United States Sanitary CommissionVariant names
Civilian voluntary organization, responsible for the health of volunteer soldiers in the Union Army during the Civil War.
From the description of Records, 1861-1867 (bulk 1864). (New York University, Group Batchload). WorldCat record id: 58773094
The United States Sanitary Commission, 1861-1879, was a civilian organization authorized by the federal government to provide sanitary and medical assistance to the Union volunteer forces during the United States Civil War, 1861-1865.
After the war the USSC continued its work of helping servicemen and their families file claims for back pay, pension, and other benefits, and oversaw the publication of various histories of its war work. In 1866, USSC officers and former associates founded the American Association for the Relief of the Misery of Battle Fields.
From the description of United States Sanitary Commission records, 1861-1878, bulk (1861-1872). (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122576102
The Washington DC Archives consist of records of the following offices and departments that were based in Washington: the Central Office, the Special Relief Department, and the Supply Department, as well as the records of two departments which operated for limited periods of time: the Agency for the Purchase of Fresh Hospital Supplies, and the Department of Special Inspection of the General Hospitals of the Army. The records of the USSC's Statistical Bureau and Hospital Directory, also located at the Central Office, are arranged separately.
The USSC's Central Office at 244 F Street served as headquarters for the USSC's general secretary (successively, Frederick Law Olmsted, J. Foster Jenkins, and John S. Blatchford), who served as the head of all USSC working departments and was responsible to the Standing Committee for implementation of their plans, as well as for the associate and assistant secretaries who were responsible for operations in the USSC's Department of the East. (John S. Newberry, associate secretary for the Western Department, technically reported to the General Secretary.) With its proximity to government and military departments, and closeness to military operations in Virginia, Maryland, and elsewhere, the USSC's Central Office in Washington was a major administrative and communications center for USSC operations, especially in the east. The Central Office was located at 244 F Street from October 1861 to October 1865; prior to October 1861 it was located in rooms at the U.S. Treasury Office, provided by the government.
The Special Relief Department was established and directed by Frederick N. Knapp, Special Relief agent, in 1862. Knapp wanted to lessen the hardships of sick, disabled, exhausted, or discharged soldiers passing through Washington on their way to and from camps, hospitals or their homes. The main priority of the Department was to provide shelter, food, medical care and other assistance to these soldiers in need, as an auxiliary support to the government, with particular attention to the needs of discharged soldiers who were no longer under military authority. Sailors were also assisted.This was done at homes and lodges for soldiers established throughout the Washington area, including Lodge Number 4, which also served as the headquarters of the Special Relief Office. The relatives of servicemen and others temporarily in need were also assisted with lodging, and other services. The Department's other major responsibility was to help soldiers and sailors obtain monies due to them from the government, such as back pay and bounty, and to assist with the correction of any errors found on their military papers which prevented them from obtaining those monies, or a proper discharge from service.
The Supply Department, consisting of a network of storehouses forming the USSC's Supply Depot in Washington, D.C., and administered by USSC officers and staff, served as a major center for the receipt and distribution of supplies for general, field and battlefield relief, both locally and for more distant locations. The Receiving Storehouse received supplies from USSC branches, agencies and aid societies for further distribution; these were processed and distributed to the Army and to USSC locations. The Local Storehouse maintained a stock of supplies transferred to them from the Receiving Storehouse, and issued supplies for Army hospitals and regiments, hospital steamers, USSC locations and others in the Washington, D.C. vicinity.
The Agency for the Purchase of Fresh Hospital Supplies was a special relief service directed by Frederick N. Knapp in Washington from late June 1863 through April 1864. Its mission was to obtain and provide fresh foodstuffs to U.S. Army hospitals in the Washington, D.C. area. From its office in Philadelphia, the Agency was able to purchase these items in greater variety and quality and at a lower cost than was possible in Washington. It extended similar services to Army hospitals at Gettysburg. Army convalescent camps and USSC Homes and Lodges also benefitted from access to these goods.
The Department for the Special Inspection of the General Hospitals of the Army was established in September 1862 and remained in operation until May 1, 1863. This department was located at Washington, but initiated and directed by the USSC's Medical Committee in New York. With the approval of the U.S. Surgeon General, William A. Hammond, it sought to examine the conditions and wants of army hospitals by recruiting physicians to inspect army hospitals throughout the country. With the information gathered from the physicians' inspections, which were forwarded to the Army, the USSC hoped to improve hospital treatment for sick and wounded soldiers.
The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted. Volume IV. Defending the Union: The Civil War and the U.S. Sanitary Commission, 1861-1863. Jane Turner Censor, editor. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.
Stillé, Charles J. History of the United States Sanitary Commission, being the general report of its work during the war of the rebellion. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1866.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Washington, D.C. archives, 1861-1866, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The English Branch, which existed from the spring of 1864 to the fall of 1865, was established by Americans living in Britain to gain the support of their compatriots for the work of the USSC, as a means of contributing to the welfare of those fighting at home for the Union cause. The Branch also supported the USSC's larger mission of sharing with European countries its knowledge of humanitarian practice and sanitary science in wartime, as gained from the practical experience of a democratic government. These goals were largely effected by the outreach of the Branch's secretary and USSC agent in London, E.C. (Edmund Crisp) Fisher, through his correspondence, writing and speaking engagements, and distribution of USSC publications.
Following the example of the USSC's European Branch, founded in Paris in 1863, a number of prominent Americans met in London on March 3, 1864 to form an organization of Americans living in the United Kingdom as an auxiliary branch to the Sanitary Commission. The resulting Executive Committee consisted of over sixty men and women, many of them from prominent commercial and diplomatic families such as the Adams, Brown, Field, Grinnell, Morgan, Peabody, Stevens, Stokes, and Morse families. The list included the noted British-American actress and abolitionist, Fanny Kemble, and Cyrus W. Field, working in England on his transatlantic telegraph cable project. Field played a leading role in the early days of the London Branch. On June 17, 1864 the USSC Standing Committee in New York appointed E.C. Fisher, a member of the Executive Committee, as acting Secretary of the English Branch, and Agent of the Commission in England.
The Standing Committee intended that the English Branch operate independently of the USSC's European Branch in Paris, while relying on it for advice. William B. Bowles was Secretary and Agent of the European Branch, but his brother and banking partner, Charles S.P. Bowles, also associated with that Branch, was Fisher's principle contact. Because the English Branch was primarily concerned with public relations, and actively solicited funds only from Americans, it was not self-supporting in donations, often relying on ad hoc credit arrangements suggested by Charles S.P. Bowles. Some Americans sent funds to the USSC via their bankers at home.
Fisher's office at 21 Cockspur Street, Trafalgar Square, well-stocked with American and British papers and USSC publications, served as a reading room and meeting place for Americans and others interested in the USSC's work. In addition to distributing publications, Fisher monitored the British press for mention of the USSC. He facilitated the writing of articles about its work and press reviews of its publications. Occasionally he countered pro-Southern statements in the press, writing letters to the editor under the pseudonym "Bower Wood" or "B.W.", particularly with reference to the Liverpool Bazaar held in October, 1864 for the benefit of Southern soldiers in Northern prison camps. Fisher gave two notable lectures at the Social Science Congress in York (1864) and at the Royal United Service Institution (1865) in which he acknowledged the legacy of British humanitarian and sanitary work, especially that of Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War.
By the end of 1864, as military successes foretold ultimate Union victory, and the details of Andersonville prison were corroborated by multiple sources, the temper of public opinion sympathizing with the Confederate cause lessened. Lectures, visits and distribution of pamphlets continued. News of Lee's surrender appeared in London papers on April 24. In the weeks following, Fisher distributed as much literature as possible and shipped the remainder home. Fisher closed the English Branch office in September, and made arrangements to sail for New York in October, 1865.
Fisher, Edmund Crisp. The English Branch of the United States Sanitary Commission. The Motive of its Establishment, and the Result of Its Work. London, 1865
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. English Branch archives, 1864-1865, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The USSC's Department of North Carolina was based in the Union-occupied town of New Bern, from 1862-1865. Led primarily by Dr. J.W. (Jesse William) Page (1820-1888), Inspector, the Department's main functions were issuing supplies to area military hospitals, and providing special relief services to individual soldiers and civilians in need, including local refugees and former prisoners-of-war. It also monitored the condition of the troops, and reported on the status of sick and wounded soldiers in hospitals.
The department began its activity in February of 1862, when the USSC appointed Dr. Page to accompany the North Carolina Expeditionary Force, led by Gen. Ambrose Burnside, along the eastern coast of the state. Page traveled with the expedition to Roanoke Island in February, and later established a base for the Commission in New Bern after it came under Union control in mid-March. The department distributed supplies to area hospitals throughout 1862, assisting soldiers involved in the Burnside Expedition and Foster's Raid at Goldsboro in December.
The field of operations for the Department of North Carolina from 1862 to early 1865 extended from New Bern to Beaufort and Morehead City on the coast, and (depending on military activity) north and east to Washington, Plymouth, Roanoke Island, Cape Hatteras, Ocracoke, and Coinjock. The main hospitals served over the course of the war were Foster General and Stanley Hospitals in New Bern (the two merged during the war), Mansfield in Morehead City, and Hammond in Beaufort. The department also supplied various regimental hospitals; the naval hospital, navy ships in port, and hospital transport ships; the small pox, yellow fever and "contraband" hospitals; and, later, Lenoir in Kinston, as its geographical scope expanded in the final weeks of the war.
As the war progressed, the Department of North Carolina became increasingly involved in the special relief efforts of aiding refugees, as well as former prisoners-of-war, while continuing to supply area hospitals. In May of 1863, the New Bern Board of Health appealed to the USSC for assistance in caring for the sick and destitute black refugees who had been steadily arriving in town. Although the Commission felt that the care of "contrabands" should fall to the government, it authorized Page to help the board, with Henry Whitney Bellows stating "when common humanity is suffering, we do not under any circumstances wish to hoard our stores" (NC document 84). In the spring of 1864, the battle of Plymouth, and the burning and evacuation of the town of Washington by Federal troops, created an influx of thousands of local refugees into New Bern, many of whom were related to members of the 1st and 2nd North Carolina Union Volunteers . In addition to his duties with the USSC, Dr. Page was appointed Superintendant of White Refugees by Gen. Innis Newton Palmer in May 1864 (with permission from the Washington Office). Page's refugee office was adjacent to the Sanitary Commission's headquarters in town--one of several examples of the close working relationship between the federal government and the Commission in New Bern. Relief supplies were furnished by the USSC, and Page also assisted widows of soldiers with pension claims. Additional special relief was provided to escaped prisoners-of-war, who began to arrive regularly in New Bern from prisons in South Carolina and Georgia in 1864.
The cultivation of a small garden plot by Page in the fall of 1863 led to a larger, successful effort to provide local hospitals, and sometimes naval forces, with fresh, locally-grown vegetables. Beginning in early 1864, the Commission worked along with federal forces in New Bern to develop numerous gardens in the area. A 40+ acre "Hospital Farm" was created outside of town, as well as numerous "Hospital Gardens," in addition to the USSC's 10 acre plot. Many hospitals, regiments, and individual soldiers planted gardens, often with seeds furnished by the Commission. The government detailed several soldiers to work the farm and garden plots.
The prevalence of various diseases created difficulties at times for the department. In September and October of 1864, a major yellow fever outbreak in New Bern effectively shut down much of the town and hindered the USSC's work. Dr. Page was one of the few Commission workers who escaped the fever. Army personnel, including medical staff, were depleted during the outbreak, which killed around 1300 people. In addition, the department had to regularly deal with the presence of scurvy, malaria, and other diseases.
A large portion of the Sanitary Commission's work in North Carolina was conducted in 1865, when its field of operation expanded to the south and west as more of the state came under Union control during the Carolinas Campaign. Gen. William T. Sherman arrived with his troops in March, following their lengthy trek through Georgia and South Carolina. Several engagements with the Confederates followed in March and April as the Federal army advanced, and the USSC sent relief agents to the front to assist with supplying the wounded. Temporary depots were constructed at Kinston, Goldsboro, Raleigh, Core Creek, Dover Station, and Burnt Mill Creek. In addition, the department expanded to include Wilmington, which the Union captured in February. The USSC established a supply depot there to assist with sick and wounded soldiers (mostly from General Alfred Howe Terry's campaign), and, especially, recently-liberated Union prisoners-of-war, who were in great need of clothing, blankets, and other articles.
Following the end of the war in April, the department continued to distribute supplies, especially providing individual relief to discharged soldiers and former POWs. Clothing remained a particular need, as well as vegetables to combat scurvy. While depots at Raleigh and Goldsboro were closed, the Commission opened a new depot in June in Greensboro to assist troops there and at Lexington, Concord, Salisbury, and Charlotte. Work also continued at Wilmington until July. Headquarters at New Bern remained open until December, 1865. The department's records were submitted to the Historical Bureau by Dr. Page in August, 1866. Page served as a pension agent for the U.S. Government in New Bern from 1865 to 1867.
