Clara Barton and the American Red Cross in Cuba and Tampa during the Spanish American War
Relief Efforts for the Reconcentrados  (Spanish concentration camps for Cuban prisoners)

I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.

 -Clarissa Harlowe Barton

TampaPix is grateful and wishes to thank the Library of Congress for their Clara Barton Papers Collection as an invaluable resource for this feature, and especially for the assistance of Bruce Kirby, Reference Librarian, Manuscript Division, for inspecting the collection of Clara's journals and suggesting other resources for information to fill in the chronological gaps in Clara's record of travel, as well as bringing to my attention the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum in Washington, DC. Thank you LOC, you are a national treasure!

The Plight of the Cuban Concentration Camp Prisoners

Cuban peasants herded into concentration camps.  Photo from

Baltimore Sun, Mar. 24, 1898
Courtesy of

During Cuba's struggle for independence from Spain, hundreds of thousands of Cuban peasants were forced from their homes and herded in to concentration camps.  In an 18-month period from 1896 to 1897, over 225,000 civilians died, mostly of starvation. The Red Cross was reported to have statistics showing 425,000 perished from starvation and 200,000 more would die.  See article.






In the midst of bringing Red Cross aid to those suffering through disasters at home and abroad, news of the Cuban reconcentrados plight distressed Barton.  She believed that the Red Cross was a “direct servant of the government,” therefore, without President William McKinley’s permission, Barton would not endorse any Red Cross involvement.

From The Spanish American War Centennial Website

Links to newspaper articles from 1897 and 1898 describing the horror of the camps.  Caution:  Graphic images.

Weyler's Reconcentration Policy and its Horrors


"The Red Cross in Peace and War" on the plight of the Cubans

Maria Christina Henriette Desideria Felicitas Raineria von Habsburg-Lothringen of Austria  (21 July 1858 – 6 February 1929) was Queen of Spain from November 1885 to May 1902 as the widowed second wife of King Alfonso XII. She was regent during the vacancy of the throne between her husband's death and her son's birth and during the minority of their son, Alfonso XIII.  Photo and info from Wikipedia.

We had scarcely returned from Armenia when paragraphs began to appear in the press from all sections of the country, connecting the Red Cross with some undefined method of relief for Cuba.  These intimations were both ominous and portentous for the future, something from which we instinctively shrunk and remained perfectly quiet. “The murmurs grew to clamors loud,” and, I regret to say, not always quite kind.

Tired, heart-sore and needing rest, we were compelled to read columns of such reports, and understanding that it was not without its political side and might increase to proportions dangerous to the good name of the Red Cross, we felt compelled to take steps in self-protection.  Accordingly, through the proper official authorities of both nations, we addressed to the government of Spain at Madrid a request for royal permission for the American Red Cross to enter Cuba and distribute, unmolested, among its starving reconcentrado population such relief as the people of America desired to send.

This communication brought back from Spain perhaps the most courteous assent and permission ever vouchsafed by a proud government to an individual request, especially when that request was in its very nature a rebuke to the methods of the government receiving it.  Not only was permission granted by the crown, the government, the Captain-General at Cuba, and the Queen Regent, but to the assent of the latter were added her majesty’s gracious thanks for the kindly thought.

From The Red Cross in Peace and War by Clara Barton



Clara Barton, 1897




Formation of the President's Committee for Cuban Relief

Those who were impatient for Red Cross action included Cuban patriots. In a gripping letter, they attacked Barton and the Red Cross for inhumanity towards the reconcentrados. As the summer of 1897 wore on, no longer able to quietly bear the reports, Barton requested that “the Red Cross take steps on its own in direct touch and with the cooperation of the people of the country.” Illustrating her ease of communication with the President, she called on him at the White House and joined the conference in progress with his Secretary of State.


From The Spanish American War Centennial Website






Stephen Emory Barton,
Clara's nephew, son of David Barton and Julia Porter Barton
Image from "In Memoriam" Clara Barton Tribute, 1912
Library of Congress

"Who's Who in NYC and State," 1907


Clara wrote in "The Red Cross in Peace and War"

The conference was then held. It was decided to form a committee in New York, to ask money and material of the people at large to be shipped to Cuba for the relief of the reconcentrados on that island. The call would be made in the name of the President, and the committee naturally known as the “President’s Committee for Cuban Relief.” I was courteously asked if I would go to New York and assume the oversight of that committee. I declined in favor of Mr. Stephen E. Barton, second vice-president of the National Red Cross, who, on being immediately called, accepted; and with Mr. Charles Schieren as treasurer and Mr. Louis Klopsch, of the Christian Herald, as the third member, the committee was at once established; since known as the Central Cuban Relief Committee. The committee was to solicit aid in money and material for the suffering reconcentrados in Cuba, and forward the same to the Consul-General at Havana for distribution.

Charles Adolph Schieren
He had served as Mayor of the City of Brooklyn from 1894 through 1895  and was a successful businessman in the leather belting industry.
Louis Klopsch, editor of the Christian Herald, is credited for conceiving the idea of printing the words of Jesus in the Bible in red in 1899 and publishing the first red-letter New Testament the same year.













Stephen Emory Barton, son of Clara's brother David Barton, circa 1868
Undated photo from Library of Congress

Stephen Emory Barton with first wife Joyce Wilmot Barton, and in front, his sisters Ida and Mary Barton, circa 1875.
Undated photo from Library of Congress


My consent was then asked by all parties to go to Cuba and aid in the distribution of the shipments of food as they should arrive.  After all I had so long offered, I could not decline, and hoping my going would not be misunderstood by our authorities there, who would regard me simply as a willing assistant, I accepted.  The Consul-General had asked the New York Committee to send to him an assistant to take charge of the warehouse and supplies in Havana. This request was also referred to me, and recommending Mr. J. K. Elwell, nephew of General J. J. Elwell, of Cleveland, Ohio, a gentleman who had resided six years in Santiago, Cuba, in connection with its large shipping interests, a fine business man and speaking Spanish, I decided to accompany him, taking no member of my own staff, but going simply in the capacity of an individual helper in a work already assigned.
From The Red Cross in Peace and War by Clara Barton

Clara  heads to Cuba from Washington, via Jacksonville, Tampa & Key West, finds appalling conditions

Clara's diaries & journals at the Library of Congress record for this period before she left for Cuba, entries from Sept. 10, 1897 to Jan. 29, 1898--her time in New York, Washington DC, and her home in Glenn Echo, MD.  Her last entry on Jan. 29th reads:

Cold, windy day.  Coldest day.  Had to go to town again to get my tooth set right. Dr. Chase ill, Dr. Wolf set my tooth in place.  Took with me checks to cash.  (In different handwriting) Too late for bank, closed at 12 Sat. Could only go to dentist and come home.  Did not know what to do or say about S.P. 

See journal entry

The first journal covering involvement in Cuba




The journals covering Clara's involvement in Cuba are numbered, but No. 1 has not been located.  There is a gap in dates from Jan. 30 to Feb. 25, 1898, the period between the previously mentioned journal and the journal marked "2" which begins with Feb. 26, 1898.   On the first page of this No. 2 book, she refers to the previous book as her red book in which her notes on Cuba commenced.  It is assumed that this No. 1 book would contain Clara's notes on her trip from Washington to Cuba, through Tampa, her arrival in Cuba, and the events of the battleship Maine explosion.

Bruce Kirby, a reference librarian in the manuscript division at the Library of Congress, recently viewed the original books in the collection and confirmed that the journal covering the dates February 26 to May 6 is numbered “2," the journal beginning May 7 is numbered “3," and so on through the volume ending March 31, 1901, which is numbered “7.”  There is no indication in the box of the whereabouts of "No. 1” which presumably would cover the missing dates January 29 to February 26, 1898.

Mr. Kirby also said, "It is possible, though not likely, that the volume could have been mistakenly placed among the Spanish-American War subject files in the series “American National Red Cross” in boxes 116 to 148 of the Barton papers in the Manuscript Division. In addition, the volume might be among the official records of the Red Cross that are held by the National Archives and Records Administration.  One of Barton’s biographers, Elizabeth Brown Pryor, found a reference to the lunch with Captain Sigsbee in a Barton letter now located in the Red Cross records at NARA. See  Clara Barton: Professional Angel,  (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987), p. 303.

Finally, one Library of Congress historian hypothesized that the volume may have been used during the investigation into the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine on 15 February 1898, and may now be part of the investigation files.


"The second little book that contains notes on Cuba -
following the red book in which the notes were commenced"



The Red Cross Correspondence Books

Though her first journal (No. 1) containing information on her first trip from Washington to Cuba has not been located, it is possible to determine when Clara passed through Tampa for the first time. These letters from the collection of Red Cross correspondence books of 1898 at the Library of Congress discuss Clara's travel arrangements with the Plant System.

Even before Clara travelled to Cuba through Tampa, the committee for relief of Cuban concentration camps was already seeking help from H. B. Plant and his transportation system for their supplies to Cuba.  See this Jan. 27, 1898 letter from Plant to Stephen Barton, Committee Chairman, declining his request for free transportation of supplies on the Plant System.




Feb. 4, 1898 Telegram to Stephen E. Barton confirming that transportation will be left with the ticket agent at Charleston, SC, for Miss Barton and John Elwell from Charleston to Port Tampa.  President Plant advises that the steamer transportation passes for these parties can be found in the office of the Tampa Bay Hotel.











This letter, dictated by Clara's nephew, Chairman of the committee for Cuban Relief, Stephen E. Barton, states that Clara and John Elwell were leaving Washington DC on the Southern Railway at 10:45 pm Saturday. (Feb. 5), proceeding to Port Tampa to catch a boat on Monday (Feb. 7.)








This receipt for $22.50 on Feb. 7, 1898 is for payment to the purser of the SS Olivette for John Elwell and Clara Barton's meals, staterooms, etc. in passage from Port Tampa to Havana.










This letter dictated for telegram by Stephen E. Barton to the general manager of the Plant Steamship Co.,  condensed from 2 pages and edited to remove irrelevant information, shows SEB assumed that the Plant System railroad would have carried Clara and Elwell all the way to Port Tampa with Plant's free passes, but in fact this was not so.  They had to ride the C&S Line from Charleston to Savannah, then the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroads from Savannah to Tampa--an indication that the trip would have taken a full two days and there was no time spent overnight in any hotels.



Southern Railway and the Plant System in the late 1890s

This 1895 Southern Railway map shows the most probable route Clara would have taken.  The yellow marks the route from Washington, DC to Columbia, SC on the Southern Railway System.  The red on the South Carolina Railway** from Columbia to Charleston, SC  where she and Elwell picked up their tickets for the route from there to Tampa. Then the Charleston & Savannah line (green), and from Savannah to Tampa, the Florida Central & Peninsular Railroad (purple.)


The Plant System in 1896, courtesy of Cigar City Magazine.
Plant’s transportation system included both trains and steamships for passenger transport. Hotels were a logical extension of this system. The shallow draft of Tampa Bay made Tampa's main port inaccessible for the larger ships of the day, so Plant built a new port several miles away on the west coast of Tampa's Interbay peninsula. When Plant extended his railroad tracks to Port Tampa, he also built in 1885, an inn at the wharf for passengers since there were no previously existing hotels nearby. Not to be confused with the Port of Tampa, Port Tampa City was the lands west of today's Manhattan Avenue to Tampa Bay and everything south of the old east-west railroad track north of McCoy Street.


The absence of any receipts or or other communications regarding stays in hotels, it appears that Clara Barton and John Elwell arrived in Tampa at the Tampa Bay Hotel train station on Monday, Feb. 7, picked up their Plant System steamer passes for the Olivette and promptly boarded it in Port Tampa for their trip to Cuba, most likely via Key West, as the Plant System steamer lines typically did.

**Special thanks to the South Carolina Railroad Museum on Facebook for identifying this railway line.


Clara arrives in Cuba

Later in her book, The Red Cross in Peace and War, on page 520 she would write:

"We reached Havana February 9,  five weeks ago, and in all the newness of a strange country with oriental customs, commenced our work."  The above entry I find in my diary.

Bettina Lesser, wife of Dr. Monae Lesser
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

In speaking of conditions as found, let me pray that no word shall be taken as a criticism upon any person or people. Dreadful as these conditions were, and rife as hunger, starvation and death were on every hand, we were constantly amazed at the continued charities as manifested in the cities, and small, poor villages of a people so over-run with numbers, want and woe for months, running into years; with all business, all remuneration, all income stopped, killed as dead as the poor, stark forms around them, it was wonderful that they still kept up their organizations, municipal and religious, and gave not of their abundance, but of their penury; that still a little ration of food went out to the dens of woe. That the wardrobe was again and again parceled out; that the famishing mother divided her little morsel with another mother’s hungry child; that two men sat down to one crust, and that the Spanish soldier shared, as often seen, the loaf—his own half ration—with the eager-eyed skeleton reconcentrado, watching him as he ate. In another instance the recognition might have been less kind it is true, for war is war, and all humanity are not humane.

Clara set to work visiting sites where the Red Cross could arrange distribution centers. The Red Cross hospital’s chief nurse Bettina Hofker-Lesser, Dr. Adolph Monae-Lesser and four nurses from the then-closed Red Cross Hospital followed Barton to Cuba to support her work.

The Red Cross in Peace and War by Clara Barton  The Spanish American War Centennial


Clara Barton with Red Cross nurses and staff on a street in Cuba, 1898
Place your cursor on the photo to see enlargement and Clara identified by a
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress


Capt. Charles Sigsbee. 
Photo from The Red Cross, A History..etc.

Clara Barton onboard the battleship USS Maine

Fitzhugh Lee, Gen. Consul to Cuba.  Photo from Library of Congress

Because of propaganda from the U.S. newspapers and the Cuban insurgents, the situation in Cuba was not fully understood in Washington DC. The U.S. Consul in Havana, Fitzhugh Lee, was also somewhat out of touch with the country in which he was living. President Grover Cleveland had appointed him consul general in 1896, a position he retained even after the election of President McKinley.


In response to a small protest by Spanish officers, not affecting the United States, Washington sent the USS Maine, under the command of Capt. Charles Sigsbee, to Cuba on a "friendly" visit.  A few hours after the President ordered the USS Maine to Havana Harbor, Lee telegraphed his advice not to send such a ship.




