Chase Rubin: Clara Barton and the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross has a long history of helping those in need. It was founded by a group led by Clara Barton in 1881, but Ms. Barton had been working to help others for decades before that.
Clara Barton helped to save lives – and inspired others to save lives – during the Civil War. She gathered medical supplies, food, and clothing to send to soldiers. She realized that field hospitals were extremely filthy and that the soldiers would greatly benefit from the improvement of these hospitals. She attended to soldiers in hospitals that were very close to battle sites, such as Fredericksburg and Antietam, and did such good work that she was known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.”
After the war was over her work for the soldiers continued. She helped families to search for soldiers that hadn’t returned home, and helped to identify soldiers that were missing or killed in action. Barton and her assistants helped to locate over 22,000 missing men. She also helped to find and give proper burial to 20,000 men who died at Andersonville, a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp that was known for its horrendous conditions.
Years after the Civil War, Barton visited Europe, where she learned of the Red Cross network that operated in Switzerland. Inspired, she helped to found and then lead the American Red Cross for 23 years, during which time the group helped the United States military during the Spanish-American War and also helped with disaster relief both domestically and overseas.
Barton died in 1912, but the good work of the Red Cross has continued. They help those in need during wartime and peacetime, both civilians and soldiers. They have helped during disease outbreaks and during natural disasters. Now, the Red Cross may be best known for their efforts to collect donated blood, as well as for helping members of the military and their families.