INTRODUCTION TO CONFEDERATE STATES STAMPS AND POSTAL HISTORY

John L. Kimbrough MD

Conrad L Bush

This article was published in the January 1999 issue of Scott's Stamps Monthly. The text is the same as that published in the magazine but has been reformatted for better screen presentation particularly in the General Issue Stamp section. All 18 of the original illustrations are also included. Just click on the figure number within the text to view the illustration and use the back button to return to the document. Please feel free to print out the article for future reference.

Part I -- INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this article is to provide assistance to the Confederate collector in understanding this complicated field that we call Confederate Philately. This article is written mainly for the beginning Confederate collector, but even the most advanced collector may find it of value. The Confederate Period (1861-1865) is very limited while at the same time being very diversified. Confederate collecting is also very much about "history" as the War Between the States is considered by many historians as being the defining period in our country's history. Confederate collecting can be very simple or it can be as challenging as one wishes to make it. If the collector also has a commitment to our country's history, then Confederate collecting can be extremely rewarding.

In all areas of philately, knowledge is essential. And knowledge is contained in books. To become knowledgeable in any philatelic area, the collector must immediately begin to build his own philatelic reference library. The beginning Confederate collector should make every effort to acquire the New Dietz Confederate States Handbook and Catalog 1986 as this is the major reference work in use today. The 1959 edition of this book is also an excellent item to have for your library. Another choice for basic information is the Confederate States section of the Scott USA Specialized Catalog. One should be aware that the Scott Catalog is far from complete and cannot be relied upon as the sole reference work in more advanced areas of CSA collecting, but it is still adequate from a beginning point of view. There are also numerous monographs, pamphlets, and other books and publications dealing with individual aspects of CSA Philately.

The national organization for Confederate Collectors is the Confederate Stamp Alliance (CSA) with over 700 members across the USA and in a number of foreign countries. The Confederate Stamp Alliance is entirely non-political, and membership is open to anyone with an interest in Confederate Philately. One of the real advantages to being a member is the bi-monthly award winning journal, The Confederate Philatelist, in which many of the new discoveries are reported and discussed. Other advantages to membership are access to a Confederate Authentication Service, and also the annual convention and exhibition held at various major shows across the country. The 1999 CSA Convention will be held 5-7 February 1999 at the Sarasota, Florida National Stamp Exhibition.

The name of August Dietz (1869-1963) is always heard in any discussion regarding Confederate Philately. He wrote the definitive research work entitled The Postal Service of the Confederate States of America in 1929. This book was reprinted in 1989 and still remains the definitive work on the subject. August Dietz essentially single-handedly organized, wrote and published the first Confederate States Catalog in 1931 -- the catalog which still bears his name. In addition, he was a founding father of the Confederate Stamp Alliance in 1935. His honorary title as the "Father of Confederate Philately" is most appropriate.

Part II -- DATES

In order to work successfully in the area of Confederate Stamps and Postal History, the collector must have a good working knowledge of certain specific dates as well as a good general knowledge of the history of the period.

One of the issues concerning the War Between the States was that of the individual rights of the states. Does a state once it has voluntarily joined the Union have the right to secede from that union whenever it wishes? The Southern States said "YES." The Northern States and the Federal Government said "NO." The answer to that question was determined by the outcome of the war itself. The purpose of this short political digression was to make it abundantly clear that in order to understand Confederate Postal History, one must be acquainted with the postal history of each of the separate Confederate States as well as understanding the political climate of the day.

The Confederate Period begins 20 DEC 1860. This is a well-defined beginning as it is the date that South Carolina (the first Confederate State) seceded. In all, the Confederacy would officially number 11 seceded states plus 2 divided states. The next important date to remember is 4 FEB 1861 which is the date that the first 6 seceded states joined together to form the central government of the Confederate States of America with Jefferson Davis as the provisional president and Montgomery, Alabama as the capital city. The capital would later move to Richmond after the secession of Virginia. The actual war began 12 APR 1861 with the bombardment of Fort Sumter. The end of the war is generally accepted as 9 APR 1865 when General Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia although certain other military units did not surrender until much later with the last military force in the Trans-Mississippi area surrendering on 26 MAY 1865. Jefferson Davis was captured in Georgia in MAY 1865. The last shot of the war is recorded as being fired by the Confederate Naval Cruiser "Shenandoah" in an attack on Union whaling vessels in the North Pacific on 28 JUN 1865. The actual end of the Confederacy is therefore a blurred date. The current latest known legitimate use of a CSA cover with a General Issue stamp is 22 MAY 1865 and is from the Trans- Mississippi area. There is also a recently discovered CSA "PAID" cover from Seguin, Texas used 4 JUN 1865 (The Confederate Philatelist Vol 40 No 3 May-June 1995).

