Clara Barton received over 63,000 letters and requests for help to find missing soldiers. One soldier she was looking for was very much alive, and not at all eager to be found. These are their letters.
April 17, 1865
Miss Clara Barton
Seeing a notice in one of our village papers stating that you can give information concerning Soldiers in the Army or Navy. You will [sic] oblige me if you can give any intelligence of my brother Joseph H. Hitchins who was engaged in the 2nd Maryland regt. under Gen’l Goldsborough and from whom we have not heard in nearly two years. His mother died last winter to whom his silent absence was, I assure you a great grief, and to who I promised to make all enquiries in my power, so that I might if possible learn my brother’s fate. I would most willing renumerate for all trouble.
Oct. 16, 1865
Miss Clara Barton,
Washington, D. C.
I have seen my name on a sheet of paper somewhat to my mortification, for I would like to know what I have done, so that I am worthy to have my name blazoned all over the country. If my friends in New York wish to know where I am, let them wait until I see fit to write them. As you are anxious of my welfare, I would say that I am just from New Orleans, discharged, on my way North, but unluckily taken with chills and fever and could proceed no farther for some time at least. I shall remain here a month.
Respectfully, you obt. Servt.
Joseph H. Hitchins
Mr. Joseph H. Hitchins
I enclose copies of two letters in my possession. The writer of the first I suppose to be your sister. The lady for whose death the letter was draped in mourning I suppose to have been your mother. Can it be possible that you were aware of that fact when you wrote that letter? Could you have spoken thus, knowing all?
The cause of your name having been “blazoned all over the country” was your unnatural concealment from your nearest relatives, and the great distress it caused them. “What you have done” to render this necessary I certainly do not know. It seems to have been the misfortune of your family to think more of you than you did of them, and probably more than you deserve from the manner in which you treat them. They had already waited until a son and brother possessing common humanity would have “seen fit” to write them. Your mother died waiting, and the result of your sister’s faithful efforts to comply with her dying request “mortify” you. I cannot apologize for the part I have taken. You are mistaken in supposing that I am “anxious for your welfare.” I assure you I have no interest in it, but your accomplished sister, for whom I entertain the deepest respect and sympathy, I shall inform of your existence lest you should not “see fit” to do so yourself.
I have the honor to be, Sir,