View Full Version : *Men* and the USSC?
04-18-2008, 04:06 PM
Last fall I visited the United States Sanitary Commission tent at the Mill Springs event, talked with one of the representatives at length, and became quite absorbed in what the organization had been all about in the war effort -- even to the point I started wondering about some sort of USSC involvement myself at some events. It's still on my mind.
But . . . for all my research so far (and maybe I'm just not looking right), I don't find any mention of *men* having any roles at all with the USSC. There may have been isolated instances, but I haven't found them yet. Was it just about entirely a women's group of the time? Is it historically inaccurate for me to contemplate some sort of USSC role (sort of like women in the military reenactor ranks that always raises so much debate)?
04-18-2008, 04:19 PM
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."
George Templeton Strong also helped to found the USSC
I would suggest going to http://www.ussanitarycommission.com
They have field reports on the activities of the commission that may be helpful
04-18-2008, 04:52 PM
I would suggest going to http://www.ussanitarycommission.com
Excellent site, thank you! For all the on-line looking I had done, I honestly had not come across that specific site -- it may have been my choices of search engine words, and the link you cited may have been buried over on page 9 in the search or something.
However, from reading some of the accounts quoted in the "USSC in the Field" link, one can infer that some men did have service in the organization (especially in the roles of delivering supplies to the field). I had not seen that in other USSC searches I did -- those sites dealt entirely with the service and contributions of women in the organization.
I had seen the Wikipedia article, but those instances you mentioned had to do with men in leadership roles of the organization. I was more interested in what more "common" roles might have existed for men.
Thank you! I'll continue exploring that site, and may also drop correspondences to some of the "Contacts" listed.
04-18-2008, 06:35 PM
No sweat Pard... thier friends of our unit and great folks. Drop em a line and they can probably help you more
04-18-2008, 09:30 PM
The US Sanitary Commission, while certainly staffed by many women, and providing a channel for women's contributions and supplies for the troops, had many facets. While the "Soldier's Rests" and "Refreshment Saloons" were often staffed by women, in the front line areas, and in the immediate aftermath of battles, the USSC's face was primarily male.
1. Camp inspections. Frederick Law Olmstead was aghast at the filth that he witnessed in early war campsites, which often had no sinks, had water sources which were clearly polluted, and where live animals were being butchered, and then their entrails and skins left to rot on company streets.
He was instrumental in organizing camp inspectors who fanned out into the field and had the authority to poke and pry into every aspect of regimental sanitation, storage of foodstuffs and forage, shelter and supplies for the troops. I've long felt that having a USSC field inspector appear at an early war event would be a terrific impression. My understanding is that they often travelled alone or with just another male partner, so this type of impression would be easy to carry off.
They compiled a comprehensive (and damning) report on what they found, which, if memory serves, was kept from the press at the time.
2. USSC Field Agent - These were (usually) men who carried credentials that allowed them to draw upon USSC supplies in order to more quickly move them to specific hospitals or local areas. If your medical force has a clerk associated with them, you could interface with the clerk to get properly written requisitions drawing on USSC stores. After Gettysburg, the USSC depot in Gettysburg was the vacant Fahnstock store on the Diamond. Many of the smaller "hospitals" or "aid stations" would send in daily requisions there for food, and as more supplies came in, teamsters and clerks were vital in keeping track of what was where, and getting it from the incoming trains and wagons to the hospitals, aid stations, churches or homes where the wounded were being cared for. Once things got a bit more centralized, there was a regular wagon that would circulate between the different hospitals in the area, providing supplies from the USSC. Most if not all of this effort was staffed by men. The backlog of wounded at Belle Plain (was this in 1864)being transported through Northern Virginia to Washington area hospitals had several USSC field agents trying to dispense what supplies they had.
3. Surgical techniques and treatises-- In an effort to update the overall surgial skill and to spread word of improvements in what MASH's Hawkeye Pierce would later call "meatball surgery," the Sanitary Commission printed papers and journals for distribution to the medical staffs of the various hospitals. Compiling, printing, photographing and distribution of these materials were almost solely in male hands.
4. Staffing the medical boats that were transporting the wounded during the Penninsula battles. Georgianna Worsley's description of the serivce of quite a few USSC women on the four or five river boats that were used to move the wounded off the banks of the James (and I think the Paumunkey?) mentions quite a few men who were serving as nurses, orderlies, contract doctors and clerks on board these vessels.
I'd recommend that you do a bit of reading on the history and work of the Sanitary Commission, you'll find many men in the midst of the effort, especially the closer you get to frontline work.
Hope that's helpful,
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