What follows is a list of the 13 Confederate States with the date of secession and the date that each state joined the CSA. These dates are extremely important. The Secession Table below differs from the one in the Dietz Catalogs as this table is based on new research published by Brian Green in The Confederate Philatelist journal in the May-June 1991 issue. These recent changes are very important and affect the states of Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. This table has been accepted and published also in the Scott USA Specialized Catalog.

Secession Table

Secession Date Joined CSA Independent USA Used CSA
South Carolina 20 Dec 1860 4 Feb 1861 46 days 117 days
Mississippi 9 Jan 1861 4 Feb 1861 26 days 117 days
Florida 10 Jan 1861 4 Feb 1861 25 days 117 days
Alabama 11 Jan 1861 4 Feb 1861 24 days 117 days
Georgia 19 Jan 1861 4 Feb 1861 16 days 117 days
Louisiana 26 Jan 1861 4 Feb 1861 9 days 117 days
Texas 1 Feb 1861 6 Mar 1861 33 days 87 days
Virginia 17 Apr 1861 7 May 1861 20 days 25 days
Arkansas 6 May 1861 18 May 1861 12 days 14 days
Tennessee 6 May 1861 2 Jul 1861 57 days None
North Carolina 20 May 1861 27 May 1861 7 days 5 days
Missouri 28 Nov 1861 None None
Kentucky 9 Dec 1861 None None

Missouri and Kentucky officially remained Union States. However, these two states each had a separate rival Confederate Government which passed an unofficial Ordnance of Secession and sent representatives to the Confederate Congress. The date given in the above table for these two states is the date that the CSA central government recognized the rival state government as a true member of the Confederate States of America and gave these two states a star in the Confederate Flag. Legitimate CSA postal usage is known from both Missouri and Kentucky. Missouri usage is incredibly scarce and mostly comes from the extreme southern part of the state. Kentucky usage is limited to a small southwest corner of the state under the control of the Confederate Army SEP 1861 to FEB 1862 (Figure 1). Outside of Missouri and Kentucky, Arkansas is the scarcest of the CSA state usages followed by Florida and then Texas. Virginia is the most common. The others fall somewhere in between.

PART III -- 1861

There is no more confusing time period in USA and CSA Postal History collecting then the year 1861. The central government of the Confederate States of America took form on 4 FEB 1861. However, the Confederate Postal Service did not begin operations until 1 JUN 1861. For the first five months of 1861, the United States Postal Service continued to operate and deliver the mails without interruption in all the seceded states through 31 MAY 1861. All United States stamps and rates were valid during that time within the seceded states. Mail flowed freely between North and South. Therefore, in CSA Postal History, there are two distinct and very important periods for each of the seceded states where US Stamps and Postal Stationery were used. To understand this, please refer to the secession table above. The time period between the "Date of Secession" for the individual state and the "Date Joined the CSA" for that state is termed INDEPENDENT STATE USAGE (Figure 2). The time period between the "Date Joined the CSA" and 31 MAY 1861 is termed US USED IN THE CSA (Figure 3). For example, the "Independent State Usage" period for Texas is 1 FEB 1861 through 5 MAR 1861; and the "US Used in the CSA" period is 6 MAR 1861 through 31 MAY 1861. These time periods are obviously different for each of the first 11 Confederate States. Tennessee did not join the CSA until 2 JUL 1861 and therefore does not have a "US Used in the CSA" period. Kentucky and Missouri did not officially secede.

The common stamps in use during that time were the issues of 1857, particularly Scott #26. The Postal Stationery issues of 1854 and 1860 (Star Die) were also commonly used. USA covers with Southern postmarks with these issues must be examined closely to see if they fall into any of the above described CSA usage categories. Sometimes this can only be done by having the original letter or by period docketting confirming the 1861 year date as many postmarks of the period did not contain the year. The exception is the USA Star Die item of postal stationery. The Star Die was issued in OCT 1860. In the summer of 1861, the USA issued new stamps and demonitized all the prior stamps and postal stationery to prevent their being used by the Confederacy. This included the Star Die. Thus a Star Die with an OCT, NOV, DEC postmark must be 1860; and a Star Die dated JAN - MAY must be 1861. It is not necessary on a Star Die to have any other date verification.

