Scope and arrangement
The New York, New York Archives, 1861-1878, comprise the records of the USSC’s Standing Committee, papers of USSC president Henry W. Bellows, records of the New York Office, and the Historical Bureau. This group of records was brought together by the USSC during the post-war organization of its records to consolidate documentation of the Commission's New York-based activities.
The USSC’s Standing Committee, known also as the Executive Committee, acted as the central governing body of the organization. The Committee met in New York regularly (usually several times a week, especially during the war) to discuss pressing USSC concerns requiring immediate attention. Standing Committee records, 1861-1878, contain the Committee’s incoming and outgoing correspondence and meeting minutes.
Henry W. Bellows was a founder and president of the USSC and a member of the Standing Committee. His papers, 1861-1866, consist primarily of letters he received regarding USSC operations and financial contributions, especially from California and western states and territories. Bellows’ papers also include some of his writings and addresses, and subject files containing notes, copies of USSC reports and other organizational material.
Activities of the New York Office included the direction of USSC’s hospital transport work (the transportation of sick or wounded soldiers to hospitals), the coordination of supply shipments to Washington, Baltimore, and USSC departments in the field; and the acceptance of financial contributions. It also housed the Commission’s Document Bureau, the main distributor of publications. After the war’s end, the office established the Lincoln Home, which provided temporary housing and assistance for veterans. New York Office records, 1861-1867, include general office records, mostly letters and reports received; hospital transport, supply, and Document Bureau records; and a register of admissions and minutes of the managers and executive committee of the Lincoln Home.
The primary function of the USSC’s Historical Bureau was to collect, preserve, and arrange the Commission’s archives. Organized in 1865 under the direction of General Secretary John S. Blatchford, the Bureau also supervised the production of various Commission histories and final reports, and was the administrative center for USSC post-war activities, including some special relief work in New York City. Historical Bureau records, 1861-1872, consist of correspondence, registers of documents in the USSC archives, reports and records received from local aid societies and USSC personnel, scrapbooks of USSC printed matter, and registers and reports of special relief activities. Also present are original writings and other materials submitted and compiled for proposed USSC historical publications, as arranged in the Special Relief Archives and Medical Committee Archives. See also the USSC Accounts and Vouchers record group (MssCol 18820) for additional financial records of USSC operations in New York.
The United States Sanitary Commission records. New York, N.Y. archives are arranged in four series:
Scope and content note
Standing Committee records consist of correspondence and meeting minutes. Letters and reports received are mostly from USSC personnel in Washington, field departments, and branches, including some weekly reports from General Secretary J. Foster Jenkins. The correspondence touches on nearly all issues in which the Sanitary Commission was involved. These include donations of supplies and supply transport; financial contributions and the receipt of funds; special relief work, especially claims and soldiers homes; personnel matters such as salaries, employment, assignments, and resignations; activities in the field especially in the Department of the South, Western Department, and Department of the Shenandoah; branch activities, particularly in England and France; sanitary fairs; the work of the Historical Bureau and USSC publications; and the closing of the Commission and sale of its property. Other topics discussed include such medical issues as the transport of the wounded, health in the Army and conditions in hospitals, and the Army Medical Bureau. Some items concern the Geneva Convention of 1864.
Scope and content note
The Henry W. Bellows papers consist of primarily of his correspondence, 1861-1866. The letters received are from USSC personnel, as well as government and military officials, concerning USSC operations and personnel matters, and its reputation, promotion, and relationship with the Army and the government. Numerous letters come from Commission agents in western branches and soldiers’ aid societies, especially in California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) regarding financial contributions to the USSC, and local fundraising efforts. There are also several letters received from prominent cabinet members, clergymen, and writers, including William Cullen Bryant, Henry Ward Beecher, Fanny Kemble, Samuel F.B. Morse, William H. Seward, and Edwin Stanton. His USSC correspondents include Frederick Law Olmsted, Frederick N. Knapp, Elisha Harris, Alfred J. Bloor, John S. Newberry, Alexander D. Bache, Joseph Parrish, J. Foster Jenkins, Lewis Steiner, Charles J. Stillé, George T. Strong, William N. Van Buren and other USSC personnel. There are a number of letters from Surgeon General William Hammond.
Also included are copies and drafts of Bellows’ outgoing letters, including some removed from letterpress copybooks. The letters are to USSC personnel including Olmsted, Newberry, Jenkins, and Agnew, and to various branches and soldier’ aid societies, especially on the West Coast (Teschemacher, King) and in the USSC’s Western Department. The letters are also addressed to government and army officials and personnel including Lincoln, Seward, Stanton, Chase, McClellan, Halleck, Hammond, and Grant. The letters concern Surgeon General Hammond and the reform of the Army Medical Bureau; USSC personnel and agents; the supply and transport system, hospitals and hospital ships; financial contributions, especially from California; USSC organization and promotion; medical issues and diseases in the army; and sanitary fairs.
Additional materials include some of Bellows’ writing and speeches, subject files of printed material, notes, meeting minutes, and reports.
Scope and content note
Records of the New York Office contain over 13,000 letters, telegrams, and reports received by the office, mostly from USSC personnel in Washington (Frederick Law Olmsted, Alfred J. Bloor, J. Foster Jenkins, Howard Martin, Lewis H. Steiner) and from other USSC departments in the south and west (John S. Newberry, George Blake, Marvin M. Marsh, J.W. Page) and Philadelphia (R. M. Lewis), and from branches, especially WCAR (Louisa Lee Schuyler and Ellen Collins) and NEWAA (Abby May). Some are from Army and government personnel, and private citizens. The letters and reports chiefly concern supplies needed, received, and issued; activities in field departments; and monetary donations to the USSC. Items also pertain to financial accounts, USSC publications, employment and personnel matters, sanitary fairs, and special relief work. Rosters of various USSC departments can also be found here. Many letters and reports from 1862 concern the procurement of supplies and recruitment of personnel for hospital transport ships.
