DR. MAXWELL'S book fills a place which has too long been left vacant. It is the result of a vast labor in the huge neglected archive which the United States Sanitary Commission, long ago placed in the Astor Library, and which was taken into the New York Public Library when the Astor, Tilden, and Lenox foundations were united. With scholarly thoroughness and penetrating judgment, yet with unfailing narrative interest, it treats of almost the darkest side of the Civil War--the sufferings of the wounded and sick--and of the great philanthropic organization which did so much to save lives and alleviate agony during the four years of conflict. Yet its range is wider than these two themes. It furnishes fresh material of the first value on many aspects of the war: on camp arrangements, on the diet of soldiers, on home relief, on drill and morale, on sutlers, recreations, and the traits of officers high and low. A broader work than George Worthington Adams's Doctors in Blue, it takes its place alongside that volume as an essential contribution to our understanding of the struggle.
" The Sanitary Commission," wrote Katherine Prescott Wormeley in a little book of that title which she published anonymously in 1863 in Boston to aid a Sanitary fair, "is the great artery which bears the people's love to the people's army." Miss Wormeley, an active worker in the Hospital Transport Service of the Commission, wrote another volume called The Other Side of War, memorable for its ghastly pictures of the human debris of the Peninsular campaign, and its admiring portrait of that remarkable administrator Frederick Law Olmsted. Until now her two books, fragmentary as they are, the dry if very useful official compendium by Charles J. Stillé, and the vivid glimpses of Sanitary Commission work in the diary of George Templeton Strong, its treasurer, have been our only dependable sources for the work it did. Dr. Maxwell, using sources never before scrutinized by a historian, has brought together all the important facts, and made of them a story as moving as it is instructive.