PART IV -- HANDSTAMP PAIDS

On 1 JUN 1861, the United States Postal Service ceased all operations in the seceded states. The Confederate Postal Service took over all the existing USA post offices within the CSA. New rates were also established. The rates instituted by the CSA were very simple:

5 cents per 1/2 oz under 500 miles

10 cents per 1/2 oz over 500 miles

2 cents drop letter and circular

"Drop Letter" refers to a letter that was "dropped" at a post office and then the addressee would come and pick the letter up at the same post office. Drop Letters did not travel between post offices. A "Circular" refers to a printed business document or a newspaper that was sent with either a wrapper or in an unsealed envelope. These rates were in effect 1 JUN 1861 through 30 JUN 1862. On 1 JUL 1862, the 5c rate was eliminated. The standard rate then became a uniform 10c per 1/2 oz for any distance. Since the CSA had no postal treaties with any foreign country including the United States, there were no separate overseas or foreign rates. There was also a somewhat obscure 50c Express Rate with covers showing this rate being very scarce and extremely expensive. After the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson on the Mississippi River in JUL 1863, a special 40c per 1/2 oz Trans-Mississippi Rate was put into effect in late 1863 to pay the extra charges of smuggling the mail across a Union controlled Mississippi River (Figure 4). Again, covers showing this special rate are rare and expensive. Covers that went through the blockade to and from Europe and elsewhere do exist (Figure 5). These are all very highly specialized fields.

The Confederate government did contract for the printing of postage stamps to conform with the new CSA rates. However, the actual printing of the stamps and the distribution to the post offices particularly to the small rural towns was slow. When 1 JUN 1861 dawned, there were no Confederate stamps available. Postmasters resorted to simple handstamp devices showing that the postage had been pre-paid. Many post offices were too small to have a handstamp device. When that was the case, the covers were then postmarked and rated all in manuscript (Figure 6). Handstamp and Manuscript PAID covers are common in the early months of the Confederacy but generally fade from usage as postage stamps became more readily available.

Handstamp PAIDS should not be confused with Handstamp PROVISIONALS. Many times one will hear these two terms used synonymously. They are not the same thing. The Handstamp PAIDS were covers that were date and rate stamped at the time that they were presented for posting and are by far the most common of the two types of Handstamp covers (Figure 7). In order for the cover to classify as a Handstamp PROVISIONAL, proof must exist to show that the cover was prepared and sold in advance much like unused embossed envelopes are sold in advance today. The proof of a Handstamp PROVISIONAL usage lies either in the existence of a known unused copy of the markings on cover or written documentation from the Confederate Postmaster stating that the item was indeed prepared in advance. This is a difficult concept to grasp (and also somewhat controversial among some advanced collectors) but nevertheless a very important one as Handstamp PROVISIONAL covers are by and large scarce and are generally many times considerably more valuable than ordinary Handstamp PAIDS (Figure 8).

PART V -- SOLDIERS DUES

Soldiers in the Confederate Army were allowed to send letters unpaid. This does not mean that the letters were sent free. Such letters were generally gathered together by an army postal clerk and taken to the nearest regular post office and mailed with either a handstamp or a manuscript "DUE" mark as the postage was then to be collected from the addressee on delivery. In order for the cover to be a valid Soldiers Due item, the Confederate Postal Regulations stated that it had to be endorsed with the soldier's name, rank and unit (Figure 1). But this regulation was not always followed to the letter. The various regimental endorsements and military addresses that exist on many CSA covers make for an extremely interesting collection. As an aside to this, there was no free franking privilege in the CSA with the sole exception of Postal Service Official Business (Figure 2) (Figure 9) . Even the President had to pay his own postage. Forwarding was also not free. Forwarded covers had to have the additional postage paid in advance or collected from the addressee on delivery (Figure 10) .

PART VI -- ADVERSITY COVERS

As the war dragged on, the South began to experience severe shortages including paper for envelopes and letters. This led to the phenomenon known as ADVERSITY COVERS. Envelopes would be refolded and used a second time (known as Turned Covers) (Figure 11). Envelopes were made out of whatever paper was handy. We see envelopes made from book pages, printed forms, ledger sheets, old letters, maps -- the list of paper items used to make Confederate envelopes can be as long as your imagination. Certainly the most famous and the most desirable adversity covers are those made from WALLPAPER (Figure 12). They are very often extremely colorful and are indicative of the times.