Over its nearly-four-year existence, the Department of North Carolina consisted of approximately 12 paid relief agents (including Dr. Page's brother, George B. Page), plus temporary workers; soldiers detailed by the government, especially for garden work; and women who served as the "extra-diet corps" in hospitals at busy times. The department generally reported to the Washington Office and communicated with the New York Office about supplies; its major USSC supply sources were New England Women's Auxiliary Association (NEWAA) and Woman's Central Association of Relief (WCAR).
Besides overseeing the Department of North Carolina for most of its existence, Dr. Page occasionally had additional duties within the USSC. In the fall of 1862, he traveled to Alexandria, Virginia to inspect hospitals and report on the feasibility of establishing a Commission depot there. In the spring of 1863, Page was directed to temporarily take over the USSC's newly-formed Department of the South, based in Beaufort, South Carolina, before handing control over to Dr. M. M. Marsh. Page's brother, George B. Page, was in charge at New Bern during his absence in South Carolina.
In July 1864, the Commission's Executive Board voted to relieve Dr. Page from duty with the Department of North Carolina, the apparent cause being failure to make regular reports. Effective August 1, Dr. Page was replaced by George B. Page. In March 1865, the doctor was reinstated as Inspector. During the period of yellow fever outbreak in the fall of 1864, Dr. Page took charge of the department while his brother was incapacitated.
Sources: North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial website, North Carolina Dept of Cultural Resources (http://www.nccivilwar150.com/) accessed March 2011.
Collins, Donald E. "Eastern North Carolinians in the Union Army: The First and Second North Carolina Union Volunteer Regiments" on the North Carolina Union Volunteers Project website (http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ncuv/ncuv.htm) accessed March 2011.
Browning, Judkin. Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2011.
Benjamin, W.S. The Great Epidemic in New Berne. New Bern: Geo. Mills Joy, 1865. Gordon, Lesley J. "'In Time of War': Unionists Hanged in Kinston, North Carolina, February 1864" in Sutherland, Daniel E., ed. Guerrillas, Unionists, and Violence on the Confederate Home Front. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1999.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Department of North Carolina archives, 1862-1865, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
On July 17, 1863, Frederick L. Olmsted, general secretary for the USSC, outlined a plan for the organization of a Field Relief Corps (FRC) to work alongside the Army of the Potomac during its campaigns. By July 18, 1863, the FRC was organized and met the Army of the Potomac in Boonesborough, Maryland. Lewis H. Steiner was named the chief inspector for the Armies in East Virginia and Maryland, a position he held until his resignation on July 12, 1864. Steiner was responsible for the efficiency of the entire FRC and was supported by a field superintendent and an assistant superintendent, J. Warner Johnson and Isaac Harris respectively. Johnson remained in this position until January 1865 and was succeeded by J. Henry Davis.
The superintendent and his assistant were aided by relief agents who were assigned to each corps of the Army of the Potomac. Each agent was furnished with a four-horse wagon filled with supplies from USSC field storehouses and traveled with his designated Army corps so as to become acquainted with the needs of the soldiers and able to provide additional supplies. The superintendent and his assistant moved throughout the corps of the Army of the Potomac to provide extra assistance when needed.
Because the Army of the Potomac was frequently on the march against southern troops; the main headquarters, stations, depots, and lodges for the USSC often changed too. When the FRC was first organized, the Army of the Potomac was stationed near Aquia Creek, Virginia, but no formal station was created until after the battle of Gettysburg when the troops returned to Virginia, eventually setting up winter quarters. The first field quarters of the FRC was opened on January 14, 1864 at Brandy Station, Virginia. This station, commonly referred to as the Shebang, consisted of a store house and tents to lodge relief agents, visitors, and convalescing soldiers. In preparation for the movement of the Army for what would be the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania (May 1864) and other battles and skirmishes that made up Grant's Overland Campaign, Brandy Station was closed on May 4, 1864 and supplies were next forwarded to Belle Plain, Virginia.
In anticipation of the Army of the Potomac's 1864 spring and summer campaigns, the Auxiliary Relief Corps (ARC) was established in May 1864. Unlike the FRC, the Auxiliary Relief Corps did not move with the Army; instead, they were stationed in various field relief hospitals associated with different Army corps. The ARC attended to the wounded arriving in ambulances, provided feeding stations for soldiers in transit, assisted sick soldiers with letter writing and other personal needs (such as supplying reading matter), provided fresh clothing, made sure that soldiers had proper food and stimulants, ensured that supplies were distributed equally, and provided last rites and Christian burials when necessary. Frank B. Fay of Chelsea, Massachusetts was appointed their superintendent and remained in this position until January 1865. A. M. Sperry succeeded Fay and remained in that position until the end of the war.
Beginning on May 10, 1864, Belle Plain served as the base of supplies for the USSC operating with the Army of the Potomac. The USSC was busy here and at Fredericksburg with the wounded soldiers following the battle at Spotsylvania Court House (May 1864). Once General Ulysses S. Grant continued his advance to Richmond, Virginia, USSC supplies and relief stations were moved to Aquia Creek on May 21. The USSC then continued to follow the Army's movements along the Potomac River with stops along the way at Port Royal, White House, and Fortress Monroe during the leadup to the battle of Cold Harbor (May 31-June 12). The USSC's ultimate destination was City Point, Virginia which became their headquarters in mid-June 1864.
From June 1864 to May 1865, City Point, on the James River, served as Grant's headquarters and the center of operations for the Union armies there. City Point also became the center for USSC operations, with the arrival of the USSC relief corps on June 18, 1864. The USSC was able to utilize the elaborate railroad, shipping, and communications facilities established there, and set up its own relief networks to supply Army hospitals and troops, and conduct its own relief work, which included transporting wounded soldiers to northern hospitals.
Grant's Army of the Potomac and General Benjamin F. Butler's Army of the James were combined on June 22, 1864 thereby expanding the USSC's work and affecting their organizational structure. John H. Douglas, associate secretary of the USSC, was placed in charge of the entire work of the Commission in Virginia. Douglas oversaw the general direction of field relief at City Point and was responsible for USSC transportation needs by water and land as well as coordinating the distribution of USSC supplies. Alexander McDonald was appointed the chief inspector USSC Department of the Peninsula and Norfolk and placed in charge of overseeing relief activities at the Commission's stations at Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bermuda Hundred, and Point of Rocks. McDonald's base of operations was at Deep Bottom, Virginia to supply the Army of the James.
By July 1864, over 200 individuals were gainfully employed by the USSC with an unidentified number of civilians serving as volunteers. Douglas continued his role of oversight, McDonald served as inspector and executive officer, William F. Swalm as inspector and comptroller of supplies, Charles S. Clampitt as chief storekeeper, James J. Brooks as purveyor, J. Warner Johnson as the superintendent of Field Relief, and Frank B. Fay as superintendent of Auxiliary Relief. W. D. Mosman was the cashier and clerk at City Point and was chiefly responsible for their financial affairs. By the end of that month, Joseph Parrish was placed in charge of all USSC operations working with the Armies operating against Richmond.
The USSC continued to work from City Point and Deep Bottom during the Richmond and Petersburg campaigns throughout June 1864 to March 1865. On April 2-3, 1865, Petersburg and Richmond fell to the Union and City Point quickly became a depot for supplies to be sent to those two fallen cities. By April 12 the USSC had permission from the Army to occupy a large house in Petersburg to serve as a storehouse and soldier's lodge. Relief stations were also established at Richmond and Burkesville, Virginia.
Toward the end of April 1865, as soldiers began to return home, the USSC's relief work drew to a close. April 26, 1865 was McDonald's last day with the USSC, leaving Isaac Harris and J. Warner Johnson in charge until M. D. Benedict was named chief inspector on May 25. After this time, relief stations, lodges, hospitals, and storehouses began making arrangements to close. Supplies and equipment were either sold or sent to other USSC locations. By June 25, USSC operations at Petersburg, Richmond and City Point had closed; on that day, remaining City Point staff departed by boat for Washington.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Army of the Potomac archives, 1862-1865, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The Executive Committee of Boston Associates (ECBA) was officially organized on April 1, 1863 as a department of the United States Sanitary Commission's special relief service. The Executive Committee provided transportation, lodging, clothing, meals, medical attention, and aid in obtaining pay for those soldiers in the Boston area who were either discharged, on furlough, sick, or disabled, and in need of assistance.
When the USSC was established in June 1861, it was administered by an executive board that supervised all USSC operations and a standing committee composed of six members who controlled USSC affairs when the board was not in session. These two committees were supported by influential men in communities throughout the United States, known as associate members, who assisted the USSC in developing local supply organizations to gather and forward supplies to soldiers in need. Associate members were asked to promote the establishment of auxiliary associations, to help direct the work of those that had already formed, and to help manage supply depots in larger cities. The associate members in Boston worked to accomplish those goals, and were able to transfer the supply work to the New England Women's Auxiliary Association (NEWAA), which was organized in November 1861.
In March 1863, Dr. J. Foster Jenkins, associate secretary of the USSC, wrote a letter to the associate members in Boston encouraging them to organize themselves in order to expand the Commission's special relief work into Boston. Boston associates met on March 9, 1863 at the NEWAA office on 22 Summer Street in Boston to address Jenkins's letter. As a result, the Executive Committee of Boston Associates was established to serve as the representative body of the Sanitary Commission in its local relief work in Boston, and to act in an advisory role concerning the proper organization of services for soldiers who were disabled, on furlough, or permanently discharged from the army.
The Executive Committee was made up of H. B. Rogers, James M. Barnard, John S. Blatchford, and J. Huntington Wolcott. Rogers was designated the chairman and Blatchford became the secretary and treasurer of the Executive Committee of Boston Associates. As secretary, Blatchford was responsible for the management of special relief services in Boston and worked with other members of the Executive Committee and the USSC, army officials, and others to coordinate supplies, transportation, and other services for soldiers. He also reported at monthly meetings of the Committee and compiled statistical statements and other materials from the superintendent's reports showing the comparative results for the special relief services they provided, and prepared quarterly and annual reports for publication.
Blatchford served in these positions until May 1865, when he was appointed the general secretary of the USSC. At this time, Barnard took over as secretary and Wolcott served as treasurer until the office closed in April 1866. Wolcott was also referred to as the treasurer of the Boston Branch of the USSC. (References to the "New England Branch" and the "Boston Branch" are found the records; they may be colloquial names.) All funds needed to support ECBA's special relief work were to be drawn from the treasury that Wolcott oversaw.
On April 1, 1863, the Executive Committee of Boston Associates, which referred to their work as the Special Relief Service of the Commission in Boston, officially opened its doors at 76 Kingston Street in Boston. Following the brief tenure of E. B. Phillips, Charles F. Mudge served as superintendent of this office, and with the aid of assistants was responsible for the daily operations of the relief rooms, which included a dormitory and a sick ward. NEWAA provided bedding and other necessary supplies needed by soldiers who passed through their rooms. Mudge was also in charge of correspondence concerning individual special relief cases, maintaining accounts of relief monies, documenting the individuals served and the kind of help given, and preparing weekly and monthly reports for the secretary. He remained in this position until November 1865 when he was replaced by Samuel E. Mudge.
The Executive Committee of Boston Associates provided aid to soldiers in the Boston area by offering lodging, meals, clothes, medical attention, and transportation to soldiers on their way back to their camps or their homes during their furloughs or after being discharged from the army. Special relief services also included helping soldiers with reenlistments, obtaining their back pay and pensions, arranging their papers and helping to overturn any unfair accusations of desertion. In August 1863, ECBA organized a hospital car service to transport sick and disabled soldiers between Boston and New York. There were two cars appropriated for this service which were equipped with beds, seating, medical and supply closets, cooking supplies, and hospital clothing. One of these trains left Boston or New York each day to head to the other city.
