The Confederate States of America, commonly referred to as the Confederacy, was a confederation of secessionist American states existing from 1861 to 1865. It was originally formed by seven slave states — South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas — in the Lower South region of the United States whose regional economy was mostly dependent upon agriculture, particularly cotton, and a plantation system that relied upon the labor of African-American slaves. Each state declared its secession from the United States following the November 1860 election of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln to the U.S. presidency on a platform which opposed the expansion of slavery. A new Confederate government was proclaimed in February 1861 before Lincoln took office in March, but was considered illegal by the government of the United States. After the Civil War began in April, four slave states — Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee — of the Upper South also declared their secession and joined the Confederacy. The Confederacy later accepted Missouri and Kentucky as members, although neither officially declared secession nor were they ever largely controlled by Confederate forces; Confederate shadow governments attempted to control the two states but were later exiled from them.
The government of the United States (the Union) rejected the claims of secession and considered the Confederacy illegitimate. The American Civil War began with the April 12, 1861, Confederate attack upon Fort Sumter, a Union fort in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. In spring 1865, after heavy fighting which led to over half a million deaths, largely on Confederate territory, all the Confederate forces surrendered and the Confederacy dissolved. No foreign government officially recognized the Confederacy as an independent country, although the United Kingdom and France granted it belligerent status. While the war lacked a formal end, nearly all Confederate forces had surrendered or disbanded by the end of 1865. Jefferson Davis later lamented that the Confederacy had “disappeared” in 1865.
The postage stamps and postal system of the Confederate States of America carried the mail of the Confederacy for a brief period. Early in 1861 when South Carolina no longer considered itself part of the Union and demanded that the U.S. Army abandon Fort Sumter, plans for a Confederate postal system were already underway. Indeed, the Confederate Post office was established on February 21, 1861; and it was not until April 12 that the American Civil War officially began, when the Confederate Army fired upon US soldiers who had refused to abandon the fort. However, the United States Post Office Department continued to handle the mail of the seceded states as usual during the first weeks of the war. It was not until June 1 that the Confederate Post office took over collection and delivery, now faced with the task of providing postage stamps and mail services for its citizens. The CSA Constitution had provided for a national postal service to be established, then required it to be self-financing beginning March 1, 1863 (Section 8. Powers of Congress, Item 7). President Jefferson Davis had appointed John Henninger Reagan on March 6, 1861, to head the new Confederate States of America Post-office Department. The Confederate Post Office proved to be very efficient and remained in operation for the entire duration of the Civil War.
The area of Confederate postal history and philately is an interesting and complicated but much-studied field. The Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue assigns major numbers to only 14 different general issue stamps for the Confederate States of America, with most receiving numerous minor numbers for various varieties and color shades. There are also numerous unique adhesives and handstamped envelopes issued provisionally by postmasters throughout the Confederacy.
Many southern whites had considered themselves more Southern than American and would fight for their state and their region to be independent of the larger nation. That regionalism became a Southern nationalism, or the “Cause”. For the duration of its existence, the Confederacy underwent trial by war. The “Southern Cause” transcended the ideology of states’ rights, tariff policy, or internal improvements. This “Cause” supported, or descended from, cultural and financial dependence on the South’s slavery-based economy. The convergence of race and slavery, politics, and economics raised almost all South-related policy questions to the status of moral questions over way of life, commingling love of things Southern and hatred of things Yankee (the North). Not only did national political parties split, but national churches and interstate families as well divided along sectional lines as the war approached.
Following South Carolina’s unanimous 1860 secession vote, no other Southern states considered the question until 1861, and when they did none had a unanimous vote. All had residents who cast significant numbers of Unionist votes in either the legislature, conventions, popular referendums, or in all three. However, voting to remain in the Union did not mean that individuals were northern sympathizers. Once hostilities began, many of these who voted to remain in the Union, particularly in the Deep South, accepted the majority decision, and supported the Confederacy.
Montgomery, Alabama served as the capital of the Confederate States of America from February 4 until May 29, 1861 in the Alabama State Capitol. Six states created the Confederate States of America there on February 8, 1861. The Texas delegation was seated at the time, so it is counted in the “original seven” states of the Confederacy; it had no roll call vote until after its referendum made secession “operative”. Two sessions of the Provisional Congress were held in Montgomery, adjourning May 21. The Permanent Constitution was adopted there on March 12, 1861.