The Maine arrived in Cuba's Havana harbor on January 25, 1898 at which time Captain Sigsbee found the city relatively quiet.


The Spanish American War Centennial










The battleship USS Maine entering Havana Harbor, Jan 25, 1898.  Photo from Wikipedia.



On Sunday, Feb. 13, 1898, Captain Charles D. Sigsbee invited Clara to come aboard.  Born in 1845, Sigsbee was a full generation younger than Barton, but he knew her story very well, as did most Americans.  Sigsbee had served in the Civil War after graduating from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1863, and he knew that Barton had been one of the most instrumental figures of the great conflict.  Clara accepted Sigsbee's invitation and sometime in the afternoon, she went aboard the Maine.


Later in 1899, in her book "The Red Cross in Peace and War," Clara wrote:


A cordial invitation from Captain Sigsbee to visit the "Maine" that afternoon had been received.  His launch courteously came for us; his officers received us; his crew, strong, ruddy and bright, went through their drill for our entertainment, and the lunch at those polished tables, off glittering china and cut glass, with the social guests around, will remain ever in my memory as a vision of the "Last Supper."




Stern view of the Maine - Photo from Wikipedia

There were no photographs taken nor any record made of their conversation.  Clara's journal which contained her notes on the Maine explosion may have been confiscated for use in the investigation.

Sigsbee may have given Clara a tour of the clean, swept deck of the Maine, but probably not one of its grimy, soot-infested hold.  Although she had spent a lifetime in the service of sick and wounded soldiers, Clara often confessed a weakness for some of the trappings of military and naval power.  The Maine, with its turrets, guns and engines, must have made a strong and positive impression.  Few Victorian ladies went on board battleships in those days, and Clara may well have savored the moment.  They probably discussed the condition of the people of Havana.  Clara had arrived only four days earlier and did not know all of the details, but she was convinced that the reconcentrados had suffered the most as a result of the Spanish-Cuban war.  Captain Sigsbee may have been sympathetic to their plight, but as a Navy officer, his mission was to keep the peace in Havana Harbor, not to assist the victims of the war.


All that is known for certain is that Clara spoke with another officer, the second-in-command of the Maine, and offered him and his men her assistance if anything should happen to them.  The officer's response is not recorded, but he probably smiled, for what danger could befall the Maine?  Going ashore, Clara returned to her work.


Two days later, on the evening of Feb. 15, Captain Sigsbee had retired to his cabin to write a letter.  He wrote to his wife that he heard the bugler play Taps.  Then at 9:40 pm, the force of an explosion startled him.

Maine officers, 1896. Library of Congress Control #: 2016795115.


The Explosion on the USS Maine

On the evening of February 15, 1898, the American battleship Maine exploded while sitting in the Havana harbor, killing two officers and 250 enlisted men. Fourteen of the injured later died, bringing the death toll to 266. Sent to protect U.S. interests during the Cuban revolt against Spain, she exploded suddenly, without warning, and sank quickly. 

In 1898, an investigation of the explosion was carried out by a naval board appointed under the McKinley Administration. The consensus of the board was that the Maine was destroyed by an external explosion from a mine. However, the validity of this investigation has been challenged.  Release of the board’s report led many to accuse Spain of sabotage, helping to build public support for war.

American propaganda postcard showing Union and Confederate soldiers shaking hands in front of a female personification of Cuba with broken shackles, circa 1898.  The rallying cry of "Cuba Libre" originated with the Cuban independence movement and became wildly popular in the United States as well. Photo from Library of Congress.


Yellow Journalism & The Yellow Press
Yellow journalism, or the yellow press, is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. By extension, the term yellow journalism is used today as a pejorative to decry any journalism that treats news in an unprofessional or unethical fashion

Popular opinion in the U.S., fanned by inflammatory articles printed in the "Yellow Press" by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer's newspapers, blamed Spain. The phrase, "Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain", became a rallying cry for action, which came with the Spanish–American War later that year. While the sinking of the Maine was not a direct cause for action, it served as a catalyst, accelerating the approach to a diplomatic impasse between the U.S. and Spain. The cause of the Maine's sinking remains a subject of speculation.

Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, full-length, dressed as the Yellow Kids, a satire of their role in drumming up USA public opinion to go to war with Spain.


Most famous of the Anti-Spanish yellow journalism was the "Olivette Incident." On February 12, 1897, the Hearst's New York Journal reported that as the American steamship Olivette was about to leave Havana Harbor for the United States, it was boarded by Spanish police officers who searched three young Cuban women, one of whom was suspected of carrying messages from the rebels. The Journal ran the story with the headline, “Does Our Flag Protect Women?”  It was accompanied by a dramatic sketch by Frederic Remington across one half a page showing Spanish plainclothes men searching a nude woman. The Journal went on to editorialize, “War is a dreadful thing, but there are things more dreadful than even war, and one of them is dishonor.” This report shocked the country and prompted Congressman Amos Cummings to announce intentions to launch a congressional inquiry into the incident.

Soon, however, the story unraveled. Pulitzer's New York World quickly produced one of the young women who contested the Journal’s version of the incident. Eventually the Journal was forced to correct the story. The search had been appropriately conducted by a police matron with no men present. Among the most popular stories often cited as evidence of the meddling influence of Hearst and Pulitzer is the story of Remington's attempt to return from Cuba because there seemed to be not much going on. As the story goes, when Remington telegraphed to his boss to report that conditions in Cuba were not bad enough to warrant hostilities, Hearst allegedly cabled back , "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." In reality, yellow journalism probably had little influence outside of New York. Much of the pro-war reporting came out of the American Midwest. 

Authentic History - The Spanish American War




Captain Sigsbee on the explosion:

It was a bursting, rending, and crashing sound or roar of immense volume, largely metallic in its character.  It was succeeded by a metallic sound--probably of falling debris--a trembling and lurching motion of the vessel, then an impression of subsidence (sinking of land level), attended by an eclipse of the electric lights (the Maine was one of the first American warships to have electric lights.)

Captain Sigsbee stumbled out of his cabin and headed for the deck. 

Back ashore, Clara Barton was hard at work at her desk overlooking Havana Harbor. The 77-year old president and founder of the American Red Cross pondered over her relief effort to bring aid to displaced Cubans—the reconcentrados. She and a fellow American J. K. Elwell, who was a member of the Cuban International Relief Committee, were going over papers, expenses and receipts.  These had always been the bane of her existence; like many other high-strung and excitable people, she was far better in the heat of a conflict than in dealing with clerical matters.

We were busy at our writing tables until late at night.  The house had grown still; the noises on the street were dying away, when suddenly the table shook from under our hands, the great glass door opening on to the veranda, facing the sea, flew open; everything in the room was in motion or out of place--the deafening roar of such a burst of thunder as perhaps never one heard before, and off to the right, out over the bay, the air was filled with a blaze of light, and this in turn filled with black specks like huge specters flying in all directions.  Then it faded away.  The bells rang; the whistles blew, and voices in the street were heard for a moment; then all was quiet again. I supposed it to be the bursting of some mammoth mortar or explosion in some magazine.  A few hours later came the terrible news of the "Maine."  Mr. Elwell was early among the wreckage, and returned to give me the news.

George Bronson Rea, another American observer on shore that night, was a journalist for Harper's Weekly.  He had been in Cuba for almost two years at the time.  He was at a Havana cafe when he heard the mighty blast.

Suddenly the sounds of a terrific explosion shook the city; windows were broken, and doors were shaken from their bolts.  The sky towards the bay was lit up with an intense light, and above it all could be seen innumerable colored lights resembling rockets.

Rea and another journalist hastened to the waterfront where they found barricades.  They told the Spaniards that they were officers of the Maine, a lie that helped Rea and the other American to get into a boat with the Havana chief of police.  Rea described the scene:

"Great masses of twisted and bent iron plates and beams were thrown up in confusion amidships; the bow had disappeared; the foremast and smoke stacks had fallen; and to add to the horror and danger, the mass of wreckage amidships was on fire.  The Maine was clearly sinking, but what happened to its crew?"

The Sinking of the USS Maine: Declaring War Against Spain





Telegram from Captain Charles S. Sigsbee, Commander of the USS MAINE, to the Secretary of the Navy, 02/15/1898 (National Archives Identifier: 300266); Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, 1691 - 1945; Record Group 45; National Archives. 



Following the explosion on the Maine, Fitzhugh Lee returned to Washington. On May 5, 1898 he was made a major general in the army and put in command of the Seventh Army Corps. Although the unit trained thoroughly in Jacksonville, Florida, it never saw combat. (Library of Congress - Fitzhugh Lee)

U.S. Navy diving crew at work on the ship's wreck, in 1898, seen from aft looking forward. From Naval Historic Center, Department of the Navy.   See Destruction of the Maine by Louis Fisher, The Law Library of Congress.

"Wreck of the U.S.S. Maine, June 16, 1911" The photograph shows the raising and salvage operation of the ship, 13 years after it sank. After the salvage operation was completed, the ship was resunk offshore. The image was taken by the American Photograph Company of Havana, Cuba, and measures 34" x 9". Photo from, National Archives and Records Administration.


Clara tends to the wounded

Clara was late to the scene because she thought that the great explosion had been on land, or that it had been some sort of demonstration of military power. Although she was not present when the Maine went down, she did reach the Spanish Military Hospital, San Ambrosia, in time to give aid and comfort to the wounded.  Most of the officers were dining out, and thus saved. On her way from her hotel to the hospital, she met the second-in-command officer of the Maine, who sadly asked if she remembered her pledge of two days earlier: that she would be available to the crew in case of disaster.  She certainly did recall, and the memory pushed her on to the Ambrosia Hospital where she found...

"...thirty to forty wounded--bruised, cut, burned; they had been crushed by timbers, cut by iron, scorched by fire, and blown sometimes high in the air, sometimes driven down through the red-hot furnace room and out into the water, senseless, to be picked up by some boat and gotten ashore.  Their wounds are all over them; heads and faces terribly cut, internal wounds, arms, legs, feet, and hands burned to the live flesh."

Survivors of the U.S.S. Maine explosion pose for a picture at the Marine Hospital where Clara Barton ministered to them on Feb. 21, 1898.
Photo from The Sinking of the U.S.S. Maine: Declaring War Against Spain by Samuel Willard Crompton

Although she was familiar with disaster, Clara had not witnessed a scene like this before. The Civil War wounded that she tended had experienced bullet wounds and shrapnel from cannon fire, but not the searing flames that come from explosions and electrical fires.  Barton did what she could for the men, sending telegrams on their behalf and staying with them that night.  Sometime during that night she sent a telegram of her own to President William McKinley, who had urged her to go to Cuba in the first place.  Her words were simple and to the point:

"I am with the wounded."

Many Americans probably were cheered to learn that the Civil War heroine was in action once more, tending to the wounded as she had done before.  A major poet of the day took her brief five-word telegram and converted it into a song that newspapers reprinted from coast to coast:

"I am with the wounded," flashed across the wire
From the Isle of Cuba, swept with sword and fire.
Angel sweet of mercy, may your cross of red
Cheer the wounded living; bless the wounded dead.

"I am with the starving," let the message run
From this stricken island, when this task is done;
Food and plenty wait at your command,
Give in generous measure; fill each outstretched hand.

"I am with the happy," this we long to hear
From the Isle of Cuba, trembling now in fear;
Make this great disaster touch the hearts of men,
And, in God's great mercy, bring back peace again.

If there was going to be war, it would be a new type of war.  Americans, however, were thrilled to learn of the continuity Clara Barton would provide between the Civil War and what might now become the Spanish-American-Cuban War.  77-year-old Clara Barton had proved her worth once more.

The Sinking of the U.S.S. Maine: Declaring War Against Spain by Samuel Willard Crompton


15 February 1898. Funeral procession in the streets of Havana, Cuba, for crewmen killed when the Maine exploded. Retouched halftone photograph, copied from Uncle Sam's Navy, Volume IV, Number 3, 19 April 1898. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. From Naval Historic Center, Department of the Navy.


Members of the Navy Court of Inquiry examining Ensign Wilfrid V. Powelson, on board the U.S. Lighthouse Tender Mangrove, in Havana Harbor, Cuba, circa March 1898. Those seated around the table include (from left to right): Captain French E. Chadwick, Captain William T. Sampson, Lieutenant Commander William P. Potter, Ensign W.V. Powelson, Lieutenant Commander Adolph Marix. Photograph copied from Uncle Sam's Navy, 12 April 1898.


Tampa reacts to the news of the Maine explosion; H.B. Plant exerts his influence

Tampa Mayor Myron E. Gillett
Term: June 5, 1896- June 5, 1898
Photo from "Men of the South" (where his and his son's photos are displayed in incorrect order to the caption)

Henry B. Plant
From Cigar City Reflections
The King of Florida

After the explosion on the Maine, Tampa's mayor and congressman promptly petitioned Secretary of War Russell Alger for protection against the Spanish Navy.  Leading citizens and the Board of Trade demanded a military presence and the funding of coastal defense sites. But from the armchair generals in Washington, there was no response.  Then on March 22nd, Henry Plant wrote Secretary Alger personally, calling attention to his multi-million dollar investment in Port Tampa.  On March 25th, Alger sent his Chief of Engineers to begin fortifications on Egmont and Mullet Keys.

With that, Florida, Tampa and H.B. Plant were in the still-undeclared war.  The Olivette had already made one run for Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, delivering ammunition to Key West. Local papers began boosting Tampa as the obvious supply point for operations in the Caribbean.  At the end of March, a real-life seagoing admiral checked into the Port Tampa Inn.  On behalf of the Plant System, Henry Plant's second in command, Franklin Q. Brown, gave "Fighting Bob" Evans a tour of the harbor.  The admiral passed the word to the press corps.  In the event of war, make way for the Navy!  Fifty thousand troops would be embarked from Port Tampa.   From Henry Plant - Pioneer Empire Builder

Clara continues her relief work

Amid the speculation of the cause of the Maine’s blast, Barton continued with her relief effort.  She traveled on to the small towns and villages where she found deplorable conditions. Calling for a battle against the “enemies,” of “dirt and filth,” Barton rallied for volunteers to thoroughly clean and whitewash a hospital, for example. Once enlarged, a freshly supplied hospital could accommodate more patients.  Local physicians anguished by lack of resources, spurred to action with Red Cross support.

Clara Barton seated on the porch of a Cuban villa with her colleague Charles H. H. Cottrell.

