Clara Barton's reaction to war was the same as Mr. Dunant's. She couldn't stand by, war or no war, and do nothing. After fulfilling the prerequisite nursing role behind the lines, Barton was determined to take her crusade into the battlefield itself.
She used her contacts in Washington, DC to gain access to President Lincoln and his war staff. On August 12, 1862, with the blessings of the President and her political friends, Barton embarked on her great mission. She was at many of the worst battles and for three long years, stuck with her mission right up to the end.
In 1869, Barton traveled to Europe and visited with newfound friends in Geneva, among them Henri Dunant. She was surprised to learn that her efforts during the Civil War were so well-known. Thanks to American and European writers and journalists who chronicled her work, she was received with public acclaim as the "Angel of the Battlefield" and "Angel of Mercy." Even more surprising to her was the total absence of US Government participation in the International Red Cross movement that had now swept throughout Europe.
Enraged and embarrassed, Barton wrote to her friends back in Washington, "Not a civilized people in the world but ourselves missing... I began to fear that in the eyes of the rest of mankind we could not be far from barbarians. This reflection did not furnish a stimulating food for national pride. I grew more and more ashamed."
Upon her return, Barton's proposal for joining an international body that might govern the conduct of war was immediately rebuffed. Humanitarian or not, joining the Geneva Conventions, as one politician wrote, "would be tantamount to surrendering our nation's sovereign right to govern and should be, at all costs, be resisted." Now isolated and politically marooned, Barton was determined not to be swayed away from her vision to bring the US into the new international society.
Suffering from illness and advanced age, Barton herself could not continue the battle, but many others who became infected by her message did. Finally, on May 21, 1881, 22 years after the Battle of Solferino, Barton witnessed the first meeting of the American Red Cross.