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In the receiving-ship "Ohio," in Boston Harbor, more than three hundred prayer-meetings were held by the Young Men's Christian Association, and twenty thousand copies of hymnbooks and various religious works were distributed.
Capt. Bartlett, the sailors' missionary, was unwearied in labors of love.
Indeed, the Christian Commission found nowhere a more cordial welcome, and a more generous response to its requests for men and money, than in Massachusetts.
From her churches among the hills, and lying along the fruitful banks of the Connecticut, and other smaller but no less beautiful waters, the sabbath contributions poured in; and pastors volunteered to spend the six weeks required, or more, in labors of love wherever the army-lines marked the advance of the legions who had gone forth neither for glory nor reward, nor at the command of absolute power, but as the intelligent citizens of the first home of exiled freedom.
Massachusetts furnished more delegates for the Commission than any other State. The four general field-agents were also from this Commonwealth.
In contributions, it was second only to Pennsylvania; Boston ranking next to Philadelphia in the amount of donations from the cities of the North.
The Boston branch of the Christian Commission raised $358,581.41 in money, and $526,980.10 in stores. In addition, much was sent directly to Philadelphia. Eight hundred and sixty delegates were commissioned by Charles Demond, Esq., the efficient agent; and, in the single year 1865, from the office were sent to the army one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine Bibles, twenty-five thousand eight hundred hymn-books, one hundred and ninety-eight thousand seven hundred and twenty pages of tracts, twenty-two thousand five hundred weekly religious papers, sixteen thousand five hundred and eighty soldiers' books, and one thousand four hundred and sixty bound books.
The able committee was composed of Edward S. Tobey, Jacob Sleeper, Joseph Story, J. L. Warren, and Russell Sturgis, jun.
Charles Demond, in his Address before the Alumni of Williams College, alluded to this free giving, and narrated some very interesting incidents connected with it. He says,—
Some of the most delightful memories of my life are in connection with this free giving. It was my privilege, with others, to sit on the Exchange in
Boston after the battles of Gettysburg and the Wilderness, and after the taking of Richmond, to receive the voluntary offerings of the people for the relief of the wounded. No one was asked to give. No attempt was made to awaken enthusiasm, except by giving notice in each day's papers of the fact, and of the sums given. In a few days, on the first occasion, thirty-five thousand dollars were handed in; on the second occasion, over sixty thousand; and on the third, thirty thousand. These munificent sums were made up of comparatively small contributions. Only one sum as large as a thousand dollars was given, and from that to ten cents. It was a movement of the people. At times there was a crowd around the tables, and many were waiting their turn to give.. A poor woman of eighty, in Amherst, Mass., who supported herself by her needle, walked a long distance to give her five cents.
The American Tract Society, Boston, whose efficient secretaries are Revs. I. P. Warren, J. W. Alvord, and William C. Childs, originated the idea of furnishing standard religious reading to the army; circulating it with system, with vigor, and with a generous hand.
In May, 1861, Mr. Broughton, the Depositary of the Society, visited Washington, carrying letters of introduction from Gov. Andrew, Hon. R. C. Winthrop, and others, to President Lincoln, Gen. Scott, Mr. Cameron, the Secretary of War, &c. He was received with cordiality, the Government entering heartily into the work. President Lincoln was specially interested and hopeful in regard to the movement. A systematic distribution was devised. Books, tracts, and papers were prepared, and circulated among the soldiers whenever opportunity occurred. A depot was early established in Washington. Large boxes of books and tracts, including Lives of "Gen. Havelock," "Hedley Vicars," "Welcome to Jesus," in attractive forms, especially for soldiers, were forwarded and distributed, and were received with great eagerness by the noble boys flocking to the nation's capital. Mr. Coolidge was also active in the good work.
The society availed itself of every opportunity for the circulation of religious truth. Regiments passing through Boston, and entertained at Faneuil and Music Halls, were visited by Rev. J. W. Alvord and Mr. N. Broughton, and supplied with reading.
Not unfrequently, when public dinners were given, the books, beautifully bound in red and blue, were distributed, a copy of each being put under every plate.
The following editorial remarks from one of the first religious papers in the country will show the appreciation of the society's labors :
It is due to the American Tract Society, 28 Cornhill, Boston, to state that their enterprise in the form of books, pamphlets, miniature tracts, &c., for meeting the present necessities for reading in the army, is comprehensive, and worthy of all praise. A new demand at this point has been created for the activities of the society, and its officers respond to the demand with enlightened vigor.
About four and a half million pages were distributed among the soldiers by this society during the first four months; after which time, till the end of the war, the circulation of reading by it continued without cessation, and constantly increased. Another earnest and self-sacrificing secretary of the society, Rev. J. W. Alvord, left his home, and went to the army, remaining throughout the war; going with his wagon-load of religious reading from camp to camp, from army to army, accompanying them in their marches, sharing their privations and hardships, and constantly distributing the gospel in the attractive form for which the society is celebrated.