From Photographic History of the Spanish-American War, p. 288.



Captain General Ramón Blanco y Erenas
Photo from Library of Congress

Clara kept the public alerted to the progress of the Red Cross relief effort. Highlighting its humanity and neutrality, she reported about her cooperation with the Spanish authorities. Spain was one of the original founders of the International Red Cross and Barton fostered a rapport with General Ramón Blanco y Erenas.  She reported that, “General Blanco was glad of this relief and sorry for the condition of the people.” She explained that her cooperation with the Spaniards was through the international recognition that the Red Cross operated as a neutral humanitarian body.

Clara disregarded any gender inequality. Rather, she met the Spaniards on equal terms. “I meet you gentlemen not as an American and you as Spaniards but as the head of the Red Cross of one country greeting the Red Cross men of another,” she affirmed. “I do not come to speak for America as an American, but from the Red Cross for humanity.” Throughout her stay, she noted that General Blanco and his staff’s unfailing “kindly spirit” prevailed.  She wrote, “I was begged not to leave the island through fear of them.” They promised to extend “every protection in their power” to the Red Cross.

The Spanish American War Centennial  



Stephen Barton correspondence May 1883 - Jan 1901



Clara's No. 2 Journal on Cuba
Journal images from the Library of Congress collection of Clara Barton scrapbooks, journals and diaries

The journal numbered "2" with Clara's notes on Cuba at the Library of Congress picks up when she has been there for about two weeks; she wrote in "The Red Cross in Peace and War" that she arrived on Feb. 9th.  Her entries in her No. 2 journal cover Feb. 26, 1898 to July 1, 1898


Clara records addresses of persons she met on the way to and in Cuba 1898.

On page marked 00, names of correspondents, reporters, etc. 

She then records Mr. & Mrs. Plant of Plant System, Tampa, Fla.  Afterward she records several names of persons from the northeast, and then Mrs. Scovill on boat from Tampa to Cuba.  She then names people she met in Key West, and then Havana.

In Cuba, on Saturday, Feb. 26 she records her first dated journal entry:  Staff arrived. Warehouse and on the 27th, Cleaned hospital. 

Successive dates document her travels and relief work from town to town in Cuba.  All are brief entries with short statements as to what was done and who she encountered. 

Within a span of 9 days, she travels from Havana to Matanzas, Artemisa, back "home" to Havana, Sagua La Grande, Cienfuegos, Santo Domingo, back to Matanzas and back to Havana.

Her comments on General Blanco above were referring to her visit recorded in her journal on Tuesday, March 17 "At 10am went to call on Gen. Blanco."



Apparently, some friction developed between Barton and Louis Klopsch, editor of the Christian Herald, over stories he was printing about the Red Cross' problems in Cuba.  March 19, 1898.


Newspaper clippings from the Library of Congress collection of Clara Barton scrapbooks, journals and diaries


Tuesday, March 22, 1898
Decided to go home to take Egan & Cotrell.  Mr. Sexton came from Matanzas. Got ready for Archbishop at Havana, did not come.  Decided to go to Washington, Egan & Cotrell, packed, drew checks, saw Consul (Fitzhugh) Lee.

Clara departs Cuba  

Wed., March 23, 1898
Archbishop came, blessed the hospital.  Started for Washington -- boat -- Cotrell can't go - Off -- seaside to Key West, arr 9+ night--letter, got up, saw reporters.  Went on to Port Tampa, pleasant sail till next day.

The article below, dated March 24, Key West, indicates Clara was interviewed in her stateroom on the Olivette on the night of the 23rd.

Newspaper stories on reasons why Clara left Cuba



Clara arrives in Port Tampa
Journal images from the Library of Congress collection of Clara Barton scrapbooks, journals and diaries

Thu, March 24, 1898

Arrived Port Tampa at 2:30 - took room at Inn (the only hotel), wrote, no charge - obliging hush - Q.H. Murdick - left 4:45 for Tampa - short run, (55) arr Tampa Bay Hotel - met the Nichols - and a bevy of nice persons - reporter of World - Sun, etc.
   [Illegible] M Hathaway, met Mr. Brown, met Bishop of Harrisburg, met Rector St. Paul church - M Sexton there - dined by invitation of host - sent desk sets (?) to Lesser - Mrs. Reed [illegible] and R Reeds for passes everywhere.  Left for Charleston on next - via Jacksonville [illegible].

Clara's reference to the "Inn" and in parenthesis "the only hotel" indicates she took a room at H. B. Plant's Port Tampa Inn, did some writing, and her notation "no charge -- obliging hush - Q.H. Murdick." would seem to indicate the name of the desk clerk and that he allowed her to stay for free because she was only there for 2 hours and 15 minutes, having left for Tampa at 4:45 pm (which would explain why she wasn't charged for the room.)


Back then, Port Tampa was a separate town from the city of Tampa.  An H.B. Plant railroad connected the two, with the Tampa end being at the Tampa Bay Hotel.  Clara took this train to the Tampa Bay Hotel where she met various people.  She had dinner by invitation, and left for Charleston on the next train via Jacksonville.  No notation was made of staying overnight at the Tampa Bay Hotel.  In fact, her journal entry for the next day indicates she spent the night on a train from Tampa to Washington DC.

This 1898 map of Tampa shows the Spanish American War camps with Port Tampa at lower left and Tampa at upper right.

Click map to open in new window, then click again to enlarge.



The Port Tampa Inn on the left, the St. Elmo on the right, 1900.  Photo from Shorpy, Detroit Publishing Co.

The Tampa Bay Hotel was not Plant's first hotel in the area. In 1889, he opened the Port Tampa Inn near his newly opened shipping piers and port on the shores of Tampa Bay. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Port Tampa Inn was that hotel guests could fish from their rooms — the hotel was built on stilts over the bay — and the kitchen staff would prepare their catch and serve it to them in the dining room. Tampa residents would have preferred that Plant build a port on the Hillsborough River, but dredging a ship channel in Hillsborough Bay was prohibitively expensive. Old Tampa Bay had a natural deepwater channel and Plant decided to build his "Port Tampa" on the west side of the Interbay Peninsula. Upon completion of the rail extension to Port Tampa, Plant built a wharf, warehouses, and a resort called Picnic Island. Port Tampa City received a state charter in 1885, a direct result of Plant's port facility. After the city completed a bridge across the Hillsborough River at Lafayette Street (now Kennedy Blvd), Plant began construction of the Tampa Bay Hotel. He no doubt wanted to outdo the efforts of his friendly rival, Henry Flagler, who had just finished the $2 million Ponce de León Hotel at St. Augustine. (From "Grand Hotels" by Rodney Kite-Powell, Tampa Bay History Museum)

Other wartime notables who passed through Port Tampa included Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, the Buffalo Soldiers, Richard Harding Davis, Stephen Crane, and Frederic Remington. Port Tampa became less important when several dredging projects made the Port of Tampa accessible to all shipping.

March 26 through April 2 --Washington DC - Clara makes notations for her various dealings with the State Dept. and other Red Cross business dealings.

Clara heads back to Cuba

Sunday, April 3 - Clara is on a train from Washington to Charlotte, then Jacksonville.

Monday, April 4 - On train is all she records

Tuesday, April 5 - Only writes Tampa to Key West

Wednesday, April 6 - On Havana (a steamer.)


Friday, March 25, 1898
Good sleep in Pullman car till morning, near Suwannee River, fruit for breakfast..

The Inn at Port Tampa, guest note paper image from Red Cross Correspondence file, Spanish American War - Cottrell



Close up of previous photo, Port Tampa Inn, from Shorpy

Port Tampa and Port Tampa City, located to the west of present-day MacDill Air Force Base, were established in the late 1880s, and for a number of years Port Tampa was the natural deepwater port for Tampa. Then, in the early 1900s the port was dredged at the mouth of the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa, and most of the port business moved there. (Starting in 1904 the Federal government, in part, funded the dredging of the channels in Tampa and Tampa Bay, opening it up again to be a significant port. Tampa quickly rebounded and boomed. In 1909, the channel up the Hillsborough River was deepened to 12 feet from Tampa Bay to Jean Street Shipyard.) Today, the port at Port Tampa City is still in operation but on a much smaller scale than that at the bustling Port of Tampa. The two ports are about ten miles apart.

At right, close up of the St. Elmo Inn, from Exploring Florida




Clara is back in Cuba

Thurs., April 7 - First day back, trunks came up, strong talk of war. Clara mentions concern by authorities for her safety, "the lawless element, the mob, the rioters" but one official says he would take her to his home to protect her with his life.

Friday, April 8 - Clara sends a telegram to her nephew, S. E. Barton, telling him of the state of affairs in Cuba and asks his advice.  He replies to "take no chances."

We decide to leave tomorrow. The four nurses sew for me, do up my summer suit beautifully. I pay all my help.  This takes all night, pack and go to bed, tired, uncertain.


Declaration of War forces Clara to leave Cuba; sets up Red Cross headquarters in Tampa

Due to the coming war, the order was given for all American citizens to leave Havana.  Clara was forced to abandon her relief work and she accepted Blanco’s farewell and blessing and in her words, she left those “poor, dying wretches to their fate.”  One newspaper reported, “The whole system of caring for and giving aid to the starving Cubans is for the time being brought to a complete standstill.” 


On April 9th, she packed her bags and headed to Tampa, where she set up the American Red Cross headquarters.

In her book, The Red Cross in Peace and War, Clara wrote:

Having made the best possible arrangement for the maintenance of the institutions we had brought into being and had fostered in Havana; and with the saddest regrets that we should have to abandon a work so well begun, we boarded the ship “Olivette” on April 11th* [9th], and started for the United States. After a great deal of discomfort, caused by the overcrowding of passengers and the heavy seas, we reached Tampa, Fla., on April 13th* [11th].  After a day or two of rest, Miss Barton proceeded to Washington with Drs. Hubbell and Egan, the remainder of the party stopping in Tampa. 

There were at that time probably about fifteen hundred Cuban refugees in Tampa and eight or nine hundred in Key West, who were entirely dependent. The Red Cross took upon itself the task of maintaining these poor people, and for a period of seven months its agents provided for them. It should be said, however, that the citizens of both these cities appointed committees and did all they could to relieve the necessities of these large bodies of indigent people.

*Clara wrote incorrect dates of April 11 and April 13.  The dates were actually April 9 and April 11 as indicated in Clara's journal. In another of her books, The Red Cross, a History of.., she wrote: And the ninth of April saw us again on ship board, a party of twenty, bound for Tampa. We would not, however, go beyond, but made headquarters there, remaining within easy call of any need there might be for us.



The Olivette in Havana harbor, circa  1880-1901.  It was the second steamer used by the H. B. Plant System and made regular runs between Tampa, Key West and Cuba.  It joined his first steamer on these runs, the Mascotte, a smaller steamship.  Both were named after comic operas by Achille Edmond Audran (1840-1901), a French composer best known for several internationally successful operettas, including Les Noces d'Olivette (1879), La Mascotte (1880), Gillette de Narbonne (1882), La Cigale et la Fourmi (1886), Miss Helyett (1890) and La Poupée (1896).  Photo from Library of Congress


Close up of flag showing "Southern Express Company"





Clara arrives in Tampa and stays at the Arno one night, then the Towne residence in Hyde Park

April 9, 1898 - April 11: Havana to Key West to Tampa -   Clara was up early on April 9, 1898 to pack her trunks and head to the consulate, Dr. Bruner.  She left Havana onboard the Olivette and arrived in Key West on April 10.  From Key West she sailed all day to Port Tampa where she arrived in the morning on April 11.   There she met Gen. Lee by accident, sent off some letters, and took a train into Tampa.  She made a notation "Hotel closed" which may refer to the Tampa Bay Hotel. Then she notes "went to Arno."

Hotel Arno at 508-510 Tampa Street, circa 1900.  Burgert Bros. photo is a photo of a newspaper photo, courtesy of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library.

On April 12 at the Arno, her trunks were in fumigation.  She saw Father Tyrell and Col. Wright.  "Not much need, get list of supplies needed."  "Times called" may be a reference to a reporter stopping by.  She mentions a Mrs. Shelly and Miss Metz's school.

Two styles of Hotel Arno guest paper, image from Red Cross Correspondence file, Spanish American War - Cottrell


Fumigation was a method used in the 19th century to disinfect clothing and cargo.  It was usually used for immigrants and passengers arriving from foreign countries.  Clothing was placed in an apparatus that produced a partial vacuum, then superheated steam was introduced, fully disinfecting the clothing.  Afterward, a partial vacuum was recreated to quickly dry the clothes. The process was often destructive, damaging clothing and goods.   Some steamship lines fumigated passengers' baggage with sulfur fumes for no less than 6 hours.

On Wed. April 13, at the Arno, Clara mentioned Mrs. Metz school and a kindergarten. The next day, the Tampa Tribune had a story about Clara's visit to the kindergarten in Tampa Heights.

She met with Mr. Wright and "removed to a new home" (a reference to leaving the Arno and staying at the home of J. Mack Towne in Hyde Park. See April 14th.) She also mentions a picnic (the one shown below) and "Com called - Hubbell goes to NY, advises to go to Wash. Tell him we are housekeeping (probably a reference to getting the Red Cross affairs organized and situated), stormy day at Wash.






On Thursday, April 14, Clara wrote that she is "at Towns" (the home of J. Mack Towne at 350 Plant Avenue) and her trunks have arrived.  "S.E.B. wires to stay here" is a reference to her nephew, Stephen E. Barton, a son of her brother David Barton & his wife Julia.  Stephen was 2nd V.P. of the American Red Cross and Chairman of The Central Cuban Relief Committee.

The 1903 Sanborn fire insurance map from the UF digital map collection shows the Arno was located across Tampa St. from Townes' Tampa Steam Laundry.  This is probably how she came to be invited to stay at the Towne's home.

Zoomable view of Clara's  journal from April 9 though April 14, 1898


Below: Towne's Tampa Steam Laundry as seen from the intersection of Tampa St (right) and Twiggs (left.)
Photo from  "Tampa Illustrated" at Internet Archive, compiled and published by C. E. Bissell and Roy Dougherty in 1903. Photo by Fred Barker.


The 1903 Sanborn map below shows the vantage point from which the above photo was taken.


Not only is this the location of NY Pizza, it appears to be the same building.