When the Civil War came to an end in April 1865, the Executive Committee of Boston Associates continued their special relief work to serve the large number of soldiers returning home. By October 1, 1865, ECBA had ceased its hospital car service and closed their rooms at 76 Kingston Street. They then took up a small office at 53 ½ Summer Street in Boston, which they shared with the local office of the USSC's Army and Navy Claim Agency. Here they provided temporary aid to resident soldiers and their families, and assisted soldiers who came into Boston during the winter of 1865-1866. The Executive Committee of Boston Associates brought their affairs and services to a close on April 1, 1866.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Executive Committee of Boston Associates archives, 1861-1866, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The United States Sanitary Commission (USSC), 1861-1879, was a civilian organization authorized by the United States government to provide medical and sanitary assistance to the Union volunteer forces during the United States Civil War (1861-1865). As the USSC broadened the scope of its work during the war, Regular troops, sailors and others also benefited from its services. The USSC wrapped up its war relief operations in the fall of 1865. At that time it established an Historical Bureau to collect, arrange and preserve its records, which would also serve as a documentary resource for planned publications on historical and scientific topics. Some special relief operations, such as the running of employment bureaus and homes for disabled soldiers and sailors, continued until early 1866. The USSC's Army and Navy Claim Agency, which helped soldiers, sailors and their family members to file pension and other claims with the government without charge, ceased accepting new claims as of January 1, 1866. Its agents continued to process existing applications until approximately 1870. The Statistical Bureau prepared monograph reports on its findings through 1868. By 1872, the Historical Bureau had completed two arrangements of its records, which had been collected or submitted on a rolling basis. The Sanitary Commission remained relatively dormant until 1878, when its Standing Committee authorized a third and final arrangement of its records, and a complete statement of its financial accounts from 1861-1878. USSC President Henry W. Bellows officially brought its work to a close on January 7, 1879.
The USSC's roots lay in the collaborative efforts of New York City's civic leaders, medical community, and particularly the Woman's Central Association of Relief to channel the public's outpouring of support and concern for the troops in ways most useful to the government and the military at the start of the war in April 1861.
A delegation to Washington in May, 1861 representing these groups led to the appointment of "A Commission of Inquiry and Advice in respect of the Sanitary Interests of the United States Forces" to work in collaboration with the War Department and Medical Bureau, as ordered by the Secretary of War on June 9, 1861, and approved by President Lincoln on June 13. The commission was named the United States Sanitary Commission and officers were elected from among its members. Reverend Henry W. Bellows, a Unitarian minister and vice-president of the Woman's Central Association of Relief, served as president, Alexander Dallas Bache as vice-president, and George Templeton Strong as treasurer. Frederick Law Olmsted was hired as general secretary. The Sanitary Commission was empowered to inquire and advise as to matters concerning the health and sanitary condition of the volunteer forces; their general comfort and efficiency; the provision of cooks, nurses and hospitals; and "other subjects of like nature." The Commission received further endorsement by order of the U.S. Army Surgeon General on June 15.
The USSC did not receive funding from the federal government. Its work was supported by donations of cash and supplies from supporters at home and abroad. Insurance companies were solicited. Soldiers' aid societies collected supplies and funds, and Sanitary Fairs were held in major metropolitan areas. Substantial funds were raised by Western states and territories, notably the California. Donations were also received from supporters around the world.
It was a guiding principle of the USSC that it should work only to supplement, not supplant or compete with, the work of the government. The Commission began its work investigating the condition of the troops. Its members formed committees to conduct camp and hospital inspections, collect statistics, and prepare reports on sanitary practice, preparation of food, and the quality of supplies. In the early months of its investigations, the Sanitary Commission looked carefully at the lessons of the Crimean War, when British forces lost many men to disease caused by unsanitary conditions.
The Commissioners, who formed what was initially described as an executive board or legislative council, met on a quarterly basis throughout the war to review submitted reports and to set general policy. The Board usually met in Washington, D.C. Once military actions began and the USSC added relief work to its sanitary inspection work across great geographical distances, the committee structure was gradually replaced by an executive administrative structure.
The demands of the war also created a need for more frequent decision-making. This led to the creation of the Standing Committee, which met on a nearly-daily basis in New York City where most of its members resided. The Standing Committee initially consisted of five Commissioners who retained their position for the entire war: Rev. Henry W. Bellows, George Templeton Strong, William H. Van Buren, M.D., Cornelius R. Agnew, M.D., and Wolcott Gibbs. Charles J. Stillé, Esq., of Philadelphia joined the Standing Committee in 1864. Their decisions were implemented and were informed by the general secretary, who in turn worked with the associate secretary of the East (Eastern Department), based in Washington, D.C., and the associate secretary of the West (Western Department), based in Louisville, Kentucky. Van Buren, Agnew and Gibbs also formed the USSC's Medical Committee. They directed inquiries and projects on medical, surgical, sanitary and other scientific topics, including the publication of professional papers during and after the war. Committee members also engaged in USSC efforts to modernize and reform the Army Medical Bureau in the early years of the war. USSC Commissioner Elisha Harris, M.D., worked closely with them.
The general secretary and the associate secretary of the East were located at the USSC's Washington headquarters at 244 F Street. In the fall of 1863, Olmsted resigned as general secretary, and was replaced by J. Foster Jenkins, who served in that position until the spring of 1865. The USSC implemented a major executive restructuring following Olmsted's departure.
John S. Newberry, M.D., was associate secretary of the West throughout the war. (The Western Department should not be confused with the Western Sanitary Commission, an independent organization that declined to join the USSC. Its headquarters was located in St. Louis, Missouri.) The associate secretaries were responsible for the general supervision of regional offices and departments, supply depots and special relief services in their geographical territory. They made sure the supply needs of inspectors and relief agents serving with the Armies in the field were met, and coordinated operations at major battles. Louisville and Washington were also the location of the USSC's two largest supply depots.
A third associate secretary position was later created for the chief of inspection, who oversaw a network of chief inspectors, relief agents and supply depots that operated within or near military lines. The inspectors and relief agents accompanied particular Army units on the march as well as units sent by sea on special expeditions. Once a military presence was established in an area, the USSC set up more permanent quarters. USSC inspectors of U.S. Army General Hospitals and Naval hospitals also reported to the chief of inspection.
The central administration was supported by the work of its branch offices. The USSC provided hospital supplies, clothing and food contributed by aid societies, which were channeled geographically through large branch offices across the Union to major USSC supply depots. The branches were semi-independent regional offices with their own administration under the direction of the USSC. It was believed that donations and supplies could more effectively be raised through local efforts, and distributed more efficiently according to need by a central bureaucracy in official communication with the government. There were also branches located in London, England and Paris, France. Women's branches such as the Woman's Central Association of Relief, the New England Women's Auxiliary Association and the Pennsylvania Women's Branch worked closely with the USSC offices in their cities - the New York Office, the Philadelphia Agency, and the Executive Committee of Boston Associates.
The Board and Standing Committee relied on an enforced system of regional and functional reporting to maintain control and communication, and to formulate policy. The number of employees on the Commission's roster varied from roughly one hundred fifty to seven hundred, the average number being about three hundred. While some men and women, at all levels of service, preferred to work on a volunteer basis, as a rule officers and employees received salaries as a matter of policy to ensure accountability and consistency in the work force. As Charles J. Stillé wrote, their work was "too full of toil, drudgery and repulsive reality," especially in the field, to be sustained solely by volunteer workers.
The collection of statistics was instrumental to the USSC's work. USSC inspectors conducted camp and hospital inspections, reporting their findings according to specially prepared questionnaires. They also collected information on the physical condition and social background of volunteer soldiers. This information was submitted to the USSC's Statistical Bureau which compiled abstracts from the data to make recommendations for sanitary policy and other studies. The Statistical Bureau was headed by E.B. Elliott, and later by Benjamin A. Gould. It reported directly to the general secretary.
The scope of the USSC's work grew as the war progressed. It worked with the military to improve transportation of the sick and wounded. It staffed hospital steamers and other ships, some provided by the Quartermaster General, to transport the wounded. It developed special railway cars and ambulances, and used refrigerated rail transport to bring fresh food to hospitals after major battles such as Gettysburg. The USSC created several large 'hospital gardens' during the war to provide fresh vegetables for patients and for troops in the field, to battle the spread of scurvy.
The USSC's circulars, broadsides, pamphlets and publications such as the Sanitary Reporter (in the West) and the Sanitary Bulletin (in the East) were vitally important in keeping the public aware and supportive of its work. Agents traveled throughout the country giving lectures and fundraising. The USSC published medical and surgical essays on topics such as scurvy, dysentery, and amputation for free distribution to military medical personnel. The USSC made use of photography during and after the war to support its work and document its achievements.
USSC agents engaged in general, or field relief, attended to the needs of troops on the march. Battlefield relief consisted of transporting and providing extra medical supplies at times of battle and caring for the wounded on the field. Often the lines between these two categories blurred. Out of this work, and in addition to it, grew the USSC's Auxiliary Relief Corps (1864) whose workers provided feeding stations for soldiers in transit to and from hospitals, assisted sick soldiers in hospital with letter-writing and other personal needs, and attended to the wounded arriving in ambulances. The USSC's Special Relief Department, established at the beginning of the war and directed by Frederick N. Knapp, ran a network of soldiers' homes and lodges, usually at transit points, which provided food and shelter to sick, wounded or exhausted soldiers on their way to or from home, camp, regiment, or hospital. USSC agents were also stationed at large convalescent camps to assist soldiers with health needs, letter-writing, and paper work concerning discharge, sick pay, and other claims. The exposure to disease and incessant overwork resulted in death or lifelong illness for a number of USSC relief workers, including both men and women.
The USSC established the Hospital Directory in 1862 to collect and record information concerning the location of sick and wounded soldiers in U.S. Army general hospitals, and to provide that information to the public. Its four offices in Washington, DC; Louisville, KY; Philadelphia, PA, and New York, NY also gathered information from other hospitals and locations, and searched for soldiers who had lost contact with family and friends. Hospital patient data was also used by the Statistical Bureau for the evaluation of medical performance.
Assisting soldiers and their families, without charge, to fill out the proper government forms to obtain back pay, pensions, bounty and prize monies became an increasingly important part of the USSC's special relief work. In 1864, it formed the United States Sanitary Commission Army & Navy Claim Agency in Washington, DC to better organize its work. Local claim agencies such as the Protective War Claim Association of the State of New York, located in Manhattan, and the Protective War Claim and Pension Agency, located in Philadelphia, were part of the USSC network of local agents forwarding claims to the central office in Washington for processing with the government.
When the war ended in April, 1865, the USSC continued much needed relief work with returning prisoners of war, discharged soldiers, and those remaining in hospitals. By July, branches were bringing their work to a close. Active relief work related to the war ceased officially on October 1, 1865.
The post-war years of the USSC saw continued activity. Branches continued to tie up loose ends and to prepare their records for shipment to the USSC's Historical Bureau. The Historical Bureau (1865-1868) was established in New York City to arrange, catalog, and preserve the records for future use by the public, and to aid in the preparation of several planned histories of the USSC's war work. The Medical Committee, under the direction of Elisha Harris, M.D., collected documentation for histories of war-time medical, surgical, and sanitary practice, while others worked on histories of statistical, special relief, and other USSC activities.
The USSC Army & Navy Claim Agency and the Protective War Claim agencies in New York and Philadelphia stopped accepting new claims in 1866, but continued working on pending cases and brought most work to a close by 1870. Their records were among the last to be received by the Sanitary Commission.
Also during this period, USSC officers and former associates such as Rev. Henry W. Bellows and Frederick Law Olmsted established the American Association for the Relief of the Misery of Battle Fields (1866-1870) as the first American branch of the Comité International de Secours aux Militaires Blessés, later known as the Red Cross. The records of the AARMBF are found in the records of the United States Sanitary Commission.
John S. Blatchford, general secretary from 1865 to the early 1870s, remained actively engaged in supervising the collection and arrangement of records, supervising the publications, and handling any pending business under the direction of the Standing Committee, which held its final meeting in 1878. Rev. Henry W. Bellows, president of the USSC since 1861, officially brought its affairs to a close on 7 January 1879 with the formal transfer of its records to the Astor Library.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records, 1861-1878, 1861-1872, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The Statistical Bureau was established as a special department at Washington in 1861 to support the Commission's role as an independent advisory body to the government with reference to the health, sanitary condition, and general comfort and efficiency of U.S. troops. Under the administration of E.B. Elliott and later Benjamin A. Gould, it compiled forms used by USSC inspectors and relief agents to investigate and monitor such conditions, or other topics determined by the USSC, and it collected data from those forms and tabulated their results for further analysis, reporting and publication by the USSC. It also collected data from Army regimental and medical records to support studies of loss and gain in the U.S. Army, which in turn supported the work of the work of the USSC's Hospital Directory. The Bureau used Army muster records, along with its own original forms, completed by a staff of examiners, to conduct physiological and sociological studies of the American soldier. In the fall of 1865, the Statistical Bureau moved its records and operations to Boston, Massachusetts, near Gould's residence in Cambridge.
