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Posts by Susan Waide

USSC Processing Project: The United States Sanitary Commission Records Open for Research on July 16, 2013

We are delighted to announce that archival processing of the records of this important Civil War humanitarian organization has been completed. The collection will be available for research in the Manuscripts and Archives Division reading room beginning on July 16, following usual procedures. A draft guide to the collection will be made available at that time.

A snapshot of USSC shelvingThe project marks the first comprehensive arrangement of the entire collection since 1878, made possible by 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: After Antietam

September 17, 2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the battle of Antietam, often called "the bloodiest day in American history." With Alexander Gardner's images before us, we can easily imagine the horrific strife of those few hours that left behind over 23,000 casualties. Other contemporary materials can show us what it was like for a soldier to experience that single day within the context of a long and grueling campaign. Project staff member Joseph Lapinski describes such an item encountered in the USSC's 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: A Day at the (Civil War) Office

Anna Peterson, a graduate student at the University of Michigan's School of Information, recently helped us organize some correspondence of the USSC's Hospital Directory office in Philadelphia. Here are Anna's impressions of a letter she found in the collection during her internship with the Manuscripts and Archives Division:

The Hospital Directory, with offices in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Louisville, was established in 1862 to collect and record information concerning the location of sick and wounded soldiers in U.S. Army hospitals. Members of the 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Army of the Potomac

The Army of the Potomac Archives, part of the United States Sanitary Commission Records, is an important resource for anyone interested in studying the USSC’s work alongside the Union armies on campaign in eastern Virginia from 1862-1865, especially during the long and bloody struggle from the battle of the Wilderness in 1864 to the fall of Petersburg and Richmond in 1865. Archivist Elizabeth Delmage shares materials explored during processing, which shed light on how the USSC geared up its systems to meet ever-growing military and humanitarian needs.

Journals 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Department of the Gulf

Our archival processing staff continues to follow the U.S. Sanitary Commission on campaign during the Civil War, this time along the Gulf Coast. Melissa Haley reports on one man's journey in their service:

Based in New Orleans, the USSC’s Department of the Gulf was founded in the spring of 1862, soon after that city came under Union control. Its scope of operations coincided with the territory covered by the Union’s Department of the Gulf — eventually including the entire Gulf Coast, from Brownsville, Texas on the Mexican border to Key West and the 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: What’s My Line?

Picture an archival version of those 1950s quiz shows — “I’ve Got a Secret” or “What’s My Line” — where panelists try to guess the identity, occupation or special talent of the contestant. This is an episode in the ongoing United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) series, where project staff members do their best to analyze and accurately describe the volumes and documents at hand, asking the usual questions: who, what, where, when? What activities do these materials reflect?

Some background: During the USSC’s 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Tales from the North Carolina Record Books

Project archivist Melissa Haley is processing the records of the U.S. Sanitary Commission's Department of North Carolina. Here she shares fleeting glimpses of wartime lives captured on the pages of supply inventories. Over to Melissa:

Even the seemingly driest of archival records can tell a story. Supply volumes of the United States Sanitary Commission’s Department of North Carolina are a case in point. At first glance, they are simply lists of relief items: how many quilts, lanterns, Boston crackers, bottles of sherry wine, quinine, bars of chocolate, cans of 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Accounts and Vouchers

Project archivist Elizabeth Delmage has tackled the job of making sense of the U.S. Sanitary Commission’s financial records, beginning with boxes of bundled documents and volumes. The richness of information in these materials provides a window into 19th-century commerce, the history of technology in America and, of course, the world of military supplies and humanitarian relief.

Elizabeth shares her work and discoveries in the record group known as Accounts and Vouchers to date: Daunting stack of USSC bundlesWhen I first started surveying these records, it 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: A Sense of History

The various “relief” activities of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, whether “general relief,” “field relief,” or “special relief,” are reflected throughout its own records, now held in the NYPL's Manuscripts and Archives Division. The group of material known as the “Special Relief Archives,” however, is not quite what you would expect to find from its name. Project archivist Melissa Haley discusses her 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Giving

A colorful USSC emblemIt may seem surprising to learn that even though the United States Sanitary Commission was officially endorsed by the U.S. government in June 1861, by mutual agreement this civilian organization did not receive federal funding for its work. The USSC's extensive activities—camp and hospital inspections, medical studies and publications, and especially, a wide variety of relief efforts for soldiers—were bankrolled entirely by the private sector.

Project archivists Melissa Haley, working on the records of the California Branch and 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Harvests for Health

The United States Sanitary Commission records might not be the first port of call for anyone interested in studying 19th-century American agriculture or the culinary arts, but the visit could well repay the effort. 

From the first days of its existence, the USSC concerned itself with identifying suitable ingredients for a soldier's diet. A healthy diet kept men in fighting strength and in good spirits, prevented disease, and helped them recuperate more quickly from wounds and sickness. The Commission and 

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USSC Processing Project: the U.S. Sanitary Commission's Archive Department

As we work towards our goal of providing optimal access to the collection, we encounter, learn about, and engage with the work of our 19th-century predecessors—the staff of the USSC’s Archive Department and their successors.

Metropolitan Fair stationery, 1864Although the USSC’s military campaign relief services were essentially completed in the summer of 1865, and many of its offices closed, others carried on, finishing their relief work and distributing remaining supplies to the 

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USSC Processing Project: Diving In

Our first blog post announced the United States Sanitary Commission Records Processing Project, a three-year project to comprehensively process (arrange, describe, and physically preserve) the archival records of the United States Sanitary Commission, a civilian organization that supported the health, comfort and efficiency of Union forces during the American Civil War.

A glimpse of USSC in the stacksIn the meantime, we have been planning our work, evaluating the collection from top to bottom, studying the Sanitary Commission’s operations, acquiring supplies, 

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The United States Sanitary Commission Records Processing Project

The Manuscripts and Archives Division has embarked on a three-year project to comprehensively arrange, describe, and physically preserve the United States Sanitary Commission Records, made possible by a generous donation enabling The New York Public Library to expand access to its archival collections. This blog will introduce you to the organization, its records, and the processing project, with further explorations and updates to 

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