First Aid Practitioner. Educator and Advocate
Clara Barton's first experience in assisting wounded soldiers came at the very start of the Civil War, when she visited with and gave supplies to the Massachusetts troops who were being quartered in the Capitol building after being involved in the Baltimore Riot of 1861. She quickly understood that the greatest need during the war was going to be for support at the front -- at the field hospitals established on or near the battlefield. She began collecting food, clothing and supplies and distributing them to the soldiers and the surgeons. Her work began with the Battle of Cedar Mountain in 1862, continued throughout the war, and for many years thereafter.
Barton's efforts at the field hospital for multi-faceted. In addition to providing supplies she also prepared food for the soldiers, noted the names of the wounded, built fires, provided support, and did whatever else was needed. She administered to the wounded when she could, assisting the surgeons by providing them with medical supplies and comforting the soldiers in their time of need. She also lobbied the politicians in Washington for improved care of the wounded.
Barton rallied others to assist with the war effort, in particular by encouraging women to gather supplies for the relief of soldiers from their home states. She also stressed that supplies should be gathered before they were needed -- there would always be another battle or circumstance in which they would be required. She understood that the faster relief efforts could reach the scene of a battle, the better off the men would be, which is why she preferred to act on her own rather than as part of a larger group.