Richmond, Virginia was chosen for the interim capital at the Virginia State Capitol. The move was used by Vice President Stephens and others to encourage other border states to follow Virginia into the Confederacy. In the political moment it was a show of “defiance and strength”. The war for southern independence was surely to be fought in Virginia, but it also had the largest Southern military-aged white population, with infrastructure, resources and supplies required to sustain a war. The Davis Administration’s policy was that, “It must be held at all hazards.” The naming of Richmond as the new capital took place on May 30, 1861, and the last two sessions of the Provisional Congress were held in the new capital. The Permanent Confederate Congress and President were elected in the states and army camps on November 6, 1861.
The military armed forces of the Confederacy comprised three branches: Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The Confederate military leadership included many veterans from the United States Army and United States Navy who had resigned their Federal commissions and had won appointment to senior positions in the Confederate armed forces. Many had served in the Mexican–American War (including Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis), but some such as Leonidas Polk (who graduated from West Point but did not serve in the Army) had little or no experience. The Confederate officer corps consisted of men from both slave-owning and non-slave-owning families. The Confederacy appointed junior and field grade officers by election from the enlisted ranks. Although no Army service academy was established for the Confederacy, some colleges (such as The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute) maintained cadet corps that trained Confederate military leadership. A naval academy was established at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia in 1863, but no midshipmen graduated before the Confederacy’s end.
The American Civil War broke out in April 1861 with a Confederate victory at the Battle of Fort Sumter in Charleston. Beginning at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, the Confederates bombarded the fort from artillery batteries surrounding the harbor. Although the Union garrison returned fire, they were significantly outgunned and, after 34 hours, Major Robert Anderson of the U.S. Army agreed to evacuate. There were no deaths on either side as a direct result of this engagement, although a gun explosion during the surrender ceremonies on April 14 caused two Union deaths.
Following Sumter, Lincoln directed states to provide 75,000 troops for three months to recapture the Charleston Harbor forts and all other federal property. This emboldened secessionists in Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina to secede rather than provide troops to march into neighboring Southern states.
During the first seven weeks of the Civil War, the U.S. Post Office still delivered mail from the seceded states. Mail that was postmarked after the date of a state’s admission into the Confederacy through May 31, 1861, and bearing U.S. (Union) postage is deemed to represent ‘Confederate State Usage of U.S. Stamps’. i.e., Confederate covers franked with Union stamps. After this time, private express companies still managed to carry the mail across enemy lines.
The three major express companies in operation throughout the south were Adams Express, American Letter Express, and Whiteside’s Express. They had been operating freely for approximately two months when the U.S. Post Office ordered an end to such traffic, effective August 26, 1861. Mail destined to states that were not among their own unions now had to be sent by Flag of Truce, although some express companies still continued to run their mail operations illegally; Adams continued its Southern operations under a nominally-separate Southern Express Company, in actuality a subsidiary.
Mail was also smuggled in and out by blockade-running ships — which, however, were often captured or destroyed by Union ships on blockade patrol. Because Confederate post offices existed for only a few years and official and informal records of them are lacking, relatively little is known about their operations in many regions of the South. Existing data has been studied by several experts in the field, who have reconstructed an account of their existence and operation largely from surviving Confederate covers and by researchers specializing in advanced studies of Confederate philately and postal history.
One of the first undertakings in establishing the Confederate Post Office was the appointment of John H. Reagan (1818–1905) to Postmaster General, by Jefferson Davis in 1861, making him the first Postmaster General of the newly formed Confederate post office. In preparation for wartime mail delivery Reagan proved to be very resourceful. He sent an agent to Washington with letters asking the various heads of the U.S. Post Office Department to come work for the new Confederate Post Office. Amazingly nearly all of them did, bringing copies of records, and account books along with them. “Reagan in effect had stolen the U.S. Post Office,” notable historian William C. Davis wrote.
Reagan was obviously an able administrator, presiding over the only CSA cabinet department that functioned well during the war. It established new rates rather higher than those in the Union: 5¢ (equal to $1.32 today) per half-ounce under 500 miles (800 km), 10¢ per half-ounce over 500 miles (800 km), 2¢ for drop letters and circulars. Later. the under-500 miles (800 km) rate was raised to 10¢ also. There was a 50¢ rate for express mail, and after 1863 a 40¢ rate for Trans-Mississippi mail to cover the costs of smuggling the mail through a Federal blockade that operated along the entire length of the lower Mississippi River.
At the beginning of the war, Union blockades prevented supplies from reaching their destinations in the South, which from time to time resulted in the shortage of postage stamps, paper and other basic supplies that were much needed throughout the Confederate states.
