Sanitary Commission Formed Timelines: The Catto Years

The U.S. Sanitary Commission (USSC) is formed to raise money and materiel to improve conditions for soldiers on the battlefield and to support hospitals caring for the wounded. Philadelphia established a branch of the USSC, which acted as a regional center and depot for distributing resources. In Pennsylvania, women formed their own subsidiary, which served as a conduit for receiving donations from hundreds of smaller, local aid societies. The largest and most successful of the Sanitary Commission fundraising activities was the Great Central Fair, held at Logan Square from June 7 to June 28, 1864. President Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by wife Mary and son Todd, visited the Great Central Fair on June 16, 1864. African Americans generally were excluded from participating in USSC activities. Black congregations and women’s groups channeled support to the U.S. Colored Troops and other Union soldiers. Among the young black women spearheading this effort was Caroline LeCount, who became OV Catto’s fiance. LeCount is best known for her efforts to desegregate streetcars in Philadelphia, which were especially needed by black women working to get supplies to USCT soldiers at Camp William Penn in Cheltenhelm (outside Philadelphia) in 1863.

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