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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 follow!

 Head quarters of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, at the General Hospital, near Gettysburg, Pa., Digital ID 1150193, New York Public LibraryUSSC headquarters at Gettysburg, 1863The United States Sanitary Commission (USSC), 1861-1879, was a civilian organization authorized by the Federal government to provide sanitary and medical assistance to the Union volunteer forces during the United States Civil War, 1861-1865. As the USSC broadened the scope of its mission during the war, other servicemen also benefited from its efforts.

The Library holds the United States Sanitary Commission's official records, gathered by the USSC from its offices and aid societies to serve as a permanent historical record of its work. The USSC arranged the materials in this collection several times for various purposes before they donated the collection to the Astor Library in 1879, where it was earlier stored. Complex arrangements and partial access to fragile materials have impeded the ability of researchers to make connections and follow leads across the collection.

Over three years, project staff will analyze, arrange, describe, and re-house the entire body of records and coordinate necessary conservation treatment. This will provide optimal intellectual and physical access, the strongest foundation for digital initiatives to enhance further exploration of this exceptional historical resource.

This collection has been recognized as one of America’s historic and cultural treasures that help define our national heritage. The records, spanning the years 1861-1878 and measuring almost 1,000 linear feet, document the activities of the USSC’s administrative and branch offices, its inspectors and relief agents in the field, and the many women’s auxiliary societies supporting its goals and the Union cause during the Civil War. Almost a third of the collection consists of back pay, bounty and pension claims filed by the USSC on behalf of thousands of servicemen and their families during and after the war. The USSC’s post-war activities and the work of the American Association for the Relief of the Misery of Battle Fields, 1866-1870, founded by members of the USSC, are also documented.The United States Sanitary Commission Records are an unparalleled multi-faceted resource for Civil War studies, illuminating the development of wartime humanitarian aid and medical treatments, the history of the Army and other services, work by women in the war, and countless other topics. The stories of thousands of individual soldiers and their families, and the impact of the war on individuals and communities across the land are also encountered.

Field relief corps of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Supply wagon and tent of a corps relief agent. Lewis H. Steiner, Chief inspector. ,Incidents of the war., Digital ID 1150093, New York Public LibraryUSSC field relief supplies on their wayThis processing project will make these records fully functional and accessible, allowing the broadest exploration of the United States Sanitary Commission's organizational life and legacy, and deeply enriching our knowledge of the Civil War as it was lived and understood at the time by individuals from a broad spectrum of society, North and South.

As of April 2010, the United States Sanitary Commission Records are closed for processing and conservation. The Manuscripts and Archives Division will provide only limited access to the collection, as described in its catalog record. We apologize for this inconvenience. The collection will re-open completely for research sometime in the Spring of 2013. We’ll keep you updated on the project here!


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

City Point, VA

Dear Ms. Waide, I am continuing primary research done for my history thesis at the University of Notre Dame. I am researching a man named Thomas M. Huse and his associate Thomas H. Messer, who worked for the Sanitary Commission at City Point, Virginia in the Winter of 1864-65 at the Cavalry Corps Hospital. I'm not sure how detailed the organizing/processing of the USSC records will be, but if you could give me any information either that you come across relating to either of these men, or describing how I could find that information, I would be extremely grateful. Thank you so much for any help or advice you can give me. I look forward to hearing from you. Gratefully, Amy Holt


Dear Amy - I just read the thesis you completed while at Notre Dame searching for the letters that Samuel G. Shackford wrote home to his daughter who was being looked after by a Huse. Thanks for such a wonderful paper which helped put more of this family situation in context for me!

Re: notification as to availability

Is it possible to be notified when the records become available? I'm interested in the Cincinnati Branch of the U.S. Sanitary Commission and hope to find a record of my ancestor, Hiram Sloop who filed a claim against the Commission. I hope the digital records will be available online as well. I know it's important to preserve these records and appreciate your efforts. It will be hard to wait until 2013. Thank you.

USSC questions

Thank you both! As a general reply, please direct any reference questions concerning the collection to the Manuscripts and Archives Division using our divisional <a href="">reference service form</a>. This gives us the chance to respond directly, and to keep your interests in mind for future contact. The New York Public Library will make an official announcement when the collection re-opens.

Reburial of our Union dead by the USSC after 1865.

I am in the process of locating the graves of Union soldiers who died as POWs in Central Virginia between 1861 and 1865. Will the records kept by the USSC dealing with the location and reburial of our soldiers in public and private cemeteries be available?

Dear Mr. Potter, Thank you

Dear Mr. Potter, Thank you for contacting us. The collection does contain death and burial records created during the war, at various times and in various places, which will be accessible when the collection reopens. We are not familiar with any reinterment work done by the USSC after 1865, but if you have any further details or questions, please let us know using our reference service form linked in the comment above.

New Orleans Union soldier no record of burial

Hope you are able to best direct me to finding my ggggrandfathers burial site. He died in the 13th A.C. Hosp New Orleans Jan or June of 1864. The military has no record of his burial. What! How does a body occupy a bed and then dies and no one knows where the body has been taken to? Please assist me direction of searching. Thank you

Burial query

Thanks for contact us. Please see my comment below regarding reference assistance.

