Memorial of Clara Barton, February 1, 1866
Clara Barton’s 1866 petition to Congress explained her reasons for initiating a search for missing soldiers and outlined her research procedures. She noted her very limited resources and mentioned that President Abraham Lincoln and a Union major general aided her efforts. In March 1866 Congress approved $15,000 for expenses of Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office.
Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration
my attention was arrested by the great number of letters received from all parts of the country, mostly from the wives and mothers of soldiers desiring my personal assistance in searching for their lost husbands and sons
Searching for the Missing
While providing medical assistance on Civil War battlefields, Clara Barton received many poignant pleas for information about missing soldiers. She requested permission of the government to conduct a search, and after President Abraham Lincoln appointed her to lead it, Barton sought congressional support for her mission. Senator Henry Wilson from Barton’s home state of Massachusetts was a major supporter of her effort. Between 1865 and 1868, through voluminous correspondence and published lists, Barton located 22,000 of approximately 62,000 dead or missing Union soldiers.