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April 8, 2020

I was sitting in the library this evening and it dawned on me that I wasn’t where I supposed to be on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. I wasn’t with the group of people that I have shared the pursuit of knowledge with for 25 plus years. I wasn’t with you my friends and fellow history buffs. Each day seems to be much like another here on lock down. I watch or read the news, get upset, shout against what I have no control over and listen to Cindi say “If it upsets you that much, quit watching!” So I retreat to my sancta sanctorum to travel back in time to find an answer to what has turned the world upside down.

We have been here before and I don’t refer to the 1918 Flu Pandemic. I am referring to the Civil War. The first time our nation had to find an answer to a time of personal upheaval. The first time citizens had to confront masses of death, mass of sickness and masses of wounded. It wasn’t easy to find any solution. How to notify loved ones at home. How to understand that your soldier died alone. How to honor the dead. How to get an astronomical amount of needed medical supplies to the point of need. And to do this without a national or for that matter a local organization to provide the means. It was a steep learning curve. At the beginning of the war there wasn’t even a method to remove wounded from the battlefield to the hospital and most of the time even that hospital didn’t exist. The Army finally solved this, but the Army could never provide a solution for supplying the much needed material for healing.

United States Sanitary CommissionOut of this chaos The United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) was formed. A private relief agency created by federal legislation on June 18, 1861, to support sick and wounded soldiers of the United States Federal Army. It operated across the North, raised an estimated $25 million in Civil War era revenue (assuming 1865 dollars, $417.55 million in 2020) and in-kind contributions to support the cause, and enlisted thousands of volunteers. The president was Henry Whitney Bellows, and Frederick Law Olmsted acted as executive secretary. The power of the American people in a most grass roots sense.

We don’t have a Sanitary Commission. We do have a nation of people that when, a need is known they come together for a solution. We see it every day from the individuals that sew masks, to the food pantries and to the people that make sure that no one is forgotten. We all do our part every day by staying at home or if you must go out staying apart. Did you ever think that we would come together for a common cause by staying apart? We have been through this before. It is not easy. It never has been. Stay home. Stay safe and we will see each other before long. Oh, the stories we will tell.

-- Mike Calvert, President of the Civil War Round Table of Western Missouri

[Photo credit -- True Williams (1839-1897) -, Public Domain,]