WHAT IS THE U.S. SANITARY COMMISSION U.S.S.C.?

          The United States Sanitary Commission was a private relief agency created by federal legislation on June 18, 1861, to support sick and wounded soldiers of the U.S. Army during the American Civil War. It operated across the North, raised an estimated $25 million in Civil War era revenue and in-kind contributions, to support the cause, and enlisted thousands of volunteers. The president was Henry Whitney Bellows, and Frederick Law Olmsted acted as executive secretary. It was modeled on the British Sanitary Commission, set up during the Crimean War.

Women Served a Prominent Role in the U.S.S.C.

           Women and volunteers would hold "Sanitary Fairs" around the northern states to raise support for the U.S.S.C.  Organizing the Sanitary Fairs offered ways for local communities to be directly part of supporting the war effort of the nation. The first Sanitary Fair during the war was held in Chicago from October 27 to November 7, 1863. Called the Northwestern Soldiers' Fair, it raised almost $100,000 for the war effort. It included a six-mile-long parade of militiamen, bands, political leaders, delegations from various local organizations, and a contingent of farmers, who presented carts full of their crops. The fairs generally involved large-scale exhibitions, including displays of art, mechanical technology, and period rooms. These sorts of displays called upon ideas of the American past, a history that local communities held in common. Often, different communities competed with each other over their donations to the national cause. People in various cities and towns across the North contributed to the same war effort because they identified as having shared fortunes in their common nation.

          Women who were prominent in the organization, often traveling great distances, and working in harsh conditions, included Louisa May Alcott, Almira Fales, Eliza Emily Chappell Porter, Katherine Prescott Wormeley, and many others.

           Dorothea Dix, serving as the Commission's Superintendent, was able to convince the medical corps of the value of women working in their hospitals. Over 15,000 women volunteered to work in hospitals, usually in nursing care.[They assisted surgeons during procedures, gave medicines, supervised the feedings and cleaned the bedding and clothes. They gave good cheer, wrote letters the men dictated, and comforted the dying.

HOSPITAL SHIPS OF THE U.S.S.C.

         City of Memphis

         Fanny Bullit

         Tycoon

         Monarch

         St. Philip

Hospital Transport Service

           The Sanitary Commission, at the request of the army, created the Hospital Transport Service. It acquired 16 medium and large boats and converted them to hospital ships. Its first major operations came in the Peninsular Campaign of spring 1862, when it serviced casualties from General McClellan's Army of 100,000 men after a series of battles.  To find out more about the Hospital Transport Service, visit the Civil War Nurses of the Civil War site.

USS Red Rover (1862-1865)

          USS Red Rover, a 625-ton side-wheel river steamer, was built for commercial use at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 1859. She served as CSS Red Rover in 1861-62 and was captured on 7 April 1862 at Island Number Ten by USS Mound City. Following repairs, she was placed in service as a hospital ship for the U.S. Army's Western Gunboat Flotilla in June 1862. She served in this role through the summer of 1862, and was purchased by the Navy at the end of September.

          Commissioned as USS Red Rover in December 1862, she was used for the rest of the Civil War as hospital ship for the Mississippi Squadron. Her medical complement included nurses from the Catholic order Sisters of the Holy Cross, the first female nurses to serve on board a Navy ship. In addition to caring for and transporting sick and wounded men, she provided medical supplies to Navy ships along the Western Rivers. Red Rover was stationed at Mound City, Illinois, from December 1864 until November 1865, when she was decommissioned and sold.

Go to the USS Red Rover Hospital site to find details about the Red Rover.

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