In May 1861, Federal troops crossed into Confederate territory along the entire border from the Chesapeake Bay to New Mexico. The first battles were Confederate victories at Big Bethel, (Bethel Church, Virginia), First Bull Run (First Manassas in Virginia) in July; and in August, Wilson’s Creek (Oak Hills) in Missouri. At all three, Confederate forces could not follow up their victory due to inadequate supply and shortages of fresh troops to exploit their successes. Following each battle, Federals maintained a military presence and occupied Washington DC, Fort Monroe VA and Springfield MO.
Although the Confederate government had contracted for the printing of its own stamps, they were not yet available on June 1, forcing postmasters all over the South to improvise and used various methods to apply confirmation of postage to mailed covers, ranging from the creation of their own adhesive postage stamps produced by local printers to the marking of letters with either rate-altered handstamps or the manuscript indication “Paid,” after accepting payment in cash. The improvised stamps and pre-paid covers are known to collectors as ‘Postmaster Provisionals’, so-called because they were used ‘provisionally’ until the first Confederate general postage stamp issues appeared.
Some Confederate post offices would subsequently experience shortages in postage stamps and would revert to the use of provisional stamps and handstamps. There are many dozens of types of provisional stamps and handstamps from different towns and cities throughout the Confederacy. In some circles, Postmaster Provisionals are referred to as ‘locals’ since they were intended only for use from the town in which they were issued. Some are today among the great rarities of philately.
Within a month after his appointment as Postmaster General, Reagan ordered that ads be placed in both Southern and Northern newspapers seeking sealed proposals from printing companies for producing Confederate postage stamps. Bids arrived from companies in New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, New Orleans and Richmond. After the war started, however, it became evident that the contract to print Confederate stamps should go to a Confederate firm.
The Confederate Post Office Department awarded the stamp-printing contract to lithographers Hoyer & Ludwig, a small firm in Richmond. The stamps they produced were inferior in image quality to the line engraved stamps printed by the U.S. Post Office, but with what resources they had, they produced some handsome images by many accounts.
The first Confederate postage issues were placed in circulation on October 16, 1861, five months after postal service between the North and South had ended. Jefferson Davis is depicted on the first issue of 1861, a 5 cent green stamp (Scott #1) printed by the lithograph process by Hoyer and Ludwig of Richmond, Virginia. Like almost all Confederate issues, these stamps were imperforate, and single stamps had to be cut from the sheet with razors or scissors. This stamp was reprinted in blue in 1862 (Scott #4). The appearance of a living person on a postage stamp marked a break from the tradition adhered to by the US Post Office, that a person may be depicted on U.S. postage or currency only after death.
Union General George B. McClellan’s forces gained possession of much of northwestern Virginia in the summer of 1861, concentrating on towns and roads; the interior was too large to control and became the center of guerrilla activity. General Robert E. Lee was defeated at Cheat Mountain in September and no serious Confederate advance in western Virginia occurred until the next year. Meanwhile, the Union Navy seized control of much of the Confederate coastline from Virginia to South Carolina. They took over plantations and the abandoned slaves. Federals there began a war-long policy of burning grain supplies up rivers into the interior wherever they could not occupy. The Union Navy began a blockade of the major southern ports and prepared an invasion of Louisiana to capture New Orleans in spring 1862.
A 10 cent blue stamp with Thomas Jefferson also appeared later in 1861 (Scott #2), designed by Charles Ludwig of Hoyer & Ludwig, Richmond, Virginia. This issue was printed by two different companies: Hoyer & Ludwig and, later, J. T. Paterson & Co. of Augusta, Georgia. The image of Thomas Jefferson used on both printings lithographically reproduced the same image that had been engraved on the U.S. 5-cent issue of 1856. Secret marks were added by the Paterson firm to the transfer stones to distinguish its version from the Hoyer & Ludwig prints of the same design. The most typical use was for the ten-cent rate after July 1, 1862. This stamp, like the 5 cent Davis, was reprinted in 1862, in a rose-colored version (Scott #5) that is considerably rarer than the blue original.
The Confederate victories of 1861 were followed by a series of defeats east and west in early 1862. To restore the Union by military force, the Federal strategy was to secure the Mississippi River, seize or close Confederate ports, and march on Richmond. To secure independence, the Confederate intent was to repel the invader on all fronts, costing him blood and treasure, and carry the war into the North by two offensives in time to affect the mid-term elections.
