The Women Who Went To The Field
A Poem By Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross
The women who went to the field, you say,
The women who went to the field;
and pray, What did they go for? ˜just to be
in the way?˜
They'd not know the difference betwixt work &
play, What did they know about war,
could they do?˜of what use could they be?
They would scream at the sight of a gun,don't
Just fancy them Œround where the bugle notes play,
And the long roll is bidding us on to the fray. Imagine
their skirts Œmong artillery wheels,
And watch for their flutter as they flee Œcross
When the charge is rammed home and the fire
They never will wait for the answering shot.
They would faint at the first drop of blood,
in their sight.
What fun for us boys,˜(ere we enter the fight;)
They might pick some lint, and tear up some sheets,
And make us some jellies, and send on
And knit some soft socks for Uncle Sam's shoes,
And write us some letters, & tell us the news.
And thus it was settled by common consent,
That husbands, or brothers, or whoever went,
That the place for the women was in their
There to patiently wait until victory comes.
But later, it chanced, just how no one knew,
That the lines slipped a bit, and some Œgan to
And they went,˜where did they go?˜Ah; where
did they not?
Show us the battle,˜the field,˜or the spot
Where the groans of the wounded rang out on
That her ear caught it not, and her hand was
Who wiped the death sweat from the cold
And sent home the message;˜ "ŒT is well
Who watched in the tents, whilst the fever fires
And the pain-tossing limbs in agony turned,
And wet the parched tongue, calmed delirium's
Till the dying lips murmured, "My Mother," "My
Wife"! And who were they all? -They were
many, my men: Their record was
kept by no tabular pen: They exist
in traditions from father to son.
Who recalls, in dim memory, now here and
A few names were writ, by chance live to-day;
But's a perishing record fast fading away.
Of those we recall, there are scarcely a score,
Dix, Dame, Bickerdyke,˜Edson, Harvey, and
Fales, Wittenmyer, Gilson, Safford and Lee,
And poor Cutter dead in the sands of the sea;
And Frances D. Gage, our "Aunt Fanny" of old,
Whose voice rang for freedom when freedom
And Husband, and Etheridge, and Harlan and
Livermore, Alcott, Hancock, and Chase,
And Turner, and Hawley, and Potter, and Hall. Ah!
the list grows apace, as they come at the
Did these women quail at the sight of a gun?
Will some soldier tell us of one he saw run?
Will he glance at the boats on the great
At Pittsburg and Shiloh, did they faint at the blood?
And the brave wife of Grant stood there
And her calm, stately presence gave strength
to his men.
And Marie of Logan; she went with them too;
A bride, scarcely more than a sweetheart, Œt is
Her young cheek grows pale when the bold
Where the "Black Eagle" soars, she is close
at his side,
She staunches his blood, cools the fever-burnt
And the wave of her hand stays the Angel of Death;
She nurses him back, and restores once again
To both army and state the brave leader of men.
She has smoothed his black plumes and laid
them to sleep,
Whilst the angels above them their high vigils keep
And she sits here alone, with the snow on her
Your cheers for her comrades! Three cheers
for her now.
And these were the women who went to the war:
The women of question; what did they go for?
Because in their hearts God had planted the seed Of pity
for woe, and help for its need;
They saw, in high purpose, a duty to do,
And the armor of right broke the barriers through.
Uninvited, unaided, unsanctioned ofttimes,
With pass, or without it, they pressed on the lines;
They pressed, they implored, till they ran the lines
And this was the "running" the men saw them
'T was a hampered work, its worth largely lost;
'T was hindrance, and pain, and effort, and cost:
But through these came knowledge,˜knowledge
And never again in the deadliest hour
Of war or of peace, shall we be so beset
To accomplish the purpose our spirits have met.
And what would they do if war came again?
The scarlet cross floats where all was blank then.
They would bind on their "brassards" and march
to the fray,
And the man liveth not who could say to them nay;
They would stand with you now, as they stood
with you then,
The nurses, consolers, and saviors of men.
Clara Barton lived from 1821-1912. She gained fame after
voluntereing to go to Bull Run and aid the wounded, a
calling she followed throughout the Civil War and after,
when she drifted towards women's suffragacy and anti-war
sentiments. She was a true American patriot.