The United States Sanitary Commission

FORT SUMTER surrendered on THE 13th of April. The next day was Sunday. The people of Charleston sang Te Deum. The people of the North made their first preparation for the five years’ war.

I first saw the war as I came into Boston on Wednesday, returning to town from a journey northward. I passed up Washington Street as the Fourth Massachusetts filed out from Boylston Hall on their way to the Fall River train, which took them towards Fort Monroe. The throng of people in the street pressed up to bid good-by to the men, not only with cheers, but with words of personal greeting. So that the first words I heard addressed to any soldier in that conflict were the words of a parting salutation, — “ Take care of yourself, George.”

I have thought of it a thousand times since. It illustrated so simply and so pleasantly the relation between the citizen who stayed at home, and the soldier who went away! There was nothing pusillanimous in it. To both those men, probably, the idea of war was that crude and original one which supposed that that whole regiment was to stand on one side of an open plain, confronting a Southern regiment at no great distance on the other, and that both regiments were to load and discharge their muskets at each other, as rapidly as possible, until all the Southern regiment were killed, and the few survivors of the other closed up their ranks and marched forward for another similar encounter. The man who stayed at home had no idea of advising the other to avoid that privilege; but, on the other hand, he wanted him to be ready for it. He wanted him to “ take care of himself,” so that, when this eventful day should come, he should not lose his chance to participate because he was laid up with rheumatism or malaria.

Before that week was over, the whole country was engaged in the double service which is typified in this anecdote. Everybody who had a country was either marching for its defence, or was “ taking care ” of those who were so marching. Women were crowding the vestries of their churches, that, as they said, the soldiers might be clothed by better work than would come out of the slop-shops. Women of the type that cannot sew were imploring Governors to find places for them for service somewhere. “ For God’s sake, send me somewhere. I can ride a hundred miles a day. I can keep a secret. They shall tear me to pieces, but I won’t tell.” “ What would you sell your horse for ? ” said an officer to some one in Bristol County. "You are going into the service,” was the reply; “ the horse is yours.” Any one who, as the day passed, succeeded in doing anything for the army, though he only carried a note from one doctor to another which should secure a few quills of vaccine virus for Washington, triumphed over his companions in the evening. It was such a blessing to do something, and not to be told forever to stand and wait! There was intensity and vividness in those first months, such as the unfortunate Americans who were away from home will never well conceive. The agonies of parting and all the cruelty of long suspense were well compensated by the constancy, the generosity, and the faith of every hour.

" This was,” says the cynic, “ the passion of a beginning, and of course it faded out before the certainties of war, — before such stern realities and such hard stupidities as are in bloody defeats, or in Offices of Circumlocution, or in the intrigues of commanders, or in hope deferred.” No, Mr. Sceptic, that fire never burned out till the end. Perhaps it grew more quiet as it grew more hot. In the certain glow of its white heat there was not so much snapping and crackling as when the match was first put to the dry kindling; but it was a steady fire, right through. For this war was not made by a government ; it was made by a people. From the beginning, the administration had to be held up, not to say driven up, by the people, till at last it learned the blessed lesson that, with such a people in earnest, it was easier to go on than to stand still. The army was kept full, because there was a people behind resolved that the army should be kept full. What was more, the army was always alive with the people’s life, inspired with the people’s inspiration, and determined with the people’s determination. The croakers undertook to tell us at one time that the army was fighting for the Union, and not for emancipation ; but it proved that, just as soon as the people had determined on emancipation, the army had determined on it as well. They used to tell us sometimes that the army would only serve under General Harmodius or General Aristogeiton ; but it always proved that if, right or wrong, the people chose to remove these officers, the army chose to have them removed. The army was the people in one of its organizations ; just as the literary class of America is the people, so far forth as the people can read and write, so was the army of America the people, in so far forth as the people could march, encamp, load, and fire. A certain brazen criticism, mixed of coppery prejudice and leaden dulness, chooses to tell us sometimes that the literary class in America should oppose itself to the determination of the people. Critics, with that same tone, told us in the war that the army would oppose itself to the people. The whole of this is moonshine : the army was the people, — bone of its bone, blood of its blood, and brain of its brain ; and the people cared for the army from the beginning, as, from the beginning, the army cared for the people, — as the right arm cares for the left in the nobler application of Menenius Agrippa’s parable, — as the eye cares for the hand in that noblest application of it made by St. Paul. “ When a free people makes a great war,” all those old superstitions and analogies may be dropped out of memory, which are founded on what happens when great sovereigns make little wars. George III. exhausted the resources of England in sending less than five thousand men a year to America, and at the end of seven years had worn out the enthusiasm which had given his ministry unanimous support in the beginning. That is what happens when kings make little wars. But when a free people makes a great war, its persistency gains as it gains in experience. It avoids the blunders of the beginning ; it presses the right agents into the right places ; it tramples down the incompetent ones, and makes of them pavement and causeway, over which it marches in the prosecution of its purpose. When the sovereign takes the field in person, we expect Austerlitz and Solferino, if only he be a real sovereign, — one who holds, to the weakest sinew, all the resources of his land. We have a right to expect so much, if only he has had time and occasion to learn the science of war.