Clara Barton Picnicking in Tampa

By Hampton Dunn:

This rare photograph was made in 1898 by Mrs. E. B. Drumright (then Miss Annie Laurie Dean) and is one of the few known portraits of Miss Barton of this era. Miss Barton (striped neckpiece) is seated to the right of the coffee urn.  The other women are not identified, but the men are (left to right)  Mr. McDowell, Dr. Egan, and Dr. Elwell.  Miss Barton at first was stationed in the plush hotel, but moved to more modest quarters over on Plant Avenue.**


**As indicated by her journal entry, Clara stayed at the Arno, not at the Tampa Bay Hotel.  Barton was extremely frugal with Red Cross's funds and unless she was given a room for free (which is highly doubtful H. B. Plant would have done) she would have never stayed at the TBH.  She moved into the J. Mack Townes home the next day.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, picnicking at the Hillsborough River's edge on the grounds of the Tampa Bay Hotel.  Recorded in her  journal as April 13, 1898.

The photo above was part of Hampton Dunn's personal collection in 1982 and at the time was only one of two known in existence.  The other was in the Smithsonian in Washington DC.  Dunn was honored by the University of South Florida in 1982 at which time he donated the bulk of his approximately 30-year collection to the university, including this photo.


Clara in Tampa, urged to go to Washington DC

Clara spent Friday, April 15, 1898 writing a letters and sending 2 telegrams to her nephew, Stephen E. Barton.  It was "another windy day."  She spent the evening chatting in the parlor with Mrs. Townes and Mrs. Porch (her neighbor) and went for a ride with Miss Metz of the kindergarten.  "Elwell left for Key West that night." Saturday, April 16, was a "fine day."  She mentions "War News" and a report that troops are coming to Tampa and that "Tampa will be a center."  (War on Spain had not yet been declared.)  A telegram from her nephew, S.E.B. urges her to come to Washington and leave her staff in Tampa.  She wrote letters to various Red Cross personnel, "men do banking, get passes. A busy afternoon."  She packs her satchel in minutes, makes no change (of clothes?) leaves Cotrell $50 (he had previously drawn a check for $200) and she leaves for the train station at 7:30  pm.  "Wait at train station until 9pm, after having driven at a gallop to get there.  Took train and berth."

Zoomable view of Clara's  journal from April 15 to April 17, 1897


Tampa to Jacksonville and Washington, DC.

Sunday, April 17 - Clara arrived in Jacksonville a half hour too late and missed the next train which left 20 minutes earlier.  She didn't go to a hotel, instead she had breakfast in the restaurant at a table in the corner and wrote and read all day until 4 pm when she met a friend of Egan's and took a long ride.  Numerous notes on sending dispatches to NY, Wash. & Tampa and comments on various Red Cross activity concerning authority.  Her train to Washington left at 8pm. Monday, April 18 - Notes about her activity on the train ride from Jacksonville to Washington DC, beginning at 7 am.

Zoomable view of Clara's  journal from April 17 to April 19

Tuesday, April 19 through Thursday April 21 - Clara writes about many things from her home in Glen Echo, MD.  On April 21 she notes that "War news gets bad."  


This is not typical of Clara's handwriting,
which is typically quite illegible.

This is the page numbered "00" at the top which Clara referred to at the beginning of this No. 2 book of notes on Cuba--Names of persons she met on this trip.  The Hotel Inglaterra (Spanish for "England") still stands in Havana today.

The Hotel Inglaterra, as it would have looked when Clara was there
seen here, ca. 1900  Photo from Secrets of Cuba Culture Forum
(This site has many rare, old photos of Cuba from this time period)



Red Cross relief ship "State of Texas"

Early in April it had been decided to charter a steamer in New York and to load her with supplies and send her to different ports in Cuba, where her cargo could be unloaded in such quantities as might be required. Accordingly, the steamer "State of Texas," of about eighteen hundred tons burden, was chartered from Messrs. Mallory & Co., of New York, and notwithstanding the fact that our party had been obliged to leave Havana, and that subsequently war had been declared, the preparations for sailing were kept up, and the steamer was loaded with a cargo of fourteen hundred tons, which embraced a fine assortment of substantial and delicacies, and many household articles, medicines and hospital stores. When she was finally loaded in the latter part of April, the "State of Texas" sailed for Key West in charge of Dr. J. B. Hubbell, with Captain Frank Young as sailing master, arriving there on the twenty-eighth of that month.

From  The Red Cross, A History of this Remarkable International Movement in the History of Humanity

Red Cross relief ship "State of Texas"
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress


Friday, April 22 - Clara is at home in Glen Echo having arrived on the train at 7:30 am.  Numerous notes regarding several people. Saturday, April 23 - Clara mentions "Ship sailed 8 1/2 (8:30) a reference to the Red Cross relief ship "State of Texas" leaving NY for Key West.

The State of Texas relief ship leaves New York for Key West and Cuba

Departure of the Red Cross relief ship State of Texas from New York to Cuba on April 23, 1898.
Dr. A.M. Lesser of the Red Cross Hospital bids farewell to Dr. Julian B. Hubbell (bearded), Field Agent of the Central Cuban Relief.
Photo from the National Park Service Museum










Clara Barton described the qualities of the ideal American Red Cross field agent:

“The ideal field agent should possess: the ability to view a situation broadly without scorning details, an objective mind mellowed by sympathetic understanding, a liking for hard work, willingness to cooperate with others, belief in what the Red Cross stands for, executive talents, but willingness to subordinate his/herself.”   

Read about Dr. Hubbell at A Quiet Leader, Dr. Julian B. Hubbell, the first American Red Cross Chief Field Agent

Image from "In Memoriam" Clara Barton Tribute, 1912


Sunday, April 24 - Glen Echo - Clara mentions the ship "State of Texas having left yesterday and expects to arrive in Key West on Thursday and she plans to leave Glen Echo tomorrow (Monday.) 


U.S. declares war on Spain

Monday, April 25 - Clara goes to the White House and meets with Pres. McKinley and Sec. Alvey Adee regarding getting letters of authority so she and the Red Cross can pass through the US blockade of Cuba.  Adee writes a letter to Sec. Long.  This is the day the U.S. declared war on Spain.

At the declaration of war on April 25th, the American Red Cross in Tampa was ready to offer immediate war service, and in spite of war, Barton hoped that her relief work would continue. Two days before the outbreak of war, the Red Cross relief ship, the State of Texas, left New York harbor laden with 1,400 tons of supplies for the reconcentrados. Barton was anxious that the Geneva Convention did not cover naval warfare at this time. Moreover, in war, the Red Cross was supposed to have an active role with the military. She appealed to military leaders to follow the Geneva accords, but she found the same prejudices against her and “her” organization as she had in the Civil War. The generals believed that volunteer committees were unnecessary and that the military should take care of its own medical needs.


Before the “State of Texas” arrived at Key West, war had been declared between the United States and Spain, and soon after the prize ships, schooners, steamers and fishing smacks, captured off the Cuban coast began to come in, in tow, or in charge of prize crews. The Navy worked rapidly and brought in their prizes so quickly that the government officials were not prepared to feed the prisoners of war. On the ninth of May the United States Marshal for the southern district of Florida made the following appeal:

Miss Clara Barton,
President, American National Red Cross:
Dear Miss Barton: On board the captured vessels we find quite a number of aliens among the crews, mostly Cubans, and some American citizens, and their detention here and inability to get away for want of funds has exhausted their supply of food, and some of them will soon be entirely out. As there is no appropriation available from which food could be purchased, would you kindly provide for them until I can get definite instructions from the Department at Washington?
Very respectfully,
John F. Horr,
U.S. Marshal.

From The Red Cross in Peace and War by Clara Barton


Clara heads back to Tampa and Key West to join the relief ship State of Texas


Clara made note of her itinerary for this trip and affixed it to the cover of her No. 2 journal of her notes on Cuba.








The Scene at the Tampa Bay Hotel

In 1898 H. B. Plant's Tampa Bay Hotel became headquarters for the top brass of the U.S. Army during the Spanish American War as Tampa was the debarkation point for troops going to Cuba. A young relatively unknown officer named Theodore Roosevelt camped nearby with his "’Rough Riders" but his wife stayed at the "big hotel".  Generals Joe Wheeler, John B. Gordon, Fitzhugh Lee and Nelson A. Miles were some of the brass who mapped strategy from the verandahs of the hotel.


Generals Nelson A. Miles, Joseph Wheeler and staff in front of officers quarters on Picnic Island: Port Tampa City, Fla.

Gen William Ludlow, April 1898
Photo courtesy of the Harvard University Library, Dwight L. Elmendorf Spanish-American War photographs


March 27, 1898 - Burial of the "Maine" victims, taken at Key West.  First comes a detachment of sailors and marines in the left foreground, while at the right is seen a crowd of small colored boys, which preceded any public procession in the South. Then follow the nine hearses, each coffin draped with the flag. At the side of each wagon walk the pall bearers, surviving comrades, their heads bowed in attitudes of grief. Next come naval officers and marines, and lastly a procession of carriages, followed by a large crowd on foot. May 20, 1898 Tampa - Military camp at Tampa, taken from train
From Edison films "war extra" catalog: A wide plain, dotted with tents, gleaming white in the bright sunshine. Soldiers moving about everywhere, at all sorts of duties. In the background looms up a big cigar factory; giving the prosaic touch to the picture needful to bring out in sharp contrast the patriotism with which the scene inspires us. The camera was on a rapidly moving train, so the panoramic view is a wide one, and remarkably brilliant.
May 1, 1898, Ybor City.  Hurrah--here they come! Hot, dusty, grim and determined! Real soldiers, every inch of them! No gold lace and chalked belts and shoulder straps, but fully equipped in full marching order: blankets, guns, knapsacks and canteens. Train is in the background. Crowds of curious bystanders; comical looking "dude" with a parasol strolls languidly in the foreground.  Small boys in abundance. The column marches in fours and passes through the front of the picture. More small boys--all colors. The picture is excellent in outline and full of vigorous life. May-June, 1898 Tampa -  Shows the wonderful intelligence of these Troop F, 6th U.S. Cavalry, horses. At a command they lie down promptly, and at another order scramble to their feet.
Circa April 1898 in Tampa - Roosevelt Rough Riders.  A charge full of cowboy enthusiasm by Troop "I," the famous regiment, at Tampa, before its departure for the front.  Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were encamped in West Tampa in the area that is now between Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory and Kennedy Blvd, along Howard Ave.  See Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory at


The transport Whitney leaving Port Tampa for Cuba, May 20,1898
Jun 8, 1898 - Roosevelt's Rough Riders embarking for Santiago, Port of Tampa - Soldiers in Spanish-American War uniforms moving boxes towards a steamship on the dock January 1, 1899, in Havana, Cuba.The troops are turning into the Prado from a side street, where stands a triumphal arch erected by the Cubans; but which Gen. Brooke, the Military Governor of Cuba, would not permit to be finished, as he allowed no demonstrations of any kind. The soldiers are the First Texas troops. The streets are crowded with people. Many typical Cubans are seen lounging in the foreground, with here and there a Spaniard, if one may judge by sour looks and solemn demeanor. The buildings are all low stone structures, with heavy barred windows, from which are displayed small Cuban flags. An excellent picture of life in Havana.

Library of Congress Channel at YouTube

Spanish American war period films shot in Tampa on Library of Congress Website


Generals James F. Wade, McClure, and Ramsey on the verandah of the Tampa Bay Hotel, April 1898.
Photo courtesy of the Harvard University Library, Dwight L. Elmendorf Spanish-American War photographs


Tuesday, April 26 - Clara takes the 9:30 train from home to catch the 11:15 from Washington for Jacksonville.  Rainy, dull day all the way to Jacksonville. 

Wednesday, April 27 - Tampa - She meets the Taliaferros of Jacksonville onboard.  Clara arrives in Tampa at 5:30 pm and home in time for supper.



CLARA BARTON IN TAMPA New York Times, April 28, 1898.  TAMPA - Apr. 27 - Miss Clara Barton of the Red Cross Society arrived here to-night from Washington, and she, with the entire Red Cross force, will leave Tampa to-morrow for Key West. 

New York Times, April 29, 1898.
TAMPA - April 28 - Gen. Wade and his staff made an official call to-day on Miss Clara Barton and they had an important conference of half an hour. The exact nature of it is not known, but Miss Barton admitted that her future movements were concerned in it. To-night Miss Barton and those of the society who were with her left on the steamship Mascotte for Key West.



Thursday, April 28 - Tampa - Sent word to Gen Wade he is the son of "old Ben" he calls with Lieut Alma We take carriage and visit camps 9th inft - 4th inft Capt Hall - all genial, glad to see us. Mrs Towne had arranged her church tea for tomorrow but changes the day to Wed. All the Military are invited and all came at 4 pm. I receive with Rev Dehart he [illegible] - clergyman.  A lively entertainment of all Tampa. Tel [telephone] Atlanta [?] to send on supplies for com ca.. Father Tyrell who is ill - others of com call for them Cubans - we still adhere [?] to Father Tyrell - pack trunks pay rent to May 12 $62. Gen Wade wants rooms, we hold ...[ illegible]





The photos below were taken at the Towne residence at 350 Plant Avenue on Thursday, April 28, at a "Military Tea" given by the ladies of the Hyde Park Guild.  It is the day she spent in Tampa on her way to meet the State of Texas in Key West.  Clara mentioned the next day, those who were on the train to Port Tampa to board the Mascotte: Dr. Joseph Gardner and his wife Enola,  Miss Lucy Graves, four nurses, Dr. E.Winfield Egan (Red Cross Surgeon), Mr. C.H.H. Cottrell (Red Cross Financial Secretary), J.K. Elwell, and J.A. McDowell.  The photo is most likely those persons.  Notice the four nurses in the photo, along with two other women (Enola Gardner and Miss Graves) and 6 men (only one not named.)  Photo from American Red Cross Blog


Photo below from "The Red Cross in Peace and War" - A PART OF THE RED CROSS CORPS that was working with the Reconcentrados in Cuba before the declaration of war, waiting at Tampa, Florida, for the Red Cross Relief Ship “State of Texas,” to carry them back to Cuba to resume their work.  The address of the house can be seen just above the small U.S. flag on the wall behind the nurse.

