Clara's father was Capt. Stephen Barton, a member of the local militia and also a selectman. Her mother was Sarah Stone Barton who was a homemaker.
She was three years old, When she and her brother Stephen were sent to school where she excelled in reading and spelling. While at school she became close friends with Nancy Fitts; this is the only known friend Clara had as a child due to her extreme timidness. Her parents tried to help rid her of this shyness by sending her to Col. Stones High School, but their strategy turned out to be a disaster. Clara became more timid also depressed and would not eat. She was immediately removed from the school and brought back home to regain her health.
Her family relocated to assist the nephew of captain Stephen Barton,who had died,and left his wife and four kids with a farm. The house that the Barton family was to live in, needed to be painted and repaired.Clara was persistent in offering her assistance, for which the painter was very grateful. After the work was done, Clara felt at a loss because she had nothing else to do to help out and not feel like a burden to her family. She began to play with her male cousins, and to their surprise, she was good at keeping up with such tasks as horseback riding. It was not until after she had injured herself that Clara's mother began to question her playing with the boys. Clara's mother wanted her to become acquainted with her feminine side. She invited one of Clara's female cousins over to help develop her femininity. Upon learning from her cousin, she gained proper social skills as well.
Clara was just ten when she assigned herself the task of nursing her brother,David,back to health after he fell from the roof of a barn and received a severe injury.She learned how to distribute the prescribed medication to her brother, as well as how to place leeches on his body to bleed him. (This was a regular treatment during that time.) She continued to care for David long after doctors had given up. Her brother made a full recovery.
What she did
Before her father passed away,Clara was able to talk to him about the war. Her father convinced her that it was her job as a Christian to aid the soldiers. When Clara's dad died in April, Clara returned to Washington to gather medical supplies for soldiers. Ladies aid societies assisted in sending bandages, food, and clothing that would soon be distributed during the Civil War. In the August of 1862, Clara finally got permission from Quartermaster Daniel Rucker to be stationed on the front lines. She gained support from people who believed in her cause. These people became her patrons, her most helpful being Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts.
Clara worked to distribute supplies, clean field hospitals, apply dressings, and serve food to wounded soldiers in close proximity to a couple other battles, including Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.
In 1863 Clara began a relationship with a married officer, Colonel John J. Elwell.
In 1864 she was directed by Union General Benjamin Butler as the "lady in charge" of the hospitals at the front of the Army Of The James. Clara is also known as the "angle of the battlefield"
As a side note Clara was catholic.