Maine Camp and Hospital Association (MCHA)

by Kathy Kleiman of 20th ME Co E


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Women volunteers followed the Maine regiments from the beginning of the Civil War in the Spring of 1861. These women, wives, sisters or widows of the fighting men, found they were badly needed in the Army hospitals, visiting the sick and wounded to provide "luxuries" not usually supplied by the authorities - fruits and vegetables, clothing, small personal articles; to write letters for those unable to do so; to gather information from soldiers unable to draw pay or furlough because of Government "red tape;" and sometimes just to visit, bringing with them a presence from home in Maine.

Letters written by women such as Isabella Fogg, Hariett Eaton, Sarah Sampson and Charlotte McKay described the need for donated supplies for all Maine soldiers and the difficulties of transporting those supplies from Maine to the regiments in the field. An organized effort began in Portland in December 1862 to create the Maine Camp and Hospital Association. (The Maine State Military Agency began as a separate organization but the two were combined in later years of the War.) Through this organization the people of Maine had a developed system for getting their donated goods and money from a central point in Portland to distribution directly to the Maine soldiers. So well did this system work that in three years, not one box of donated supplies was lost!

There were other volunteer relief agencies operating during the Civil War; the Sanitary and Christian Commissions being the largest. These Commissions could give no guarantee donations of Maine people would reach Maine soldiers. The MCHA was successful because it could. Eventually most Federal States had their own individual "State Agency".

When the soldiers were encamped for any length of time, the women of the MCHA would pitch their tents or utilize dwellings nearby to set up a distribution point and begin to visit the Maine regiments in the area to determine what supplies were needed. When the Army began to march to battle, the women would retire to the nearest safe town or return to Washington or Maine to re-supply and await the outcome of the fight. As soon as the regiments encamped once more, the women volunteers would return to the field. They were present at Gettysburg the day after the battle and were fired on at Chancellorsville. MCHA nurses also served at Camp Parole in Annapolis, administering to the returning prisoners of war from Andersonville and Florence, and at City Point, VA, taking care of the sick and wounded being transported there.

The Maine Camp and Hospital Association remained in existence after hostilities ceased in April 1865 and concentrated their efforts in the Washington area, where they provided care to the soldiers hospitalized and unable to be mustered out. Their task was finished in the late Summer of 1865 with the removal of the last men to hospitals in Maine.

Below is a list of one month's supplies donated by the people of Maine to the MCHA:

72 shirts

8 pr. Slippers


36 quilts

70 towels

2 btls. Elderberry wine

68 pr. Mittens

10 dz. combs

9 jars marmalade

22 cans condensed milk

2 graters

3 qts. Tapioca

5 lbs. Butter

2 barrels green apples

1 box herring

35 dz. Lemons

1 barrel dried apples

1 jar strawberry jam

30 papers broma

1 btl. Cherry rum

2 btl. Ketchup

1 box guava jelly

2 btl. Blackberry brandy

6 dz. Figs

4 lbs. Black pepper

30 pillows

2 btl. Tamarinds

165 pr. Socks

6 dressing gowns

14 jars jelly

cayenne pepper

9 dz. Nutmegs

11 dz. Hospital caps

20 lbs. Stripped fish

24 dz. Handkerchiefs

2 btls. Port wine

4 btls. Currant wine

10 dz. Oranges

5 btls. Brandy

44 papers farina

13 cases meat

4 btls. Raspberry vinegar

3 qts. Sago

1 barrel crackers

1 jar pickles

4 dz. Eggs

30 papers cocoa

1 jar cranberries

70 pr. Drawers


4 btls. Cologne

10 lbs. Tea







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