"IF IT WERE LEFT TO ME TO RECOMMEND THE PROCESS BY WHICH A NATION SHOULD BE RAISED TO THE HIGHEST STANDING OF MILITARY FAME… I SHOULD COMMENCE BY INSTITUTING MILITARY ACADEMIES FOR ITS WOMEN, FOR THE DAUGHTERS WHO WILL ONE DAY TO BECOME THE MOTHERS OF ITS ARMIES": WONDERFUL AND RARE AUTOGRAPH WARTIME LETTER SIGNED BY CLARA BARTON ADVOCATING MILITARY EDUCATION FOR WOMEN
BARTON, Clara. Autograph letter signed. South Carolina (?), circa 1863. One leaf of lined paper, measuring 8 by 5 inches, writing on both sides, with accompanying autograph envelope. $10000.
Wonderful rare autograph letter signed by Clara Barton advocating military training for women, so they can raise a superior future generation of soldiers.
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.
This letter by Clara Barton appears to be written to Colonel John J. Elwell, the Chief Quartermaster for the Department of the South, with whom she formed a romantic relationship when they were both working at Hilton Head, South Carolina, in 1863. According to the enclosed envelope, Barton read a letter to Elwell by Mrs. Davis and responded to Elwell with this letter. In it, she declares that "I love peace" but also insisted that women should be trained in military academies, so that when they become mothers their sons would be "natural soldiers," worth more than a thousand graduates of West Point.
The note reads in full:
My friend has a right to show such good kindly and grateful letters as that. they harm neither the writer nor the reader. I am sorry Mrs. D. felt so badly. She is a good brave little woman, and I have a high regard for her. She is right. A host of once poor disconsolate women will yet right us in blessing for you.
It may seem small and of little consequence to the world at large—especially the military world, whether a woman is cared for or not, but after all, I have an idea that the elevation and character and education of women has something to with the Military world. If it were left to me to recommend the process by which a nation should be raised to the highest standing of military fame—whose warriors should constitute its chief glory—I should commence by instituting Military academies for its women, for the daughters who will one day to become the mothers of its armies. They should be active and brave and strong and fearless, capable of understanding the plan of a campaign—but women—Ay! laides still.—and the soldier boy, the natural soldier of such a mother would be worth just one thousand drilled dough heads merely without foundation, who had been run through West Point and would command the whole of them. I am not picturing this as a state of things which I should admire for I love peace—but it is nevertheless a fact that woman—ignored as her presence may be—has just so much to do with the creation of warriors, and raising of armies. It will not be simply because our men have been trained and drilled, that the next generation will find us with a better army than this, the mothers are becoming soldiers too, laughably weak it seems I admit, but still a great advance upon the olden time. So then as a patriot, and for the sake of my country in the future God bless the man who sustains the women that follow their husbands to the field. Clara Bartton
[On the envelope]: Copy of letter written Col Elwell upon the reading one of Mrs Davis letters to him in which she thanks him for his care for the soldiers wives.
Expected fold lines, envelope with later pencil notation. Letters of Clara Barton written during the war are exceptionally scarce and very few are known besides this one.