E.B. (Ezekiel Brown) Elliott (1823-1888), Actuary of the United States Sanitary Commission, headed the Statistical Bureau's operations from the Bureau's office at 244 F Street at Washington, DC from its inception in 1861 until early 1864. In August, 1863, Elliott attended the International Statistical Congress in Berlin as a delegate of the American Statistical Association, where he presented some of the Statistical Bureau's earliest findings relating to sickness and mortality rates, as well as the physiological characteristics of soldiers. His findings were later elaborated on and published as "On the Military Statistics of the United States of America" (Berlin, 1863). Elliott did not return to his position of Actuary after the Congress was adjourned. T.J. (Timothy J.) O'Connell, a native of Cork, Ireland and a graduate of the University of Dublin, carried on the Bureau's work during Elliott's absence. O'Connell was appointed Chief Clerk upon the reorganization of the Statistical Bureau in the summer of 1864. Benjamin Apthorp Gould (1824-1896), an accomplished mathematician and astronomer, was appointed as the new head of the Bureau, and Actuary of the USSC. Over the next year, T.J. O'Connell's health deteriorated, leading to his resignation in May, 1865, and his death in Washington in March, 1866. Lucius Brown was appointed chief clerk in April, 1865.
The Statistical Bureau conducted a vast array of researches in Army records at Washington during most of its time of operation, and its efforts were met with cordial support by the Army. However, during the last year of the War, USSC access to Army records was gradually proscribed by the War Department, and in October, 1865 further access was denied. As a result, various studies had to be abandoned, although some later efforts were made to complete informational losses by visits to various state capitols to review similar materials in state adjutant generals' offices.
Computations and analysis of materials continued in Boston to the summer of 1868, as Gould and his staff worked on his "Investigations in the Military and Anthropological Statistics of American Soldiers" an important exposition of the Statistical Bureau's work, published as the second volume of the USSC's Sanitary Memoirs in 1869. Statistical Bureau records were shipped to the USSC at the Astor Library in July 1868.
Benjamin F. Gould's Investigations in the Military and Anthropological Statistics of American Soldiers (New York and Cambridge, 1869), as well as his 1867 Report of the Actuary provide much guidance on the nature and status of research conducted by the Statistical Bureau, and the records it compiled.
E.B. Elliott. Preliminary report on the mortality and sickness of the volunteer forces of the United States government during the present war. New York : W.C. Bryant, 1862. United States Sanitary Commission Document No. 46. Elliott, E.B. On the military statistics of the United States of America. Berlin : Printed by R. v. Decker for the United States Sanitary Commission, 1863.
Sanitary Memoirs of the War of the Rebellion. Vol. II. Investigations in the military and anthropological statistics of American soldiers. By Benjamin Apthorp Gould. New York: Hurd and Houghton for the U.S. Sanitary Commission; Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1869.
Stillé, Charles J. History of the United States Sanitary Commission, being the general report of its work during the war of the rebellion. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1866.
United States Sanitary Commission. Report of the Actuary. New York: the Commission, 1867. (Circular publication of Benjamin A. Gould's report dated Cambridge, April 27, 1867.)
United States Sanitary Commission. Statistical Bureau. Ages of U. S. volunteer soldiery. New York: [The Commission?], 1866. Compiled by Benjamin Apthorp Gould and included as chapter 3 in his Investigations in the military and anthropological statistics of American soldiers, New York, 1869.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Statistical Bureau archives, 1861-1869, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The USSC established offices and storehouses, and homes for soldiers and their relatives, throughout Maryland during the war, in Annapolis, Baltimore, Frederick, and Sharpsburg. The main purpose of these USSC stations was to collect and provide supplies for use by army hospitals and regiments in the field, and to support relief of the wounded following major battles. They also assisted discharged and disabled soldiers and their families with additional aid such as lodging, meals, and discounted transportation fares.
Annapolis became an important military hospital center and transit point during the Civil War, due to its easy access to Washington and Baltimore by rail, and to other points north and south by ship via the Chesapeake Bay. Hospitals were established at the United States Naval Academy, St. John's College, and other locations to receive wounded and sick soldiers. Nearby Camp Parole also had a hospital. This was a large parole and convalescent camp for exchanged or paroled Union prisoners released from Confederate custody, newly relocated from a smaller site in May, 1863.
The USSC provided general and special relief services at Annapolis. Rev. H.C. Henries was in charge of issuing supplementary supplies to hospitals in the area and at Camp Parole. The USSC had agents at Division Hospital No. 1 and No. 2, and at Camp Parole. In addition to distributing supplies to hospital staff, agents also visited and worked with soldiers to make sure any special needs were met.
In July, 1863, Frederick N. Knapp, head of the Special Relief Department in Washington, instructed Henries to open a Home to provide temporary shelter and food for the visiting wives, mothers and children of soldiers. Many of the women had traveled great distances on urgent notice and could not easily find or afford public accommodations in town. The Home, under the care of a matron, was located on Conduit Street; it opened in July, 1863 and ceased operations in 1865.
On May 25, 1864, Henries was relieved of his duties and J. Addison Whitaker was appointed superintendent of relief operations in Annapolis. Whitaker served until December 7, 1864, when he was succeeded by C.F. Howes who served until May, 1865. William H. Holstein was in charge when operations ceased in the fall of 1865.
Baltimore's proximity to the two opposing capitals of Washington and Richmond with its easy access to shipping ports and railways made it an excellent location for a major USSC supply depot and office. The Baltimore office and storehouse opened on May 1, 1862 at 46 South Sharp Street with Joseph T. Pancoast as its agent in charge. Pancoast, with the support of a storekeeper and an office clerk, made large purchases of hospital supplies, provisions, and other articles for use by army hospitals and for battlefield relief in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. Pancoast also assisted other USSC officers in chartering shipping vessels to receive and transport supplies. During the end of 1864 a second storehouse was maintained at 50 Howard Street. In May 1865, the Baltimore office and storehouse moved to 288 West Baltimore Street where it remained until the office closed in the fall of 1865.
The Baltimore office also provided special relief services to soldiers and their relatives including the collection of back pay and bounties due to them from the government, gathering information on soldiers for their relations, and procuring transportation to hospitals and military departments and for soldiers' furloughs and transfers. They also kept food and clothing supplies on hand for soldiers and their families, and for southern refugees arriving in Baltimore. From April to October 1863, these special relief services were in the charge of O. C. Bullard.
On April 27, 1864, a Home for invalid soldiers was established in Baltimore on 62 Conway Street, conveniently located near the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The Home served as a lodging for soldiers in transit as well as for relatives of soldiers who were in need. Meals and reduced fares for transportation were also provided. Mr. Hammond served as the superintendent of the Home until May 1864. Arthur E. Hastings was appointed superintendent on May 23, 1864 and remained in that position until the closure of the Home on September 30, 1865.
The USSC storehouses at Frederick and Sharpsburg opened in the aftermath of the Battles of South Mountain, Harpers Ferry, and Antietam in mid-September 1862 to furnish hospital supplies and food for the relief of sick and wounded soldiers. The Sharpsburg storehouse closed on November 5, 1862 while Frederick's storehouse closed around the fall of 1863. Later in July 1864, the storehouse in Frederick was reopened following the Battle of Monocacy (July 9, 1864). Frederick J. Williams was the agent in charge at Frederick until it closed in October 1864. A soldiers' rest was established here under Richard Mansfield and was in operation from August 1-12, 1864.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Maryland archives, 1862-1865, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The USSC's Western Department, formally organized in September 1861, assisted soldiers involved primarily in the operations of the Western Theater through a far-reaching network based in Louisville, Kentucky for most of the war. Geologist and paleontologist Dr. John S. Newberry (1822-1892), an Associate Secretary and Commissioner of the USSC, led the Department.
The Department's first headquarters was in Cleveland, Ohio; in October 1862, it moved its base to Louisville, Kentucky in order to be closer to the action unfolding in the Western Theater. Over the course of the war, the Department provided assistance to soldiers in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Kansas, and parts of West Virginia and Maryland. Those retuning to homes in or passing through the upper Midwest were also assisted in many ways by the Western Department and its branches. The Department conducted little work in Missouri, which was served by the St. Louis-based Western Sanitary Commission, an independent organization. Soldiers in most of Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast were assisted by the USSC's Department of the Gulf.
Like many USSC departments, the Western Department primarily conducted inspections of camps and hospitals in the beginning, but over the course of the war its two main functions became that of supply distribution and special relief.
Supplies were procured for Western armies mostly through an extensive network of branches and soldiers' aid societies throughout the Midwest. The Chicago (also known as the North-western Sanitary Commission), Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Kentucky (based in Louisville) Branches-all established in 1861-were prominent in the region, tapping into regional aid societies. Branches as far east as Buffalo and Pittsburgh were part of the Western Department's network; Detroit, Milwaukee, Columbus, and Iowa were also home to organizations that supported the USSC. Western branches usually operated independently, running their own supply systems and financially supporting their own staff and facilities, though the USSC did provide some financial aid and occasional support if needed.
Branches shipped their supplies-including fresh and pickled vegetables to combat scurvy-to Louisville (after October 1862) or to Cairo, Illinois, via steamer or railroad, often at reduced rates or no cost. Supplies were then forwarded to the numerous agencies and depots that were established during the course of the war based on troop movements or other needs. In early 1862, the Department was mostly active in Kentucky and Tennessee, especially following the battle of Shiloh. Agents also assisted Union troops at Corinth, Mississippi. In the fall, Western Department efforts were expanded, and the number of relief agents in the field doubled. Departmental personnel traveled extensively, with many agents working in numerous locations during the war.
The Western Department maintained two primary areas of operation throughout much of the war: one that supported troops along the Mississippi River; the other assisting soldiers involved in the actions in Middle Tennessee, Chattanooga, Northern Alabama, and Georgia.
Mississippi River operations stretched from Cairo, Illinois as far south as Natchez, Mississippi. An agency was established at Memphis in October 1862. Supplies were also distributed in the river towns of Columbus, Kentucky, and Helena, Arkansas. The Western Department supported troops involved in General Ulysses S. Grant's siege of Vicksburg, and established an agency there after the city fell to the Union in July 1863.
In Tennessee, an agency was established at Nashville soon after that city fell to the Union in late February 1862, and at Murfreesboro following the battle of Stone's River in December 1862/January 1863. In the spring of 1863, an agency was established at Tullahoma, as Western Department personnel followed the movements of General William S. Rosecrans. Chattanooga and its surrounding area became a major focus for the Sanitary Commission in the fall, with agencies and depots set up along the railroad at Stevenson and Bridgeport, Alabama. The Chattanooga agency soon became one of the most active in the Department. A USSC presence was also established in Huntsville, Alabama, and Knoxville, Tennessee. Relief agents accompanied General William T. Sherman on his Atlanta Campaign in 1864, providing food and supplies at numerous locations in Northern Georgia from depots and temporary feeding stations.
In addition, the Western Department distributed supplies in other areas including Leavenworth and eastern Kansas; Wheeling, West Virginia; Cumberland, Maryland; and Little Rock, Arkansas. Troops in Kentucky were assisted through agencies at Bowling Green, Lexington, Camp Nelson, and elsewhere. Agents at Camp Nelson and in Kansas aided numerous refugees displaced by the war. In the spring of 1865, the USSC assisted paroled and exchanged Union prisoners at Vicksburg, with many recently released from prisons at Andersonville, Georgia and Cahawba, Alabama.
The special relief services provided by the Western Department were similarly extensive. The Department or its branches operated numerous soldiers' homes and lodges, which provided temporary housing and meals for soldiers. Some also assisted soldiers with back pay, bounty, and pension claims, correction of papers, and transport. A few in the Western Department provided services to soldiers' families, who were visiting or searching for their relatives. Facilities were established at Cairo, Nashville, Memphis, Louisville, Camp Nelson, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Paducah, Columbus, Buffalo, and New Albany and Jeffersonville in Indiana. Some soldiers' homes were run and financed independently by the local USSC branch, others by the Western Department, while still others had a combination of branch and departmental support during their histories. Most remained open until the summer or fall of 1865, with a few continuing work into 1866.
The Western Department provided numerous other special relief services to soldiers and families. The Hospital Directory for the Department, based in Louisville with H.S. Holbrook in charge, documented sick and wounded soldiers in hospitals and answered inquiries from families and friends (see the Hospital Directory Archives record group). Local relief agents assisted with hospital documentation and individual queries; they also transported remains and effects, transcribed the headboards of hastily-dug graves, and noted and marked gravesites. Western Department agents accompanying General Sherman's troops on his Savannah Campaign performed similar duties.
The Department also operated hospital cars on the railroad lines and hospital steamers on the rivers. They assisted family members with travel and transport in the South. Agents maintained gardens in Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, Nashville, and Knoxville, providing much-needed vegetables to area hospitals. The Department also hired a number of hospital visitors, mostly clergymen who visited soldiers in barracks, hospitals, and prisons. A pension and claim agency was opened in Louisville in the spring of 1863 by the USSC; Western Department branches also ran their own pension and claim agencies in Cleveland and Chicago. Other agencies were established in affiliation with the USSC's Army and Navy Claim Agency. In addition, some branches and agencies assisted discharged soldiers with employment searches.
