Resourceful and fearless, Clara Barton was the first female clerk at the U.S. Patent Office. She ultimately founded the American Red Cross, serving as its first president.
The Civil War defined her. Ignoring orders to stay in Washington, Barton worked as an independent nurse at nearly every major battle in the eastern theater, starting at the Second Battle of Bull Run in 1862.
EL: Why did you defy orders and go to the battlefields?
Barton: I felt compelled to face danger, but never feared it, and while our soldiers could stand and fight, I could stand and nurse them.
EL: What was the closest you came to death?
Barton: A ball had passed between my body and my right arm supporting a soldier, cutting through my sleeve and passing through his chest from shoulder to shoulder. There was no more to be done for him. I have never mended that hole in my sleeve. I wonder if a soldier ever does mend a bullet hole in his coat.
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