With the outbreak of war and the cascade of wounded Union soldiers into Washington, Miss Barton quickly recognized the unpreparedness of the Army Medical Department. For nearly a year, she lobbied the army bureaucracy in vain to bring her own medical supplies to the battlefields.
Finally, with the help of sympathetic U.S. Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, Miss Barton was permitted to bring her supplies to the battlefield. Her self-appointed military duties brought her to some of the ugliest battlefields of 1862--Cedar Mountain, Va.; Second Manassas, Va.; Antietam, Md.; and Fredericksburg, Va.
Miss Barton continued to do relief work in the field until she was well into her 70s. But she was not a strong administrator, and political feuding at the American Red Cross forced her to resign as president in 1904.
Never married, Miss Barton was wedded to her convictions. She died in 1912 at age 90 in her Glen Echo home. She is buried less than a mile from her birthplace in a family plot in Oxford, Mass.