"HE HAS ALWAYS BELONGED TO THE NORTHERN DEMOCRACY… GOD ONLY KNOWS HOW WELCOME THE SIGHT OF THE 'STARTS AND STRIPES' WOULD BE TO HIM": WONDERFUL AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED FROM CLARA BARTON, WRITTEN DURING THE CIVIL WAR, SEEKING CONSIDERATION FOR HER BELOVED OLDEST BROTHER STEPHEN, STILL LIVING IN NORTH CAROLINA, TOGETHER WITH A RELATED AUTOGRAPH LETTER DRAFT BY BARTON
BARTON, Clara. Autograph letter signed. WITH: Autograph letter. Washington, D.C., June 21, 1861 / July 14, 1861. One leaf, measuring 8 by 10 inches, folded, for four pages total, with original autograph envelope. WITH: One leaf, measuring 8 by 5 inches, writing on both sides. $12,500.
Wonderful autograph letter signed by Clara Barton written during the Civil War, expressing concern for her brother who was still in the South, evoking Lincoln, John Brown, slavery and secessionists, together with a related autograph letter draft by Barton.
Born in Massachusetts, Barton was persuaded by her parents to become a schoolteacher, receiving her teacher's certificate in 1839. After working as a teacher for a dozen years, she attended the Clinton Liberal Institute in New York to continue her education. In 1852, she successfully opened a free school in Bordentown, the first free school in New Jersey. Demoted after the town built a new school and hired a male principal, Barton quit. In 1855, she moved to Washington, D.C., and began work as a clerk in the Patents Office, the first woman to receive a substantial clerkship and equal pay with a man. After three years, the Buchanan administration fired her because of her "Black Republican" political views. After living with friends in Massachusetts for three years, she returned to Washington and took a position as temporary copyist in the Patents Office. After the Baltimore Riot of 1861 against Massachusetts troops, Barton nursed forty of the the victims back to health and learned valuable lessons about aiding soldiers. She began collecting medical supplies and distributing them to soldiers. In August 1862, she received permission from Quartermaster Daniel Rucker to work on the front lines. Throughout the war, she distributed medicine and food to wounded soldiers in close proximity to the battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. In 1864, General Benjamin Butler placed her in charge of hospitals at the front of the Army of the James. For her Civil War service, Barton became known as the "Angel of the Battlefield" and the "Florence Nightingale of America." After the war, she ran the Office of Missing Soldiers in Washington, helping to locate the remains of more than 22,000 missing soldiers. She also lectured about her experiences and became associated with the women's suffrage movement and the civil rights movement for African Americans. In 1869, she became acquainted with the Red Cross in Switzerland and aided military hospitals during the Franco-Prussian War. In 1881, she founded the American Red Cross and became its first president. She continued to work in the field in response to natural disasters and wars as late as 1900.
In this letter, Barton appeals to Major General Augustus Morse and Major Fletcher of Massachusetts to pass along information to Major General Benjamin F. Butler about her brother in North Carolina. In 1855, Stephen Barton had purchased a lumber mill in North Carolina and established the town of Bartonville. After secession, he remained in North Carolina to protect his property. Although Confederate authorities ordered him to leave the state and attempted to seize his property, he remained as a nonbelligerent Unionist in a Confederate state. In the summer of 1863, he declined to leave with a Union expedition, and he was at last captured in September 1864 by Union forces and sent to a prison in Norfolk. Responding to a request from Clara Barton, general Benjamin F. Butler had Stephen Barton released and delivered to her on the James River near Richmond; he died a few months later, still under his sister's care.
