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Memorial planned in Tampa for Civil War hero — Clara Barton of the Red Cross

Clara Barton, front middle, often stayed and worked in a home at 350 Plant Ave., coordinating American Red Cross relief efforts during the Spanish-American War in Cuba.
Clara Barton, front middle, often stayed and worked in a home at 350 Plant Ave., coordinating American Red Cross relief efforts during the Spanish-American War in Cuba.
Published Aug. 31, 2017


At a time when communities are torn by debate over removing Civil War-era memorials, there's one going up in Tampa that's likely to enjoy a warm welcome from all sides.

The Tampa chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution plans to install a historic marker commemorating Clara Barton, the famed battlefield nurse and founder of the American Red Cross.

Barton is renowned for tending to soldiers on both sides during the American Civil War, but the Tampa marker will highlight her less-celebrated efforts in another conflict — the Spanish-American War.

Barton set up a base camp in Tampa to help sick and injured soldiers and civilians from Cuba, Spain and America who were caught up in the conflict from April to August 1898, after the United States entered the war.

"She performed important work in Tampa and deserves to be recognized for it," said Maureen Sheridan, vice regent of Tampa's DAR chapter. "We should be proud we have a link to her."

The proposal has the approval of the group that oversees the local historic marker program, the Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council.

Now the DAR, a service organization for women whose ancestors helped the United States win its independence, needs to have the marker created and find a home for it.

Organizers prefer the visitor-heavy area of Bayshore Boulevard across from 350 Plant Ave. — an address that's now a condominium parking lot but once was the location of a home where Barton often stayed and worked.

From there, she wrote letters seeking donations of money and supplies from around the country to help people in Cuba and coordinated the recruitment of nurses to travel there through the Red Cross' New York Office.

Tampa's DAR is applying for permits, but if they're rejected they'll suggest other sites.

Barton also rented a room at the former Arno Hotel at 508 Tampa Street, between Madison and Twiggs streets.

Also, the site of Vila Brothers Park in West Tampa was temporary home to 3,000 troops as they awaited deployment to the Spanish-American War. If any grew ill, the Red Cross helped care for them.

Then there was the Tampa Bay Hotel, now the Henry B. Plant Museum on the University of Tampa campus. A marker there already lists Barton among the hotel's famed guests.

"It seems unfair that everyone in Tampa doesn't know about Clara Barton's time in Tampa," said Sarah Hughes, regent of the Tampa DAR chapter.

Hughes learned of Barton's local link from a June 2015 article in the Tampa Tribune.

Barton was a member of DAR and many of the Tampa chapter's 140 current members, including Hughes, are registered nurses.

"This was a perfect project for us," she said. "She is one of us and a hero."

The chapter quickly raised the $5,000 needed to pay for the marker, permits and a dedication ceremony.

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Noting the national debate over who is worthy of a memorial, including plans to remove a Confederate statue from the old Hillsborough County Courthouse, Hughes said she has no concern that honoring the heroic Barton will bother anyone.

Barton already had gained renown during the Civil War and for bringing the Red Cross to America in 1884 when she was moved by the suffering and lack of supplies she saw during the Cuban War of Independence from Spain.

Once the United States entered the conflict on the side of Cuba in 1898, Barton lobbied the government to let the Red Cross help in what became known here as the Spanish-American War. It marked the first time the disaster-relief organization was involved in an American war.

Tampa was chosen as a base because it was the closest port to Cuba.

At 76, Barton sailed to Cuba to join those caring directly for the sick and wounded then returned to Tampa to handle managerial duties.

"On September 10, 1898, she passed through Tampa one last time," said Sheridan of the DAR. "But she should never be forgotten."

Contact Paul Guzzo at Follow @PGuzzoTimes.


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