Now that it is all over, it is very easy to lie on a sofa and say this, or even to sit at a desk and write it. But when the war began, there needed prescience and inspiration, to arrange all the means by which the people should reinforce the army by its spirit, and the army encourage the people by its information. To make sure that by no accident and by no purpose should the army be parted from the people, or the people from the army, was the central necessity. In Cromwell’s time, the people got tired of the army, and so the army was not true to the people. Even in Washington’s time, the army was discontented with the people, and the people were often unfair to the army. In our time, the necessity was to save the inspiration of the beginning, its enthusiasm and its generosity, that no official indifference might cool it, nor any discouragement or failure, — that the people might all along work with the army and for the army, and, from the beginning to the end, regard it as its own child, as its own brother, as itself in arms.

Easy to say this, now the whole is over. The men who foresaw what we see, and who set in order the methods by which popular enthusiasm steadily displayed itself in a current, always enlarging till the war was done, were the founders of the United States Sanitary Commission. When they began, they had nobody to help them and everybody to thwart them. Before they had done, they had imitators without number, eager to do their work, and glad to take their name. But this was one of those fortunate causes where rivals cannot hurt, where every workman can take hold. The more the merrier and the better. To the systems of popular enthusiasm thus organized and made efficient was the constantly increasing popularity of the war largely due. If, as might well have happened, every local endeavor of ignorant patriotism had, at its birth, been strangled by official red-tape, or knocked in the head by official arrogance, it is easy to see that, from a hundred thousand separate discouragements, there might have sprung sad, and even angry jealousy, which might perhaps have parted the people from the people’s cause. Nothing is so dangerous to popular enthusiasm as to tell excited men and women, eager to help, that they can do nothing but to suffer and be strong. Everything was gained by the American people when the men and women at home were taught how they might go to work, or when they saw with their own eyes that their work was systematic and cumulative, and made a contribution distinct and considerable to the great single end.

All this is called to mind to-day, because we have now the first volume of the official history of the Sanitary Commission. This volume, a general history, is written by Mr. Stillé, the author of that celebrated pamphlet, “ How a Free People conduct a Great War,” to which I have already alluded. There are to be two more distinct parts of this history, namely, a narrative of the Commission’s special-relief service, and an account of the practical working of its supply-system. There will be other publications of the valuable statistics which it has collected, in addition to those which are in print already. For any future war, and, more than that, for any proper understanding of this, all these volumes will be of service second only to the service which the Commission has rendered the country already ; and looking back on the war, and looking forward on the peace, one cannot help wishing that there might be one copy of this book placed in each of the original centres of work and of prayers which are scattered over all the land. Here were thousands on thousands of branch societies, so many bubbling fountains of clear blessing, which was to flow in channels, growing wider and wider, till it enlarged the great river of a nation’s benevolence. To each of these societies there came back letters from the camp, from each there went forth comfort and hope to the soldier. Mr. Stillé’s book ought to be read in each of them, as eagerly as the camp letters were, or the bulletins of the dead and wounded, if only as evidence that the comfort and hope were not sent in vain.

If anybody supposes that, because the Sanitary Commission is called a Commission, any branch of the government, of its own motion, commissioned these members for their great work, he is wholly mistaken. He will study with profit Mr. Stillé's painful, yet amusing chapter on the difficulty which the Commission found in getting born. Its founders, Dr. Bellows, Dr. Van Buren, Dr. Agnew, Dr. Harsen, and Dr. Harris, went to Washington in those early days of passionate, ignorant enthusiasm, officially representing certain societies in New York, really representing the deep-seated determination of the whole people to take care of the army. Now, in the best of times, Washington is the point in the United States most ignorant of the real spirit and purpose of the American people. Washington has a good deal to do in detail, always enjoys the presence of a large number of men of ability, is always interested in the affairs which it is transacting, and is always careless, in proportion, of what is going on outside its walls. This is probably true of all capitals. But where, as with London or Paris or Pekin, the capital itself contains almost all the leading men of the country, certainly all its real governors, the capital’s ignorance of what is going on in the provinces is a matter of comparatively little consequence. At Washington, however, the capital consists simply of the Bureaux of Administration, superintended by the chief clerk, who is called the President, all elected by the governing power of a public opinion whose centres are hundreds of miles away. A placid ignorance in such a city as to the currents of that public opinion is inconvenient.