The letter reads in full:
Washington, D.C. June 21st 1861
Maj Genl Morse or
I desire to direct your attention to the situation of my brother, Capt. Stephen Barton Jr., originally of Oxford, Worcester Co. Mass. and residing there until 1855, at which time he removed to Hertford Co. North Carolina, and founded a village or "place" situated on the Chowan River, sixty miles south of Norfolk, known as Bartonsville. The traveled or mail route from Norfolk is by R.R. to Blackwater, twenty eight miles, thence by Boat down the river to Bartonsville, some thirty miles or more, but by straight route across the country only about eighteen miles from Blackwater. My brother has some 1500 acres of land from which he is cutting the timber, has a steam mill, and has shipped lumber quite extensively to most of the Northern ports, has run his mills constantly during the last six months with no sales, and has now $15,000 worth of manufactured lumber lying at his yard, probably awaiting the torch of the "secessionist." He has - - - 150 or 200 acres of land under cultivation, raises perhaps a thousand bushels of corn, five hundred bushels of potatoes, and such kinds and quantities of grain as is usual on such tracts of land. He has some houses, a store when he has opportunity to supply it, Post Office, and other conveniences, some cows, oxen, horses, a number of mules, and from eighty to a hundred hogs. Has usually employed from twenty to thirty men, partly those who persisted in following him from Mass. and partly hired negroes. He has no family with him, his only son having been advised to leave, along with all the young Northern men, for fear of their being impressed into the southern army. Five of them succeeded in obtaining a hundred dollars, a few weeks since and started for Massachusetts. With discounts, and delays, the Virginians managed to oblige them to part with all they had, on slave soil, stole their trunks, and they made Washington, through threats and insults, penniless, and much doubting if they should find a Government which could be lived under, when once its borders were gained, for they were constantly assured that muskets would be placed in their hands, and they forced to join "Lincoln's Minions" the moment they set foot on northern soil.
My brother is a man of more than ordinary natural ability. He is part the prime of life, and hard labor and exposure have made sad inroads upon his naturally iron frame, for physically he has been one of the mightiest men I have known. He is noble souled and generous to a fault, and at heart a patriot—his father was a soldier, and under "Mad Anthony Wayne" contested inch by inch our western frontiers—for years no bed but the tangled brush, or roof, but the starry sky. I have nothing to ask in regard to him. I only desire that our Commdg officer in that quarter should know of him. It has often occurred to me that such a knowledge might be a mutual benefit, for if himself and property were imperilled while our troops protected him, he should could "aid and comfort" them. He has been compelled to make oath, not to take up arms against the South, but the spirit in which it was done may be inferred from a reply he gave to a Vigilance Committee which waited upon him during the John Brown excitement. He was informed that he would be obliged to leave there. —he replied that, "that might be true:—but when it should be his place of destination would be another world than this, and he should not go alone. he should take as many of them along with him as lay in his power, and they might rest assured it would be no mean number."
They left him.
He has always belonged to the Northern democracy and has been a consistent polititian. I would not have suspicion directed to him, and then be left to the fury of his foes—but if he could be sustained, God only knows how welcome the sight of the "stars and stripes" would be to him.
I am aware that I have wearied your patience, but my anxiety must be my apology. If from all this, you can gather a few facts which might be worthy the ear of our gallant Genl Butler my greatest fear would be that I might never be able to Bless you both as my heart would desire.
With the highest respect
I am &c
Clara H. Barton
If from all this you can gather a few facts the knowledge of which may afford our advancing troops any degree of rest and security in a strange and hostile country or my brother the slightest relief in his trying and perilous situation my objects will have been a thousand times gained, and my gratitude shall be ever pure.
[Envelope]: Manor Genl Morse 3rrd Divs. M.V.M. / or Major Fletcher
The second autograph letter, an apparent unfinished draft written just one week before the First Battle of Bull Run, has Barton writing to Benjamin F. Butler about her brother just over three weeks later. It seems that Major Fletcher did respond to Barton’s request and spoke to General Butler, advising Barton to write directly to Butler.
The letter reads in full:
Washington D.C. July 14th 1861. General, Our mutual acquaintance Major Fletcher of Mass. very kindly informs me that in accordance with my known wishes, he has spoken to you of a Brother of mine, in North Carolina, and intimated that I might hoe to be forgiven, if I so far trespassed upon your time and attention, as to write you a more particular account of him. I wish I might be able to do it in fewer words than I fear I may. My Brother, Capt. Stephen Barton Jr. is a native of Oxford, Worcester Co., Mass. residing there until 1855 when he removed to Hertford Co. North Carolina, and founded a village or "placed," situated on the Chowan River, Sixty miles south of Norfolk, known as Bartonsville. The traveled or mail route from Norfolk is by R.R. to Blackwater, twenty eight miles, thence by Boat down the River to Bartonsville, some thirty miles. Another route is by canal from Norfolk to Albemarle Sound, thence up the Chowan, a distance in all of eighty or a hundred miles. He is forty miles from the confluence of the River and Sound, in direct communication with the Sea, and but for the bars of the Ocracoke Inlet.
Expected fold lines. Letters of Clara Barton written during the war are exceptionally scarce and very few are known besides these.