From Ohio History Central
The United States Sanitary Commission was organized in New York in April 1861. The commission's organizers hoped to bring together various charitable organizations to assist Northern soldiers in the American Civil War. The commission would work with the United States War Department to provide wounded and ill Union soldiers with adequate supplies and medical care. The United States Sanitary Commission would also train nurses to work in the military hospitals. The War Department authorized the United States Sanitary Commission's on June 9, 1861, and President Abraham Lincoln approved its creation on June 18, 1861.
The United States Sanitary Commission immediately set about providing support to the Union army. The organization created three departments to meet the soldiers' needs. The first was the Preventive Service Department. It sent inspectors to military hospitals and to army camps to improve living conditions for the men. This department also published medical tracts, advising both doctors and soldiers on the various ways to prevent and to treat diseases. The second department was the Department of General Relief. This department sought monetary donations from civilians and businesses to purchase food, clothing, blankets, medicines, and other items for wounded and ill soldiers. The final department was the Department of Special Relief. This department assisted soldiers in returning to civilian life after they had completed their time in service. The Department of Special Relief also helped the families of disabled soldiers.