Military tea in honor of Gen. Wade and staff at the home of Mr. & Mrs. J. Mack Towne in Hyde Park, Tampa, Fla.
Miss Clara Barton is seated in the center of the group. 
Place your cursor on the photo to see persons identified compared to picnic photo.
 L to R:  J.K.Elwell, J.A. McDowell, nurse1, Dr. Jos. Gardner, unknown man1, nurse2, Miss Barton seated, unknown man2, nurse3, unknown man3 (may be David L. Cobb, Red Cross Counsel), Enola Gardner, nurse4, Lucy Graves.
The four nurses appeared in another photo (see further down) and are identified by Miss Barton in a letter she wrote on March 22, 1899.
They are Miss Isabelle Olm, Miss Annie McCue, Miss Blanche MacCorriston, and Miss Minnie Rogall. (not necessarily in order here.)
Photograph by Gevit Parlow. 
Other photos by Gevit Parlow

See Clara's  journal for April 27 & 28

Towne was the owner of Towne's Tampa Steam Laundry.   Photo at right shows J. Mack Towne seated at center with his staff and his son, D. P. Towne dressed in black, standing next to him, 1903.





Another photo was taken at the same occasion on the front porch of the Towne residence.  Clara Barton (at center) and some of the same Red Cross volunteers outside the home of J. Mack Towne located at 350 Plant Avenue.

Clara Barton and her Red Cross volunteers outside the home of J. Mack Towne at 350 Plant Avenue.
Photo from Tampa Tribune Online article by Paul Guzzo, credit to Tampa Bay History Center.

Below:  The Towne residence in 1903.
From "Tampa Illustrated" at Internet Archive, compiled and published by C. E. Bissell and Roy Dougherty in 1903.
Photo by Fred Barker.


Below, from the Clara Barton/Red Cross scrapbooks online at the Library of Congress.

On the next two pages, Clara turned her  journal sideways and wrote the following:

If the people desire me to return to Cuba and distribute their gifts, I am willing to do so.  In the present condition of affairs I cannot do this without the fullest and strongest authority from our government.

The proper division of this relief should be as follows:
The New York committee to collect, ship and place the relief on the island. General Lee to be responsible for receipt of such supplies, reporting to the government as at present, and conferring with the NY committee.

The Red Cross to receive the supplies, through the consuls if there, and be responsible for their distribution, reporting to the NY committee as the responsible agent of the government.

Thursday, April 28 (continued) Tampa to Key West to join the relief ship "State of Texas"

In her book, The Red Cross, A History of this Remarkable International Movement in the History of Humanity, Clara wrote about this day:

In the meantime, Dr. Jos. Gardner and wife, of Bedford, Ind., had joined our party at Tampa; and soon after Miss Barton, Dr. Egan, Mr. D. L. Cobb* and Miss Lucy M. Graves came along, and it was arranged that the entire party was to leave Tampa on the evening of April 28, to go aboard the steamer "State of Texas," at Key West, and remain on her until the army had made a landing in Cuba, when it was expected that we should be able to resume our work there. The day of the evening we were to leave Tampa, Mrs. J. M. Towne, the lady at whose house our party was stopping, gave a reception in honor of Miss Barton, to which General Wade and the army officers who were then stationed there, and many ladies and gentlemen of that fine little city, were invited. It was a most brilliant and enjoyable occasion, the uniforms of the officers and the lovely toilettes** of the ladies making a picture that will long remain in the memories of those who saw it.

  *David Lewis Cobb was counsel to the National Red Cross.
**Toilette - Dress, attire; costume.


In her journal, Clara wrote: ..."at 7:30 train leaves for the Mascot to Key West.  We all take it,  Dr. & Enola [Dr. Joseph Gardner and his wife Enola], Miss Graves [Lucy], four nurses, Dr Egan, Cotrell, Elwell, McDowell.  Mr. and Mrs. [H.B.] Plant came out to see us at hotel and came to reception.  We reach boat and leave at 10. o'clock.

(Before Enola Lee's marriage to Dr. Gardner in 1888, she was Clara's friend and secretary.  When Enola announced to Clara that she was to marry Dr. Gardner, she promised that she and her husband would continue to work with her anywhere they might be needed.)

Lawrence County Museum of History  


Clara and her entourage leave Tampa to join the relief ship State of Texas in Key West

Friday, April 29 - SS Mascotte to Key West - After landing in Key West she meets Hubbell and passengers of the State of Texas, Captain Young, "she is far off."  Gives papers to Commander Forsyth who refers her to Capt. Harrington of the Puritan who came on to her tug.  Delivered papers and went onto the ship.  "A nice ship, well manned.  Supper.  Mr. Mann historian, Mr. Bangs, Mr. Duncan, supper, room, bed. 

See  journal pages for April 28 & 29

Waiting in Key West for clearance from the US Navy to enter Cuba

Saturday, April 30 - Onboard the State of Texas, Key West harbor - Clara spends much time on the ship docked in Key West, waiting for the Navy to allow the State of Texas to pass through the blockade with their supplies.  She writes about many things in the oncoming weeks.  The events of the war, the business of the Red Cross, banking activities, shore excursions, etc.  She uses up the pages in her 2nd book on her activities concerning Cuba and starts a new book where her handwriting vastly improves.  On May 10 she goes in to detail about the "Prize ships"--ships that the U.S. has captured and brought to Key West with their crew.  Clara records the names of some  ships and tells about distributing food and supplies to them.  All this goes on for about a month.

While we were lying at Key West there was scarcely a day passed that some of our vigilant blockading squadron did not bring in from one to three captured prizes; sometimes large steamships, and from that class through the various grades of shipping down to fishing smacks; and in the course of a couple of weeks there were between thirty and forty of these boats lying at anchor in the harbor, with their crews aboard under guard. Somehow it was forgotten that these poor foreigners must eat to live; or else perhaps somebody thought that somebody else was responsible for this very important matter; be that as it may, they were unprovided for.

The boats, of course, had a small amount of provisions aboard when they were captured, and while that lasted all went well; but in a few days their supply was exhausted and calls were made on the United States Marshal, in whose charge the prisoners were, for food. That officer, having no contingent fund on which to draw, was in despair, and came to Miss Barton, who at once reassured him by saying that she would attend to the matter and would provide for all the prisoners until such time as he could get his petition through the departments at Washington. Accordingly several boatloads of provisions were hastily gotten together and taken in tow by a steam launch which landed them alongside of each prize. Miss Barton personally visited these boats, and with the aid of an interpreter she learned the needs of the crews, and not only supplied them with food, but she arranged to take letters from all who wished to communicate with friends and relatives in Spain and elsewhere, and forwarded the letters to their destination.

Sunday, May 1 - Clara goes to church in Key West with Mrs. Gardner.  Notes on plans with Capt. Harrington, to see Spanish General Blanco, get food ashore under flag of truce.  Clara writes letter to be taken to Admiral Sampson.
See journal page for May 1

Monday, May 2 - Onboard the State of Texas - She sends a message to Admiral Sampson to asking to allow the ship to pass the blockade surrounding the island. 

Wrot[e] Ad. S. [Admiral Sampson] before I was up--copied it autograph and gave to Mr. Cobb to take to Capt. Harrington on Puritan to send to Admiral - Mr. Cobb did not find Capt. H and retained the letter.  Meanwhile came a call from typical Navy man Capt Chadwick he is one of the persons that fill the space all up in an instant.  He had to say that the Ad[miral] had received word of our arrival our papers and had sent his reply which he delivered to me.  He said the plan of the blockade was to keep food out of Cuba, while mine was to get it in.  I talked with him very low and slow mentioned that I had addressed a letter to the Ad. which he wished to see.  I send it to him from the Press Book.  He grew more considerate, said I had best see the Ad. He would take me.

Read what Clara wrote in her book "The Red Cross" about her rendezvous with the State of Texas, her encounter with Admiral Sampson, and her time in Key West waiting for his permission to pass the blockade.

Clara meets with Admiral Sampson on his ship, the New York:

"...and yet the admiral did not absolutely refuse to give me a flag of truce and attempt an entrance into Havana; but he disapproved it, feared the results for me and acting in accordance with his highest wisdom and best judgment, I felt it to be my place to wait. By the concurrence of the admiral our letters were both given to the public, and we remained, as we had been, neighbors and friends."


Rear Admiral William T. Sampson photo and info from Library of Congress







William T. Sampson was the Commander of the U.S. blockading and North Atlantic squadrons during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Prior to the war, he served in a variety of assignments and rose to rank of Captain by 1890 and later became a Rear Admiral. He was appointed President of the U.S.S. Maine Court of Inquiry, the group that was responsible for the investigation of the incident in Havana harbor. During the war with Spain, Sampson was in charge of the North Atlantic and conducted the blockade of Cuba. Sampson himself was not present at the battle when the ships under his command destroyed the Spanish vessels of Admiral Cervera as they attempted to escape from the harbor of Santiago. In nearby Puerto Rico, Sampson commanded the blockade and bombardment of the San Juan harbor.


Although tedious, the wait in Key West was not without action. Barton and her staff quickly turned their attention to the Spanish crew of captured vessels, prisoners of war, offering them sustenance under the auspices of the Red Cross. Again, “ease suffering” was her philosophy. She explained that until then “they had only live fish and brown sugar to eat.”   

Friday, May 6 - Several pages of notes describing events, activity and news up to this day, this day is the last entry for notes in this journal, still on the Texas in Key West. See journal page

See details in Clara's book "The Red Cross."   

At this point, Clara's journal notes some statistics about the town of Bejucal, a small town near Havana.

3/4 hour RR to Winne(?) Pop. 8000 in all, reconcentrados 2500, no hospital, need is 300, public charity feed, daily death 10 to 12 persons. Fever, wasting of blood, no clothing.

See journal entry


Saturday, May 7 - Clara starts her third book with notes on Cuba, still onboard the State of Texas relief ship in Key West, she refers to her first two books by description.

This is the third small book in which have been written notes of Cuba.  The first a red book commencing with the first of the field - The second a long thin little gray book, picked up incidentally, ending with May 6.  These small books are to be copied into a larger book when the time can be found to do it. 
See cover of this book   See journal entry



From May 7 to May 17, while waiting in Key West, Clara writes about many things in more legible writing than her previous journal; among some of the various topics are: too much familiarity by the captain with the nurses, feeding the captives on the 15 captured ships in Key West harbor, and distribution of food for more ships, now numbering 20.  See beginning of this period in journal.

Wednesday, May 18 - J. K. Elwell left for Tampa to survey the conditions and Red Cross' supplies.  See journal entry

Clara vents her frustration while waiting in Key West

Saturday, May 21, Clara begins a long criticism of the U.S. government and the Navy for their lack of compassion and vents her frustration about the resulting futility of the of the Red Cross' efforts.  She vents her frustration when she recounts her response to a correspondent from the London Standard who came by to see her, writing that he could not understand why the Red Cross was not in great preparation to treat the wounded or sick, then goes on to explain their methods to him.


It is decided that they steam back to Tampa then head for Washington to straighten things out. 

"...If we are only a cute charitable society like the D.A.R then let us know it.  Let the country know it and be no longer deceived by our false pretense.  If we have no status under the treaty and it is all --?-- and vested in the War Dept. then let it be known and let us retire.  We have no desire to try to serve a cause in which we are neither recognized or wanted.  If our Government in the knowledge of the situation makes this decision, then we will lay aside all further efforts.  Make it known to the world that America has no universal relief body, that its people prefer to work only for themselves, and thus we have in reality no longer a Red Cross.  That our people prefer to aid its own sick and wounded through its war department and therefore there is no existing body in the U.S. through which other Red Cross societies can aid.  That this being the decision of our government, after mature consultation with it, we decide that our only course, regretful, humiliating and sad as it is, must be to inform the other nations and return to them the funds already sent, a larger sum that has ever been contributed by all of our people to us for war relief and call it all closed.  It is possible we have done our work so poorly as to necessitate a course --- --- on the part of our president and his cabinet, better informed and with broader views, should revive the subject and call for a revision of the Treaty of 1882.  It was decided that the captain be directed to steam for Tampa early in the morning."  See journal entry.

Telegrams were sent to various people, including S.E.B. to be prepared to go to Washington, that "we would leave Tampa Monday night."

Sunday, May 22 - Key West to Tampa -  The State of Texas steams out of Key West for Port Tampa at 8am, "...leaving a city of conjecturing people.  What are they going for and where?  Those who would go on to Washington were "C.B (herself)., Mr. Kennon, Mr. Cobb. See journal entry.

Monday, May 23 - Clara recalls the death of her sister, Sally, as she sails from Key West to Port Tampa onboard the relief ship "State of Texas": 

"Twenty-four years ago today I reached Worcester having been brought through from Washington to take my last look at poor dying sister Sally.  She could not wait and I arrived to find that she had gone two hours before.  Poor sweet soul, ready for the Heaven ready for her.  If for any at all events, rest which she so needed, a useful life, with its joys, its sorrows, its lover and its carer had ended, and its liver passed to the beyond.  Then followed my years of weakness and woe.  How I lived them I cannot conceive, and sometimes I find it an equal mystery--why.  Vester and Bernard and poor dear Minnie have passed, and I here, 24 years older, well strong, striving with the world, not one soul near me that I knew or had ever heard of then.  It is quite another world.  In another few years, I shall be to them what the others are to me--a memory, nothing more."  See journal entry.

Clara in Tampa and the scene at the Tampa Bay Hotel

Clara arrives in Port Tampa at 9:30am and spends some time onboard preparing for their trip to Washington.  They debarked at 4pm, took a train to the Tampa Bay Hotel where she meets several people in the lobby.  She describes the scene at the hotel:

"A mixture of officers, reporters and sightseers.  The first to encounter was Mrs. Lee of the Period, next Mrs. Earhart of N.O.  a true type of the 'women of the period' determined to see and to get all there was to be seen and had.  Pushing women, still good, active workers in their way.  Mr. Kennon called on Gen. Shafter who came downstairs to call on me. He made a pleasant call, is a large, short, desperately swelled-out man, still a rather fine-looking person.  He knows nothing of the future.  Met several reporters, all pleasant but starved for news.  Hundreds in and about Tampa.  Met Mrs. Cummings, the daughter-in-law of Chester & Deborah Borden Cummings of Charleston."