Much of northwestern Virginia was under Federal control at the beginning of 1862. In February and March, most of Missouri and Kentucky were Union “occupied, consolidated, and used as staging areas for advances further South”. Following the repulse of Confederate counter-attack at the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, permanent Federal occupation expanded west, south and east. Confederate forces repositioned south along the Mississippi River to Memphis, where at the naval Battle of Memphis, its River Defense Fleet was sunk. Confederates withdrew from northern Mississippi and northern Alabama. New Orleans was captured April 29 by a combined Army-Navy force under U.S. Admiral David Farragut, and the Confederacy lost control of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It had to concede extensive agricultural resources that had supported the Union’s sea-supplied logistics base.
Although Confederates had suffered major reverses everywhere, as of the end of April the Confederacy still controlled territory holding 72% of its population. Federal forces disrupted Missouri and Arkansas; they had broken through in western Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana. Along the Confederacy’s shores, Union forces had closed ports and made garrisoned lodgments on every coastal Confederate state except Alabama and Texas. Although scholars sometimes assess the Union blockade as ineffectual under international law until the last few months of the war, from the first months it disrupted Confederate privateers, making it “almost impossible to bring their prizes into Confederate ports”. British firms developed small fleets of blockade running companies, such as John Fraser and Company, and the Ordnance Department secured its own blockade runners for dedicated munitions cargoes.
During the Civil War fleets of armored warships were deployed for the first time in sustained blockades at sea. After some success against the Union blockade, in March 1862, the ironclad CSS Virginia was forced into port and burned by Confederates at their retreat. Despite several attempts mounted from their port cities, Confederate naval forces were unable to break the Union blockade. Attempts were made by Commodore Josiah Tattnall’s ironclads from Savannah in 1862 with the CSS Atlanta. Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory placed his hopes in a European-built ironclad fleet, but they were never realized. On the other hand, four new English-built commerce raiders served the Confederacy, and several fast blockade runners were sold in Confederate ports. They were converted into commerce-raiding cruisers, and manned by their British crews.
In 1862, a 2 cent stamp of Andrew Jackson appeared, in green (Scott #3), and was issued imperforate. This issue was again lithographed by Hoyer & Ludwig of Richmond, Virginia. Only one transfer stone used in this printing. The earliest known usage of this stamp was March 21, 1862. Sheets of this issue consisted of two panes of 100 stamps each arranged in two blocks of fifty (10X5) taken from the 50-subject transfer stone with a wide vertical gutter between panes. This was the last lithographed stamp produced by the Confederate Post Office.
Also in 1862, a new 5¢ stamp of Davis, this time utilizing typography, was issued in large quantities. Produced by the De La Rue firm in London (which had been supplying postage stamps for England since 1855), it employed an engraving of Davis by Ferdinand Joubert (1810–1884). De La Rue shipped 12,000,000 copies of this issue (Scott #6) to the Confederacy, accompanied by a set of printing plates and a supply of English paper so that additional copies could be produced locally. More than 36,000,000 of the 5¢ Davis stamps were subsequently printed from the De La Rue plates by Archer and Daly in Richmond. Archer and Daly eventually ran out of the English paper, and their later printings on Confederate paper tended to become increasingly coarse (Scott #7), with individual examples exhibiting blank areas in the design from plate damage or filled in areas due to plate wear.
De La Rue also printed and shipped a typographed 1 cent orange stamp depicting John C. Calhoun (Scott #14). The Confederate Post office had planned to reduce the drop-letter rate to one cent, but this proved impractical and, as a result, the 1¢ stamp was never put into use. Joubert De La Ferte again engraved the central image of Calhoun, placing it in the same framework design used for the Jefferson Davis 5 cent issue, a clear attempt to show that the two stamps were part of the same series. Later, De La Rue sent altered plates of both typographed stamps to the Confederacy with revised denominations, intended for 2-cent Calhoun and 10-cent Davis issues, but neither stamp was put into production. The printed versions of these that are sometimes seen all date from the twentieth century, and cannot be considered true Confederate stamps.
In the east, Union forces could not close on Richmond. General McClellan landed his army on the Lower Peninsula of Virginia. Lee subsequently ended that threat from the east, then Union General John Pope attacked overland from the north only to be repulsed at Second Bull Run (Second Manassas). Lee’s strike north was turned back at Antietam MD, then Union Major General Ambrose Burnside’s offensive was disastrously ended at Fredericksburg VA in December. Both armies then turned to winter quarters to recruit and train for the coming spring.