So the authors of the Sanitary Commission found it, when, early in May, 1861, they came to Washington. The Surgeon-General of the army was still under the impression that the very complicated machinery which had kept in admirable health fifteen thousand men of the regular army,—with whom indeed the government had scarcely anything to do but to move them from one healthy post to another, as the state of their lungs, their digestion, or their spirits might require,— that this system would work just as well for an army of immense proportions, suddenly raised for the active operations of the field. They found every department of the government overwhelmed with work, feeling its way in the dark, in exigencies absolutely new, and sensitive, in proportion, to criticism and advice. It is as well to add, that this country suffered terribly in that crisis, as indeed it suffers chronically, from its habit of appointing officers of administration, not from any fitness for their service, but as compensation for services which they have rendered to the successful party in the Presidential election. Because a man made a series of good speeches in Shakomin County, he shall superintend the distribution of naval stores, or have it in his power to say that the pontoons shall not be at a certain river at a certain time. Yet again, these gentlemen from New York found the impression, which is very widely spread among second-rate people at Washington, that they did not want what they asked for, but had some selfish purpose concealed. One of the Secretaries — it is easy to guess who — frankly stated this to them. “ The President himself,” says Mr. Stilé, “with all his humane instincts, could not understand the necessity for such an organization as they proposed, and regarded its establishment as adding a fifth wheel to the coach.” The highest officers of government thought the whole plan impracticable, and only appointed the Commission in deference to severe pressure, as a “Commission of Inquiry and Advice in Respect of the Sanitary Interests of the United States Forces,” limiting its offices as severely as they dared, and, in particular, confining its service, as far as possible, to the volunteers. They regarded the regular army as something too sacred for such interference. Perhaps it was in the long hours of waiting in the anterooms of the great, in those indifferent days of 1861, that the Commission took the idea for one of its admirable after-arrangements, in which there is a touch of humor. For disabled soldiers waiting their turn at the paymaster’s office, the Commission, long afterwards, provided its own anterooms, in which breakfasts, dinners, and suppers were served for these unwilling courtiers, as they waited for their turn to come. Is not this the perfection of a service, which seeks to supplement the provisions of officials ?

It should be understood, then, by all students of the war, that the Sanitary Commission never had any such official power as the English Sanitary Commission which was sent out to the Crimea, and from which it took its name. That Commission found the English army with a death-rate of sixty per cent per annum. There was need for something to correct that, and they had, virtually, absolute power given them to carry out their instructions. Mr. Stillé pronounces the result of their labors to be “ perhaps the grandest contribution ever made by science to the practical art of preserving health among men required to live together in large masses.” Dr. Joseph Sargent of Worcester, in his valuable little paper, says that that death-rate of sixty per cent per annum was reduced to one and one seventh per cent. The United States Sanitary Commission had no such authority given to it. Its members did not want any such authority : no such dictatorship was ever needed. It occupied, from the very beginning, the nobler position of a board voluntarily representing the sympathy and determination of a people at work, from the beginning, to arrest in the very fountain the poisons which would else have carried death wherever they flowed. This service of prevention the Commission never abandoned. It is a service a thousand times more precious than a service of cure. We believe that even the statistics would show, beyond dispute, that this Commission arrested disease with majesty and success such as even the English Commission would not claim. It had, providentially, all the stores of their experience to draw from. However this may be, it should be chiefly remembered for a higher honor, — that it nipped in the bud miseries which therefore never came to blossom, and have therefore, happily, left no record of themselves, either to be tabled in statistics or to be wired into the wreaths of the Commission’s laurels.

This office of “ the Sanitary ” may be inferred all along from Mr. Stillé’s book, which, however, does not profess to deal with this subject so largely as with its more active and visible operations. None the less is it the most important office of all, and probably the lack of official character in the Commission is by no means to be regretted, in considering the work of prevention in the case of such an army and such a people as ours. All of us stand advice from any one else more easily than from our servants; and we believe this country and the volunteer army, who, as we have said, were the country, took the advice given them by the Sanitary Commission more kindly than they would have taken it from any official medical bureau. However this maybe, it is certain that no medical bureau would ever have taken hold of the offices of advice and instruction which the Commission attempted and discharged. For a single instance, it issued seventeen military, medical, and surgical essays, prepared, expressly for use in the service, by medical men, — army surgeons or others. Now there is no reason why a government, as a government, should not do this same thing. But, in point of fact, no government ever did do such a thing, and it will be long before any government ever will. It would be easy, again, for an accomplished army surgeon to say that he knew his business already, and did not want to be taught it by volunteers. Yet any medical man of true spirit would be glad to know what Dr. Mott would choose to write on hemorrhage under such an impulse; or what, after long observation with armies, Dr. Hammond would write on scurvy; or any of the rest, from the list of whom we select these names. Certainly, to the surgeon or assistantsurgeon suddenly called from practice in civil life, be he as learned as you please, there is an advantage in such a camp library of monographs on special camp difficulties, which he may not choose to acknowledge, but which, whether he is conscious of it or not, everybody else will understand. What opportunity for studying gunshot wounds, for instance, had most physicians who went into the army from New England ? or how much could they have seen, in familiar practice, of malaria, or even of scurvy ?

