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    Clara Barton Autograph Letter Signed "Clara Barton". Four pages of a bifolium, 8" x 10", Washington, D.C.; December 1, 1865. An emotional letter to Major General Benjamin Butler in which Barton writes about the futility of starting her Office of Missing Soldiers. At the end of the Civil War, Barton sought to form a government organization that would aid in families' searches for missing relatives. She worked with Dorence Atwater, a former POW at Anderson Prison, who had kept a list of the dead while he was imprisoned, and the pair were able to identify unmarked graves of fallen Union soldiers. However, Atwater declined giving the federal government a copy of the list and was subsequently arrested. In this letter, Barton voices her frustrations with trying to formalize her own government department in response to a newspaper clipping (attached) which concerns the newly formed U.S. Burial Bureau, which would supersede her own Office of Missing Soldiers. She also makes an appeal on Atwater's behalf. It reads, in part:

    "...The enclosed printed paragraph from the 'Chronicle' of this morning will be sufficient to show to you, as it does to me, how utterly useless must be all future attempts at making my work a part of the Government, in any conditions upon which I could exist. This new Bureau has sprung into existence since, and I mistrust, partly upon, the strength of the first conversation between us in relation to the establishment of a similar one for me. Secretary Stanton refused to make mine, an equally independent branch, and the similar nature of the two would throw them constantly in connection, thus you perceive, making me in a manner subordinate to this branch, and subject to all the hindrance, annoyance, criticism and mistreatment, which ill-nature, ill-will, dishonesty, jealousy and revenge could devise and inflict. Although I am willing to serve my Country, and my Government, and the great cause of humanity, at the sacrifice even of my own comfort and interest, (and I believe my record shows it,) still here is left me no opportunity...One of the first Acts of Congress will be to confirm Capt. [James M.] Moore in his new rank and position, and establish his Bureau...This Officer with his undeserved rank, his manners, his tricks, his falsehoods, his forgeries and his crimes black upon him, is purposely elevated to a position, where he can thwart every effort, and cast continuly [sic] upon me every hour of my life, helpless and alone...I am by no means the first, nor the greatest sufferer from jealousy, and combined injustice...The establishment of this Bureau with its present proposed Head gives to him the power to control the Records of Andersonville, which he will do, and claim the honor of preserving and presenting them, while the poor orphan boy [Dorence Atwater], to whom all the credit, and the thanks for the Nation belong, lies, his innocent, persecuted victim, in a prisoners cell, and partly this I fear for me - that the evil eye of the Government might be turned upon me that I should not stand in the way...To all this I need not add, that a 'decent respect' for myself, forbids that I become a 'clerk' a mere tool in a work which I have originated and created. Thus General there is but one way. I am doomed, and nothing can save me...

    If Mr. [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton had entertained for me one particle of consideration or respect, he would in some little way have noticed the indirect appeal for protection even, which my report makes to him, or at least he would not, without a single inquiry have elevated the person whom I report to the position he has, and then propose to make me indirectly subordinate to him. If after the plain statements I made him he still believes in the party to this extent, he cannot believe in me, and I shall never be safe under him. My six thousand letters and my Records are my own private property, and dear to me and I cannot give them where I cannot go myself. Thus I see no choice left me but to withdraw my proposition and retire. And I beg, General, that you will not misunderstand me. Please believe me earnest. This letter is not written for effect; it is not an appeal to stimulate you to greater action; not the wail of a women, who hopes to win by tears, but a fair candid expression of my conditions, the timely acknowledgement of defeated purposes, and my heart aching sigh over the artful, heartless destruction of my labors, and the ruthless blasting of my hopes...".

    On the last page of the letter, a small slip of paper from Butler's office has been attached, which includes a synopsis of Barton's letter as well as Butler's handwritten response: "This paper to go to Washington with me BFB" and "Miss Barton. Please to take no step in this matter of which you have written me till I see you which will be in seven days. Yours truly BFB".

    Clara Barton ultimately succeeded in creating the Office of Missing Soldiers, based in Annapolis. She set about to compile a massive list of those soldiers who went missing throughout the entire war, and her work continued until 1881 when she founded the American Red Cross. Dorence Atwater was captured by the Confederate Army at the Battle of Gettysburg and later transferred to Andersonville in February 1864. While there, he was charged with keeping the death register, and he secretly copied the records. Following the war, and his imprisonment by the federal government, Atwater assisted Barton with her work at the Missing Soldier's Office. He eventually moved to Tahiti and married into the royal family. He worked with multiple charities and was a successful businessman, beloved by Tahitian citizens. Upon his death, he was given a royal funeral, the only one of its kind to have ever been given a non-royal. His and Clara Barton's work was monumental to the post-war identification of unmarked graves and brought a great deal of peace and closure to families with missing loved ones.

    Condition: Flattened mail folds, with light toning at the edges. There are small separations at the fold edges and along the center fold. The newspaper clipping has been adhered to the top left corner. There is a small tear at the center edge, which affects little to none of the text. Very legible.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2019
    14th Tuesday
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