[Note: This letter was written at low point for the Union Army during the Civil War. After a string of defeats, General John Pope’s Army of Virginia was crushed at the Battle of Second Bull Run. The defeated elements of that army retreated to the Union capital at Washington, where Clara Barton assisted in efforts to provide relief for the wounded. She dashed off this succinct, powerful note to her brother and sister-in-law, David and Julia Barton, before she raced to the nurse the wounded at Fairfax Station. The letter is made available by the Library of Congress. – Jake Wynn, Director of Interpretation]

[Washington, Sunday, August 31, 1862 at 7:30 AM]

Dear Brother and Sister

I leave immediately for the Battlefield, don’t know when I can return.

If anything happens [to] me, you David must come and take all my effects home with you and Julia will know how to dispose of them.

Love to all,

Your affect. Sister


Read more about a church in Fairfax Station that celebrates Clara Barton’s work there in the aftermath of Second Bull Run.  

Learn more about Barton’s role at Fairfax Station from the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum:


  • Clara Barton Museum on YouTube
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