How It Began

~Before the Civil War the United States military (Union)  did not have a sanitary commission and the medical department of the military was very small and never really looked into. However once the war began steps were taken to ensure that the medical care and treatment within the military was a main component. Below is an insight on how it began……..


—Chief of the Army Medical Department was Colonel Thomas Lawson a veteran of the war of 1812 who was over eighty. Advice of the sanitary commission outside the army was in most cases ignored and the medical staff was under 1% of the army.  Medical staff was made up of the Surgeon General, 30 surgeons and 83 assistant surgeons and that was basically it. Public demand led to the creation of the United States Sanitary commission which would change the future of military medicine forever. On My 18 a delegation with members: Henry Bellows and Dr. Elisha Harris of the women’s central association, Dr, Van Buren representing the “ Physicians and Surgeons of the Hospitals of New York” and Dr. Jacob Hanson of the “Lint and bandage association”, formally requested that the secretary of war appoint a sanitary commission and proposed the following reforms;(1)

1. America had the opportunity to to prevent the evils that England and France could only investigate and deplore

2. Emphasized that a people’s war required organized popular participation

3. Proposed better examination of recruits The training of cooks which the

4. Women’s Central Association of Relief offered to provide Use of several hundred women who had registered with the association as nurses in army hospitals

5. The hiring by the Medical Department of young medical men to dress wounds and perform similar services

6. These reforms were revolutionary at that time

~ After the push of many people the order creating the United States Sanitary Commission was signed by Secretary of war Cameron on June 9 and approved by the president on June 13. After this medicine became a large part of the Civil War and many wars to come.


Part of the Sanitary Commission during the Civil War