TWO WARS AND A WEDDING: Betsy and the Red Cross

I was tempted to title this post “Betsy meets Clara Barton”, but that sounded a bit too much like an old Scooby Doo episode…. (Although, really, I’d watch time traveling Scooby Doo.)

Forgive me!  Book launch makes me a bit loopy.

You may know Clara Barton as the Civil War Angel of the Battlefield, America’s answer to Florence Nightingale.  Or you may know her as the founder of the American Red Cross (possibly via her cameo on the first season of The Gilded Age).

By 1898, Clara Barton was 76 years old, and was contending with both sexism and ageism.  People commented scornfully on her too youthful clothes (she favored bright green dresses and red ribbons) at the same time they suggested she was past it and probably not up to the work anymore.  (Spoiler: she was absolutely up to the work.)

Clara Barton and four nursing sisters of the New York Red Cross Hospital were already in Cuba in spring of 1898, bringing food and medical care to the starving women and children of Cuba.  When word of war came and American citizens were ordered to leave Cuba, Clara Barton’s team relocated to Florida, where she repeatedly offered their services in the event of war.

Here are the four nursing sisters in Tampa in 1898, waiting for the word to sail.  This is where Betsy joins them, on the relief ship The State of Texas (also below) as they wait to be summoned to the battlefield.

They put on a bandage demonstration in Hyde Park; they cared for the minor wounds of bored and restless soldiers who managed to find inventive ways of injuring themselves; they toured a hospital ship where the doctors reminded Clara Barton that she was really very old and it was a long time since her days on the Civil War battlefield.

The Army finally set sail for Cuba– and the summons didn’t come.  Barton and her nurses sailed anyway.  When the word came that there had been a battle and wounded were pouring into the port town of Siboney, Barton and her nurses headed straight there, taking a boat to shore through terrifying surf that made even the hardy retch over the side.  (There’s Siboney.  Ignore the billowing clouds of smoke– that’s a month later, in July, when they burn the whole place down because of yellow fever.  But that’s outside the scope of this story.)

I don’t want to say too much more, since that will give away the story, but here’s the Cuban hospital, where Barton and her nurses pitch in when they’re turned away from the U.S. Army hospital:

And here’s the Red Cross hospital that Barton and her nurses set up:

Barton’s ship was stocked with medical supplies, including these early antiseptic dressings:

For a very, very detailed account of Clara Barton’s adventures in Cuba, with lots more pictures and links to her diary entries, click here.

For a shorter and pithier rundown, also with pictures, you can find the bit of the Plant Museum Spanish-American War exhibit dedicated to the Red Cross here.

I can’t believe we’re down to less than one week until you can read about Betsy’s adventures in Two Wars and a Wedding!

— If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, there are a few days left to take advantage of the FoxTale Book Shoppe pre-order, in which you get a Two Wars notepad as well as a signed book.

— I’m going to be running around on book tour for the next month!  I hope you can join me at some of the tour stops.  I’ll be in Connecticut, NYC, Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona, upstate New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.  You can find more details here.

— Want to learn more about the background behind this book?  Check out the bibliography!

Leave a Comment