Washington, District of Columbia. Maimed soldiers and others before office of U.S. Christian Commission; Brady Civil War Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

Aid for the Men at the FrontóChristian Commission

The Christian Commission was second as a civilian agency of relief only to the Sanitary Commission. The scene above tells its own story. The box numbered 1108 and addressed to the United States Christian Commission suggests how numerous were its consignments to the front. The veteran who has lost a leg is leaning on crutches furnished by the organization. He need have no fear for his pension. They have helped him to keep his papers straight. The basket on the man's arm suggests the charitable nature of the enterprise, the women in the doorway and on the porch indicate the feminine interest in it, and the ecclesiastical garb of one or two of the crowd suggests its religious nature. True heroes, some of these men who labored for the Sanitary Commission and Christian Commission to counteract the awful effects of the madness which sets men to killing one another. In March, 1865, General Terry had instituted a contraband camp where the colored refugees were gathered, about a mile outside of New Berne, North Carolina. There they were maintained with army rations and some measure of official supervision. In this camp an epidemic of smallpox broke out. The camp was quarantined, but word came to the authorities that it was in bad shape. The dead were not being buried, the sick were not being cared for, and the food was being appropriated by the stronger. Vincent Colyer and an associate, representative of the Sanitary Commission, volunteered to take charge of matters and restore order. Their action probably saved the town and the entire command from an epidemic of smallpox. In other countries they would have received decorations. Never before in the history of warfare did so many lawyers, merchants, ministers, and thousands of the people who stayed at home, combine to bring friendship and comfort to the sufferers in the field. It is recorded in the "Annals of the United States Christian Commission" by the Reverend Lemuel Moss, its Home Secretary, that its business committee collected no less than $5,478,280.81 for the soldiers.

The original wet collodion glass negative is  in the Brady Civil War Photograph Collection at the Library of Congress.  The glass of the negative is cracked; however, images from it provide more detail than images from the book.  The photo was taken in April, 1865.

On October 28, 1861, the Central Committee of the Young Men's Christian Association in Philadelphia addressed a circular letter to all the associations in the Union, inviting them to send delegates to a convention at the rooms of the Young Men's Christian Association of New York, on the 14th of the following month. This letter was signed by George H. Stuart, Chairman, John Wanamaker, Corresponding Secretary, James Grant, John W. Sexton, and George Cookman. The letter met with im-mediate response, and at the convention George H. Stuart was chosen President, Edward S. Tobey, Vice-President, Cephas Brainard and William Ballantyne, Secretaries.   Messrs. Desmond, Vernon, Wana-maker, Masiurre, Baird, Colyer. and Stuart were appointed on the Business Committee.

Thus was organized the Christian Commission.

John Wanamaker in '61

One of the wartime merchants who raised many millions for the relief of the soldiers at the front, through the Christian Commission and other civilian agencies.


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