U.S. Sanitary Commission

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The United States Sanitary Commission During the American Civil War, 1861-1865, approximately 600,000 soldiers died with two out of three dying from disease. (1) The United States Sanitary Commission was a civilian volunteer relief organization that was formed during the beginning of the war. Its purpose was to improve the health and safety of Northern soldiers. The Commission not only helped reduce the spread of disease in military camps and hospitals; it also distributed food, clothing, medical supplies, nurses and other help to the Union Army. (2) As a result of the Commission's efforts, the disease death rate of the Union Army was reduced and millions of dollars were raised in support of the Northern war effort. The US Sanitary Commission was formed by civilians who wanted to support the Union soldiers and prevent the numbers of deaths by disease seen in previous wars. During the recent Crimean War, 1853-1856, disease caused four out of five British soldiers to die. In an effort to prevent more deaths, the British Sanitary Commission was established. The BSC appointed a nurse named Florence Nightingale to oversee the conditions of the hospitals in the Crimea. She believed that proper food, rest and fresh air were important factors in the health of the soldiers. She was able to reduce hospital death rates by improving these conditions. Nightingale reduced the rate from 42% to 2% by either making improvements of hygiene herself or by the help of the Sanitary Commission. She wrote a book about her experience called "Notes on Nursing" which became very popular in America. (3) Physicians and prominent members of volunteer relief groups in United States noted the success of the British Sanitary Commission and Florence Nightingale. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female physician in America saw the war "as a challenge to practitioners on medicine, sanitation and

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