In an attempt to seize the initiative, reprovision, protect farms in mid-growing season and influence U.S. Congressional elections, two major Confederate incursions into Union territory were launched in August and September 1862. Both Braxton Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky and Lee’s invasion of Maryland were decisively repulsed, leaving Confederates in control of but 63% of its population. The failures of the two invasions were attributed to the same irrecoverable shortcomings: lack of manpower at the front, lack of supplies including serviceable shoes, and exhaustion after long marches without adequate food. Also in September, Confederate General William W. Loring pushed Federal forces from Charleston, Virginia, and the Kanawha Valley in western Virginia, but lacking reinforcements Loring abandoned his position and by November the region was back in Federal control.
The failed Middle Tennessee campaign was ended January 2, 1863 at the inconclusive Battle of Stones River, (Murfreesboro), both sides losing the largest percentage of casualties suffered during the war. It was followed by another strategic withdrawal by Confederate forces. The Confederacy won a significant victory in April 1863, repulsing the Federal advance on Richmond at Chancellorsville, but the Union consolidated positions along the Virginia coast and the Chesapeake Bay.
In 1863, a new 2 cent Andrew Jackson stamp design appeared, engraved in steel by Frederick Halpin and printed by Archer & Daly in pale red (Scott #8a). A second printing appeared in brown red (Scott #8). Line-engraving would be employed in all subsequent Confederate stamps.
Also in 1863, a 10 cent stamp was released bearing the profile of Jefferson Davis in blue. This issue was designed and engraved on steel by John Archer and transferred to either copper plates or steel plates. Many shades of exist for these stamps, ranging from light milky blue and darker blue to shades that tend toward greenish blue and green. There are four similar designs of engraved ten cent stamps. The easiest to distinguish from the other three has the value expressed as TEN (Scott #9). The portrait of Jefferson Davis was designed and line engraved by John Archer, and then transferred to a copper plate. This issue was imperforate and was printed on soft, porous paper of varying thickness and with colorless gum. The earliest recorded usage is April 23, 1863. Color variations occur from dark-blue to gray-blue.
The next easiest to distinguish (on which the value is expressed as 10) has straight lines enclosing the design in a rectangle (Scott #10). Several distinct shades of blue occur in this printing. The earliest recorded usage is April 23, 1863. All of these were printed by Archer and Daly of Richmond. This “frame-line” variety is by far the rarest of the stamps issued by the Confederate Post Office.
The Type I 10 cent Jefferson Davis stamp (Scott #11), initially printed by Archer & Daly, Bank Note Engravers, Richmond, Virginia, employs the same engraving as the “Frame Line” issue but without the frame lines. There were approximately 23,800,000 stamps printed from two plates, each with two panes of one hundred. The earliest recorded usage is April 21, 1863. Type II (Scott #12), also at first printed by Archer & Daly, is very similar to Type I. Frederick Halpin designed and engraved the image of Davis. The corner ornaments are filled, and a faint line follows the outside of the design and encloses it. The Archer & Daly plates for both Type I and Type II were moved from Richmond to Columbia, South Carolina, when the fall of Richmond became imminent in late 1864. The company of Keatinge & Ball then printed the two stamps. A small number of Types I and II in Archer & Daly printings were perforated and released for use by the Confederate Post Office Department in 1864. The perforations (gauge 12½) on these were often of notably poor quality, and forgeries abound, many of which betray themselves by perforations that either employ the wrong gauge or are cut too crisply.
A 20 cent stamp portraying George Washington also appeared in 1863 (Scott #13), again employing a design engraved in steel by Halpin and printed by Archer & Daly. This issue saw only limited use, with the result that genuine used copies are today worth 10 times more than mint examples.
Without an effective answer to Federal gunboats, river transport and supply, the Confederacy lost the Mississippi River following the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Port Hudson in July 1863, ending Southern access to the Trans-Mississippi West. July brought short-lived counters, Morgan’s Raid into Ohio and the New York City draft riots. Robert E. Lee’s strike into Pennsylvania was repulsed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania despite Pickett’s famous charge and other acts of valor. Southern newspapers assessed the campaign as “The Confederates did not gain a victory, neither did the enemy.”
September and November 1863 left the Confederacy yielding Chattanooga, Tennessee, the gateway to the lower south. For the remainder of the war, fighting was restricted inside the South resulting in a slow but continuous loss of territory. In early 1864, the Confederacy still controlled 53% of its population, but it withdrew further to reestablish defensive positions. Union offensives continued with Sherman’s March to the Sea to take Savannah and Grant’s Wilderness Campaign to encircle Richmond and besiege Lee’s army at Petersburg.
