A portrait of Clara Barton, Civil War nurse and founder of the American Red Cross, from the book Red Cross in Peace and War, written by Clara Barton.
One of the advantages of letting people know about your museum projects is that some generous people will donate items for the project! Since it was announced that the National Museum of Civil War Medicine was partnering with the General Services Administration to open the Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office Museum, we have received a few donations which relate to Clara Barton. Let’s take a look at these recent acquisitions now. The first one we received was a book titled, Red Cross in Peace and War, which was written by Clara Barton and published in 1899. It contains accounts of her work after the Civil War with the Red Cross, as well as many black & white photos and illustrations of the places where she worked. The book shows some wear but is in reasonably good condition. Notice that Clara’s signature is reproduced on the cover! Next we received a photograph which included Clara Barton. This photo is of the graduating class of the Philadelphia School of Nursing, taken in June 1903. The woman in the dark dress in the front row is Miss Clara Barton, at age 82. She was the commencement speaker and Honorary President for this class of nurses. When the photo is enlarged you can actually recognize Clara Barton! We then received a group of three documents which pertain directly to the Missing Soldiers Office. Two of the documents are letters concerning a soldier named Thomas Jefferson Payntar of the 4th NY Cavalry, who was declared missing in action after the Battle of Travilian Station in Virginia in July of 1864. The letters were written after the battle by his commanding officer and one of his comrades. His commander was able to tell Mrs. Payntar about the last time he saw Thomas, “… just before dark I saw him mount his horse and take his place in the ranks, like the good soldier he always proved himself to be.” He speculated that Thomas had been wounded and taken prisoner, but that was all the information he was able to give her. The other letter actually mentions Clara Barton’s Roll of Missing Soldiers, which she posted in newspapers in an effort to find the missing men or discover their fates. [The letter is copied using the writer’s own grammar and spelling.] Muncy Station, Pa., Aug. 4th/66 Mrs. Thomas J. Payntar, On looking over the Rolls of missing men that Clara Barton has published I came across the name of my comrad Thos. J. Payntar and feel it my duty for his sake to inform you as near as I can the place and time I last seen him. It was at Travillian Station, Va. on the 11th of June 1864. The Regt was ordered to fight (on foot) and every fourth man hold his own horse and three others and it fell to him to hold the horses. I was riding by his side and gave him my horse to hold. That was the last time I seen him. We were over powered and forced to fall back on our Horses and when we found them they were all scattered through others. I could see nothing of mine although I sucseeded in gettin one and made my escape. His horse was found in the Regt the next day. Thos. J. was returned as missing in action. I thought he was taken Prisnor, but if he has not been heard of yet it is likely he was killed. Alass did I say killed? It makes my heart bleed when I think of the noble dead that has fallen by the hands of tratars in Rebellion. I think I have written all that will be of interest to you and hope you will excuse the liberty I have taken. Respectfully, W.H. McCowan, late Sergt. Co. E, 4 NY Cav. P.S. Pleas answer The third document is the reply from Clara Barton which Mrs. Payntar received after sending a letter to the “Office of Correspondence with the Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army” regarding her husband. Due to the high volume of requests which the Office received, Clara sent out forms like the one pictured below: This document, dated July 17, 1865, was sent to Mrs. Payntar to confirm that her letter had been received, and to let her know that her husband’s name would be placed on the Roll of Missing Soldiers. Clara Barton was not able to find Thomas J. Payntar, but by 1867 she had responded to over 63,000 letters and had identified the fates of about 22,000 men. Though undoubtedly she had to report that many of the men had been killed, it had to have provided some closure for the grieving families. Artifacts such as these will certainly help to tell the story of Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office Museum when it opens! *Note – If you are interested in helping the Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office Museum to win a grant that would provide funding to restore the windows for the building, please click here to cast your vote! Thank you! Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.