Clara Barton Taps A Shoulder- What was Missing Is Found

JPK Huson 1863

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" Then someone tapped me on my shoulder. I thought it was one of my co-workers come by to help me, but there was no one there. It was then that I saw the envelope stuck up by the ceiling."
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Hallway, as it looked in 1865, of the Missing Soldier's Office, Washington, DC
clara-barton-before-restoration-2.jpg

And what Lyons saw- the museum has retained one of these corners behind plexiglass. very cool.


It's a fairly well known quote by Richard Lyons, Washington, DC General Services Administration carpenter who was inspecting an old building slated for demolition. There was no one else there- instead of fleeing, screaming from the old building Lyons read that letter. He'd just found Clara Barton's post war living and working quarters. There was no more talk of demolition.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/08/AR2006080801394.html
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Lyons found this sign in the attic of a building slated for demolition- the lost office of Clara Barton.

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You can't get these photos on LoC any more- they've made them tiny. Have to go to archives or NYPL. Clara post war, still determined. Still around, too, having tapped Lyons on the shoulder and directed his attention to an ancient letter stuck in a beam.

That was almost 20 years ago. It's a great story about a great story, Clara Barton's abandoned belongings found in the attic of her post-war enterprise, nearly destroyed but for a carpenter who was tapped on the shoulder by someone who he could not see. The enterprise was all but forgotten these past 150 years, no idea how. Clara was called elsewhere, families buried their dead, the office closed.
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Thankfully. it's all now a museum, part of The Museum of Civil War Medicine in Washington, DC.
http://www.clarabartonmuseum.org/
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"In 1865, Barton hired a staff and opened the "Office of Correspondence with the Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army" in this building. Barton took up the cause of grieving parents, family and friends whose husbands, sons, brothers, and neighbors were missing. She responded to over 63,000 letters, most of which required some kind of research that eventually lead to published lists of the names of the missing. Anyone with knowledge of their whereabouts or death could contact Barton. By the time the office closed in 1868, she and her staff had identified the fate of over 22,000 men."
https://washington.org/find-dc-listings/clara-barton-missing-soldiers-office-museum
cb new june 1865.JPG
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22,000. Scattered here and there over the internet we can find these stories, families frantic for word of loved ones who marched with regiments off to war, never to be heard of again. Clara would receive these letters and unbelievably get results. She published names, asking the public to please respond if any were recognized. It was tedious, frequently heartbreaking work- I haven't been able to find where living soldiers were reunited with families. Perhaps it occurred, just have not found them. Only Clara Barton would emerge from hospital tents and a war just over to engage human suffering elsewhere.
cb news july 1865 1.JPG


cb news 1866.JPG




" Clara sent out these form letters to acknowledge the receipt of inquiry letters. "
cb form letter.jpg

Form letter, with name " Thomas Payntar " filled in, on receiving a letter from his family. The Washington Civil War Museum of Medicine uses this image, signed by Clara Barton to show the process by which families could be helped.

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. "


http://www.civilwarmed.org/surgeons-call/payntar/

Letter received, part of one investigation into a missing soldier. There is more on Thomas, at the link, dislike benefitting from someone else's research.
cb news june 1865 2.JPG


Another of the 22,000, a Wisconsin story will wrench heartstrings. If anyone doubts the existence in one's anatomy, ' heartstring ', you'll find it awfully darn quickly. James. W. Skeels was a missing soldier from Wisconsin. Someone on their Veteran's state website has done an incredible job. He is listed as still Missing in Action. Clara's office participated- her form letter is posted here.

"More than twenty years afterJames disappeared, his father wrote this letter requesting aid, stating, “My son was all the help I had until he enlisted and when I lost him I lost all.” Also posted on the site.

" Skeels earned a promotion to Corporal in march 1864 and, two months later, accompanied his regiment as it began taking part in General Eilliam T. Sherman’s epic Atlanta campaign. On 9 may 1864, a mere week after the campaign began, Skeels was wounded in the side and captured during a skirmish at Varnell’s Station, Georgia that saw a total of five killed, twenty wounded, and eighteen captured from the 1st Wisconsin cavalry. Originally held prisoner in southern Georgia (very possibly at Andersonville), in the fall of 1864, Skeels and many other prisoners in the line of Sherman’s March were moved north to a newly constructed prison in Florence, South Carolina. Horrendous conditions at the camp led to death for many prisoners and severe illness for others. As Sherman’s forces turned their attention to the Carolinas in early 1865, confederate officials decided to send the able-bodied prisoners from Florence to Greensboro, while the ill prisoners went to Wilmington. Skeels arrived at Wilmington in late February 1865, was paroled on 27 February, and was admitted to the general hospital there on 6 March. His family never heard from him again, despite enlisting the aid of his friends from the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry as well as state and Federal Government Officials, such as Clara Barton of the office of correspondence for missing men of the U.S. Army. "
http://www.wisvetsmuseum.com/exhibitions/online/missing_in_action/?ID=25

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Thank you, Clara.


 

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kholland

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Great read, Annie. Boy, the place looks much better then when I saw it. About three years ago it was opened to the public before the renovation started. Nothing was in the rooms except for a small table holding books and pamphlets watched over by a representitive from the National Museum of Civil War Medicine (can't recall if it was George Wunderlich, who was in charge at the time) and all the walls looked like the second photo. He did let me touch an original doorknob- my 15 minutes of fame!!!!! :smug:
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Love to ascertain whether or not anyone was found alive? It's possible- maybe a soldier was still in bad shape somewhere or head wound had prevented him from remembering his past, who knows? So very many families just wished to have their soldier home even if it meant burying them, as with the southern families famously bringing home the Gettysburg Dead. That was not achieved until the 1870's, poor people. Clara was able to begin her efforts immediately post war, thankfully providing answers for 22,000 families.

What's mind boggling is the loss of so many without a trace- the other 40,000 or so, gosh. You read the stories and comrads write things like " He was there one minute, gone the next " and " He fell back to hold the horses, that's the last I saw of him."

A few of these stories are scattered through the internet. If her museum wished a terrific fund raiser, perhaps publishing a book on the Missing Soldier stories would do well.

As massive a project as this was Clara was needed elsewhere- making sense of unidentified at Andersonville. That was her, too. I think I read she left for Georgia with 17,000 headstones in railroad cars. God bless her.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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She just never, ever stopped! SO funny- my great grandfather was an army surgeon but somehow attached to the Red Cross. In his scrap books exist photos from early in the WW1, in Europe still using " Sanitary Commission ", for a camp or storehouse. Have his Red Cross arm bands and a few other things from those days. Such a short time after Clara began her organization and it was just so huge.

Just posting this to get an ides what one, compassionate woman did- our country had not entered the war. 2 yeas after Clara Barton died, medical staff in a Serbian, military hospital was wiped out by typhoid. Wounded were dying. The Red Cross sent their surgeon, my grgreat grandfather Will being one. Waters in war time were not friendly- his first berth was booked on a ship called the Lusitania, a last-minute summons from Washington calling the Red Cross docs to some official function lost him his room. No one told my Nana who was planning his funeral. He was on the Canopic, left harbor together. Yet the steady stream of Red Cross workers did not cease despite danher. You have to think of Clara each time you see that symbol.

will jolley red cross.jpg

Clara Barton's Red Cross arm band in Serbia, 1914, an American Red Cross doctor alleviating suffering there- my great grandfather Will. Who knows if his father, Civil War veteran, 126th OVI benefitted from Clara personally?
 

James N.

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Some of Clara's things are on display at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland - note the signs from her Washington, D. C. office below.

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