The Sanitary Commission was organized to provide commodities, comforts and education on sanitary practices to US soldiers serving in the Civil War. The Commission was formed to coordinate the activities of numerous Soldiers' Aid Societies formed by ladies in their communities to provide necessities for the US soldier.
US soldiers were provided with a uniform, a musket, basic rations and little else. Soldiers were crammed into overpopulated camps with little provision for sanitation, creating a epidemic of sickness. Hospitals were chronically understaffed and did not receive supplies from the governments. US citizens, mostly women, stepped in to fill this void with a massive volunteer effort.
The Sanitary Commission was engaged in three main endeavors, served by three departments.
The Sanitary Commission was funded and supplied by the efforts of an army of volunteer women. They rolled bandages, sewed quilts and clothing, purchased medicines, and held fund raisers called "Sanitary Fairs". This Commission is considered to be the forerunner of today's Red Cross.
The RACW Sanitary Commission uses an interactive approach to teaching living history. Visitors are invited to try their hand at quilting or letter writing as they learn about the Commission's role in supporting Civil War soldiers.