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Civil War Sanitary Commission Formed 150 Years Ago

In June 1861 the U.S. Sanitary Commission was authorized to coordinate the volunteer efforts of women during the Civil War. There were no governmental health and medical services for soldiers joining military units. Women began to organize relief organizations at the outbreak of the Civil War. By 1863 there were 7000 chapters that contributed to the war effort by nursing the wounded, sewing uniforms, managing military kitchens, writing letters for soldiers, and raising money through Sanitary Fairs. To coordinate these efforts, on June 19, 1861 President Lincoln authorized the U.S. Sanitary Commission.

In June 2011 at the 19th Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend Maxine Getty, a Civil War reenactor from Scotia NY will portray Mary Livermore who became the director of the Commission in 1862. Getty’s exhibit on the Sanitary Commission will be in The Barn on the Gerrit Smith Estate. Getty will also speak to fifth graders at the Civil War Living History Day about the Sanitary Commission’s efforts to make sure soldiers in the field received letters from home. Back in the classroom students will follow Getty’s message by writing letters to troops in the field in 2011.