1903. Only the big stick of presidential power proved capable of felling the Angel of the Battlefield, and she resigned in 1904.

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