General Shafter at the Tampa Bay Hotel, 1898. 
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,


Correspondents and others on the grounds of the Tampa Bay Hotel, 1898
Photo courtesy of the Harvard University Library, Dwight L. Elmendorf Spanish-American War photographs

Brig. Gen. Joseph Wheeler

Sir Arthur Hamilton Lee, British attaché, and Count Gustav Adolf Goetzen, German attaché

5th Army Corps preparing to board the ships departing for Cuba, Port Tampa
Photo courtesy of Harvard Library Spanish American War Photographs


Clara stays at the home of Mrs. Porch, neighbor of Mrs. Towne

Mr. Cobb drove to Mrs. Towne who came at once.  We must go home with her to stay.  We drove up, house full.  Met Lieut. Hutton and wife.  Col. & Mrs. Liecom who had met me at Sorosis dinner.   Mrs. Porch came to insist on my sleeping in her house.  The first thing was to show me Margaret's picture painted for her in Chicago. "

"A good night's sleep in a lovely room.  The parlor chamber, this, like Mrs. Towne's own home beside it, was designed by Mrs. Towne who has excellent taste.  She is a loving, enthusiastic woman, the picture of health, but that cough is the "canker in the rose."  She will be lucky to go early.  Mrs. Porch, I fear, will be left with the children.  We found Mr. Elwell there, who had done splendidly in the relief."


American Red Cross nurses in Tampa, 1898. From the Rollins College Archives Caption from "The Red Cross in Peace and War" by Clara Barton. L to R: Misses Isabelle Olm, Annie McCue, Blanche MacCorriston, and Minnie Rogall, all from the New York Red Cross  hospital. Photo identification comes from this letter of March 22, 1899 at the Library of Congress Barton Papers Collection, written by Clara in response to one she received from Miss James of Detroit, Michigan.

See the whole letter.


Emergency Relief at Port Tampa

At this time there were several camps at Tampa and Port Tampa, and several thousand troops were preparing for the invasion of Cuba; transports were daily arriving at Port Tampa and were being placed in readiness to carry this vast host to the “Pearl of the Antilles.” Those were busy days for everybody, and the Red Cross doctors and nurses were called upon hourly to render service to many victims of injury and disease.  (The Red Cross in Peace and War)

Tampa and the 2nd Lafayette St. Bridge from the Tampa Bay Hotel, 1898
Photo courtesy of the Harvard University Library, Dwight L. Elmendorf Spanish-American War photographs


Clara heads to Washington DC, Glen Echo MD and New York

Tuesday, May 24 - Tampa to Jacksonville - 6am - Clara takes a carriage to train station in Tampa.  Red Cross news was not very good, said our "hospital ship" was in Tampa to gain the transports and the NY papers tell of the troubles of the Red Cross and the War Dept.  A hot and dusty day, no accommodations on the train to Jacksonville and the ride too rocky to write.  Goes on to describe what she did on the train.  It stops at Waldo for dinner (lunch) and was in Jacksonville from 4 pm to 7 pm.

See journal entry.

Wednesday May 25 on train to Washington, arrive 10pm, takes train home to Glen Echo 11pm.  See journal entry

Saturday, May 28 in New York City until June 1 - Conducting Red Cross business.  See journal entries.

Wednesday, June 1 - Leave for Washington to lobby for authorization to cross the Navy blockade of CubaSee journal entry
Tuesday, June 2 -
Washington until June 14, Glen Echo.  See journal entries.

While Red Cross President Clara Barton lobbied for authorization to cross the blockade, many relief organizations throughout the country adopted the Red Cross insignia to offer assistance. Scores of trained nurses also rushed to volunteer. To accommodate the surge, the New York Red Cross committee organized an efficient auxiliary relief to the army that included recruiting and paying the nurses. Barton had neglected to provide specific guidance from the headquarters. Instead, she saw the young “branches” as evidence of the Red Cross success and another step in her passion to bring nurses to the battlefront as an integral part of the military. Clara did not realize that the adoring public would come to associate the Red Cross, not with her, but with the tremendous work of these “branches."

On Monday, June 6, 1898, Secretary of War R.A. Alger sent Clara a letter telling her that the “tender of services of the American National Red Cross...  "for medical and hospital work as auxiliary to the hospital service of the Army of the United States, is accepted” and added that her workers would be “subject to orders according to the rules and discipline of war, as provided by the 63 Articles of War.”    The Red Cross in Peace and War   See journal entry

Thursday, June 9 - Clara is home at Glen Echo, MD, conducting business of the Red Cross operations. See journal entry. 


Clara leaves Washington DC on June 14, 1898 and heads back to Tampa    See journal entry.

Wed June 15, arrive in Jacksonville late due to accident of another train.  Missed train to Tampa, stayed overnight in Jax. at Hotel Winslow.  See journal entry.

Thurs. June 16 - Leave Jacksonville, arrive in Port Tampa at 10:50 am.  Baggage didn't arrive and had to stay at Port Tampa another day. 

Miss Barton rejoined our party on June 16, being accompanied by Mrs. J. Addison Porter, the wife of the secretary to President McKinley, who went with us on the “State of Texas.” Miss Barton had been the recipient of such assurances on her recent trip to Washington from the heads of the various government departments, that she believed that the Red Cross would receive the most cordial recognition from the army and navy as an auxiliary aid, and would be able to co-operate with them in the utmost harmony. Although the mission of the steamer “State of Texas” was to render relief to the Cuban reconcentrados, it was tacitly understood and believed by all that every possible aid would be extended to the army and navy forces whenever it was necessary or called for. All of the government transports carrying General Shafter’s army had sailed from Port Tampa, bound for Cuba, when, on June 17, the “State of Texas” weighed her anchor and started for Key West, where we arrived on the following afternoon. 

The Red Cross in Peace and War

Friday June 17 - Clara leaves Port Tampa on the State of Texas at 7am.  See journal entry.

Sat. June 18 Arrives after lunch time at Key West on the State of Texas.  See journal entry.

The relief ship State of Texas leaves Key West for Cuba, Monday June 20

A photomontage of Barton’s return to Cuba and time on the ship the State of Texas. From The Red Cross in Peace and War,
courtesy of the New York Academy of Medicine


The State of Texas left Key West on June 20, reaching the entrance to Santiago harbor on June 25, and proceeding eastward to Guantanamo Bay, where arrangements were made for the relief of Cuban refugees.  The ship then returned to Siboney to render service to soldiers wounded in the fight at Las Guasimas; Red Cross nurses and surgeons worked in connection with the regular hospital service; by the 9th of July the society was feeding refugees at several points on a line extending east and west nearly sixty miles from Guantanamo Bay to Caney.   See journal entries.

Tuesday, June 21 - On the relief ship "State of Texas," Clara writes letters all day long at sea.  See journal entry.

Wednesday, June 22 - On the relief ship "State of Texas," Rough seas, nearing west point of Cuba. Clara is up at 2am, sick.

Thursday, June 23 - On the relief ship "State of Texas," Storm abates, more calm.

Friday, June 24 - On the relief ship "State of Texas," southern coast of Cuba, calm seas. Bettina Lesser remains very sick. Skirting the coast.

Saturday, June 25 - On the relief ship "State of Texas," Morning, among the fleet at Santiago. Head to Guantanamo, arrive in harbor around 6 pm.

Returning to the Battlefront in Cuba, June 26, 1898

Functioning under the realm of humanitarian relief, Barton followed Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders to Guantanamo Bay.  Yet the prospect that she would go to the battlefront seemed dismal. She met with resistance from army surgeons.  She wrote in her  journal: “All seemed interested in the Red Cross, but none thought that a woman nurse would be in place in a soldier’s hospital; indeed very much out of place.” She reflected that it was the same old story and wondered what gain there had been in the last thirty years. 
 From The Spanish American War Centennial    See journal entry.



Marine encampment at Guantanamo, June 1898
Photo from the Library of Congress


June 27 - 30 - In Siboney, army surgeons at the American hospital rebuffed Clara's offer to help and so she turned her attention to the adjacent Cuban hospital. Soon the Americans saw that the nourished, clean and cared for patients provided a stark contrast to their plight and changed their minds. The surgeons then requested Red Cross assistance.

During the July 1st Battle of El Caney wounded poured into Siboney. Barton, Sister Bettina, Dr. Lesser and the Red Cross team worked round the clock.

From The Spanish American War Centennial

Inside a hospital tent in Siboney, 1898
Photo courtesy of the Harvard University Library,
Edwin Emerson Rough Rider lantern slides








Capture of El Caney, El Paso & fortifications of Santiago, July 1898. 

Photo from Library of Congress









Santiago refugees at El Caney, 1898
Photo from Library of Congress

Sixteenth infantry in San Juan creek bottom, under Spanish fire from San Juan Hill, July 1st, 1898
Photo from Library of Congress

July 1 - Onboard the State of Texas, nearing Santiago and in harbor, news of the fighting.  The captain of the "Harvard" approaches the State of Texas and tells him to get his ship out of the way at once so his ship can land his troops on shore.  As the Texas pulls out of the harbor, Clara and the Red Cross staff watch the troops land as bombardment of Aguidores 5 miles west takes place and other US ships keep up rapid fire.

Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at the top of the hill which they captured, Battle of San Juan, July 1, 1898 by William Dinwiddie
Photo from Library of Congress

July 2 - Hospitals are filled with the wounded, reports that the Spanish deliberately fired on the hospitals and the wounded. General Shafter sends orders for the Red Cross to seize any empty wagon coming in and send it to the front with supplies which are badly needed. Clara decides to go to the front with it personally the next day.

July 3 - Siboney
Clara, Dr. Gardner and his wife, Dr. Hubbell and Mr. McDowell all leave for the front with two six-mule wagons of supplies.

On the second day of the July 3rd San Juan battle, Barton received a message that the wounded desperately needed care at the battlefront. Ensuring the supplies were loaded in the only two wagons available, she commandeered a hay wagon and proceeded over hills to a valley surrounded by dense jungle and mountains. She reached a collection of tents, the First Division Hospital of the Fifth Army Corps. Here she complained the conditions were far worse than anything she had seen during the Civil War. 47 Wounded men lay everywhere, exposed to the tropical elements made worse than ever by the rainy season. More than eight hundred men were “recovering” from surgery, some sheltered by palm leaves, many lying naked, in pools of water, exposed to the elements. Those more able greeted her with a delighted roar: “There is a woman! . . My God, boys, It’s Clara Barton. Now we’ll get something to eat.”    From The Spanish American War Centennial


This photo is titled "Clara Barton and fellow Red Cross workers posed on dock. Cuba. 1898" at the Library of Congress but Clara is NOT identified in the markings on it as any of the persons in the photo, nor does any person in the photo resemble Clara.  The caption, from unverified data does not include Clara, but does name Dr. & Bettina Lesser, Dr. Julian Hubbell, E. Winfield Egan, Mr. & Mrs. S.E. Barton, & Myrtis Barton (Stephen E. Barton's daughter.) Photo by George P. Hall, N.Y.C. obtained from Library of Congress here.
Place your cursor on the photo to see identification.


July 4 - Siboney
Clara's journal describes the scene as ships fly the Star-Spangled Banner waving proudly, in contrast with the Red Cross flags flying at the tents of the wounded and dying.

Setting up an emergency station, Clara worked relentlessly providing the best care her resources permitted. Throughout the war, she was the only female nurse allowed to work at the front. In fact, some of the later criticism that she faced arose from her willingness to minister to the Spanish soldiers as well. Barton arranged with General Shafter for these soldiers to receive emergency care and to return behind their own lines under a flag of truce.

To Barton, most trying of all was her continual struggle to maintain her authority to administer care for all at the battlefront. She fought her cause with a sharp tongue and penned her anger to her  journal. Her fight against gender constraints loomed large in her records. “You have been to the front,” inquired one Major. “I should think you find it very unpleasant there. There is no need of your going there—it is no place for women. I consider women very much out of place in a field hospital.”  Retelling her experiences, Barton justified her place at the frontline, “I must have been out of place a good deal, Doctor, for I have been [in the battlefield] a great deal.” Yet the Major ignored her response. “That doesn’t change my opinion, if I had my way I would send you home,” he said. Barton was undoubtedly furious.

The Red Cross' success, in part, was due to Barton’s avowed belief in the full rights for women. She hoped the result of her battles would bring “progress of humane sentiment . . . perfectly equal rights, human rights . . . and the advancement of the civilization and enlightenment of the world.”  From The Spanish American War Centennial


Putting an ambulance wagon together
 Photographic history of the Spanish-American War :a pictorial and descriptive record of events on land and sea with portraits and biographies of leaders on both sides. New York : Pearson Pub. Co., c1898. THREE FAMOUS COMMANDERS Page page 292 (seq. 293) Repository Collection Development Department, Widener Library, HCL Institution Harvard University

July 15 - Siboney - It is decided to leave Siboney Harbor and spend the day cruising the vicinity.

July 16 - Santiago de Cuba - The Texas drifted out overnight, staff goes in small boats to visit the wrecks of Spanish war ships on the beach. Clara communicates to Capt. of the New York if they can enter Santiago harbor, he advises them to go to Guantanamo.

The Relief Expedition Enters Santiago - July 17, 1898

The surrender of Santiago having been arranged to take place at ten o’clock on the morning of July 17, and Miss Barton being anxious to get to that city at the earliest moment, knowing full well the terrible conditions that existed there, the steamer “State of Texas” steamed down from Siboney that day to the entrance of Santiago Bay, and led the naval procession to the city's docks, much to Clara's delight, "...leading the American flotilla, with Barton standing on the forward deck, ...queenly and majestic.” 


July 17 - The relief ship waits at Santiago harbor for fleet to enter first before delivering their supplies. Entering around 4pm, they are overcome with emotion and sing "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow" and "America" while tears fill their eyes. Most mines being removed or destroyed, they pass historic El Morro and move slowly toward the city.


Food entered the harbor in advance of the forces--on the State of Texas, flying the Red Cross flag and carrying food and medicine for the wounded, starving, and dying, being allowed to precede the warships by Admiral Sampson's courtesy. 
Literature, An International Gazette of Criticism, New York, Jan 27, 1899

The Red Cross dock at Santiago
Spanish soldiers waiting for distribution of rations, Governor's palace on the hill in the background.
Photo from "Clara Barton to the American People" National Park Service Museum


Miss Barton sent word to Admiral Sampson that she was ready to go in to the city whenever he was ready to have her; and he answered that he would send her a pilot to take her ship in as soon as the channel was made safe by the removal of torpedoes that had been planted by the Spaniards. Accordingly about 4.30 in the afternoon a Cuban pilot came aboard the “Texas” from the flagship “New York” and we were soon on our way to Santiago, where we arrived just before sundownWe came to anchor just off the main wharf and Messrs. Elwell and Warner went ashore to make arrangements for warehouse room and to engage men to unload the ship on the morrow.