If one may speak thus of the surgical staff of a large volunteer army, how much more may tire same thing be said of other officers! When the war began, how few men understood that the first, second, and last duty of a military officer is to take care of his men ! With perfect reverence, let it be said, that his report, on any day when his conscience calls him to judgment, should be like his Master’s, “ Those that thou gavest me have I kept.” Yet this fundamental necessity,in the science of war scarcely entered into the idea of the people when the war began. The theory seemed to be that every man could of course take care of himself, and, almost, that it was the officers’ duty to throw the men’s lives away. The suffering of the volunteer regiments for food, before they had left home twentyfour hours, showed how little their officers yet understood of the first duty they had toward the men.

In a very few months this ignorance of duty was greatly changed; and, till the war ended, the country understood what was expected of officers in this matter. Persons interested in the army were constantly discussing measures of prevention and of treatment. Even the press was discussing, with a good deal of intelligence, the details necessary for the proper care of the soldier. The reports, favorable or unfavorable, of particular movements or encampments, devoted more and more consideration to that specific subject. The practical mind of the country seized on it, and wrought out every contrivance possible for securing results of value. The consequence was a steady improvement in the officers themselves, even before they went to the field, with a determination, on their part, that the complaints of the beginning should not be made regarding them. Even the men were more ready to avail themselves of sanitary regulation. The mere fact that the word “ Sanitary ” was brought into every hamlet, and played its part in all conversation, was a very important fact. The connection which the people had with the army was in a very large walk of experience, carried on through “Sanitary” agencies. To this hour, therefore, the “Sanitary” looms up in the eye of people at home as a bureau vastly larger than any other bureau of administration. Most people now would be disgusted and disappointed, if they were told that the money expenses of the “ Sanitary ” were not one thousandth part of the expenses of the war. This prominence given to a word gave, of necessity, prominence to an idea; and after this Commission was well at work, the American people held that idea steadily in mind, — that no sum was too large to spend, and no law too stringent to enforce, which would preserve the health of the soldier.

“ The higher sphere of sanitary care has only just been entered.” These are the words of Dr. Sargent, in the paper we have already alluded to. “ An army, in its vital aspect, is in time of war an aggregate of healthy and effective men subject to unusual exposure. This is the theoretical condition, and should be the actual. The aggregation and the exposure are evils which we cannot avoid, but may modify. The management of these involves our science of prevention, and should be kept foremost, in spite of the superstitious folly of the people, who clamor for treatment, not recognizing that prevention should mostly supersede treatment, making it unnecessary.” Such cautions as this, addressed to people, officers, and everybody, as the war went on, worked their effect. And the American people no longer believes that an army in war is like an army at the theatre, which only rushes on the stage to fight, and may be forgotten as soon as the fight is over.

If no agent or inspector of the Sanitary Commission had ever gone to the camps or to the front, if the government had kept the officers of the Commission away from the army as sedulously as there is reason to believe some persons at Washington would have been glad to do at the beginning, still, the Commission could and would have wrought among the people at home all the preventive work which we have indicated, of which alone the results were beyond any calculation.

But, very fortunately, its hard-earned “ Commission ” gave it the privilege of inquiry and inspection ; and it intrusted this privilege to a very competent set of officers, making very few mistakes in their appointment. Of course, the army had its own inspectors ; the Medical Bureau, of Course, made its inspections, and would have done so under any circumstances. But besides their “inspections,” here was always a possible inspection to be made at any moment by another hoard. Now, officers of the army, military or medical, might affect to despise this volunteer inspection, or not. Despised or not, it was an inspection by officers of the people ; and the people is the sovereign of this country. The fact that it was possible, therefore, had a constant effect. That effect, probably, was quite as large in districts, camps, or divisions where the “ Sanitary” was not favorably regarded as where it was. Or perhaps it would be more safe to say that, because the American people was well aroused about the sanitary condition of the army, all grades of officers were determined that they would not be found asleep to that subject, and that they would he ready to face any inspection which might come along. Certain it is, that, to the very close, there was more and more sanitary skill and precaution shown. Things were done which never would have been done, if there had not been at home this steady determination that the soldier should be cared for, expressing itself in a well-provided systematic organization. When, since war began, were the hospitals of an army steadily supplied with early green peas from a market a hundred and fifty miles away ? That was done in this war, and done by the Medical Bureau, from government funds, without any help from volunteers. There is a legend, — resting on fact, I do not doubt,.—that in the Department of the Gulf two thousand palm-leaf fans were bought at one time to keep flies off of men in hospital, and two thousand black boys hired to use the fans. Something of this sort, enough to found the legend on, was done by the government, without the agency of the “ Sanitary.” But did any government ever go into such luxuries before ? When, towards the end of the war, a spirited surgeon took you into his hospital-supply room, and showed you luxuries you never saw before, even in your grandmother’s pantry, and said, in triumph, “You see we do not need the ‘Sanitary’ here,” it was always fair to ask him in reply, if, on his conscience, he believed that he would have had all those stores, if the “ Sanitary” had not been somewhere.