New Orleans Dead Union Soldiers

My ggggrandfather died on a hopital ship in New Orleans in July 1864. He is buried in the GAR cemetery in Chalamette, New Orleans. It's the same property at the Jean Lafette park.....and also may be call the Freeman's Cemetery. There are quite a few Union soldiers there. Good luck in your search...The Nathional Park Service has control of the cemetery and may be able to help you. Please also check Soldiers and Sailors of the CW....and Find a grave. Good luck in your search.

Burial Record

I am searching for burial records for my G(x3)grandfather. His name was John Franklin Ausmus. He served in the 1st Regiment Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Company C.(Union).He was from Claiborne County, TN. The last mention I have found for him lists his date of death as somewhere between July 1st and 7th (I have two conflicting dates from his compiled service record) of 1864 in Allatoona, GA. Military records I have studied do support that his unit was in factin this area during this date range. It appears he died from gastritis and never made it into actual battle. I have researched local cemeteries around this area to no avail.Would he not have been identified for burial? Any information would be so greatly appreciated. Thanks so much! LGeer

Soldier burial queries July 15 and 16, 2013

Thank you both for your interest in the collection. Please submit your questions via the Manuscripts and Archives Division’s reference email service. Once we have your contact information and full details concerning your request, the Division will be happy to check the USSC records for any related materials and will respond further. Thanks very much!

Activities of Pvt. William Rand White following the war.

I understand that my Great Grandfather Pvt. William Rand White lived in Mansfield CT following the Civil War and was involved in assisting CW veterans by hiring them to build an extensive stone wall in Mansfield. Can you tell me if there is any record of this in your archives? I may be able to provide additional information from an article in Yankee Magazine several years ago.

Activities of Pvt. William Rand White following the war

Robert, it's not likely that your ancestor's efforts to help CW veterans in Mansfield in post-war years would be reflected in the collection. If you have specific details connecting him to the USSC, please contact the Manuscripts and Archives Division for further reference assistance. Thanks. Susan Waide

When will the collection open again?

Your website here says the collection will open again in Spring 2013 but there is no update. Can you please tell me when the collection will reopen? I'm mentioning the collection in a talk in May in Richmond, VA at the National Genealogical Society Conference.

Hi Elizabeth, Susan wrote an

Hi Elizabeth, Susan wrote an update about the collection opening in July.

USSC collection guides and reference questions

Thank you all for your interest in the USSC processing project. The collection re-opened to the public in July 2013. The Library's online collection guides for archival materials are available at The master collection guide for the United States Sanitary Commission records, 1861-1879 (MssCol 3101) is available at Each record group within the collection has its own guide. USSC reference questions can be directed to the Manuscripts and Archives Division via the archives portal linked above or via the Division's homepage at

USSC shipments to POW in Southern prisons.

I cannot find any evidence of supplies and food sent to Andersonville prison. I have read of ample shipments to officers in Libby prison. Did supplies go to officers first or were they sent only to officers? Was Andersonville's remote location the reason they did not receive supplies? Thank you for your time and consideration. Mary Teitelbaum

USSC shipments to POWs in Southern prisons

Hello Mary, please direct your question to one of the links provided above (USSC collection guides and reference questions) and we will try to assist - Susan Waide, Manuscripts and Archives Division.

USSC shipments to POWs in Andersonville Prison

I cannot find this USSC collection guide that I am directed to use. Please tell me where it is located. Thank you.

Here is the direct address for

Here is the direct address for the collection guide --------

patient hospital gowns

I am trying to find the history of the open-back hospital gowns worn by soldiers in hospital during the Civil War. Any help you can give would be very much appreciated.

patient hospital gowns

Robert, for assistance with this topic, please contact "Ask NYPL" at

Prince Street General Hospital, Alexandria, VA

Hello! I am the president of the organization that owns 806 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA. It was one half of the Prince Street General Hosp. The other half was 811 across the street. We are looking for ANYTHING regarding the house when it was used as a hospital. We know the house had a maximum capacity of 95 and that Confederate wounded were housed in the basement, which is where we believe the surgery was. Thanks!

Question re Prince Street General Hospital

Hello Debby, USSC reference questions can be directed to the Manuscripts and Archives Division via the Library's search portal for archival materials at Access the master collection guide for the United States Sanitary Commission records at and use the "contact the Division" tab/form to send your reference query. You may also use the "email this division" link on the Division's homepage at Thank you!

Re: Digital availability

Are the digital sanitary commission records available for viewing online?

Hi Sandy, the digitized items

Hi Sandy, the digitized items are available here:

Samuel McCamish

Hello, Susan. I visited the NYPL last May, but you weren't in the library that day. Perhaps you can help me now. My 2X great grandfather, Pvt. Samuel McCamish, TN 43rd, Co. I, was listed as sick or wounded on July 4, 1863. He signed the surrender document as a patient in Field Hospital No. 2 and remained there until, according to his muster record, he was sent to Mobile, AL, via New Orleans. I believe he was taken aboard the hospital ship Lancaster No. 4, as I found a newspaper account of another man, Pvt. William Hancock 43rd TN Co. E, taken the same day (July 24th) from the same tent."Pvt. William Hancock died on Steamer Lancaster No. 4, July 26, 1863 and left at New Orleans for interment." Can you help me?

Samuel McCamish

Hello Patricia, Thanks for your message. Reference queries for this collection are handled through the Manuscripts and Archives Division as linked above. We have the details from your visit and will contact you directly in the near future. Susan Waide

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