Clara Barton to the American People
Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly
By Reverend Peter MacQueen
Page 4 of 7
“…don’t send me back to my men without some food and delicacies. A hundred and twenty-one out of four hundred and thirty are sick, and more will be sick.’
The little woman put her hand on his shoulder.
‘Never fear, Mr. Roosevelt. We can help you some. Would six hundred pounds of corn-meal, and say two hundred pounds of rice, with malted milk and condensed milk, do for the present?’
‘By George, you are fine, Miss Barton!’ cried Roosevelt, like a delighted schoolboy.
Presently General Ludlow came in from the country.
‘Whatever you like, Miss Barton. I throw myself entirely on your mercy. My men are sick and dying! A little will help. What you please.’ And the fine bronzed face of one of America’s best soldiers brightened as he saw the little woman estimate how much she could spare. ‘Give my hearty respects to Miss Barton,’ said Ludlow to Mrs. Gardner, a few minutes later, as the dear old saint had turned to talk to General Wood. The Governor of Santiago looked serious. His face was unillumined by a smile, as her thought of the danger menacing the American army lying back of the city and occupying it.
When they had all gone, each taking some provision or delicacy for his helpless, I came up to where Miss Barton was seated with a box for a desk.
‘You remember a caller at Constantinople?’ I asked.
‘Oh, yes, perfectly. Are we in the same world? Or was that a state of existence prior to this? Let me see; we had the Sultan then to talk about, and the Armenians, the Red Cross, the American Ambassador, the Grecian question. It was not this world; it was distinctly another existence.’
The sweet old lady smiled, thinking of the minarets of old Stamboul, the Sweet Waters of Asia, and all that misty life in the grand capital of the Moslem Empire.
‘Yes; I helped these generals,’ she said, coming back to Santiago. ‘I have really no right to do so. But, poor men, they are so humble, their men are withering like grass, the sick must have malted milk, they clamor for it so. Yes; I’ll give them as long as it lasts. If General Shafter will only give me a receipt for the Red Cross to be satisfied, I can get this back from the government, and so the Cubans will be helped as it was in the first intention of the donors of these supplies. But I’ll help the American soldiers, no matter what comes of it. It will be all right in the end.’
After some pleasant conversation I proceeded:
‘Miss Barton, the whole American nation would like to have a greeting from you in the field of service where you are.’
Miss Barton’s eye kindled.
‘Ah! the American people, with all their faults, the noblest and best people of all time! They are the most generous, the most warm-hearted, the most self-sacrificing nation, when once they have come to see their duty.
‘Well, say to them that we are in a great work here. Someone – I do not care to give you his name – said to me when he arrived in Santiago: “Why,…”
Clara Barton National Historic Site, CLBA 4512