As an associate secretary heading a department with a large expanse of territory, Newberry operated somewhat independently, though he did report periodically to the Standing Committee and the General Secretary, and handled financial matters largely through the New York Office. The Western Department issued its own publication, The Sanitary Reporter (May 15, 1863-1865). The Department's Central Office at Louisville closed in October 1865.
For a detailed report of Western Department activities, see Newberry, J.S. The U.S. Sanitary Commission in the Valley of the Mississippi, during the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866: Final Report of Dr. J.S. Newberry, Secretary Western Department. Cleveland: Fairbanks, Benedict & Co., 1871 (USSC Document No. 96).
Censer, Jane Turner, ed. The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, Volume IV: Defending the Union, The Civil War and the U.S. Sanitary Commission 1861-1863, Introduction/ Biographical Directory. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986
O'Neill, Robert and Stephen D. Engle. The Civil War: the Siege of Vicksburg and Other Western Battles, 1861-July 1863. New York: Rosen Publishing, 2011.
O'Neill, Robert and Joseph T. Glatthaar. The Civil War: Sherman's Capture of Atlanta and Other Western Battles, 1863-1865. New York: Rosen Publishing, 2011.
Sears, Richard D. "A Long Way from Freedom: Camp Nelson Refugees" in Dollar, Kent T., Larry H. Whiteaker, and W. Calvin Dickinson, eds. Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2009.
Woodworth, Steven E. Decision in the Heartland: The Civil War in the West. Westport: Praeger Press, 2008.
Woodworth, Steven E., Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865. New York: Knopf, 2005.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Western Department archives, 1861-1865, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The Woman's Central Association of Relief (WCAR) was founded in April 1861 in New York City. On April 25, a group of women met informally at the New York Infirmary for Women, run by Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), to discuss options for wartime volunteer relief efforts. The group issued a public appeal and organized a mass meeting at the Cooper Institute on April 29. The newly-formed WCAR created a Board and Executive Committee; its primary functions initially were to organize a volunteer system of supplies on the home front and to register female nurses for work in military hospitals.
The Reverend Henry W. Bellows spoke at the meeting at Cooper Union and was named chairman of the WCAR's Executive Committee. Bellows, along with Dr. Elisha Harris and other groups, took the WCAR's cause to Washington DC in May to enlist government support for civilian relief efforts; while in Washington he realized the need for a larger Commission with a presence in Washington that would offer medical advice and assist with coordinating supply donations. The U.S. Sanitary Commission was formed and was officially endorsed by the U.S. government on June 9. On June 24, the WCAR became a supply branch of the USSC, a role it would play throughout the war.
Two prominent organizers within the WCAR were Louisa Lee Schuyler (1837-1926) and Ellen Collins (1828-1912). Both would end up using their experience in the WCAR to build careers in the philanthropic world following the war. Schuyler founded the State Charities Aid Association and the National Committee for the Prevention of Blindness, helped to establish Bellevue Hospital's training school for nurses, and served on the board of the Russell Sage Foundation. Collins was involved with the New York National Freedmen's Relief Association and became active in New York City housing reform efforts.
The primary function of the WCAR was the procurement of supplies, obtained from an extensive network of contributing aid societies. Its network area included New York City, Eastern and Central New York State, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and parts of Northern New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, Canada, and the European auxiliaries. Supplies were received at WCAR's office and storeroom at 10 Cooper Union (7 and 11 Cooper Union were also used), then repacked and forwarded to USSC offices, agencies, and departments in the field. Over the course of the war, the WCAR formed a number of committees and subcommittees to handle specific aspects of the supply work. The Committee of Correspondence and the Diffusion of Information communicated with aid society section managers. The Committee on Receiving and Forwarding Supplies handled the unpacking and repacking of supply shipments arriving daily at WCAR headquarters. The Committee for Purchasing, formed in 1863, purchased garment-making materials for aid societies at wholesale prices.
In addition to the procurement of supplies, the WCAR also participated in other war relief efforts. One of the association's earliest functions was to register female nurses for work in military hospitals. The Registration Committee, originally headed by Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, recruited nurses to be sent to Dorothea Dix (who was independent of the USSC) in Washington DC. Nurses' uniforms and transport were also paid for by the committee. By the spring of 1862, the committee had registered 60 nurses, of whom 42 were still actively working. Blackwell resigned in June 1862, with little work conducted following her resignation. The Registration Committee disbanded in the spring 1863. The Committee for Special Relief was formed in November 1863 to direct returning, discharged soldiers and soldiers' families to local relief agencies for assistance with food, lodging, pensions, and transportation. Clothing or money was occasionally given out to extreme cases. The Committee chair was Christine K. Griffin. In addition, Hospital Directory clerk Caroline Howard and others at WCAR handled inquiries concerning soldiers after the Hospital Directory closed its New York office at Cooper Union in early 1864. The Finance Committee was formed in 1861 with Mrs. Hamilton Fish as chairman. The WCAR treasurer Howard Potter, of the Wall Street firm Brown, Brothers & Co., also served on the Finance Committee. Fundraising was a primary function of the committee. While the Finance Committee is not listed in WCAR's reports after May 1863, financial contributions continued to be donated to the WCAR through the end of the war. The association also sponsored the formation of Alert Clubs to stimulate fundraising efforts for aid societies among children and young people. Representatives from the WCAR, including Collins and Schuyler, attended the Women's Councils (organizing supply meetings with women from numerous auxiliaries east and west) held in Washington DC in November 1862 and January 1864. The WCAR held a delegates meeting in New York for all of its aid societies in November 1864.
The Woman's Central Association of Relief held its final meeting on July 7, 1865. WCAR supply records indicate that they continued to receive a small number of supplies into October 1865.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Woman's Central Association of Relief records, 1861-1866, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The USSC's Department of the Shenandoah (also referred to as the Department of West Virginia), was based at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia from spring 1864-June 1865, and primarily provided supplies for soldiers involved in the Shenandoah Valley campaigns of 1864.
The USSC established an agency at Harpers Ferry in early 1864 but it was only sporadically active at first, under the direction of Colonel August Poten. In May, Union Army activities increased in the area, and Dr. Lewis H. Steiner appointed Colonel George A. (George Adolph) Mühleck (d. 1869), former Union colonel (73rd Pennsylvania Infantry) and USSC relief agent for the Army of the Potomac, to head up the new department as superintendent. The colonel was acquainted with Major General Franz Sigel, currently commanding the Union Army's Department of West Virginia, having served with him earlier in the war. Mühleck relieved Acting Superintendent Charles C. Harris when he took charge at Harpers Ferry in May.
The Department's scope was limited to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and West Virginia, and Maryland between Cumberland and Frederick, and was considered to be connected to operations in the East. Occasionally troop movements necessitated sending supplies into territory typically under the purview of the USSC's Western Department, whose West Virginia operations were based in Wheeling.
Mühleck established an agency at Martinsburg, West Virginia, and the Department began issuing supplies from there and the main agency in Harpers Ferry. Several battles and skirmishes occurred in the area in June and July as Major General David Hunter, now in command of Union forces, attempted to destroy Confederate crops, livestock and transportation. The USSC distributed supplies to many hospitals in the Shenandoah Valley and Maryland including to those at Frederick, Hagerstown, Pleasant Valley, Weaverton, Sandy Hook, Bolivar, Martinsburg, and Cumberland. It also assigned two relief agents to Hunter's main column, based at Martinsburg. In early July 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early captured Harpers Ferry and Mühleck and staff were forced to evacuate across the river to Maryland. They returned to the town on July 8. Activity in the Department greatly increased in August with the arrival of Major General Philip Sheridan's Army of the Shenandoah, as it attempted to defeat General Jubal Early's forces, as well as Confederate guerrillas in the area. The USSC established a presence in the town of Winchester, Virginia following a battle near there at Opequon on September 19. The town was overwhelmed by numerous wounded, both Union and Confederate, and the Commission issued supplies from a depot within the main "Sheridan" hospital, with the assistance of the Union Ladies Association, a local organization. It established a permanent agency at Winchester following the battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, as well as a supply station at nearby Stephenson's Depot.
Supply work continued throughout the winter of 1864-1865 in the area's hospitals. The Martinsburg agency was closed in January, and the department concentrated its supply efforts at Harpers Ferry. A soldiers' lodge was opened at Stephenson's Depot in February. As the number of wounded decreased and the war ended, work in the Department of the Shenandoah contracted and some supply depots were closed during the spring. The Department began to wind up its affairs and dispose of its remaining property in June; some work continued into July. Mühleck departed in June, officially ending his service on July 1, and was replaced by C.F. Howes who completed the closing of the Department.
Although their main function was to issue supplies, the Department of the Shenandoah also performed many other tasks. USSC personnel transported thousands of pieces of mail for Union soldiers, forwarded personal effects of the deceased, marked graves (at Winchester) and assisted families in transporting bodies, provided special relief for individuals in need on a case-by-case basis, and obtained information for the Hospital Directory. Over the course of its existence, the department employed approximately 25 relief agents and more than 40 workers (including storekeepers, drivers, cooks, washerwomen, and laborers) all of whom were paid a salary. The area's terrain made relief work in the Shenandoah Valley especially challenging.
Within the USSC, the Department of Shenandoah reported to the Central Office at Washington. Mühleck originally reported to Dr. Steiner, the USSC's Chief of Inspection, but following Steiner's departure from the Commission in July 1864, he mainly corresponded with Rev. Frederick N. Knapp in the Washington Office. He was directed to report to General Secretary J. Foster Jenkins after December 1864. Relief agents in the Department reported to Mühleck, but also sent field reports directly to the Washington Office on occasion. Due to its proximity to Washington, the area was visited by several USSC personnel, including Jenkins, Knapp, John S. Blatchford and Dr. Elisha Harris, who was active in the area's hospitals.
Sources: Griess, Thomas E., Series ed. Atlas for the American Civil War. Wayne, NJ: Avery Publishing Group Inc., 1986. Hunt, Roger D. Colonels in Blue: Union Army Colonels of the Civil War, the Mid-Atlantic States. PA: Stackpole Books, 2007. McPherson, James Battle Cry of Freedom. NY: Oxford University Press, 1988. "Valley Campaigns of 1864" wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valley_Campaigns_of_1864] (accessed Oct 19, 2010) Shenandoah at War website [http://www.shenandoahatwar.org/] (accessed Nov 2010)
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Department of the Shenandoah archives, 1864-1865, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The United States Sanitary Commission established the Army and Navy Claim Agency (ANCA) in Washington, D.C. on April 1, 1864 to serve as the USSC's central office to assist Union soldiers, sailors, and their families in prosecuting claims on the federal government for pensions, back pay, bounty, commutation of rations, prize money, and other benefits, without cost. They sought both to protect claimants from agents charging exhorbitant fees and to assist the government by identifying and turning away false claims. To further this goal, they established a system of local claim agencies in many states across the nation. By helping servicemen and their families to obtain monies due to them, the USSC's claim agencies did much to prevent and alleviate poverty in local communities.
Statement concerning the Army and Navy Claim Agency of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, From September 1, 1864, to October 1, 1866." [Washington: The Commission, 1866].
Report of the Protective War Claim Association of the State of New York. New York: Wm. C. Martin, Printer, 1864.
First Report of the Solicitor of the Protective War Claim and Pension Agency of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, in Philadelphia, to the Board of Directors, January 1st, 1865. Philadelphia: King & Baird, Printers, 1865.
Second Report of the Solicitor of the Protective War Claim and Pension Agency of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, in Philadelphia, to the Board of Directors, January 1st, 1866. Philadelphia: King & Baird, Printers, 1866.
Report of the General Superintendent of the Philadelphia Branch of the U.S. Sanitary Commission to the Executive Committee, January 1st, 1866. Philadelphia: King & Baird, Printers, 1866.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Army and Navy Claim Agency archives, 1861-1870, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
Work in the USSC's Department of the Gulf began in the spring of 1862, when agent Dr. George A. Blake (abt. 1828-1892) accompanied Union General Benjamin Butler's expedition to New Orleans, which reached the city on May 1. Blake also served as a surgeon with a regiment during the advance on New Orleans. During Butler's occupation, the USSC mostly worked with military hospitals for the sick, providing clothing, bedding, and food. After the initial foray into the city, little assistance was needed from the USSC for the rest of the year, as Butler's strict sanitary policies helped diminish sickness in the Army. Blake left town, but returned in November and resumed control of the Department.
