The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), founded in 1851, established the United States Christian Commission (USCC) on November 16, 1861, seven months after the Civil War began. The original mission of the USCC was to attend to the moral and religious needs of Union soldiers. After its first year, the USCC expanded its role by providing for the physical well-being of soldiers in the military camps, in the hospitals, and at the front, thus rivaling the work of the UNITED STATES SANITARY COMMISSION (USSC).
The USCC primarily relied on clergymen volunteers to serve as its delegates, although scores of laymen also served. By the end of 1863, 12 women had been selected to act as USCC delegates. They were a distinct minority as most women who worked as volunteers for the organization did so without any official status. The USCC leadership was composed entirely of men. By the conclusion of the war, the organization stated that a total of 5,000 clergymen had served under its auspices. The number of women volunteers, though considerable, is not known.
During the Civil War, USCC delegates distributed millions of religious publications directly to the soldiers, including religious newspapers, magazines, tracts, Bibles, New Testaments, and hymnbooks as well as secular books and periodicals (Paludan 1988, 353). The USCC established reading rooms and libraries for the soldiers and encouraged them to write home by providing stationery and stamps. Delegates set up coffee wagons and refreshment