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Doc. 44.-the Sanitary commission.

Address to the citizens of the United States.

the undersigned, having been duly appointed by the Secretary of War, with the approval of the President of the United States, a commission to inquire into the sanitary condition of the volunteer regiments engaged in the service of the Government, and to take measures to remedy defects therein, by recommendations addressed to the proper military authorities, [173] and otherwise, beg leave respectfully and earnestly to ask the support and cooperation of their fellow-citizens throughout the country, in the work thus confided to them.

Mortality of troops.

Its magnitude and importance are, unfortunately, self-evident. As a general rule, four soldiers die of diseases incident to camp life for one that falls in battle. Such is the average mortality among regular troops. Among volunteers it will be found much larger. We all remember the frightful history of the British campaign in the Crimea. If such was the suffering and loss of soldiers organized and supplied under an established system, with officers educated in their profession and generally qualified by experience to take care of their men, what is like to be the fate of an army hurriedly levied in communities that have enjoyed the profoundest peace for generations, and whose officers are mostly without practical knowledge of the dangers to which masses of men are exposed by fatigue, climate, unwholesome food, and other perils of camp life, and of the sanitary measures by which these dangers may be met and diminished?

Importance of Sanitary regulations.

Such sanitary measures, prudently devised and thoroughly executed, will do more to economize the lives of our soldiers, and thus save the nation men, money, and time, than could be effected by any improvement in the arms put into their hands.

For example, the difference between well-cooked digestible food and ill-cooked indigestible food consumed by a regiment during three months of actual service in the field, is equivalent to a difference of at least forty per cent. of its available strength at the end of that period. The quality of the water it drinks is equally important. But no systematic provision has yet been made for supplying our newly-levied troops with either properly cooked food or properly purified water. They have already begun to sicken from the want of both. The men and apparatus required to supply these urgent wants will cost money, but our neglect to provide them will cost us tenfold more in the end. Common prudence, therefore, and mere selfish economy demand attention to the subject, even if we ignore the impulse of patriotism and the Christian duty of caring for the health and life of those we send into the field to defend our national existence.

Systematic precautions.

Many other subjects, equally important, demand prompt action, and are to be included in the operations of this commission. The clothing supplied the volunteer regiments — their tents, huts, and quarters, their hospitals, their supply of nurses, the purity of the medicines supplied them, the general sanitary regulations, (as to ventilation of tents and quarters, for instance, drainage of camp sites, the use of disinfectants, bathing, and personal cleanliness,) to be enforced as part of our military system — precautions against diseases to be adopted in particular localities; these and many other points demand investigation and action with the least possible delay. If the commission shall be enabled fully to execute the work it contemplates, and hopes to accomplish, it will save at least twenty thousand out of every hundred thousand men raised for the war from perishing uselessly, ingloriously, and unnecessarily from mere want of the systematic precautions which ought to be provided (and which can be provided at a cost comparatively insignificant) against the perils of exposure and disease.


Though the members of the commission gladly serve without fee or reward, they require the aid of their fellow-countrymen to enable them to execute what they have undertaken. Permanent salaried agents at Washington, and other great military centres, are indispensable. These must be men of high grade, possessing not only scientific education, but efficiency in business, and a talent for details. Funds will also be required for expenses of travelling, printing, and transportation, and for other purposes.

Funds needed.

For these objects the undersigned appeal, with perfect confidence, to the liberality of their fellow-citizens. For obvious reasons they are reluctant to make application to Congress for an appropriation. It is proper to add that the commission was appointed by the War Department, on the suggestion of the medical bureau at Washington. It originated, in fact, from the manifest inability of the authorities heretofore intrusted with the sanitary charge of our little army to provide for its wants when suddenly increased to hundreds of thousands. An amount of work simply impracticable was thus thrown upon the medical bureau, and made the appointment of volunteer aid absolutely indispensable.

Powers of the commission.

The commission has every reason to believe that it is honored with the full confidence of Government, and will receive its cordial cooperation and support. Rooms have been assigned it in the Treasury Building, Washington. It is vested with full authority by the surgeon-general of the army to inspect and examine all posts, camps, and hospitals, and holds the order of the Secretary of War that all persons in the employ of Government, respect and further the inquiries and objects of the commission to the utmost of their ability. Mr. Frederick Law Oimsted, of New York, consents to serve as its resident secretary and general agent at Washington. Donations and subscriptions in aid of its object are earnestly solicited. They should be addressed to its treasurer, George T. Strong, 68 Wall Street, New York. [174]

Office of Sanitary Commission, Treasury Building, June 21, 1861.

Henry W. Bellows, President, New York.

Prof. A. D. Bache, Vice-Pres., Washington.

Elisha Harris, M. D. Cor. Secretary, N. Y.

Geo. W. Cullum, U. S. A., Washington.

Alexander E. Shiras, U. S. A., Washington.

Robt. C. Wood, M. D., U. S. A., Washington.

Wm. H. Van Buren, M. D., New York.

Wolcott Gibbs, M. D., New York.

Samuel G. Howe, M. D., Boston.

Cornelius R. Agnew, M. D., New York.

J. S. Newberry, M. D., Cleveland.

Geo. T. Strong, New York.

Frederick law Olmsted, New York.

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