In point of fact, however, the Sanitary Commission was almost always on good terms with every branch of administration, — in general, on cordial terms with all. Officers of the army, including those of the medical staff, found out that nobody wanted to interfere in what was none of his business, — found out that here was a method of appeal to the people in those matters where popular feeling or popular charity was needed to supplement provisions made by statute.

The Commission’s practical work of inspection was set in order by the appointment of six permanent inspectors, just after the battle of Bull Run. They were thoroughly well chosen, were almost universally received with courtesy, and their suggestions listened to with interest and attention. The Commission was soon satisfied, however, that much more vigorous inspection than theirs would be needed for the reform of the sanitary condition of the volunteers ; and to their persistent and systematic endeavor was due at last the act to reorganize the medical department of the army, which passed Congress, April 18, 1862. If the Commission had never done anything but insist on the measure of reform effected by this law, its work would have justified its organization. So far as the matter of inspection went, eight medical inspectors were provided for by the act; and Mr. Stillé says, that “ far larger powers of remedying evils were supposed to have been conferred upon them by it, than they ever actually exercised in practice.” With this new organization of the Medical Bureau the most serious anxiety which thoughtful men felt as to the condition of the army was allayed. And although, to this hour, the reforms which the best officers on the medical staff would be glad to see have never been fully authorized by statute, yet the Medical Bureau is a very different institution, both for prevention and efficiency, from what it was when the war began.

The Commission, however, when this act passed, was only at the beginning of its successful career. Keeping always in view the health of the soldier, its business was always to supply any deficiency which might exist in the official administration relating to him. If the statute was insufficient, it was the business of the “ Sanitary ” to fill up all gaps till the statute could be changed. If the executive in any branch was lukewarm, it was the business of the Commission to fill up all gaps till the executive could be fired. How well it did this, all of us remember. We were all of us at home made to work and subscribe, now for one object and now for another. But as soon as the government could assume any subject, the activity and resolution of the people were directed into another channel, new to the government. The certainty in people’s minds, that, in their self-denial and exertion, they were at work for practical results, did everything towards maintaining to the last the first enthusiasm of the war, and keeping it from cooling.

Mr. Stillé cannot go into much detail in the narrative of the thousand agencies by which this success was attained. He has left the branches to tell their own stories, — stories which, in other times, would be called themselves the reports of immense charities. In nineteen different chapters, he speaks of almost as many different departments of activity and duty. For the detail we must look to such narratives as Mr. Reed’s “ Hospital Sketches,” Miss Alcott’s bright letters, or Miss Wormley’s narrative ; and we hope that the various memorial societies will give us many more. The Commission worked from the first with a promptness which was still systematic. Organized for inquiry and advice, it used the results of its inquiries with great readiness, and it gave its advice in some very distinctly practical forms. If everybody who offers good advice would go about it with as much real purpose as the “ Sanitary ” did, when it established refreshment lodges all along through the wilderness in the rear of the Army of the West, there would be much less grumbling about advice than there is. That was the “ Sanitary’s ” way of “ advising ” the government that it was well to have some such posts for the relief and rest of stragglers.

The various methods of administration that opened as the war went on are grouped by Mr. Stillé under the general heads of “ Inspection of Camps and Hospitals,” “Hospital Transport Service,” “Supplemental Hospital Supplies,” “General Relief,” “Battle-Field Relief,” “ Special Relief Service,” “ The Bureau of Vital Statistics,” and the “ Hospital Directory.” it is very doubtful whether the community at large ever understood what system was made up by these various services, why it was necessary that the Sanitary Commission should undertake them, or indeed that the Sanitary Commission should undertake them at all. But there are a good many things which the community at large never understands ; and in almost every village through the loyal States, there were two or three business-like women, and one or two business-like men, who did understand very thoroughly what the Commission was doing ; and, from first to last, the public had a very firm confidence that the Commission knew what it was about, and -was doing the right thing. The public, meanwhile, was swayed successively by a good many fantastic delusions about war. First was the lint fever; then there was the Havelock mania, which lasted well into the first summer. There was a chronic impression, not yet changed, that sweet jellies, packed in glass, were a specific against all diseases. There always was great ignorance as to the duties of hospital nurses. All these hallucinations had to be gently and kindly borne with and treated, while the determined spirit which appeared in all was guided into manifestations more valuable. For all that was done, however, in the effort to instruct people in such matters, it is probable now that the general impression is, that the Sanitary Commission was an organization engaged in distributing to the army such provisions as do not come within the soldier’s ration, and such hospital stores and under-clothing as the government never provided.

