[LINCOLN, Abraham]. BARTON, Clara (1821-1912). Autograph letter signed ("Clara") to Lon Poor, Washington, D. C., 29 February 1864. 8 pp., 8vo, fine.
"THE PRES. GROWS MORE GAUNT, PALE, AND CAREWORN THAN EVER. I FEEL BADLY WHEN I THINK HOW MUCH FOUR YEARS HAVE CHANGED HIM. I DO NOT WANT TO THINK THAT HE COULD NOT ENDURE ANOTHER FOUR YEARS OF TOIL AND CARE LIKE THE LAST..."
Barton's revealing portrait of Lincoln after more than three years of war. Battlefield nurse Clara Barton, visiting Washington, comments on the altered political situation and on the physical toll the war is taking on Lincoln: "I find myself almost a stranger to parties here in military power, and must go all over the ground and make new acquaintances or give up needing them which is a hard conclusion for me to arrive at." She mentions attending "Mrs. Lincoln's reception last Tuesday" and remarks on the great changes in her husband's appearance. "She was looking remarkably well, but the Pres. grows more gaunt, pale, and careworn than ever. I feel badly when I think how much four years have changed him. I do not want to think that he could not endure another four years of toil and care like the last, and yet it would seem doubtful when one looks at him. I know he is wiry and recuperative, wears like steel, still steel will wear out, and I do not know but he may at last--hope not--until his work is done." Ironically, Lincoln himself often remarked to his aides that he doubted whether he would survive the war. Barton goes on to discuss the prospects for the Army of the Potomac: "They say that the Army...is moving a little, but I do not think it can get yet far at this season." She also mentions setbacks at Fort Wagner and in Florida.
Political connections in Washington were essential for Barton's work. She inspired or cajoled Congressmen and top Generals into providing the necessary medicine and supplies to meet the needs of the wounded. And when casualties starting piling up by the tens of thousands in the awful battles of 1862, Barton took to the field herself--violating the unwritten rule that "respectable" women should never witness the charnel house scenes of the field hospital. She tirelessly nursed the wounded amid the most desperate circumstances imaginable, and won the trust and affection of the troops even if she never quite won the full support of the top brass.