In April 1863, the Confederate States Congress authorized a uniformed Volunteer Navy, many of whom were British. Wilmington and Charleston had more shipping while “blockaded” than before the beginning of hostilities. The Confederacy had altogether eighteen commerce destroying cruisers, which seriously disrupted Federal commerce at sea and increased shipping insurance rates 900 percent. Commodore Tattnall unsuccessfully attempted to break the Union blockade on the Savannah River GA with an ironclad again in 1863. Beginning in April 1864, the ironclad CSS Albemarle engaged Union gunboats and sank or cleared them for six months on the Roanoke River NC. The Federals closed Mobile Bay by sea-based amphibious assault in August, ending Gulf coast trade east of the Mississippi River. In December, the Battle of Nashville ended Confederate operations in the western theater.
Large numbers of families relocated to safer places, usually remote rural areas, bringing along household slaves if they had any. The first three months of 1865 saw the Federal Carolinas Campaign, devastating a wide swath of the remaining Confederate heartland. The “breadbasket of the Confederacy” in the Great Valley of Virginia was occupied by Philip Sheridan. The Union Blockade captured Fort Fisher NC, and Sherman finally took Charleston SC by land attack.
The Confederacy controlled no ports, harbors or navigable rivers. Railroads were captured or had ceased operating. Its major food producing regions had been war-ravaged or occupied. Its administration survived in only three pockets of territory, holding one-third its population. Its armies were defeated or disbanding. At the February 1865 Hampton Roads Conference with Lincoln, senior Confederate officials rejected his invitation to restore the Union with compensation for emancipated slaves. The three pockets of unoccupied Confederacy were southern Virginia-North Carolina, central Alabama-Florida, and Texas, the latter two areas less from any notion of resistance than from the disinterest of Federal forces to occupy them. The Davis policy was independence or nothing, while Lee’s army was wracked by disease and desertion, barely holding the trenches defending Jefferson Davis’ capital.
The Confederacy’s last remaining blockade-running port, Wilmington, North Carolina, was lost. When the Union broke through Lee’s lines at Petersburg, Richmond fell immediately. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. “The Surrender” marked the end of the Confederacy. The CSS Stonewall sailed from Europe to break the Union blockade in March; on making Havana, Cuba it surrendered. Some high officials escaped to Europe, but President Davis was captured May 10; all remaining Confederate land forces surrendered by June 1865. The U.S. Army took control of the Confederate areas without post-surrender insurgency or guerrilla warfare against them, but peace was subsequently marred by a great deal of local violence, feuding and revenge killings.
During the American Civil War, mail sent from the South to the North states was received, opened and inspected at Fortress Monroe on the Virginia coast before being passed on into the U.S. mail stream. Mail sent from the North to the South passed at City Point, also in Virginia, where it was also inspected before being sent on. With the chaos of the war, a working postal system was more important than ever for the Confederacy. The Civil War had divided family members and friends and consequently letter writing naturally increased dramatically across the entire divided nation, especially to and from the men who were away serving in an army. Mail delivery was also important for the Confederacy for a myriad of business and military reasons. Because of the Union blockade, basic supplies were always in demand and so getting mailed correspondence out of the country to suppliers was imperative to the successful operation of the Confederacy.
Volumes of material have been written about the Blockade runners who evaded Union ships on blockade patrol, usually at night, and who moved cargo and mail in and out of the Confederate States throughout the course of the war. Of particular interest to students and historians of the American Civil War is Prisoner of War mail and Blockade mail as these items were often involved with a variety of military and other war time activities. The postal history of the Confederacy along with surviving Confederate mail has helped historians document the various people, places and events that were involved in the American Civil War as it unfolded.
A considerable number of Confederate covers survived the Civil War and through the many years since they were mailed and have been avidly sought after and preserved by historians and collectors alike. Letters written by soldiers reveal how they would frequently ask parents, wives and family members to write often and to also ask others to write letters back to them. As mail sent to and from the soldiers became more commonplace in the mail streams of the divided states, various Christian charity groups provided pens, paper and envelopes for the soldiers in response to their constant need for these items, since soldiers on active duty during wartime rarely had the opportunity to buy these things. The variety of mail from this time period provides the student of Civil War history with an excellent cross-reference of the history involved then.
Special categories of interest include covers to and from soldiers, patriotic covers, prisoner-of-war covers, Flag of Truce and through-the-lines mail, mail carried by blockade runners to and from Europe, and a variety of other types. All of these specialties have been intensively studied. Although contemporary official records are often fragmentary or missing, and many details remain unclear, the covers with their addresses, dated postmarks, special markings and the letters themselves have provided much insight for historians and collectors in their studies of Civil War postal history.