It is true that the “ Sanitary ” did distribute a vast amount of such supplies. Because they were visible and cumbrous, people saw them, and took the impression that the “ Sanitary ” did little else. But the office of collecting and distributing such supplies was only a small part of its original plan, and, while always an indispensable accessory in all its movements, should always be remembered as accessory to such movements and forming a part of them. It is easy to conceive of the indignation of some medical officer in a foreign service, if he were simply told that an immense popular movement, supplied simply by voluntary contributions, furnished the hospital stores of the American army. He would say, and say justly, that that must be a very wretched administration, not fit to live, which did not provide hospital stores in abundance for its own service. But if you asked such a man whether the best medical staff in the world, acting under the most absolute government, ever established depots far in the rear of the army simply for stragglers, recruits, furloughed men, or men discharged, to relieve their inevitable sufferings, and to help them backward or forward, he would say, “ No.” He would say that it was impossible. He would say that these men must take their chance of getting such relief as they could from the people. If then you asked him whether the people would not be wise in making accurate organization to secure such relief, he would instantly assent. He would see, in a word, that you were thus carrying out the central and vital principle of all public administration which deals with the relief of suffering. That principle is this, — that the state must furnish the funds, the most of the machinery, and the general system, with the regularity and certainty with which the planets move. But the state cannot deal with exceptions, and must not try to ; and the exceptional care, the personal tenderness, with all the blessings of sympathy and all spiritual help, will and must be added in any Christian country by the enthusiasm and by the ingenuity of volunteers.

To supplement the operations of the government, then, became from the first the object and determination of the Commission. To do this in a thoroughly systematic way, so as to command the respect of business men in the army and the navy, to retain its own respect and the respect of a keeneyed community at the same time, was the first necessity. Its first victory was in attaining this necessity. It owed that victory largely to the admirable executive powers of its first general secretary, Mr. Frederic Law Olmsted. He had engaged in the work with an enthusiasm of exactly the type of Winthrop’s, or Shaw’s, or any paladin’s of them all, and he had the rare chance given to him, and the rarer power, to show that in the methods of office administration, in the instruction and inspiration of clerks and deputies and agents, in keeping up and alive all the varied branches of a wide system of administration, such enthusiasm may be expended just as fitly as in a charge at the head of a squadron. He was admirably seconded. Although the Sanitary Commission never stumbled into the blunder of relying on volunteer assistance for regular daily work which must be done, and, if wrong, must be criticised,—although it therefore always paid salaries to its regular officers,—yet in the higher grades of its service all these officers were in reality volunteers, as Mr. Olmsted was, and the members of the Commission. It is the universal remark of persons who were fortunate enough to serve under them or with them, that here was a very remarkable body of men, men of a high type, whether measured by the test of moral purpose, or by the tests of executive ability, or by the more convenient standard of success. From first to last, whether in collecting funds, in the details of office duty in devising practicable plans for others, or in the actual business of relieving the sick and the dying, the Sanitary Commission always had a marvellous faculty for getting things done. It owed this faculty, which in a finite world is a very valuable one, to the remarkable characteristics of the men who occupied its most important positions of administration.

I have no space in which to attempt any description in detail of the various lines of work done by these spirited people. In Mr. Stillé’s book, the stories are very well told, and in Mr. Frank Moore’s book of “Anecdotes of the War” are some of what Miss Cobbe would call the Broken Lights of the foreground. Such stories, coming just on the outside of the mechanism of war, all alive with enthusiasm and selfdevotion, will be wrought into ballads and dramas and novels and magazine stories for hundreds of years, and the victories of the “ Sanitary,” as recorded by Mr. Stillé, will stand out as pure gold, when a good deal of hay and stubble, which made much show in the special despatches of “ our own correspondents ” have been blown away or burnt away. Civilization takes a great step forward, Christianity asserts one more of its claims for practical respect, when a nation roused to enthusiasm by such victories as Grant’s, and determined to show its gratitude to its heroes, sends them potatoes and lemons, rather than palms and laurels. Such was always the echo of every announcement either of victory or defeat. When Vicksburg fell, “ Pittsburg sent forward five hundred barrels of potatoes, with other choice stores. Cleveland and Buffalo sent timely donations. The Cincinnati branch fitted out a fine steamer, with a full corps of surgeons and nurses, fully supplied. The New Albany branch forwarded supplies by the steamer Atlantic. The Upper Mississippi towns loaded the steamer Dunleith. The Kentucky branch chartered the finest boat on the river, the Jacob Strader; the committee placed on her sixteen surgeons and attendants ; and the Kentucky and Chicago branch loaded her with ice, vegetables, fruits, garments, and other things adapted to promote the welfare of the sick and wounded.” The Rebels used to taunt us with the assistance the gunboats gave our armies,— what dear old Abe called Uncle Sam’s “web-feet.” But one must have been a malignant rebel to grumble, when one of these hospital boats came up, before the smoke of battle had blown away, ready at the moment to take on board friend or foe, and to provide for them with arrangements which could really be scarcely improved upon, could one choose, the whole world over, the site of his hospital. A Mississippi boat, with its open ventilation and its space so nearly unlimited, has advantages for a hospital which many a distinguished European surgeon, shut up in some timehonored building of Paris or Vienna, might envy. Aladdin himself could hardly have done anything more wonderful than was the appearance of the Sanitary boats and those of the Western Commission at Shiloh, almost before the pursuit of the enemy was over. Think of taking your wounded to the rear, in the midst of a wilderness, and finding at the river-side these great hospital steamers, with their long rows of beds ready for your patients, — surgeons, nurses, and stores, all in place and order, as complete as if you were carrying a man with a broken leg to an old city hospital in Boston, in New York, or in London ! When you once had your wounded man on one of these hospital boats, he was of course all ready to be carried to any one of the government’s admirable hospitals, in the twenty States not molested by war, which we came to call “ the rear.” The experience of Shiloh led to a very thorough organization of hospital transport at the West. The difficulties which arose on the Chesapeake, after horrible suffering, brought about an improved system in the East, and the studies of Dr. Harris in the Commission resulted finally in the establishment of the system of hospital cars for the railways, on which, before the war was over, two hundred and twenty-five thousand sick and wounded soldiers were carried to the rear.