A considerable number of letters received pertain to monetary contributions to the Commission. The Accounts and Vouchers record group (New York Office) contains other records detailing USSC financial activities in New York, including those of treasurer George T. Strong.
Letterpress copybooks contain copies of letters and telegrams sent by General Secretary J Foster Jenkins, President Henry W. Bellows, and several assistant secretaries and clerks. The letters concern personnel assignments, activities, and concerns; financial matters; supply shipments; USSC activities in the field, especially in the Army of the Potomac; procedures, meetings and minutes, board resolutions, and the distribution of publications.
In addition to correspondence, the records of the New York Office consist of hospital transport records (including registers of sick and wounded transported, registers of job applicants for transport-related positions,and records of supplies received and delivered by transport ships); accounts of supplies purchased, received, and forwarded; cashier’s correspondence; Document Bureau correspondence, inventories of publications and distribution records; and records of the Lincoln Home, including a register of admissions and meeting minutes of its directors. Also of note is a journal kept by J. Foster Jenkins recording his activities during the spring of 1864, including letters and reports received, description of this travels, Board sessions, and instructions to agents.
There is little material in New York Office records from 1861 and early 1862. Prior to the opening of the office in the spring of 1862, USSC administrative matters in the city were handled by Bellows, Strong, and others. Strong conducted USSC business and accepted financial contributions at his 68 Wall Street address throughout the war. Some New York Office records extend into the timeframe of Historical Bureau activities, due to the continued employment of some staff at the Historical Bureau in similar capacities, following the closure of the Office.
- 1861-1872 1865-1872
Scope and content note
Historical Bureau records consist of general office records, postwar special relief work material, records of the Archive Department, and groups of material known as the Special Relief Archives and the Medical Committee Archives.
The Historical Bureau’s Office records comprise much of the department’s correspondence, prospectuses for planned USSC histories and reports, a volume of USSC postwar rosters, a volume listing unsettled claims as of April 1, 1867, and a register of cases and reports of individual relief given. Incoming letters concern the closing up of USSC work and submission of records to the Archive Department, the settlement of accounts, resignations and deaths, meetings, claims work, personnel matters, USSC histories in progress and published, other USSC publications, postwar special relief work, Archive Department work completed, and the disposition of Commission properties.
Archive Department files consist of letters sent and circulation records of items borrowed and returned to the Archive, and scrapbooks of sample forms, stationary, and circulars. More important, however, are the registers of and indexes to the USSC Archives prepared by Archive Department staff, and summaries of USSC activities solicited by Historical Bureau for submission to the Archives, including final reports from local aid societies throughout the United States and service narratives written by USSC personnel. The archival registers, although not always accurate or complete, contain item-level inventories of numbered documents found in the various record group of the Archives.
The Special Relief Archives records in the Historical Bureau relate to two of the USSC’s histories in progress during the postwar years that were never completed. The Sanitary Commission hired Henry A. Warriner (1824-1871), formerly an inspector in its Western Department, to write a history of the USSC’s extensive supply procurement and distribution system, including its branches and field relief. Rev. Frederick N. Knapp, former head of the USSC’s Special Relief Department, was to complete a history of the special relief service. Both authors began their work in late 1865, with C.W. Christy, formerly of the USSC’s Western Department, assisting Warriner and Rev. John A. Anderson (1834-1892), formerly of the USSC’s Army of the Potomac and Canvassing and Supply Department, assisting Knapp.
By October 1867, the Standing Committee had given up on Knapp’s ability to complete the manuscript; his drafts and research material were turned over to Warriner, who was to incorporate special relief into his own volume. Warriner continued work on the history at his home in Massachusetts but, suffering from poor health, he failed to complete it. The project was abandoned in the summer of 1870 and the drafts in progress, as well as the notes and research material accumulated by Warriner, were submitted to the USSC in August. Items received from Warriner, most already organized into topical and geographic bundles (presumably by Warriner’s assistant Christy), were grouped together as the “Special Relief Archives.” Material consists of drafts of chapters (in various stages of completion), copies of correspondence and reports, notes, and supply tables. Some original USSC reports and letters used for research are also present.
The Medical Committee Archives document the Committee’s postwar efforts, under the direction of Elisha Harris, M.D., to solicit, collect and organize original reports and treatises concerning sanitary work and medical care during the Civil War, both as a permanent historical record of advancements in those fields, and as a resource for planned USSC publications on such topics. The records, many dating from 1865-1866, contain numbered letters and reports from physicians and surgeons (including Confederate medical personnel) relating to illness, wounds, disease, hygiene and living conditions of the troops, as well as drafts of medical treatises, weather reports, inspection reports, maps, plans, and photographs. General correspondence between USSC staff, editors and physicians; subject files, writings, Army hospital registers, and printed matter are also present. Most of the materials were arranged, numbered and registered by the Historical Bureau’s Archive Department. During the USSC’s 1878 arrangement of its records, some items, especially medical graphics and photographs, were removed to the Condensed Historical Matter record group. These may be viewed in the NYPL Digital Collections, containing images of materials in the United States Sanitary Commission Records.
Historical Bureau records post-dating the closure of the premises at 21 West 12th Street chiefly relate to John S. Blatchford’s administrative work and his correspondence with C.M. Smith concerning the arrangement of the USSC records at the Astor Library.
The Condensed Historical Matter record group (MssCol 18819) contains additional material collected by the Historical Bureau, and subsequently rearranged by Allen in 1878.