Some forging of material went on in the late nineteenth century, and authentication is a challenge for experts. As a rule of thumb a collector should be wary of fancy cancels on Confederate mail, as the CSA Post Office never used fancy cancels. Other common types of forgeries include added stamps to a cover and forged postmarks. Another common oversight of the forger is postmarking stamps with dates before the stamp was issued. Many collectors over the years have marked or destroyed fakes and forgeries upon identification in an effort to keep the collecting pool safe from such material. This is a practice common to most of philately.
During the American Civil War the number of Union and Confederate soldiers in prisoner of war prisons and camps would reach an astonishing one and a half million men. The prison population at the Andersonville Confederate POW camp alone reached 45,000 men by the war’s end. At the onset of the war the United States did not recognize the legitimacy of the Confederate States and refused to establish a system that allowed for a formal prisoner and mail exchange. By the summer of 1862, more than a year into the war, prison populations in the north were at alarming proportions and the US government began to see the necessity of a prisoner and mail exchange system. On July 2, 1862 it signed what was referred to as a Prisoner exchange cartel, and by September of that year prison populations were almost emptied. However, as the war dragged on the United States government had increasing distrust for the Confederate government and stopped the prisoner and mail exchanges in June 1863, less than a year after it had signed the exchange agreement.
Flag of Truce mail exchanges resumed a month later and were used until the end of the war. Prisoner mail that was carried by Flag-of-Truce had to be put in an unsealed envelope with address and postage for delivery on the other side, then placed in an outer cover for delivery to the exchange point where the outer envelope would be destroyed and the inner envelope containing the prisoner’s letter was inspected. The letter would then be placed in and sealed in the stamped addressed envelope and hand-stamped indicating that the item had been inspected.
Often correspondents did not observe the two-envelope regulation, so there are examples of covers where instead of an inner and outer envelope arrangement both U.S. and Confederate postage was applied to the prisoner’s letter and where both U.S. and Confederate markings were applied. These covers are often referred to as dual-use postage covers Mail exchange between the divided states was only allowed to cross the lines at specified exchange points. Mail which was going from the North destined to points in the South passed primarily at City Point, Virginia, while most of the mail going from the South to the North passed through at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, and usually bear an Old Point Comfort postmark.
A prisoner’s cover was usually docketed with the prisoner’s name, rank, and company. The marking, “Examined”, on the face of the cover, usually in manuscript, indicated that the cover had been opened and examined by prison officials. Once at the exchange point, the outer envelope was removed and discarded while the inner cover containing the prisoner’s letter was examined by military officials and delivered. There also exist covers that were carried to transfer points by exchanged prisoners and consequently bear no confederate examiner’s markings. Mail to and from the various military prisons and prison camps is one of the most intriguing and challenging areas in Civil War postal history. Letters addressed to the various prisoner of war prisons are in most cases much scarcer than letters sent from these facilities. The south had its paper shortages, and because Confederate prisons limited the amount of correspondence mail from Confederate prisons is much rarer than mail from Union prisons.
By the end of the war deterioration of the Southern infrastructure was widespread. The number of civilian deaths is unknown. Most of the war was fought in Virginia and Tennessee, but every Confederate state was affected as well as Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Indian Territory. Texas and Florida saw the least military action. Much of the damage was caused by military action, but most was caused by lack of repairs and upkeep, and by deliberately using up resources. Historians have recently estimated how much of the devastation was caused by military action. Military operations were conducted in 56% of 645 counties in nine Confederate states (excluding Texas and Florida). These counties contained 63% of the 1860 white population and 64% of the slaves. By the time the fighting took place, undoubtedly some people had fled to safer areas, so the exact population exposed to war is unknown.
The eleven Confederate States in the 1860 United States Census had 297 towns and cities with 835,000 people; of these, 162 with 681,000 people were at one point occupied by Union forces. Eleven were destroyed or severely damaged by war action, including Atlanta (with an 1860 population of 9,600), Charleston, Columbia, and Richmond (with prewar populations of 40,500, 8,100, and 37,900, respectively); the eleven contained 115,900 people in the 1860 census, or 14% of the urban South. Historians have not estimated what their actual population was when Union forces arrived. The number of people (as of 1860) who lived in the destroyed towns represented just over 1% of the Confederacy’s 1860 population. In addition, 45 court houses were burned (out of 830). The South’s agriculture was not highly mechanized. The value of farm implements and machinery in the 1860 Census was $81 million; by 1870, there was 40% less, worth just $48 million. Many old tools had broken through heavy use; new tools were rarely available; even repairs were difficult.
