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U. S. Christian Commission

Discussion in 'Campfire Chat - General Discussions' started by amhistoryguy, Mar 24, 2007.

  1. amhistoryguy

    amhistoryguy Cadet

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    Inspired by a book I picked up, "Incidents of the U. S. Christian Commission," by Rev. Edward P. Scott, a Field Secretary of the Commission. I thought I would post a short bit on the commission.

    The U. S. Christian Commission originated in late 1861 after a proposal by the Y. M. C. A. of New York. A conference was held in Philadelphia where the commission was formed with George Stuart of Philadelphia named president.
    The administration of this new commission consisted of a general commission, an executive committee, a home secretary, field secretary, permanent field agents, branch commissions, ladies commissions, and short term missionaries, often referred to as delegates.

    The purpose of the organization was to provide pastoral care for Union soldiers, specifically by: furnishing religious tracts, periodicals and books; aiding in the formation of religious associations in regiments; cultivating religious sympathies and prayers on their behalf; and establishing a medium of communications between soldiers, sailors and their friends and families.
    Field personal had strict instructions not to interfere with military authorities. Over the course of the war the executive committee found the need so great that it had to expand from the original 12 members to 55 members.

    The War Department approved the U. S. Christian Commission on December 13, 1861. In a letter to George Stuart from Secretary of War Cameron, Cameron wrote that the War Department "confidently looks for beneficial results from so noble an enterprise.
    According to commission records there were 266 Ladies Commissions and they raised over $200,000 in funds for the commission. Besides fund raising, their primary duty was to prepare food, clothing, and gifts for distribution among the troops by the delegates.

    Over 5,000 men, all unpaid volunteers, served as delegates over the course of the war. The acted as nurses, social workers, lay ministers, postmen, librarians, worship leaders and burial directors.
    Through the course of the war the commission spent over 2.5 million dollars in cash and provided another 3 million dollars of supplies to men in the Union Army.

    The commission distributed 39,104,243 religious tracts; 8,308,052 "knapsack books;" 1,466,746 bibles; 7,067,00 envelopes with stationary; and 1,370,953 psalm and hymnals. Perhaps the most important part of their work was just being there for the soldiers, writing letters, listening, comforting. Over the course of the war at least 48 delegates died in the field.

    The "Incidents" in the book I mentioned provide yet another perspective of the war. There are many stories and letters, but these two stick in my mind.
    ******

    Six year old Sally wanted to do something for sick soldiers. She remembered hearing how they were deprived of things like delicacies and sweets. She resolved that she could not do much, but she could save
    her lumps of sugar. When she had collect more than a pound, she sent off a package to the Army of the Cumberland, labeled, "Lump-sugar saved by Sally,
    a little girl six years old, to give to some sick soldier."
    The quartermaster saw to it that the package went to a U. S. Christian Commission delegate. At a prayer meeting, he held up the package and told the men what little girls at home thought of them. The delegate tells that there was not a dry eye among the men. The sugar was taken to a hospital where lumps were distributed, along with the story of where the lumps came from.
    ******

    "Rochester, December 23, 1864

    Dear Mr. Parvin,

    What you said about the Soldiers has made me think of them very often, every day and when I kneel down at night. It makes me very happy to send some of my Christmas money to buy some little comfort for a Soldier.
    (Mamma says I should use a little "s" for Soldiers, but I think they deserve capitol letters.) I mean to do all that a little girl can to help you.
    Your affectionate friend,
    Jennie Lee
    *****

    The Christian Commission is just another example of how things on the home front played a part in the Union war effort. I know that in the South there were many individuals who tried to provide the same type of comfort and aid to Confederate soldiers, but I can't help but wonder if the larger Union organizations like the Christian Commission and the Sanitary Commission didn't play a larger part than we give them credit for in the maintaining Union resolve.

    Regards, Dave Gorski
     

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  3. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    As usual, Mr. Gorski, another outstanding tidbit. I hope you're not expecting responses or trying to stimulate discussion with your posts. They are so unusually accurate, complete and concise that you leave little room for questions or disagreements.

    Thank you.
    Ole
     
  4. Freddy

    Freddy 2nd Lieutenant

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    With all the good work these two organizations did they could be territorial at times. Below they attempted to get Clara Barton banned from the battlefield until they took a deeper look into the "Angel of the Battlefield's" work. Clara's birthplace in N. Oxford, MA is a 15 minute drive from here.

    "During her stay on the coast of South Carolina and its chain of little islands, Clara had concerns beyond that of the suffering of humanity. She came under personal attack by army officials, as well as the Sanitary Commission and Christian Commission, and was nearly forced out of continuing her work. The Sanitary Commission was a key provider and distributor of relief supplies during the war, aided by the Christian Commission, a branch of the YMCA headed by Dorothea Dix, whose nurses offered "relief, sympathy, and the gospel" to soldiers. These three organizations sought to ban her services and presence on the battlefields, believing that they should be the sole providers of aid and support to the soldiers. Moreover, Clara's independence from these groups, and her desire to work alone and keep to herself had created feelings of mistrust about her. Though she was devastated by the news, eventually the whole matter blew over in time when key members of the group re-evaluated the situation. Clara even worked with the Christian Commission on a task to bring crackers and coffee to the soldiers."

    http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Aegean/6732/files/cb1.html
     
  5. samgrant

    samgrant Captain Retired Moderator

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    Amazing that there was such resistance by whatever authorities to young, 'non-matronly', women who volunteered as nurses, they said that the women were "too young".

    This was the case with Cornelia Hancock at Gettysburg.
     
  6. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    Can't have those poor, young lads troubled by excited imaginations. Thinking bad thoughts when they might die would certainly do them no favors at the pearly gates.
    Ole
     

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