General Nathaniel Banks replaced Butler in December 1862, and in 1863 operations to the west of the Mississippi River created new opportunities for the Commission. Relief agents accompanied troops during the siege of Port Hudson (May-July), distributing numerous supplies to Baton Rouge hospitals and regiments. Dr. Edward A. Crane (1832-1906), a USSC Inspector who had arrived with Banks' expedition, was placed in charge of inspecting area troops for the Department. In July, the federal government gave the Commission use of property at 23 Carondelet Street in New Orleans, which became the primary storehouse, as well as a central office for Blake.
The Department was very active in 1864, as supplies were distributed to troops along the Gulf Coast-from the Texas/Mexico border to the Tortugas in Florida-and into the interior of Louisiana. In addition, the Department continued to distribute supplies locally, to New Orleans hospitals, stationed regiments, naval ships, prisons, and Union aid societies. In the spring, agents also outfitted and supplied two hospital steamers in New Orleans, the "N.W. Thomas" and the "Laurel Hill," and accompanied the sick and wounded soldiers onboard as far north as Cairo, Illinois.
An agency was briefly established at Brownsville, Texas in early 1864. The USSC distributed supplies among impoverished refugees at Pensacola, Florida in May. The Red River Campaign-a Union disaster in Louisiana that lasted from March to May-created much work for the Commission, with a depot and temporary soldiers' lodge established at Alexandria, Louisiana. Work was also undertaken in Port Hudson, Baton Rouge, and Morganza in the summer and fall, and supplies were distributed to soldiers on the Florida coast as well. The Department also accompanied prisoner-of-war exchanges with supplies at Red River, Louisiana and Galveston, Texas in the final months of the year.
Supplies received by the Department of the Gulf came primarily from the Woman's Central Association of Relief (WCAR) in New York and the Western Department in Louisville. The WCAR furnished mostly bedding, clothing, stationary, and less-perishable food, while the Western Department was able to deliver fresh vegetables via the Mississippi River. These vegetables, along with sauerkraut and pickles, from the Western Department were key in combating scurvy, which was prevalent in the Gulf area. Some supplies were also received from Boston, Maine, and the Cincinnati Branch.
One of the primary areas of activity for the Department of the Gulf was that of special relief, under the direction of O.C. (Oliver Crosby) Bullard (1822-1890). A Soldiers' Home in New Orleans was established in October, 1863 by special order of the US Army and was initially run by the independent Western Sanitary Commission, based in St. Louis. The USSC dispatched agents to New Orleans around the same time to set up special relief services in the city, but finding a soldiers' home already established there deemed it inadvisable to open another. However, the Reverend Ephraim Nute, head of the Western Sanitary Commission's home, found it difficult to procure supplies, and unofficially transferred management of the home to the USSC in November. Top officials of the Western Sanitary Commission had not been informed of the transfer, but eventually agreed to it. The home still operated under military order at this point, with the USSC having little actual authority. In February 1864, the Army transferred full control of the Soldiers' Home to the Commission. The New Orleans home had a number of superintendents, including H. Clay Weaver, Major C.F. Howes, and W.S. (William Sumner) Bullard, son of O.C. Bullard.
The Soldiers' Home in New Orleans-located in the former Planters Hotel on the corner of Julia and Magazine Streets-served many functions. Its original object was to feed and house soldiers passing through town on their way to rejoin their regiments, or who were temporarily stationed there. However, a great need soon arose to also assist soldiers on furlough, or those who had been recently discharged and were awaiting transportation to the north. In addition, soldiers who were detailed at headquarters in the city, or who were detained in New Orleans, were provided with lodging through official orders.
In addition to the Home at New Orleans, the Commission also operated a Soldiers' Rest or Lodge in Brashear City, Louisiana (now Morgan City), west of New Orleans, which opened in January, 1864. The Rest provided temporary shelter and meals for soldiers moving through the area, with stays generally limited to two nights.
Besides providing soldiers with lodging, food, and clothing, the Department eventually expanded its special relief services to include assistance with back pay, bounty and pension claims. O.C. Bullard worked with soldiers in the New Orleans Home who required assistance in filing claims, or who needed corrections made to their official papers. Pension Agent Charles W. Seaton assumed responsibility for filing pension and certain types of claims, mainly for next of kin of deceased Louisiana soldiers, from February, 1864 to October, 1865. The bulk of Seaton's work was conducted through the USSC's Army and Navy Claim Agency (ANCA). George A. Blake served as an Examining Surgeon for Pensions, in addition to his managerial duties in the Department.
The expansion of special relief services led to the occupation of two additional buildings and a lot that were adjacent to the Home, serving as offices, storage, and lodging for employees. Staff included a superintendent, a matron, nurses, a night watchman, and a number of workers who performed cooking, washing, and cleaning duties. The Soldiers' Home also contained a hospital ward, with Dr. Owen Long as Surgeon in Charge.
Spring of 1865 was an especially active time for special relief in New Orleans as numerous discharged soldiers passed through the city. The Soldiers' Home continued to be busy in May and June, with former soldiers resorting to sleeping on the sidewalks due to the overflow. The Home closed in July of 1865, with the USSC transferring its equipment to the military.
The Department continued to distribute supplies in the spring of 1865, especially in Florida, and in the Mobile, Alabama area at the end of the war. Supplies were also provided for a prisoner exchange at Red River in March. Although Blake was originally directed to close up the Department in July, he was later instructed by General Secretary John S. Blatchford to remain in the city. The Department continued to distribute supplies in August, especially to troops stationed in Texas. Blake wound up operations in early October, leaving New Orleans.
Within the USSC, the Department of the Gulf primarily corresponded with the New York Office, and reported to the General Secretary.
There were occasional gaps in service for major departmental personnel. In March, 1864, Blake traveled north for personal reasons and Crane took over control of the Department until Blake returned in July. O.C. Bullard was away from New Orleans from August to October, 1864 for health reasons; his son, W.S. Bullard was in charge of special relief during this time.
T. Harry Williams and A. Otis Hebert, Jr. The Civil War in Louisiana: A Chronology. [Baton Rouge]: Louisiana Civil War Centennial Commission, n.d.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Department of the Gulf archives, 1862-1866, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The California Branch of the United States Sanitary Commission was founded in San Francisco in September, 1862 as the Soldiers' Relief Fund Committee,* an independent fundraising organization. It officially became a branch of the USSC in August, 1864. The California Branch was the single largest financial contributor to the Commission, with over $1.2 million donated.
Although scattered funds were raised in San Francisco to benefit the USSC during the first year of the war, it was not until September 1862 that an organized fundraising operation was established, begun by the city's Board of Supervisors. In an effort to develop a "Patriotic Fund" to benefit wounded and sick soldiers, local politicians and prominent businessmen established the Soldiers' Relief Fund Committee, with a Committee of Thirteen (later expanded) as its steering committee. San Francisco Mayor H.F. Teschemacher was chosen chairman; James Otis, treasurer; and Alfred L. Tubbs, secretary. A mass meeting on September 14, followed by energetic city-wide canvassing efforts, led to the raising of over $100,000 by subscription in a few days. The Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King presented the USSC as the best beneficiary of these funds to the Committee, and a telegram was sent to its president Henry W. Bellows and treasurer George Templeton Strong on September 20 informing them of the pending donation. By the end of the month, the Soldiers' Relief Fund Committee (SRFC) had raised an additional $100,000.
Due to the involvement of numerous settlers from St. Louis and the mid-west in San Francisco's fundraising effort, the Committee expressed a desire that a portion of its original donation be distributed to the independent Western Sanitary Commission in St. Louis, as well as to other branches in the USSC's Western Department, if "independent in their organization as regards money." This request was made public in the news coverage of the California donation, causing dilemmas within the USSC. The branches of the Commission were financially independent, raising their own funds, and (with some exceptions) were not fiscally supported by the central administration; the autonomous Western Sanitary Commission was considered a rival by the USSC. However, in their correspondence with Bellows, Californians made it clear that failure to allot a portion of the original donation to the St. Louis-based organization could affect future fundraising efforts. The USSC eventually donated $50,000 to the Western Sanitary Commission, and also distributed funds to five of its Western branches, especially Cincinnati, with whom relations had become strained. After this initial donation, the USSC became the primary beneficiary of the Soldiers' Relief Fund Committee's coffers, to use as they desired.
Despite these difficulties, the primary effect of California's donation on the USSC was a positive one, with Bellows called it "the making and saving" of the Commission. (See Charles J. Stillé. History of the United States Sanitary Commission, being the general report of Its work during the War of the Rebellion. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1866; p. 201.) Prior to the windfall, the USSC was often struggling to stay afloat. An increase in donated supplies had created the need for more storage facilities, personnel, and vehicles. The Commission's tasks multiplied, and its treasury was in danger of running out throughout much of 1862. The California contribution not only provided the USSC with a financial cushion, but also allowed it to expand its efforts and advertising, and establish publications such as the Sanitary Bulletin. Positive publicity brought by the donation increased public awareness of the USSC, leading to further contributions.
Fundraising continued in the last few months of 1862, bringing the year's total for California to over $400,000 (see Stillé Appendix 5-total includes small amount of pre-SRFC donations). Efforts were extended statewide, and smaller towns from the interior began to contribute larger sums to the Committee. In addition, promotion of the fund soon expanded beyond state borders, to the Nevada and Idaho territories, Oregon, and Washington. The Soldiers' Relief Fund Committee employed a variety of fundraising methods. Canvassing for subscriptions among the city's various trades and professions was undertaken by occupation-specific subcommittees. Circulars were distributed throughout the state. Polling stations and public gatherings such as picnics and fairs were utilized for appeals. Items were sold and resold at auction, sometimes bringing in large sums; mass meetings, exhibitions, tours, and fundraising social events produced contributions. After an appeal for more funds was sent to California by Bellows in October 1863, the Committee responded that it would remit $25,000 per month to the USSC in 1864.
The Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King (1824-1864) was an important figure in the continuing success of the Soldiers' Relief Fund Committee. A friend and colleague of Bellows, King was a fervent supporter of the Sanitary Commission's efforts and of the Union cause in general. His impassioned speeches on behalf of the USSC purportedly roused many donors from apathy. King traveled throughout the state in his fundraising efforts, offering to do so at his own expense. The USSC lost a powerful ally when King died in March, 1864 from pneumonia and diphtheria.
Following King's death, the Unitarian community of San Francisco appealed to Bellows to come to California and assist them during their difficult transition. Bellows departed with his family in early April, planning to also use his time in California in the service of the USSC. During his stay from late April to September, Bellows traveled throughout the state, lecturing frequently on the Commission. Feeling that statewide canvassing efforts would be more successful with a USSC system in place, Bellows organized the Soldiers' Relief Fund Committee into an official branch of the Commission on August 11, 1864, with headquarters at 240 Montgomery Street in San Francisco. The California Branch elected Governor F.F. Low its president; D.C. McRuer, chairman; R.G. Sneath, treasurer; and O. C. Wheeler, secretary. George Merrill continued to serve as assistant secretary, until December. O.C. (Osgood Church) Wheeler (1816-1891), a prominent Baptist minister and founder of numerous churches in California, conducted the bulk of the Branch's office activities and correspondence.
The Branch sought to fundraise widely throughout California, with smaller efforts in the neighboring states and territories of Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, and Washington. It assigned 15 organizing agents (including Bellows' son Richard) to canvass various counties in California (as well as Idaho) and establish Aid Societies in numerous, and often remote, small towns and mining communities, eventually resulting in over 300 societies donating by subscription. California raised over half a million dollars for the Sanitary Commission in 1864, much of it in gold.
Official orders from Bellows to wind up the California Branch's affairs and prepare final reports were sent in July, 1865. The Branch was also directed to prepare a history of its efforts. It closed its San Francisco office in September, though committees continued to meet to address issues with ceasing operations. In addition, the Branch continued some activities in an unofficial capacity into 1866, including assisting soldiers with pension claims. California Branch records were submitted to the USSC in August, 1866.
Various totals exist for the amount contributed to the Commission by the Soldiers' Relief Fund Committee/California Branch and the state of California. Totals for the state are listed by Stillé as $1,234,257.31 (See Appendix 5). This figure also includes contributions from some smaller fundraising efforts of organizations such as the Sacramento Valley Soldiers' Aid Society, which was independent of the Soldiers' Relief Fund Committee/California Branch; the bulk of California's contributions, however, was donated through the Relief Fund/California Branch. This figure does not include money donated to the USSC from other Western states or territories through the California Branch.
The California Branch's Final Report (published 1866) gives a remittance total of $1,288,395.71 in currency and coin, and includes donations made from Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands that came through the Branch. In Stillé's History, the chapter "Contributions from California and the Pacific Coast" (written by Bellows) gives a total of $1,473,407.07 from the entire "Pacific Coast," also including parts of Canada, and Central and South Americas. Presumably some of this amount was donated to the USSC independently of the California Branch.
