Wounded men lay in the blazing sun in an open field at Gettysburg, pleading for relief. John C. Chamberlain offered assistance. “I soon found myself driving stakes with a rock and twisting every spare corner of their bedding over them. My success started others and soon I had the comfort of seeing the whole hospital in the shade.” He went on to comment, “After all, my dear sir, our labors at such times are of such a nature that we can give but a faint idea of them on paper. There are a thousand little nameless acts which the world cannot know, nor we ourselves recall, that are nonetheless important in their issues.”

John was a representative of the United States Christian Commission. During the American Civil War, hundreds of thousands of Northern soldiers were wounded and more than a quarter of a million killed. Who would minister to the spiritual needs of the soldiers who were facing death? On this day, November l6, l86l, YMCA volunteers established the United States Christian Commission. George H. Stuart was appointed as its permanent chairman.

Stuart, a banker, had spent most of his life supporting evangelical missions. Under Stuart’s leadership, the Christian Commission raised $3 million in cash and solicited valuable donations of supplies. The organization was entirely volunteer. Men, women, and even children raised money, sewed clothing, and created kits for soldiers of both north and south. The organization recruited over 5,000 field volunteers to assist chaplains in ministering to the spiritual needs of the soldiers. Notable personalities at work in the commission were evangelist D. L. Moody and the merchant John Manama.

The USCC continued to grow. More than three-quarters of the value of what it collected was distributed during 1864 and the four months of 1865. It represented both citizens’ recognition of the need for a more efficient organization. The Ladies Christian Commission (LCC) played a critical role in this success. Louisa May Alcott was among many women who worked with the Commission. Others included Georgia McClellan, the sister of Jenny Wade, the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg, and Sarah Emma Edmonds, who worked as a nurse after serving with the Union Army as a soldier, spy, and as a male nurse under the name “Franklin Thompson.” According to an 1868 account, 45 men and 3 women members of the U.S.C.C. died during the Civil War.

The USCC participated in a religious revival within the Union Army between 1863 and 1865. Converts numbered between 100,000 and 200,000 men.

The National Civil War Chaplains Museum at Liberty University has a section that commemorates the work of the Commission.

Bibliography:

  1. Adapted from an earlier Christian History Institute story.
  2. Christian Commission http://www.edinborough.com/Life/Commission/Christian.html
  3. Giesberg, Judith Ann. Civil War Sisterhood: the U.S. Sanitary Commission and women’s politics in transition. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2000.
  4. “United States Christian Commission.” http://hometown.aol.com/FirstMACav/USCC.htm
  5.  Official U.S. Christian Commission website, accessed 3 Mar 2009
  6. “The Annals of the United States Christian Commission” by the Rev. Leonard Moss; the “Honored Dead” pp.738-739 published 1868
  7. Richey, Russell E.; Rowe, Kenneth E.; Schmidt, Jean Miller (2010). American Methodism: A Compact History. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-4267-4227-9.
  8. Information also retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Christian_Commission.

Some information was retrieved from Christianity.com.

ALSO ON THIS DATE

1827 – Formally a Presbyterian school, Western Theological Seminary opens to students in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

1845 – Hymnwriter Frederick Faber announced his migration to the church of Rome.

1894James McCosh, eleventh president of Princeton died. Born in Scotland, he had helped establish the Scottish Free Church and become a philosopher and theologian of note in the Presbyterian tradition.

1946 – The Church of the United Brethren in Christ (New Constitution) and the  Evangelical Church  unite to form The Evangelical United Brethren Church at Johnstown. The groups originated from the labors of United Brethren in Christ evangelists Philip W. Otterbein and Martin Boehm and also from the evangelism of Jacob Albright (Evangelical Church).

*Information retrieved from Christianhistoryinstitute.org.

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