Miss Barton pushed to get her nurses access to the war wounded on both sides, organized relief aid delivery to Santiago, and established soup kitchens, clinics, and orphanages.  As journalist George Kennan observed: “I did not happen to see any United States quartermaster in Cuba who, in the short space of five days, had unloaded and stored fourteen hundred tons of cargo, given hot soup daily to ten thousand soldiers, and supplied an army of thirty-two thousand men with ten days rations. It is a record, I think, of which Miss Barton had every reason to be proud.”

The Red Cross in Peace and War,  Washington, D.C.: American Historical Press.
Retrieved from


Red Cross nurses en route to Cuba.  Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross blog.

Sep. 1-2, 1898 - Clara fell several days previous, hurting her right eye, flies troubling her, both eyes sore, she fears poisoned by the flies. Having been refused permission to relieve the suffering in Havana and unload supplies, Clara and the Red Cross leave with their mission not accomplished and head to Tampa onboard the "Clinton." En route to Tampa. Clara was quite ill, her eyes troubling her a great deal, she was being tended to by day by Lucy Graves, by night by Miss Fowler, Dr. Egan attending physician.

Earlier, in July, the Clinton was used as a yellow fever hospital ship.

Image from Congressional Record, Conduct of War With Spain

Sep.  3, Sat. - Egmont Key, quarantine station for detention and disinfection for 5 days. Arriving early morning, they go ashore in the afternoon, facing legions of ferocious mosquitoes.

Clara passes through Tampa one last time, 1898

Sep. 9 Fri - Egmont Key, onboard steamer Clinton, Port Tampa - Clara and the ladies board a small steamer which left Egmont Key at 8 pm and arrived at Port Tampa around midnight. Lucy Graves was quite ill.

Sep. 10 Sat - Onboard steamer in Port Tampa, onboard train - Except for Miss Fowler and Mr. Van Schelle (who went to the Arno), the party remained on the steamer all day, leaving it in the evening to take the train for the north. Letter dated Sept. 10 from Clara "Expect to arrive Washington Monday morning…Leave here tonight, Saturday."

During the year prior to the outbreak of hostilities between the United States and Spain, Cuban families were fleeing from the island, and this exodus continued until war began. The refugees, numbering several thousand, took up their abode at Tampa, Key West and other Atlantic and gulf ports. They had been obliged to leave their native country hastily, leaving nearly all their personal property behind them, and in a short time after their arrival in America were actually without food and with no means wherewith to purchase it. Committees and agents of the Red Cross were established in both Tampa and Key West, and acting as the distributing agencies for the supplies forwarded by the Central Cuban Relief Committee, the refugees were cared for.

See "Complete list of Cuban refugees, etc, fed from Cuban relief stores at Tampa, Florida, during summer and fall of 1898" by Samuel S. Partello, Asst. Surgeon & Field Agent, American National Red Cross, Tampa. Images at Library of Congress. Listing is alphabetical and shows address, number of children boys/girls, and dates that food and clothing were delivered.




Surgeon Gen. George Miller Sternberg
Photo from U.S. Army Office of Medical History

Throughout the war, Barton’s team was continually overwhelmed with the amount of work. The army’s meager resources did little to supplement Red Cross supplies. In fact, Red Cross supplies targeting for starving Cubans went to supply the army. Nurse reinforcements recruited by the New York committee arrived in eastern Cuba, but the army refused them permission to land. To Barton, most trying of all was her continual struggle to maintain her authority to administer care at the battlefront. Surgeon General George M. Sternberg adamantly reiterated it was the government’s responsibility to provide medical care for the military—no female nurses were required. He somewhat reversed his decision after the publicity exposing the dreadful conditions in the recruiting camps and the military camps in Cuba. Outbreaks of disease, malaria, yellow fever, typhoid and dysentery posed such a problem Sternberg allowed female nurses to attend the camps and the hospital transport ships. The New York Red Cross sent 700 nurses to the camps and hospitals. Hearing of their heroic efforts, the public lionized the nurses. Barton remained in the field.

Clara Barton's 1898 Battles in Cuba: A Reexamination of her Nursing Contributions



October 1898 - After the Spanish-American War, Miss Barton was honored by newly formed veterans groups. She was named honorary president of The National Society of the Spanish War. Initially, she accepted the position, but resigned when she learned that African-American veterans would not be accepted into the society. Clara Barton's strong sense of equality is clearly stated in her resignation, I have received a letter from a friend [Susan B. Anthony] quoting from The New York Tribune of a recent date, a statement of conditions of membership in your society, in the following words, ‘Membership is open to all patriotic White Americans...’ I beg to call your attention to the fact that the forgoing limitation was never brought to my attention until now. If you will reflect a moment you will see how utterly impossible it would be for me to be connected with any society that upholds the discrimination against people of color on account of their color.”

From "Clara Barton, A Lifetime of Service," Clara Barton National Historic Site

Red Cross letterhead, 1899 - From Library of Congress
Page 7 of Clara Barton Papers: General Correspondence, 1838-1912; Elwell, J. K., 1900-1905

Clara writes "The Red Cross in Peace and War" amidst concern and criticism

Clara returned from Cuba to a storm of criticism. Ongoing problems arising from her accounting reemerged with great intensity; there were concerns that her inadequate record-keeping made it difficult to monitor the organization. Why was she in the field and not directing operations from the Red Cross headquarters? Why had she aided the Spanish captives at time of war? Criticism pointed to the fact that she worked authoritatively and independently.


Hurt by such charges, Barton retreated to her home in Glen Echo, Maryland, to write a book, The Red Cross in Peace and War. Published in 1899, half of the book describes the Red Cross's role in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.






































In his State of the Union message in December 1898, President McKinley praised the work of Clara Barton and the Red Cross during the Cuban crisis.


But continued help in Cuba was needed; Clara estimated that at least 50,000 children, unfed, unclothed, unhoused, roamed the streets of Havana.  By 1899, Barton had recruited some 700 nurses.  Barton again approached McKinley, proposing to return to Cuba to help orphan children who had lived in the concentration camps. Clara met resistance from the New York chapter of the Red Cross, who felt she was getting too old for such work.










The American Red Cross returns to Cuba, 1899

After painful negotiations with Washington officials and with the New York Committee, the Red Cross returned to Cuba in March of 1899 to administer relief made possible by the remaining $50,000 in the treasury of the Central Cuban Relief Committee. 


Clara's 5th journal with notes on Cuban relief are also missing, but details of her involvement in Cuba can be gathered from the Red Cross Correspondence files at the Library of Congress; which provided the information below.


Charles H.H. Cottrell, 1880
Photo from Telegraph Age, Vol. 26
Charles Cottrell was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1848. He studied telegraphy in the office of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railway after finishing his schooling. At age 14 he had is first position as operator at Bayard, Ohio for the railroad telegraph for 3 years. He became a first class operator and went to New York in 1865 where he took a position with the American Telegraph Co. During the next 6 years he worked in telegraph offices in Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Boston, Worcester, Louisville, Buffalo, Chicago, Omaha and Ogden. In 1871 he accepted a position with the Western Union Telegraph Co. in New Orleans where in 1875 he was appointed chief operator. In 1875 he joined Associated Press and was sent to their London office.  Shortly after returning to the US, he located again in New Orleans where he stayed through the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878.  In 1879 he reentered the Associated Press in Washington DC, then in New York in 1886 for United Press where he worked for 11 years as operator and later as cashier.  For several years he was secretary and treasurer of the New York Red Cross hospital, and a short time before the Spanish American War, he went to Cuba as treasurer of the American Red Cross Society, remaining until the close of the war. He was then engaged as assistant to Clara Barton, closing up the financial affairs incident to the society's activities in the war. He was then age 50 and looking around for a place to settle down.  He selected New Orleans, returning there in 1900 and remaining there in service to the Western Union Company through 1919, where he was "extending his good fellowship which makes steadfast friends of all new acquaintances." at the time of the writing of this biography. 
Telegraph & Telephone Age, Vol. 37, 1919.

On March 14, 1899, Drs. Alexander Kent, J. B. Hubbell, Mr. A. W. Kent and C.H.H. Cottrell left for Havana by Southern Railway via Miami, to be joined by W.S. Warner, Geo. W. Hyatt and Dr. J.S. Sollosso in Havana.


Dr. Alexander Kent was a surgeon from the Jacksonville chapter of the American Red Cross.  Clara wrote to her nephew, Vice President of the Cuban Relief Executive Committee in New York, on that day: "It was expected...that I would be able to go to Cuba and conduct work personally, but other matters of great importance to the Red Cross require me to remain here for the present. I visit the island soon." On March 16th, she again wrote to S.E. Barton in New York City, "I am glad that you think it is better for me not to go, for it was something I greatly dreaded to do. I am sure that the parties who go and those whom they will send for will be quite equal to that work."


Work began to prepare the hospitals with much-needed medicine and supplies gathered from all over the U.S. but the Red Cross continued to be plagued by the government in Cuba who repeatedly wanted to levy duties for items they deemed not to be supplies for use in hospitals, such as clothing and food.  Clara repeatedly corresponded with U.S. government officials haggling over the definition of "use in hospitals" and "supplies for hospitals."


A March 18th cablegram received at Red Cross headquarters in Washington DC from Red Cross staff in Cuba stated "Landed supplies yesterday, quartered at house of Señora Jorrin in the Cerro. Drs Hubbell and Carbonell have gone to Guines. Dr. Sollosso's hospital now ready to open." On the same day, Clara wrote from Washington DC to Dr. Alexander Kent in Havana stating that supplies landed without duties and "P.S. I am sending this acknowledgment hastily in order to catch the first steamer from Tampa."

On March 25th Clara sent a letter to Dr. Alexander Kent in Havana "nurses whom I will send will leave here Tuesday morning at 11 oclock. Miss Adams, Mrs. Fannie B. Ward, Mrs. Capron, and a nurse from Philadelphia, Miss Wheeler."


Several letters to suppliers in the southeastern United States indicate many shipments being sent to Cuba, one letter which on March 28th was sent to Capt. Robt L. Brown, Asst. Depot Quartermaster, Tampa "We may wish to make occasional shipments via Tampa...if you will tell us when the first transport leaves for Cuba, and about when the following one will."

In another letter on March 28th, to Dr. O'Neill in Philadelphia: "We are sending to Havana Tuesday morning five or six nurses...on the 11 oclock train going by way of Miami, and in a letter to C.H.H. Cottrell in Havana "We are sending this morning 5 nurses and one diet cook: Mrs. Fannie B. Ward, Mrs. A.K. Capron, Miss Elsa Trotzig, Miss Ruthett Adams, Miss Ellen Betts, Mr. String (Diet Cook). Trotzig & String from Assoc. Soc. of Philadelphia, maintained by them."


To Drs. Alexander Kent & Hubbell in Havana, she wrote the same as above but with "Accompanying the party will be Mr. Joseph Steinmetz, engineer, and Mr. Guy King, Architect, sent by Assoc Soc. of Phil which proposes to construct a large institution near Havana as a children's hospital, afterwards to serve as a permanent home for children. Steinmetz & King to select a location and begin construction."


Numerous correspondence between Clara, Washington and Havana indicate her preoccupation with proper documentation for the use of the supplies.  Some in particular, dealing with the insistence of keeping taxes from being levied on the supplies.  She turns down an offer from the US Army in Havana who proposed that the Red Cross turn over the supplies to them for distribution to avoid the duties.  Clara insisted that because the supplies were donated to the Red Cross from the American people, the Red Cross must maintain stewardship and oversight of them, so she refused to relinquish possession of them.


In a letter to Dr. Alexander Kent in Havana, Clara expresses her intent to go down to Cuba; "Ever since you went away I have been planning week by week to get a few days to go and see you....But on Tuesday, May 2nd,., I intend to start for Havana via Miami...I cannot stay long, but shall be very glad to see you and your work."


In late April, Clara arranges for four more nurses to be sent from the Philadelphia Red Cross, then adds a fifth nurse, Miss Koehler, all leaving from Washington's Penn Station on May 2nd for Havana via Miami.


On May 2nd, Clara wrote memos to her staff at Red Cross headquarters, instructing them on what to do in her absence.  To Edward K. Balcom, whom she left in charge of general office matters, instructions to attend to all financial matters and turn them over to Mr. Edson.  "Permit no property to leave the office." and "Correspondence to be in charge of Lucy Graves."  To Lucy Graves she wrote, "Balcom in general charge of the office, correspondence to your special care.  Answer in usual form, forward official letters to me in Havana, as well as personal mail.  Will notify when to stop forwarding letters."


Clara Travels by Train from Washington to Miami, Then Steamer to Havana


Clara Barton left Washington DC on the Southern Railway to Miami on May 2, 1899 at 11:15am, to board a steamer there for Cuba.  In early May, Lucy Graves corresponded to others that she expected Clara to be in Cuba for 2 or 3 weeks. 


Clara Barton in center of ring of children at orphan's camp of Red Cross, Cuba, circa 1899.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress


When Clara arrived in Cuba, Red Cross workers had already been there for nearly a couple of months. Disagreement soon erupted between Clara and those on the committee who felt she could better serve the organization in an administrative capacity from Washington, D.C.  Though the controversy and criticism deeply disturbed Clara, she again showed amazing vitality. Clara resented such treatment, which made her last trip to Cuba her most unpleasant.  Barton did what she could for the children while she was there, but she left Cuba discouraged about the future of the Red Cross.**


Her orphan asylums cared for at least two thousand of these unfortunate waifs. With the help of her staff and of prominent Cubans, Clara also established a well-equipped hospital in the suburbs of Havana, strengthening the local Cuban Red Cross organization.  All this was appreciated in Cuba. But the ingratitude came from the growing body of critics within the American National Red Cross, who were concerned over the inadequate coordination between the central body in Washington and the state societies, over the tangles with government officials, and over what were regarded as other evidences of faulty leadership.**  Within a few years, the Red Cross was to be reorganized under new leaders, with a closer tie to government.

