Clarissa "Clara" Harlowe Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912) was a pioneering nurse who founded the American Red Cross. She worked as a hospital nurse in the American Civil War, and as a teacher and patent clerk. Barton is noteworthy for doing humanitarian work at a time when relatively few women worked outside the home. She had a relationship with John J. Elwell, but never married.
Ladies' Aid societies helped in sending bandages, food, and clothing that would later be distributed during the Civil War. In the August of 1862, Barton finally gained permission from Quartermaster Daniel Rucker to work on the front lines. She gained support from other people who believed in her cause. These people became her patrons, her most supportive being Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts.
She worked to distribute stores, clean field hospitals, apply dressings, and serve food to wounded soldiers in close proximity to several battles, including Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.
In 1863 she began a romantic relationship with an officer, Colonel John J. Elwell.
In 1864 she was appointed by Union General Benjamin Butler as the "lady in charge" of the hospitals at the front of the Army of the James. Among her more harrowing experiences was an incident in which a bullet tore through the sleeve of her dress without striking her and killed a man to whom she was tending. She is known as the "Angel of the Battlefield."