Supporting the Troops: The USSC Records

The United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) was a private humanitarian organization undertaken early in the course of the Civil War to assist charitable organizations, the Union Army, and the Union government to attend to the urgent needs of soldiers, empowered to advise on the means to preserve and restore their health and general comfort. In practice, this meant inspecting camps and hospitals, collecting and distributing food, clothing, and medicine to hospitals and troops in the field, and providing battlefield relief. The USSC provided food and lodging for soldiers in transit, as well as helping the soldier or his family to obtain back pay, bounty, or pension money without charge. The records of the Commission (consisting of 800 linear feet of material) document the activities of its central administrative and branch offices, its agents in the field, and the many associated soldiers' aid societies supporting its goals and the Union cause during the Civil War. In their efforts, no detail was overlooked, from attending to immediate, critical problems on the battlefield to setting up, maintaining, and overseeing adequate hospitals and rest areas, from studying camp conditions and delivering provisions to assuring humane conditions for prisoners of war. In 1878, Rev. Henry W. Bellows, president of the USSC since 1861, donated the commission's records to the Astor Library, one of the foundational institutions of The New York Public Library.

Photographs from the United States Sanitary Commission Records, 1861-1878.
The New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division.

More Images from the USSC Records

Collection Guide: Civil War Medical Care: Photographs from the United States Sanitary Commission Collection, 1861-1872

About the Manuscripts and Archives Division

Library Catalog Record