American Philanthropy Abroad, by Merle Curti



On June 2, Lucy Graves updated Clara on various office events and correspondences she's written, including "People inquire when we expect your return, and I say we don't expect it at any special time, but are prepared to give Miss Barton the warmest of welcomes whenever she comes."  Also to Dr. O'Neill in Philadelphia, Miss Graves wrote, "We also believed that Miss Barton would return by the first of June. However, a letter received from her a day or two ago states that the work in Cuba at this time is such that she cannot say positively when she will return. Dr. Kent returns this week."


Information from Clara's Sixth Journal of Notes on Cuba

On page four of Clara's 6th journal of notes on Cuba, Clara records "Sixth of small notebooks on Cuba following the 3rd red book which commenced with Jan. 1899. The Cuban diaries preceding this are the red books, one narrow gray book, and the black pocket diary of the latter part of 1898. This book was purchased in Key West on the way to Havana with the five Philadelphia nurses with Mr. Cobb, White and Van Adsten(?) April 6, 1899. Commences Jun 1, 1899 Thursday, its predecessor closing May 31, 1899."  (Clara is mistaken about the date of purchase for this book, she didn't travel to Havana with the 5 Philadelphia nurses until May 2, 1899, and it was through Miami, not Key West.)

The sixth journal opens with Clara in Matanzas recording an unsuccessful attempt to see Gen. Nelson in Matanzas and then going to Havana to look for him. 

The ensuing pages record the work in Cuba and details of her travels.  Then on July 7, 1899, she leaves Cuba on the SS Havana, bound directly for New York. On July 16, 1899, Sunday, she wrote, "Woke this morning to a warm, pleasant day, entered Gulf Stream at excellent speed for only a "home line" and not an ocean steamer. Expected in make the run in 3 days and arrive NY on Tuesday."

So on Clara's final visit to Cuba, she bypasses Tampa on the way to Cuba and on the way back home.


See a timeline of events (with links to her journal images) which summarizes Clara's travels to and from Cuba through Tampa, and events afterward to the end of the year 1898, here at TampaPix

**Read about the friction and Clara's suspicions that went on behind the scenes of the Cuban campaign, by Elizabeth Brown Pryor in "Clara Barton, Professional Angel" here at TampaPix.


After the Spanish American War, the face of nursing and especially army nursing changed. The soldiers’ deaths from disease, led to major health reforms including the establishment of the Army Nurse Corp. in 1901.  Clara was not a part of this new effort—and her contributions dimmed in nursing history, as did her presence within the Red Cross organization.



The Red Cross files for incorporation

On June 6, 1900, the incorporation of American National Red Cross provided for protection of the organizations important insignia. In August of 2007, Johnson & Johnson sued The Red Cross over use of the red cross symbol.  The two had shared the symbol amicably for more than 100 years — Johnson & Johnson on its commercial products and the American Red Cross as a symbol of its relief efforts on foreign battlefields and in disasters like floods and tornadoes.


The lawsuit filed in Federal Court claimed that Johnson & Johnson has used the red cross symbol since 1887 on a wide range of products, including wound care products and first-aid kits, which include gloves, wipes, bandages and cream. The company entered into an agreement with the American Red Cross in 1895. The agreement acknowledged Johnson & Johnson’s exclusive right to the red cross as a “trademark for chemical, surgical and pharmaceutical goods of every description,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit says that the American Red Cross has the right under a Congressional charter awarded in 1900 to use the red cross design in connection with its efforts to provide voluntary relief. “Carrying out a commercial enterprise or business is not and never has been one of the purposes of the American Red Cross,” the lawsuit said. 


From time to time, the American Red Cross sold products bearing the symbol as fund-raising efforts. Jeffrey J. Leebaw, a spokesman for Johnson & Johnson, said the company had no objection to that. But in 2004, the American Red Cross began licensing the symbol to commercial partners selling products at retail establishments. According to the lawsuit, those products include humidifiers, medical examination gloves, nail clippers, combs and toothbrushes. 

In May of 2008, Southern District judge Jed Rakoff said the Congressional charter for the Red Cross gave it the right to use the symbol even for business purposes. (Here’s the opinion, via How Appealing.) In his second ruling dismissing part of the case — the first one was in November — Rakoff said that charitable reasons for Red Cross’s business ventures made them all the more reasonable. “The fact that the ultimate purpose of these licensing activities is a ‘charitable purpose’ — i.e. to raise funds that A.R.C., a not-for-profit organization, can utilize for its charitable endeavors — only further emphasizes their legitimacy.”

New York Times     Wall St. Journal Law Blog    O'Dwyers - Johnson & Johnson Eats Crow, Settles Lawsuit    J&J's viewpoint



September 8, 1900 Galveston, Texas, hurricane and storm surge

Based in Galveston and Houston, Miss Barton directed her last major field relief effort in the wake of a storm that left 6,000 dead. In a two-month period, the operation distributed $120,000 worth of money and supplies, as well as 1.5 million strawberry plants.

Aftermath of the Galveston hurricane and storm surge, September 1900.  Photo from Ekonomika.It


At the turn of the century Miss Barton lived frugally and modestly as before and still maintained a youthful attitude, keeping up with the times and welcoming new technology in her home and office. Her continued role as president of the Red Cross brought her accolades and praise, and conversely an equal amount of criticism and complaints.

"Clara Barton and Mrs. Rich seated on porch of Clara Barton house, Glen Echo, Md., surrounded by others;
Harold Riccius, aged 10, extreme lower right" (lower left.), 1900.  From Library of Congress.

Clara Barton in Russia, 1902 - Original photograph retouched with color. Clara Barton photographed in 1902 while attending the Seventh International Red Cross Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia. She is wearing the amethyst pansy and Red Cross pin given to her by the Grand Duchess of Baden (Germany) and the Imperial Silver Cross of Russia given to her by Czar Nicolas.Photo from the National Park Service From a photo taken in St. Petersburg, Russia, in July 1902, showing the decorations conferred upon her by the Czar and the Empress Dowager.  Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

In 1902 she led the US delegation to the Seventh International Conference of the Red Cross in St. Petersburg, Russia where she was presented the Silver Cross of Imperial Russia, the nation's highest civilian honor, awarded her by Czar Nicholas II in memory of her relief work in Russia many years ago.


Clara as President of the American Red Cross, working at her desk at headquarters in Glen Echo, Md., 1902
Photo from the National Park Service


Clara Barton, 1904 - She is wearing the amethyst pansy and smoky topaz brooch given to her by the Grand Duchess Louise
Photo from Wikipedia


Although aligned with the Universalist Church, Clara Barton became a defender of Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Science faith. Like many people of the Victorian era, Miss Barton was also interested in faith healing, astrology, and spiritualism.


In December 1903  Miss Barton travelled to Butler, Pennsylvania for a typhoid fever epidemic where she distributed supplies, and then turned the relief project over to local authorities.



In 1904 Miss Barton published A Story of the Red Cross. During this time her presidency and administration fell under scrutiny and attack, with the management of the organization's finances a source of debate. Disagreements over Barton's inability to delegate authority and her insistence upon total control of the organization's finances led to a revolt of the board of directors in 1902, started by Mabel Thorp Boardman. Then, in 1903, after a U.S. Senate investigation, which revealed poor business practices, President Theodore Roosevelt withdrew federal patronage from the American National Red Cross.

Finally, at age 82, without the energy to fight her critics any longer, Clara resigned from her presidency on May 14, 1904 in the wake of mounting criticism of her management style, ability, and age, and retired to her home in Glen Echo and Mabel Thorp Boardman became the new president. Barton then served as president of the National First Aid Association, which endeavored to teach first aid to people nationwide, from 1905 to 1912



National First Aid Association of America illustrated bandage from Library of Congress

National First Aid Association of America buttons and photos from
Library of Congress


Clara's final work for relief efforts was with the short-lived National First Aid Association of America, established in April 1905.  She served as honorary president for 5 years. The organization emphasized basic first aid instruction, emergency preparedness, and original first aid kits were also developed. Ambulance brigades were formed in conjunction with police and fire departments.  Though the association would flounder, by 1909 first aid training would be incorporated as one of the essential functions of the American Red Cross. With the passage of time, Clara's vision would prove to be true: first aid practiced in the home would help more people than the Red Cross ever could, and emergency preparedness would prove to be the most important element of disaster relief.

In the final years of her life, Clara wrote a short autobiography entitled The Story of My Childhood, published in 1907. But she would not live to write the story of her incredible lifework. For a woman who had endured and accomplished so much—who had devoted so much of her life in helping others to live—the force of life within her had become so strong that even her death had become a struggle.

Miss Clara Barton and household, Glen Echo, Maryland, circa 1904.
 Left to right: Leland Barton, Mrs. Col. Richard C. Hinton, Dr. Julian B. Hubbell, Mrs. Mary A. Hines,
Miss Clara Barton, Howe, Miss Ruthett Adams, Miss Susie Birch Jennings
Original from Library of Congress, with unverified, old data from an old caption card.
JHU Press Blog, Finding Clara Barton - American National Red Cross Photographs Collection, Library of Congress
**It is the opinion of TampaPix that this is Lucy Graves.  Compare to woman at far right, this photo.

Clara on steps with unidentified man who appears to be her nephew, Stephen E. Barton.
Undated photo from Library of Congress.



At the age of 90 and battling pneumonia, on April 12, 1912 Clara Barton finally succumbed to death at her home in Glen Echo and was buried in the family cemetery plot in Oxford, Massachusetts.

Though she had been the center of controversy in all of her work throughout her long life, in the end Clara outlasted her critics, and always would be remembered for her compassionate work in the field, as well as for her legacy of the Red Cross which thrives today.

A young man who witnessed her work at the typhoid fever epidemic in 1903 at Butler, PA,  commented on Miss Barton's presence there that night in a way that sums up what so many persons she assisted had thought of her:

And we pictured the light (of the lantern) going on and on through the night until it should stop over the stricken town of Butler, and the suffering people there would look upon it as the light of a great soul that had come to them out of the darkness, bringing comfort and healing and the calm spirit that banishes all fear.

Her contributions had an incredible and lasting impact on the American social landscape; Barton dedicated her life to the betterment of the human condition in wartime and peace. Her description of her work at Antietam provides a vivid portrait of her life and legacy:

We worked through that long bloody night together, and the next morning the supplies came up. . . . My strength was all gone. . . . I lay down on [the floor of a wagon], and was jogged back to Washington, eighty miles. When I reached there, and looked in the mirror, my face was still the color of gunpowder, a deep blue. Oh yes I went to the front!








Clara Barton's "Extra Mile" marker on the "Points of Light Volunteer Pathway" in Washington DC.

The Points of Light Monument is a one-mile walkway in Washington, D.C., honoring actions and commitments to service that have transformed our nation and the world.

Through the monument, we honor civil rights leaders, including Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and founders of some of the world’s most important social change institutions. In doing so, we tell the connected story of how the actions of these trailblazers turned into powerful movements that shaped history and continue to influence our world today.

On Oct. 14, 2005, President and Mrs. George H. W. Bush dedicated The Points of Light Monument, inducting its first 20 honorees. To date, 33 medallions have been placed, paying tribute to the work of 36 individuals. Located just blocks from the White House (starting at Pennsylvania Ave. and 15th St., NW), the pathway of medallions will eventually stretch one mile and include 70 medallions.

Points of

The Extra Mile begins at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street, NW and continues north on 15th Street to G Street, NW. There, at the Old Ebbitt Grill, it turns east on G Street for two blocks to its intersection with 13th Street. As honoree medallions are added in future years, the Pathway will be continued on G Street.


Clara Barton Early Life through 1897     Clara Barton 1898 through 1912    Clara Barton Spanish American War Timeline

TampaPix Home


Photo and Information sources:


American Red Cross Blog

Barton's mills in Oxford, Google Books: History of the Town of Oxford, Massachusetts: With Genealogies and Notes

Biography of Clara Barton "The True Heroine of the Age" Life stories of Civil War Heroes

Bordentown Historical Society

Chatham House National Park Service Wordpress A tiny witness grown grand MAY 25, 2011 / MYSTERIES&CONUNDRUMS

Civil War Trust

Clara Barton at

Clara Barton Birthplace Museum

Clara Barton, by Susan and William Harkins

Clara Barton earliest known photo ca 1850 Civil War Scholars

Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross, by Barbara Somervill

Clara Barton house in Glen Echo in 1904 U.S. National Library of Medicine

Clara Barton in the Civil War: Facts, Timeline & History Clara Barton in the Civil War: Facts, Timeline & History

Clara Barton: In the Service of Humanity by David Henry Burton Google Books

Clara Barton in Tampa at 305 Plant Ave Red Cross Blog

Clara Barton journal at Library of Congress

Clara Barton's life as written in 1867 in Woman's Work in the Civil War: A RECORD OF HEROISM, PATRIOTISM AND PATIENCE BY L. P. BROCKETT, M.D.,

Clara Barton Papers Library of Congress

Clara Barton, Professional Angel By Elizabeth Brown Pryor Google Books

Clara Barton photos from the National Park Service

Clara Barton portrait ca 1865 Brady National Portrait Gallery  Face to Face

Clara Barton, The Story Of My Childhood - Google books

Genealogy of Stephen Barton Google Books - History of the Town of Oxford, Massachusetts: With Genealogies and Notes on

Grounds at Andersonville, Georgia  Library of Congress

Heritage Education:  Medical Angels - Clara Barton and the Red Cross

History of Phrenology - The Fowlers

History of the Town of Oxford, Massachusetts: With Genealogies and Notes on Persons and Estates, 1892

National Park Service - Andersonville Myth:

National Park Service Clara Barton Chronology

National Portrait Gallery

NCPedia Barton, Stephen, Jr.

Old Stone Schoolhouse

Photo of Lorenzo Fowler Medical Antiques Archives

Planters Hotel - National Park Service - Mysteries and Conundrums Mystery undone: Clara Barton’s Fredericksburg hospitals

Rear Admiral William T. Sampson Library of Congress

Sally Barton Vassall Clara Barton Birthplace Museum

Sinking of the USS Maine

Spanish American War Centennial


The Red Cross in Peace and War Project Gutenburg

The Women who went to the field by Clara Barton Life Stories of Civil War Heroes