Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Twelfth Night to United States And Macedo >> United States Christian Com

United States Christian Com Mission

commission, war, donated, york, delegates and received

UNITED STATES CHRISTIAN COM MISSION, a unique and almost unparalleled as sociation in its origin and operation, which came into existence during the Civil War, for the pur pose of promoting the spiritual welfare of the Federal soldiers, sailors, marines, etc., while al leviating, comforting and humanizing their tem poral needs. It originated at a convention of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the Northern States, called for the purpose 16 Nov. 1861, in the city of New York, and while the war lasted was in full operation. Its activities became familiar to nearly everyone throughout the entire community and the civilized world, and it received liberal and generous support in voluntary services, money, supplies and litera ture. The commission met at Washington, D. C., and organized by appointing George H. Stuart as chairman; Hon. B. F. Manierre, treas urer. The commission was located at first in New York, but after the first year in Philadel phia. While the central office of the commis sion was in Philadelphia important auxiliary branches were organized in all the large cities and towns, whose officials and members were especially active in promoting this great mission of mercy. As the operations of the committee involved large expenditures it was necessary to make proper provision to meet them. From the commencement the finances were carefully man aged. The committee resolved to incur no re sponsibilities which could not 'be promptly met, and to this rule they steadily adhered. The policy inspired public confidence and contribu ted not a little to the prosperity and efficiency of the commission. The usual mode of awaken ing and continuing an interest in its behalf was by spreading information before the people through the religious secular press, by pub lic meetings, by special appeals and by enlisting the clergy to bring the subject before their con gregations. This latter method was productive of large results. Lotteries, raffles and other doubtful means of raising funds, then much in vogue, sensational or clap-trap appeals, were studiously avoided. To select, commission and

send forth persons to act as delegates was a most important and delicate duty. These per sons represented, on the one hand, the commis sion and the Christian and patriotic sentiment of the people; and on the other, had to accom modate themselves to the rules of the military and naval service, commend themselves and their work to the officers in charge and minis ter acceptably to the physical, mental and reli gious wants of the men. To the appeal of the commission for helpers there was a whole hearted response, and the difficulty arose to make a proper selection from among those who offered their services; 4,859 delegates were commissioned during the war. From its origin to its close the commission had the warm ap proval of the general government and received every possible facility for carrying out its op erations; transportation and telegraph compa nies assisted and the American Bible and Tract societies donated for distribution thousands of their publications. The cash receipts of the com mission during the four years of the war amounted to $2,524,512; the value of the stores donated was $2,839,445; the value of the publi cations donated was $300,000. Chapels for re ligious worship and temporary libraries were established in the camps; 136,152 sermons were preached and prayer meetings held, and, among other work, the delegates wrote 92,321 letters and gave the dead Christian burial, also suitably marking the graves of the known dead. Con sult 'United States Christian Commission — Facts, Principles, and Progress' (1863) ; 'Me morial Record of the New York Branch of the United States Christian (1866) ; Moss, (Annals of the United States Christian Commission' (Philadelphia 1868).