The economic losses affected everyone. Banks and insurance companies were mostly bankrupt. Confederate currency and bonds were worthless. The billions of dollars invested in slaves vanished. However, most debts were left behind. Most farms were intact but most had lost their horses, mules and cattle; fences and barns were in disrepair. The loss of infrastructure and productive capacity meant that rural widows throughout the region faced not only the absence of able-bodied men, but a depleted stock of material resources that they could manage and operate themselves. During four years of warfare, disruption, and blockades, the South used up about half its capital stock. The North, by contrast, absorbed its material losses so effortlessly that it appeared richer at the end of the war than at the beginning. The rebuilding would take years and was hindered by the low price of cotton after the war. Outside investment was essential, especially in railroads.
Scott #11 portrays Jefferson Davis. Born in Kentucky to a moderately prosperous farmer on June 3, 1808, Jefferson grew up on his older brother Joseph’s large cotton plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana. Joseph Davis also secured his appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduating, Jefferson Davis served six years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He fought in the Mexican–American War (1846–1848), as the colonel of a volunteer regiment. He served as the U.S. Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857 under President Franklin Pierce, and as a Democratic U.S. senator from Mississippi. Before the war, he operated a large cotton plantation in Mississippi and owned more than 100 slaves. After the war had ended, he remained a proud apologist for the cause of slavery for which he and the Confederacy had fought. Although Davis argued against secession in 1858, he believed that each state was sovereign and had an unquestionable right to secede from the Union.
The Montgomery Convention to establish the Confederacy and its executive met February 4, 1861. Each state as a sovereignty had one vote, with the same delegation size as it held in the U.S. Congress, and generally 41 to 50 members attended. Offices were “provisional”, limited to a term not to exceed one year. One name was placed in nomination for president, one for vice president. Both were elected unanimously, 6–0.
Jefferson Davis was elected provisional president. His U.S. Senate resignation speech greatly impressed with its clear rationale for secession and his pleading for a peaceful departure from the Union to independence. Although he had made it known that he wanted to be commander-in-chief of the Confederate armies, when elected, he assumed the office of Provisional President. Three candidates for provisional Vice President were under consideration the night before the February 9 election. All were from Georgia, and the various delegations meeting in different places determined two would not do, so Alexander Stephens was elected unanimously provisional Vice President, though with some privately held reservations. Stephens was inaugurated February 11, Davis February 18, 1861.
Davis and Stephens were elected President and Vice President, unopposed on November 6, 1861. They were inaugurated on February 22, 1862.
Historian E. M. Coulter observed, “No president of the U.S. ever had a more difficult task.” Washington was inaugurated in peacetime. Lincoln inherited an established government of long standing. The creation of the Confederacy was accomplished by men who saw themselves as fundamentally conservative. Although they referred to their “Revolution”, it was in their eyes more a counter-revolution against changes away from their understanding of U.S. founding documents. In Davis’ inauguration speech, he explained the Confederacy was not a French-like revolution, but a transfer of rule. The Montgomery Convention had assumed all the laws of the United States until superseded by the Confederate Congress.
The Permanent Constitution provided for a President of the Confederate States of America, elected to serve a six-year term but without the possibility of re-election. Unlike the United States Constitution, the Confederate Constitution gave the president the ability to subject a bill to a line item veto, a power also held by some state governors. The Confederate Congress could overturn either the general or the line item vetoes with the same two-thirds votes required in the U.S. Congress. In addition, appropriations not specifically requested by the executive branch required passage by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. The only person to serve as president was Jefferson Davis, due to the Confederacy being defeated before the completion of his term.
Many historians attribute the Confederacy’s weaknesses to the poor leadership of President Davis. His preoccupation with detail, reluctance to delegate responsibility, lack of popular appeal, feuds with powerful state governors and generals, favoritism toward old friends, inability to get along with people who disagreed with him, neglect of civil matters in favor of military ones, and resistance to public opinion all worked against him. Historians agree he was a much less effective war leader than his Union counterpart Abraham Lincoln. After Davis was captured in 1865, he was accused of treason. He was never tried and was released after two years.
While not disgraced, Davis had been displaced in ex-Confederate affection after the war by his leading general, Robert E. Lee. Davis wrote a memoir entitled The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, which he completed in 1881. By the late 1880’s, he began to encourage reconciliation, telling Southerners to be loyal to the Union. Ex-Confederates came to appreciate his role in the war, seeing him as a Southern patriot, and he became a hero of the Lost Cause in the post-Reconstruction South.