Has it ever happened to the reader to go twenty-four hours in active life without eating anything, and without drinking anything but water? If it has, he will understand why the column of English troops retreating from Cabul tumbled all to pieces at the end of a day when they had had no rations, and why something like that happens to all armies under similar conditions. Just imagine, then, the condition of stragglers, whether from a single regiment or from an army, who are left behind on a forced march, or perhaps arrive at a railway station too late for the military train. If you miss your train in civil life, you go home for another day. Your wife and children are glad to see you, and you thank the kind destinies which have kept you twentyfour hours more from the miseries of travel. But, suppose you are in the 99th Minnesota, and that, when that regiment moved into Washington from camp, you were left standing sentry over four hundred and sixty-seven axehandles, and directed to wait there, like another Casabianca, till the advance of the 11 th “Varnished Rebels ” relieved you. Suppose, after you were relieved, you hurried after the regiment, and arrived just in time to see the transport sweep down the Potomac as you came out on the Sixth Street Wharf. Suppose you had not been paid off for four months, and then had remitted all your pay to Mary Ann of South Stillwater, Minnesota. Suppose your relief from the axe-handles had come so late that it was now half past six in the evening, and you had had nothing to eat since five that morning ; but had kept guard seven hours, and hurried after the regiment as well as you could in the remaining six. Were the world absolutely perfect, you would in that case walk up to the White House, ring the door-bell, and invite yourself to tea with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, entertaining them with your story, and saying to Mrs. Lincoln that you would trouble her for a slice of cold beef, if there happened to be any in the pantry. You would spend the night in the blue chamber, and the next morning the President would give you a pass to Fort Monroe. But as a world in which we make wars is not yet absolutely perfect, the practical arrangement made for you, under any such circumstances, was that of the Sanitary Commission, and you would go, in any such case, not to the White House, but to the Soldiers’ Home, instituted by Mr. Frederic Knapp, who afterwards succeeded Mr, Frederic Law Olmsted as secretary of the Commission.

As early as the 21st of June, 1861, the Commission called the attention of

the government to the necessity of providing for the exhausted men of regiments arriving at Washington. But nothing practical had been done when, on the 9th of August, Mr. Knapp found in the cars at the Washington station “thirty-six sick men of an Indiana regiment, apparently abandoned by their comrades, who had moved out to their camp. These men were so utterly unprovided for, that during twenty-four hours they had had nothing to eat but a few crackers. This large-hearted man, as quick in action as he was generous in impulse, procured from a boardinghouse close by two pailfuls of tea, and soft bread and butter, with which he refreshed and made comfortable these exhausted men, until their surgeon, who, so far from abandoning them, had been absent many hours striving in vain to find some means of removing them to a hospital, returned. Thus began the Sanitary Commission’s work of Special Relief, and thus were given the first of the four million five hundred thousand meals provided by it during the war, for sick and hungry soldiers.” The Soldiers’ Home was established at Washington, and forty different homes were established at various points over the field of operations of the Commission. Their duties were to provide with medicines, food, and care, sick men who did not need to go to a general hospital, and discharged soldiers ; to act as agents and unpaid attorneys for discharged soldiers; to look into their condition when they assumed to have no means to go home; to see that they did go home ; to make them reasonably comfortable and clean ; to be prepared for the exigency of the arrival of sick men in large numbers ; and to keep a watch on soldiers out of hospitals, yet not in service. Very carefully guarded, lest they should furnish excuses for straggling, the homes or lodges furnished four millions and a half of meals, provided a million of night’s lodgings, and gave the soldier assistance in collecting from government nearly two millions and a half of his wages. This is only one of the departments of the special relief service. In this paper, it is impossible to describe the feeding stations, the special relief at convalescent camps, the relief of men returning from Rebel prisons, that wonderful hospital directory, the pension bureau and war-claim agency of the Commission, and indeed many other of the services which were included under its Special Relief administration. They all showed ingenuity and the readiness of spirited men, governed by that strict system that the regular army itself did not surpass, which always regulated the work of the Commission.