*The group first called itself the San Francisco Committee of the Soldiers' Fund; it was also referred to as the San Francisco Soldiers' and Sailors' Relief Fund Central Committee, Soldiers' Relief Fund, Patriotic Fund, Citizens' Committee, Central Relief Committee, or Sanitary Fund.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. California Branch archives, 1862-1866, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The New England Women's Auxiliary Association (NEWAA) was established on November 28, 1861 in Boston, Massachusetts as an auxiliary branch of the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC). NEWAA worked throughout New England to solicit contributions and supplies for Union forces, and to forward those supplies to Union camps and hospitals, and to USSC offices and depots, that the USSC deemed most in need. In addition, NEWAA endeavored to raise public awareness of the USSC and its mission.
NEWAA's business was conducted by four officers, initially John Ware as president, Samuel G. Howe as vice-president, Rufus Ellis as secretary, and George Higgins as treasurer as well as three standing committees and a group of associate managers from towns throughout New England. The three standing committees were the Executive Committee, the Industrial Committee, and the Finance Committee.
The Executive Committee was responsible for the general supervision of all NEWAA's affairs, including all the goods and supplies sent to the Association. The Executive Committee maintained records of all the supplies received and forwarded each day and communicated regularly with the general and assistant secretary of the Commission in Washington, DC in order to determine which goods and supplies were most needed and where to forward these items. They also worked alongside the Executive Committee of Boston Associates from its inception in April 1863 to provide special relief to local soldiers. Abby W. May (1829-1888), a well-known Boston philanthropist, served as chairman of the Executive Committee from February 1862 until the Association was dissolved in the spring of 1866.
The Industrial Committee oversaw the making of clothing and bedding for the soldiers and the cutting of fabrics. The chairman of this committee, Mrs. Frank W. Andrews, provided patterns for all the clothing and bedding, and delegated work to the various sewing circles and soldiers aid societies throughout New England. The Finance Committee worked to solicit and obtain subscriptions to the Bulletin and donations for the use of the Commission.
In addition to these three committees, women in communities throughout New England were invited by the Executive Committee to become associate managers. Associate managers were asked to determine where sewing circles and soldier's aid societies existed within their districts, and to organize societies if none existed. The managers corresponded regularly with members of the Executive Committee and submitted monthly reports on the state of affairs in their district.
In October 1864, NEWAA began a series of lectures throughout New England in an effort to gain more support and promote awareness about the USSC's activities, asking those who had worked in the field for the Sanitary Commission to speak to the general public of their experiences. NEWAA offered nearly 210 lectures throughout New England during the final months of the war.
After the war ended in April 1865 NEWAA continued to provide special relief to discharged soldiers and their families. It distributed clothing, food, and fuel, and assisted with rent, employment, and transportation. The work of the Association came to a close on April 1, 1866.
Brockett, L. P. and Mary C. Vaughn. Woman's work in the civil war: a record of heroism, patriotism and patience. Philadelphia: Zeigler, McCurdy; Boston: R. H. Curran, 1868.
Cheney, Ednah Dow Littlehale. Memoirs of Lucretia Croker and Abby W. May. Boston: Geo. H. Ellis Printer, 1893.
James, Edward T., ed. "Abigail Williams May," in Notable American women 1607-1907, a biographical dictionary. 3 vols. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press, 1971.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. New England Women's Auxiliary Association archives, 1861-1865, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The American Association for the Relief of the Misery of Battle Fields (AARMB) was the first American branch of the Comité Internationale de Secours aux Militaires Blessés (later known as the Red Cross), founded in Geneva in 1863. The main objective of the parent society was to secure neutrality in time of war for hospitals, ambulances, surgeons, and all persons legitimately engaged in caring for the sick and wounded, by international agreement. The AARMB, founded in 1866 by persons affiliated with the USSC, worked to secure U.S. adoption of the Geneva Convention treaty of 1864, and to promote and support the operations of the international organization. It effectively ceased operations in 1870.
The AARMB was organized at the official request of the international society by its secretary, J. Henry Dunant, to USSC president Henry W. Bellows in December, 1865. Its founding members, all of whom bore associations with the USSC, first met officially at the USSC's Historical Bureau in New York City on January 26, 1866. Elected officers included Henry W. Bellows (President), Howard Potter (Treasurer), and Charles Loring Brace (Secretary). Charles S.P. Bowles, previously associated with the USSC's European Branch, was appointed its agent in Paris. Bowles had represented the USSC at the Geneva Convention in 1864, being one of two delegates representing the United States with non-signatory powers. John Bowne, formerly head of the USSC's Hospital Directory, was manager of its New York office located at 23 Bible House, Astor Place. Elisha Harris, M.D. also played an active role in its affairs. The Association's operations were funded by loans from the U.S. Sanitary Commission and from private donations.
The Association offered advice based on the USSC's relief work during the Civil War, and raised funds for relief work in Europe during the Franco-Prussian War, but ceased fundraising and other activities in November 1870, believing the efforts of the Geneva organization to be sufficient. The Association was also in contact with former USSC associates such as Thomas W. Evans and Edward A. Crane, officers of the American International Sanitary Committee in Paris. The AARMB was unsuccessful in its lobbying efforts to have the U.S. government ratify the Geneva treaty; that did not take place until 1882, due in large part to the efforts of Clara Barton.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. American Association for the Relief of the Misery of Battle Fields archives, 1866-1871, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
Throughout its existence, the United States Sanitary Commission maintained a highly professional system of accounting to prevent waste and fraud, and to enable auditing and public scrutiny of its finances. As the custodian of what would eventually amount to millions of dollars in public donations, the Commission established standard fiscal procedures throughout its operations so that those funds could be collected and used as effectively as possible to carry out its goals. The financial affairs of the Commission were largely directed by its treasurer George T. Strong (1820-1875), in collaboration with other members of the Standing Committee, the General Secretary, other USSC officers, accounting staff in Washington and New York, and members of advisory committees. George T. Strong was succeeded as treasurer by Charles E. Strong.
Financial accounts and vouchers from USSC departments, offices and some branches were collected and kept by the Central Treasury in New York and the Central Office in Washington, D.C. The Commission required that all USSC agents in charge at USSC locations forward their monthly cash accounts with corresponding vouchers, classified statements of receipts and expenditures, and staff rosters to either office (depending upon the instructions of their supervisors) for review. Branch accounting practices varied, depending on their auxiliary and fiscal relationships with the USSC.
The monthly cash account, also referred to as a cash account or statement of accounts, was to be a transcript of the USSC office or department's cash book, serving as a detailed description of all receipts and disbursements at their office for each month. Cash books were meant to remain at the USSC location. Every item in the cash account had to be accompanied by a paper voucher, which was any type of document that served as evidence of a business transaction, such as receipts, bills or invoices. The terms "bill" and "invoice" were often used interchangeably; packing lists and bills of lading were often referred to as invoices.
The classified statement of expenditure, also referred to as a statement of disbursement or cash disbursement, was used to show the amounts disbursed each month, classified under operational headings decided upon by the treasurer. USSC agents in charge were also instructed to supply a roster with the name, duty, and rate of monthly compensation of each person employed within a department or office on the first day of each month. In the case of large departments and offices, such as those in New York and Washington, cash accounts might also be compiled on a weekly basis. In March 1865 General Secretary J. Foster Jenkins circulated instructions to all USSC offices and departments regarding the USSC's financial reporting system. Existing procedures essentially remained the same, but printed forms and cash books were now provided to them, so that their accounting records would be consistent.
From the very beginning of the organization, Strong and the Standing Committee used various means to ensure fiscal soundness. An Auditing Committee, consisting of USSC officers and staff, reviewed the treasurer's reports and accounts on a regular basis. A Central Finance Committee, formed in the summer of 1861, was organized with the task of reviewing of the Commission's finances, but it did not meet after the spring of 1862. In 1864, the Standing Committee invited the oversight and advisement of another group, the Auxiliary Finance Committee. Its members, consisting of A. A. Low, Jonathan Sturges, and John Jacob Astor, Jr., advised the USSC on the management of its funds and resources. They also examined the treasurer's accounts and vouchers, and carefully went through all of the account books and records with the aid of professional accountants to certify their accuracy. In addition, Washington and New York accounting staff regularly loaned their materials to each other to make sure accounts were balanced correctly.
At various times during and after the war, the Commission published financial statements of its accounts for public review. On November 23, 1865, the front page of The New York Times carried an article by the Sanitary Commission presenting a summary of its affairs, future plans, and financial accounts. From June 27, 1861 to July 1, 1865, it had received monetary donations from the public amounting to $4,813,750.64, and disbursed $4,530,774.95, for its war efforts as of that date. A final statement of its accounts from June 27, 1861 to May 14, 1878 was prepared and published in 1878.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Accounts and Vouchers archive, 1861-1879, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
The Hospital Directory was established by the USSC in 1862 to collect and record information concerning the location and condition of sick and wounded soldiers in U.S. Army general hospitals, and to provide that information to the public. Its four offices in Washington, D.C.; Louisville, Kentucky; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and New York City also gathered information from other hospitals and locations, and searched for soldiers who had lost contact with family and friends. Although the majority of Hospital Directory records refer to state volunteer soldiers, mention is also found of U.S. Army regulars, U.S. Colored Troops, Navy and Marine servicemen, Confederate soldiers, government and USSC employees, hospital staff, and civilians. The Hospital Directory ceased operations in 1865.
Under the terms of its official appointment by order of the Secretary of War on June 9, 1861 (endorsed by the President on June 13 and the Surgeon General on June 15), the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) was to inquire and advise as to matters concerning the health and sanitary condition of the troops, their general comfort and efficiency, the proper provision of cooks, nurses and hospitals, and "other subjects of like nature."
The USSC soon created printed forms to standardize the collection of information for camp and hospital inspections. The completed forms were submitted to the USSC's Statistical Bureau for tabulation. The collected information, statistics and other reports laid the foundation for USSC reports and recommendations to the War Department and the Army Medical Bureau, as well as publications directed to the general public.
The USSC recommended improvements which soon moved beyond the care of soldiers in field, camp and hospital, to include changes in the administrative structure of the Army Medical Bureau and other departments connected to the medical care of the troops. At the same time, USSC activities broadened from inspections, collection and distribution of supplies, and field relief to include "special relief" assistance to soldiers and their relatives. Notable special relief assistance included providing temporary lodging and food to soldiers in transit, helping soldiers and their families file for back pay, bounty and pensions, through its various claim agencies, and establishing employment bureaus for discharged soldiers.
Thus, for informational and humanitarian reasons, the USSC worked to improve procedures and record-keeping practice in the Army, particularly in its Medical Bureau. In several cases, the USSC developed forms later adopted for use by the government. One of its earliest efforts was the proper recording of deaths and burials.
The USSC was also instrumental in creating the Army Medical Bureau's "Morning Report of Sick and Wounded in U.S. Army General Hospital (name and/or location)." Morning reports were also called "hospital reports," "hospital returns" and "daily returns." This form provided the hospital's gains and losses by individual patient name, with rank, company and regiment, for the report period cited. Gains and losses included admissions, return to duty, discharges, furloughs, desertions, transfers and deaths. The form also provided statistical summaries of the hospital's gains, losses, occupancy and capacity, for the report period. The reports were compiled on a daily or sometimes a weekly basis by hospital clerks, and the original was signed by a surgeon. The Army Medical Bureau used the USSC's printed form until it issued its own form, with minor change in format. The reports thus provided important information as to sickness and mortality rates in military hospitals, collectively and individually, in addition to noting an individual patient's identity and status at a particular time.
From the Morning Reports, staff of the several Army Medical Departments compiled statistical "Consolidated Morning Reports" of the hospitals in their jurisdiction. The USSC transcribed and further tabulated the data from these reports (by region and season, for example), the results of which were communicated to the government. The USSC also had authorized access to records of the Adjutant General's Office and the Army Medical Bureau in order to conduct analysis of sickness and mortality rates. By mutual agreement, the USSC provided statistical assistance to the War Department and Army Medical Bureau until the government restricted non-military access to its records in the summer of 1864, and its staff assumed some of the statistical work performed by the USSC. The Statistical Bureau also conducted studies of its own from the data.
During the summer of 1862, in consultation with the War Department and the Army Medical Bureau, the executive officers of the Sanitary Commission discussed the creation of a department that would use the morning reports to serve another purpose: providing information concerning the location and condition of patients in U.S. Army General Hospitals to their relatives and friends. This service would give relief not only to the public, but to Army hospital staff besieged with requests for information. As in all its services related to the welfare of the soldier, the information provided by the USSC's "Directory of Hospitals" would be free of charge. The USSC had already received numerous requests for help in locating soldiers, which were handled by its Special Relief Department until the number of applications became overwhelming. Although the Hospital Directory would function as a separate department, by its nature it was a "special relief" service of the Commission, and it worked closely with them.
