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The United States Sanitary Commission was an official agency of the United States government, created by legislation signed by President of the United States Abraham Lincoln on June 18, 1861, to coordinate the volunteer efforts of women who wanted to contribute to the war effort of the Union states during the American Civil War.

Arising from a meeting in New York City of the Women's Central Relief Association of New York,[1] the organization was also inspired by the British Sanitary Commission of the Crimean War. The volunteers raised money ($25 million), collected donations, worked as nurses, ran kitchens in the Army camps, administered hospital ships, soldiers' homes, lodges, and rests for traveling or disabled soldiers, made uniforms, and organized Sanitary Fairs to support the Federal army with funds and supplies.

File:Brooklyn Museum - Brooklyn Sanitary Fair - overall.jpg

The Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, 1864, raised funds for the Commission (colored lithograph)

The USSC worked with Union Veterans after the war to secure their bounties, back pay, and apply for pensions, until it was finally disbanded in May 1866.[2]

File:USSC Camp Nelson Soldiers Home.jpg

During the American Civil War the U.S. Sanitary Commission operated 30 soldiers' homes, lodges, or rests for traveling or disabled Union soldiers. Most of these closed shortly after the war. This soldiers' home was at Camp Nelson, Kentucky.

Henry Whitney Bellows, a Massachusetts clergyman, planned the USSC and served as its only president. According to The Wall Street Journal, "Its first executive secretary was Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed landscape architect who designed New York's Central Park."[3] George Templeton Strong, New York lawyer and diarist, helped found the commission and served as treasurer and member of the executive committee.[4] Also active in the association was Col. Leavitt Hunt, a New York lawyer and photographer, who wrote to President Abraham Lincoln's secretary John George Nicolay in January 1864, asking that Nicolay forward him a copy of the President's signature that Hunt's mother, the widow of Vermont congressman Jonathan Hunt, desired to attach to several casts of the President's hand to be sold at the Sanitary by to raise funds for the war effort.

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Letter from Col. Leavitt Hunt to John George Nicolay requesting copy of Abraham Lincoln's signature

See also[]


  1. Stillé, Charles J. (1866), 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., pp. 40–62,, retrieved July 17, 2010 
  2. "US Sanitary Commission historical website". Retrieved December 23, 2005. 
  3. Dugan, Ianthe Jeanne (June 22, 2007). "Civil War Letters Shed Light on Pain Of Troop's Families" (subscription required). The Wall Street Journal. 
  4. Willis, John C., "George Templeton Strong", Sewanee: The University of the South,, retrieved July 17, 2010 

External links[]

de:United States Sanitary Commission