Mr. Stillé’s book is, properly speaking, a history of the Commission itself, — of the work, namely, directed by the eight or ten men who were the Sanitary Commission. He does not attempt to give the history of the work done by the thousands of branches, of every name and order. With one or two exceptions, he does not go into the history of the methods of raising funds for the service of the Commission. He is limited, of course, in the details which he can give of the service rendered. The book is the history of the work of the Commission in its chief departments. It is a complete answer, therefore, to the question of all the incredulous people, either of the type of Thomas or of the type of Judas, who used to ask, almost from hour to hour, “Where does all the money go to?” People of this type exist everywhere. “ My husband is an excellent person,” said one of the saints of this world ; “but he never could tell what a woman wanted with a five-dollar bill.” There were people, with such a passion for “husbanding,” that they could never tell what the Sanitary wanted to do with five million dollars. In Mr. Stillé’s book is the complete answer, treasurer’s returns and all, for any who choose to get an answer to their question.

In one chapter — the most picturesque and vivid, perhaps, in the book — Dr. Bellows gives a narrative of the grand California contributions, which, with such exquisite poetical fitness, came in with their solid weight of gold just when they were most needed. This is the chief exception, where in this book we get a bit of the romance, for it is nothing less, which, in this greatest of charities, attended the usually prosaic business of collecting the funds. Dr. Bellows is popularly and justly held to be the author of the Sanitary Commission. He may do what he pleases in other fields, but this is the title by which he will always be known, the country through. The work of a lifetime in the ministry of a large city, with special study of the prevention as well as the cure of social evil, was enough, apparently, to determine him from the beginning, that the army should never be left to the costly processes of cure, where an ounce of prevention could be served out so readily. His unflinching enthusiasm overwhelmed sticklers and doubters at Washington ; or, as Olney says so well, “ his tremendous emotional force carries him through brains and hearts alike.” He has the reputation for a skill at organization, which is probably so far true, that he knows that it is best to get the best men you can, and then to trust them to carry out their own plans in the way in which they can best work in them. As working men of ability infallibly work on system, he is willing to trust the system or plan of the men with whom he works. But from all the elasticity of the “Sanitary’s” work and processes, it is very evident that its president was never bigoted in clinging to his own particular methods, if only the thing itself were done. Like most men placed in responsible posts in a world which must be got forward somehow, he probably believes that, where no moral question is involved in the decision, it is generally better to do a thing than to refuse to do it. To this faith, which in practice is called energy, the activity and the triumph of the “ Sanitary ” are largely due.

California had won eternal blessings by sending to the “ Sanitary,” in the hour of its greatest need, first, one hundred thousand dollars, and in rapid succession, three hundred and twentynine thousand nine hundred and ninetyfive dollars more in the short space of thirteen months. There was a charming poem published at the time, in which the writer, with great feeling, said, — what we believe California felt heartily, — that because they might not give their iron, they would give their gold. A contribution so magnificent, of near half a million, would have been California’s fair share, perhaps. But when the “ Sanitary ” for its largest work needed most money, it appealed to California again, and California pledged two hundred thousand more in monthly instalments. Our dear friend, Starr King, had proposed himself to canvass the State, county by county, to secure this result. He died. It was then that Dr. Bellows himself visited California, and by his own presence and influence assisted largely in the magnificent movement which he describes so well. Some of the funniest things that ever were done relieved with humor the uprising of the people of the Pacific coast, and some sacrifices of the most tender pathos gave solemnity to its history. The result of the effort and enthusiasm was the contribution of one million four hundred and seventy-three thousand four hundred and seven dollars from the Americans of the Pacific coast and islands to the treasury of the Commission. Dr. Bellows’s narrative, including the San Francisco report, furnishes one of the most suggestive, as it is one of the most entertaining, chapters of American history.

I have not said a word of the terrible details of battle-fields ; nothing of the wonderful statistical work of the Commission ; nothing of the ingenious, steady work of the local branches ; nothing of the fairs, which, with all their flutter and filigree, netted two million seven hundred and thirty-six thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight dollars to the great cause. The history of each of these details will be a part of the history of the country, which no careful student of democratic government may neglect to study. Mr. Stiflé’s volume, which has been my chief authority, will make us all long to see more of the official history of what we already begin to call “ THE DEAR OLD SANITARY.”