Of the thousands of women who served on the home front and battlefields of the Civil War, few are as well-known as the indomitable Clara Barton. Renowned as a humanitarian, educator, and activist, Clarissa Harlowe Barton (1821-1912) dedicated her life to helping others, first as a teacher who worked with underprivileged children, then as a nurse during the Civil War, and later as founder of the American Red Cross.
Known as the “angel of the battlefield” for her tireless work to bring supplies and medical aid to Union soldiers, Barton went on to become the government liaison for missing soldiers in the years immediately following the war. Barton was made aware of the need while caring for her ailing brother and nephew in early 1865 and wrote to President Abraham Lincoln who granted her permission to create the Missing Soldiers Office in March. Operating out of her Washington, D.C. home with twelve clerks, the office fielded more than 63,000 items of correspondence and contacted the families of approximately 22,000 missing soldiers.