The US Christian Commission

The United States Christian Commission was an important agency of the Union during the American Civil War. It was designed to offer religious support, but also provided numerous social services and recreation to the soldiers of the U.S. Army. It provided Protestant chaplains and social workers, and collaborated with the U.S. Sanitary Commission in providing medical services.

The Christian Commission was created in response to the suffering from the disastrous First Battle of Bull Run. Leaders outlined work needed to support the soldiers, the outline for the United States Christian Commission, whose organization was completed next day.

The YMCA and Protestant ministers formed the USCC. As civilians on the battlefield, they did not have weapons but were sustained by sharing the love of Christ with soldiers and sailors. Five thousand volunteers served during the war. They distributed more than $6 million worth of goods and supplies in hospitals, camps, prisons and battlefields. The original plan of the USCC was to help the priests of the armed services in their daily work, as the chaplaincy program was in its infancy, with only some thirty members. They were quickly overwhelmed by the scale of battles and casualties, and especially by the rapidly increasing number of deaths due to wounds and more so to disease.

Women also participated. A national movement started in May, 1864 with a view to organize a Ladies Christian Commission in each evangelical congregation of the North; these were auxiliary to the USCC. Increasing the network of collection, fund raising and support was the way the organization responded to meet a growing demand to serve the soldiers.

The USCC had 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 need, and a more efficient organization.