Barton’s first battlefield experiences, at Culpeper and Fairfax Station, Virginia, in July and August 1862, shocked her. She made it her business to fill as much of the medical and supply gap as she personally could and later described her work of the next three years as lying “anywhere between the bullet and the hospital.” With skirt pinned up around her waist and a face blue from gunpowder, she served gruel, extracted bullets, and held the hands of the dying. During the battle of Antietam, she assisted at surgery, dressing wounds with green corn leaves when the bandages were exhausted. The chief surgeon wrote, “In my feeble estimation, General McClellan, with all his laurels sinks into insignificance beside the true heroine of the age, the angel of the battlefield.” In Fredericksburg, Barton nearly lost her life while crossing the river to tend the wounded; once across she wrote she could barely step for the weight of her blood-soaked skirts. During the siege of Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in 1863 she ran a supply line, nursed soldiers suffering from malaria, and witnessed the action at Morris Island. She returned to the heat of battle during the Wilderness Campaign and served as supervisor of nurses for the Army of the James from June 1864 to January 1865.
Elizabeth B. Pryor, "Barton, Clara," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/12/12-00054.html.