Even with access to government records, the cost and scope of such an operation was daunting, and studies were undertaken as to its practicality. On September 19, 1862, the USSC's Executive Committee instructed its President and General Secretary to hire someone to establish a recordkeeping system and open an office that would function, on a trial basis, as a central bureau of information for hospitals in the Washington area. After initially engaging a Dr. Tucker, the USSC hired John Bowne (see Biographical Note) as General Superintendent of the Hospital Directory. Bowne opened the first office of the Hospital Directory in Washington in November, 1862.
Hospital Directory Recordkeeping Practices
The term "Hospital Directory," as used by contemporaries, had several meanings. It referred to the Hospital Directory as a USSC organization, comprising its Central Office in Washington and its regional offices. Regional offices were referred to individually as "the Philadelphia Hospital Directory," etc. Since the Central Office also functioned as a regional office, it was usually referred to as the Washington Hospital Directory. The term "Hospital Directory," or "the Directory," also referred to the collection of large hospital directories (volumes) maintained at the offices. These were also referred to informally as "the ledgers," "the books," and "the registers." A "hospital directory", a volume containing names of soldiers at multiple locations, was distinct from a "hospital record," a volume containing the names of soldiers at one location. The hospital directories and hospital records were compiled by Hospital Directory staff from the morning reports filled out by Army hospital staff. The government authorized the Hospital Directory to collect or copy morning reports.
With some variation, hospital reports, hospital records, and hospital directories carried similar headings for date of admission, hospital name (for directories), patient name, rank, and company, and dates of death, discharge, return to duty, furlough, desertion, and transfer. The records might also list the reason for admission ("complaint" or "disease"), and have a column for "remarks", which might note place of burial or provide further detail for the above categories.
The system, as finalized, included the transcription of patient information from hospital reports into large folio volumes organized by state and regiment, or other military identification. Before entering data, Hospital Directory clerks checked regimental pages for the presence of earlier entries that could be updated. Similar in function to a city directory, with a soldier's name and regiment, a staff member could consult the appropriate volume to find the soldier's hospital location and status. "Applications" or "inquiries" for information about soldiers were submitted by their families and friends in person at Hospital Directory offices, or sent by telegram or letter. Those received in writing were also called "letters of inquiry." USSC staff consulted its records, and if necessary, corresponded with military and government officers, as well as its own agents, in the hope of providing reliable information to the inquirer. Verbal applications requiring further work and letters of inquiry were recorded in informal journals and/or formal registers of applications for tracking purposes.
Although alphabetical indexes to Directory registers were created in some instances, the process was extremely labor intensive. Unit identification was the main access point for military records, and remained so for the USSC. In some cases, reports would be copied into the books of more than one Directory office, particularly if a large number of soldiers in a particular battle or distant campaign came from the environs of the other office, and that office could expect to receive numerous inquiries.
Hospital Directory staff also used reports to compile monthly "abstracts of daily returns," thus acting as an important auxiliary agent of the Statistical Bureau. The information collected by the Hospital Directory also supported the work of the USSC's claim agencies.
The number of reporting general hospitals fluctuated during the war, as hospitals opened and closed depending on need. Changes were made to the Army's Medical Department jurisdictions, and the Directory office to which a hospital reported might change over time. The bulk of extant hospital reports collected or transcribed by the USSC are found in the records of the Louisville Hospital Directory and in the USSC Statistical Bureau record group (MssCol 18780).
The Need for a Hospital Directory
The successful operation of the Washington office led to the opening of regional offices in Louisville, Kentucky; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and New York City. By June, 1863, the Hospital Directory was receiving daily reports from all U.S. Army General Hospitals (over 200 in number), and had entered over 200,000 names in its books. Thousands of inquiries were given and answered verbally at Hospital Directory offices.
The scope of the Hospital Directory's activities, based on need and demand, soon expanded beyond the walls of general hospitals to include the collection of "information concerning the location and fate of soldiers sick, wounded or killed - for the benefit of their relatives and friends." (Henry S. Holbrook to John S. Blatchford, 15 November 1865, USSC New York, N.Y. record group, Historical Bureau, MssCol 22263). Placing an "inquiry" with the Hospital Directory was often the last resort for those who could not obtain any news at all of a soldier, or who were beset with conflicting accounts of illness, capture or death. By 1862, frustrated citizens were asking why "a nation of shopkeepers" could keep track of its parcels, but not its soldiers.
During the Civil War, there was no official "dog tag" for soldiers. For this reason, many soldiers who were left behind on the field or on a forced march were never identified. Aside from any unit badges, soldiers relied on a variety of means to identify themselves in case of illness or loss in battle, such as inscribed jewelry or personal property, tattoos, letters from family or friends, or writing their name in india ink on their body or on pieces of paper. Soldiers who lost consciousness, who were mentally confused due to debilitating conditions such as chronic diarrhea, or who were mentally ill, often remained unidentified and undocumented for long periods of time. Many never reached the care of an Army general hospital. The greatest risk of losing track of patients occurred in transit from field to hospital, or hospital to hospital. Hospital Directory records frequently mention cases of missing or dead soldiers who were listed on the Army rolls as deserters due to lack of information.
There were other reasons for difficulties in identifying or locating a soldier. Men enlisted under false names or deserted. There were multiple and fraudulent enlistments to obtain bounty money. Young boys ran away from home to join the Army. When prisoner-of-war exchanges were announced in camps, prisoners would answer to the names of men who had died. Accounts exist in the records of men who tried to escape their past by having friends write home with false tales of wounding and capture.
The ability to identify and locate a soldier, particularly at transitional points in his service (such as transfers, extended illness or convalescence, capture, loss in action, or death), was of critical importance for the soldier and his family, for financial and well as emotional reasons. Receipt of back pay, bounty, and pension monies depended on documentary proof. During the war, local governments and soldiers' aid societies often required families to provide soldiers' letters on a monthly basis as proof of continuing service before issuing benefits.
In some cases, the soldier in question fortunately was in good health, the lack of contact accounted for by failure to write, poor mail service or continual movement.
While families received communications from the War Department, regimental officers and soldiers regarding the death or illness of a soldier, in many cases contact with the Hospital Directory was the only notification families received. Hospital Directory staff often had to break sad news to visitors at the office, or do so by letter or telegram.
The Directory received many inquiries regarding soldiers believed or known to be prisoners of war. This required correspondence with the Commissary General of Prisoners, but often little could be determined regarding their condition or location. USSC staff collected news and lists of prisoners where possible. Families sometimes learned news from letters sent North under flag of truce.
In addition to using official channels, Hospital Directory staff relied heavily on the network of USSC relief agents to trace the path of a soldier, or to learn his condition. Hospital Directory files illustrate many USSC relief activities, such as accompanying the Army on the march, caring for the wounded on the battlefield, visiting patients in hospitals, assisting soldiers to obtain furloughs or discharge for health reasons, or locating nurses who witnessed a patient's death. Agents in frequent correspondence with the Hospital Directory include Amy M. Bradley, William H. Holstein, and James Richardson.
USSC Hospital Directory staff and relief agents also recorded the location and status of patients at field hospitals following major battles, filling out "battle returns" for later entry into Directory registers. No battle returns are present in the Hospital Directory Archives.
The Hospital Directory soon became known as an important resource for families seeking information about the return of personal effects, and about the location, removal and shipment of bodies for burial back home. Staff also issued traveling passes for visitors needing to visit hospitals or make burial arrangements.
Hospital directory functions were also carried out on a smaller scale at branch offices, convalescent camps, and USSC stations at major military bases. Materials documenting those regional activities can be found in other record groups in the collection.
Changes in Procedures, 1864-1865
For the USSC, the collection of information was primarily a means of monitoring government or military performance. From the beginning of its organization, it lobbied politically for changes in personnel and procedures that would "modernize" the Army Medical Bureau. For obvious reasons this meant that the USSC had its detractors, but also its supporters, within those camps. Largely through its efforts, William A. Hammond was appointed Surgeon General in 1862. By the summer of 1864, the military, with the assistance and pressure of the USSC, and by its own experience and effort, had systems in place to meet its medical requirements, even though systems were not always able to meet the occasion of full-scale battles. The USSC remained an acknowledged and appreciated partner, and was a useful intermediary between the government and the public. Nevertheless, its access to the records of the Army Medical Bureau and the Adjutant General's Office was severely restricted when the War Department and the Surgeon General's Office issued orders in June and July of 1864 forbidding public access to their records without specific approval. This action was taken in part to reduce access to information about a soldier that could be used to file fraudulent claims against the government. It also suggested a movement towards proprietary control and responsibility. In August, 1864, Hammond was dismissed from the Army due largely to acrimonious relations with the Secretary of War.
For the USSC, whose agents no longer had full access to hospital reports or regimental rolls, the impact of these operations, particularly to the Hospital Directory, was immediate and damaging. Although appeal was made to the Secretary of War, and minor accommodations were apparently reached, as evidenced by correspondence and the existence of hospital reports and hospital records dating from 1864-1865, the collection of information that described the time and place of a soldier's condition, or indicated standards of care and causes of illness or death, effectively ceased. Families and friends of soldiers, apparently unaware of these developments, continued to appeal to the Hospital Directory when official records failed to shed further light. The Statistical Bureau continued working with the records it had in hand.
In the Fall of 1864, the USSC considered closing the Hospital Directory, but decided to carry on with reduced staff. Aside from humanitarian concerns, the Hospital Directory was important for the USSC's public image. Its purpose was immediately understandable and useful, and had a more humane face than numerical tallies of supplies. It was a service provided to the public, not by it. The Directory retained its primary function of locating soldiers, but the means to do so were substantially changed, as outlined in correspondence between John Bowne and his staff. In many cases, staff encouraged inquirers to write directly to the Adjutant General's Office, or did so on their behalf. When no further information was available from that source, the USSC wrote directly to the regimental or hospital surgeon, or to USSC relief agents in the vicinity. The inquiry process for sailors and marines remained unchanged throughout the War. USSC inquiries were directed to the Secretary of the Navy and to the Marine Corps, whereupon the rolls were checked and a response returned.
In February, 1864, the USSC's Sanitary Bulletin reported that the Directory carried 600,000 names on its books. The USSC's Financial Report of October 1, 1864, listing expenses by activity since 1861, noted that "one million and thirty thousand names of hospital patients have been entered in the Directory, and many thousand anxious inquiries answered." At war's end, the Hospital Directory received many inquiries from those still hoping that soldiers missing as long ago as 1861 might be among the thousands returning from prisoner of war camps. The Hospital Directory staff worked to locate returning soldiers, and to obtain lists of prisoners who died in camp, particularly at Andersonville, with the intention of using those lists as proof of death for pension claims by wives and relatives. It also assisted in the retrieval of bodies from areas previously in enemy territory.
The Hospital Directory was considered one of the Sanitary Commission's worthiest humanitarian achievements, not only by its officers and employees, but by those they served, as seen in the many expressions of gratitude found in its records. The Hospital Directory, along with all public operations of the USSC, ceased officially on October 1, 1865, but staff continued working at the offices until affairs were brought to a close in the following month.
Biographical Note - John Bowne
John Bowne (1820?-1894), a descendent of John Bowne (1627-1695) of Flushing, New York, was the son of Robert H. Bowne (1776-1843), a partner of Bowne & Co., commercial stationers, and his second wife Sarah Hartshorne. Both were members of prominent Quaker families.
John Bowne worked at Bowne & Co. during the 1840's and was known professionally as an accountant prior to his employment with the U.S. Sanitary Commission as General Superintendent of the Hospital Directory and Accountant/Cashier of the USSC's Central Office in Washington. He also worked closely with the staff of the USSC's Statistical Bureau. Bowne resigned from the USSC in late April, 1865, and traveled to California later that year, visiting Frederick Law Olmsted at the Mariposa Estate. Returning to the East, he resided with the family of his brother Richard H. Bowne in Manhattan, and at the family estate in Oak Ridge (near Rahway), New Jersey, with the exception of brief periods when he worked and resided in Washington, DC.
Bowne maintained ties with the USSC after the war, consulting with the Historical Bureau on Hospital Directory matters, and working with the Standing Committee to disburse USSC funds to local charities helping soldiers or their families. He assisted or worked for a variety of sanitary, relief and social welfare organizations in the post-war years, including the Metropolitan Board of Health, the Southern Famine Relief Association, and the American Association for the Relief of Misery on Battle Fields, all of these bearing connections to former USSC personnel. In 1875 he was appointed Corresponding Secretary and General Agent of the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor. He resigned in 1888 due to poor health, and died in Oak Ridge on 13 February 1894.
From the guide to the United States Sanitary Commission records. Hospital Directory archives, 1862-1866, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)
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