Originally a teacher, then a clerk for the U.S. Patent Office, Clara Barton was one of the most famous women of the Civil War. After the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run, Barton established the main agency to obtain and distribute supplies to wounded soldiers after she recognized the unpreparedness of the U.S. Army Medical Department. Finally in August 1862, after much lobbying, she obtained permission to travel to the front lines, eventually reaching some of the grimmest battlefields of the war.
Soon after Barton was granted permission to visit the front lines the Second Battle of Manassas/Bull Run occurred just outside Washington DC. The Union Army withdrew in defeat, and soon was engaged in the Battle of Ox Hill/Chantilly in Fairfax County on their way back to Washington. In nearby Fairfax Station a field hospital was set up at Saint Mary's Catholic Church to nurse the wounded from these two battles. The wounded were laid out on the Church's hill and taken care of so they could be placed on trains going east to Alexandria as soon as possible.
Here, Barton nursed the wounded for three days and nights and doctors operated in the only dry place available, the church. Miss Barton, her volunteers, and the doctors remained until the last of the wounded were evacuated. As a result of her experiences at such places as Fairfax Station and Antietam, she devised a plan to establish a civilian society, which became the American Red Cross. Her former home in Glen Echo, MD pays tribute to Barton and her legacy.
After the war Barton achieved widespread recognition by delivering lectures around the country about her war experiences and setting up the Missing U.S. Soldiers Office. She met Susan B. Anthony and began a long association with the woman's suffrage movement, and also became acquainted with Frederick Douglass and became an activist for black civil rights.