It would require a volume to narrate the unwearied labors of Mr. Alvord, not unfrequently bringing him to the gates of death through mere nervous exhaustion.
His last great work has been to incorporate and establish the Freedmen's Savings Bank, with which enterprise he is now di rectly connected.
Among the various religious organizations which entered the field of Christian benevolence was the Massachusetts Sabbathschool Society, whose venerable secretary, Mr. Bullard, and efficient treasurer, M. H. Sargent, were devoted to the moral and spiritual wants of the army at home and in the field. Of the beautiful memorial of "Adjutant Stearns," thirty thousand copies alone were circulated in the army. The "Soldier's Diary, and Book for Leisure Moments," prepared by Mr. Bullard, was widely circulated, and was a benediction to many a brave boy. The Seamen's Friend Society contributed largely in admirable little books and papers to the same object. The Rev. H. S. Hanks, its popular secretary, has scattered numberless copies of "The Black-valley Railroad," an original and most graphic picture, the work of his own genius, which presents impressively the ravages and ruin of intemperance.
Throughout the army, and over the land, this new advocate of sobriety, and warning to the tippler, has gone on its mission of reform.
SANITARY ASSOCIATIONS AND AID SOCIETIES.
The Earliest Organized Efforts. - Cambridge and Boston.- New Bedford. -New-England Society of New-York City. - Newburyport. — Lynn. Taunton. Springfield. Other Towns. Lowell and the first Sanitary Fair. - Boston Fair. - The Donation of a venerable Woman.
N the 20th of April, the city of Lowell, through its mayor, called the people together "for the purpose of initiating measures for the comfort, encouragement, and relief of citizensoldiers."
Judge Crosby presented a plan of practical sympathy for the army, as follows:
1. By gathering such funds and supplies as may be necessary.
2. By supplying nurses for the sick or wounded, when and as far as practicable.
3. By bringing home such sick and wounded as may be proper.
4. By purchasing clothing, provisions, and matters of comfort which rations and camp allowances may not provide, and which would contribute to the soldier's happiness.
5. By placing in camp such Bibles, books, and papers as would instruct and amuse their days of rest and quiet, and keep them informed of passing
6. By gathering the dates and making a record of the names and history of each soldier and his services.
7. By holding constant communication with paymasters, or other officers of our regiments, that friends may interchange letters and packages.
In April, 1861, the patriotic women of East Cambridge assembled to distribute among themselves the labor of furnishing Company A, of the Sixteenth Regiment, with flannel shirts, socks, towels, and other articles of clothing that might be wanted in the march and in the field. Till the close of the summer of 1862, the busy hands were weekly adding to the wardrobe of the absent boys; but, having no formal organization, an accurate account of the value of their work was not kept. In September of that year, a
society was formed, numbering four hundred members, of whom two hundred and thirty were ladies. Mrs. R. J. Knight was president.
For a year and a half the contributions were given to the Sanitary Commission, and, after that time, divided equally between the Sanitary and the Christian Commissions. Nearly five thousand dollars were raised, about one-seventh of which was contributed by the various churches.
In December, 1861, at 22 Summer Street, Boston, the rooms of the New-England Women's Auxiliary Association were opened, with the following board of officers:
President, John Ware; Vice-President, Samuel G. Howe; Secretary, Rufus Ellis; Treasurer, George Higginson.
During the ensuing year, seven hundred and fifty tributary societies were formed in the cities and villages of Massachusetts and the other five States of New England.
Like the streams which swell the majestic ocean, from these gatherings of earnest women in the valleys and among the mountains the contributions poured into the central society at Boston, until the articles forwarded in a single year reached the large figure of two hundred and fifty-five thousand; the pamphlets scattered in the army, forty-two thousand; and the money received, sixty-five thousand dollars, thus making a broad current of benevolence, gladdening the arid and blackened field of conflict, where, by hundreds and thousands, the sons of New England were carrying the flag of freedom towards the heart of rebellion.
There was, among all the auxiliaries, none, perhaps, more efficient than the Old Cambridge Sanitary Society, which, organized the October before, when the Boston society entered upon its work, became a subordinate charity.
The collections in money were nine thousand dollars. The slipper and handkerchief circles were "wheels within a wheel," whose movements were felt through every part of it.
New Bedford, called the "City of Oil," but one of the cleanliest, healthiest, and wealthiest towns in the Union, in proportion to its population, had been educated by her peculiar experience for a prompt offer of aid in the great conflict when it opened. Her Quaker mayor, in a peaceful way, gave the whole force of his official authority and influence to the furtherance of any measure designed to express Northern patriotism, and deepest sympathy for the defenders of the national banner.