PART VII -- MISCELLANEOUS COVERS

In addition to the major classifications listed above, there is also a long list of subcatagories of Postal History. The more prominent of these subcatagories will be simply listed here as a full description is beyond the scope of this introductory article. To learn more about these items, the collector is referred to the more specialized publications on CSA Postal History and the Dietz Catalogs.

PART VIII -- PROVISIONAL ADHESIVE POSTAGE STAMPS

During the summer of 1861 when there were no Confederate postage stamps available, a few enterprising postmasters contracted with local printers with the full permission of the CSA government to print their own stamps solely for local use and only until such time as regular issue Confederate stamps were available. Thus we have local Confederate "Postmaster Provisional Stamps" from such cities as New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, Mobile to name but a few. A listing of these Provisional stamps can be found in the Dietz Catalog and the Scott USA Specialized Catalog. These stamps saw only limited service and are really quite scarce today as individual genuinely used stamps on or off cover. Collecting in this highly specialized area requires considerable knowledge. Since these stamps were all privately printed, the quality of the printing varies from reasonably well done to outright crude. The most commonly seen Provisional stamps today are from New Orleans, the Confederacy's largest city (Figure 17).

Severe pitfalls do exist where Confederate Provisional Stamps are concerned. Even as early as 1865, European philatelists of the day recognized their extreme scarcity. However, for reasons which we cannot begin to explain today, the stamp album makers of the latter part of the 19th Century illustrated all these scarce stamps in their albums. When it became apparent that collectors simply were unable to acquire these stamps to fill their albums, Scott and Taylor (and others) near the turn of the century reproduced and reprinted these scarce issues by the thousand just so the collectors of the day would have something to put into their albums. Therefore, most of the Confederate provisional stamps that are found today in older collections are fakes and reprints and are of very little value. In some cases, it is very easy to tell the difference between a reprint and the genuine stamp. In other instances, it can be extremely difficult. When in doubt, ask an expert. In no other area of Confederate Philately does fakery, reprinting, and phony postal history abound as it does with the provisional issues.

PART IX -- GENERAL ISSUE STAMPS

On 16 OCT 1861, Confederate general issue postage stamps made their first appearance. The Confederacy would issue 13 different major stamps (16 stamps when the different printers are taken into consideration) which would see postal usage. One stamp (Scott #14) was printed but never issued and therefore saw no postal usage. A complete type set of CSA stamps would therefore consist of a total of 17 stamps (Figure 18). If the collector wished, an infinite variety of color shades, plate flaws, etc can be studied as well. The collection of CSA General Issues can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Below is a table showing the basic set of 17 stamps with the pertinent information. For more precise details on the stamps, the collector is referred to the Confederate States Section of the Scott USA Specialized Catalog or to the Dietz Catalogs.

General Issue Stamps

To see an illustration with additional information about the stamp, click on the Scott Number and then use the back button to return to this page.

Scott #1
5c Green (Jefferson Davis)
  • Stone Lithograph (H&L)
  • Earliest Use 16 OCT 1861
  • Quantity Issued 9,250,000
Scott #2
10c Blue (Thomas Jefferson)
  • Stone Lithograph (H&L)
  • Earliest Use 8 NOV 1861
  • Quantity Issued 1,400,000
Scott #2
10c Blue (Thomas Jefferson)
  • Stone Lithograph (Paterson)
  • Earliest Use 25 JUL 1862
  • Quantity Issued 4,650,000
Scott #3
2c Green (Andrew Jackson)
  • Stone Lithograph (H&L)
  • Earliest Use 21 MAR 1862
  • Quantity Issued 750,000
Scott #4
5c Blue (Jefferson Davis)
  • Stone Lithograph (H&L)
  • Earliest Use 26 FEB 1862
  • Quantity Issued 6,700,000
Scott #5
10c Rose (Thomas Jefferson)
  • Stone Lithograph (H&L)
  • Earliest Use 10 MAR 1862
  • Quantity Issued 6,700,000
Scott #6
5c Blue (Jefferson Davis)
  • Typograph (De La Rue)
  • Earliest Use 16 APR 1862
  • Quantity Issued 12,000,000
Scott #7
5c Blue (Jefferson Davis)
  • Typograph (A&D)
  • Earliest Use 25 JUL 1862
  • Quantity Issued 36,250,000
Scott #8
2c Red-Brown (Andrew Jackson)
  • Line Engraved (A&D
  • Earliest Use 21 APR 1863
  • Quantity Issued 1,650,000
  • Scott #9
    10c Blue (T-E-N) (Jefferson Davis)
    • Line Engraved (A&D)
    • Earliest Use 23 APR 1863
    • Quantity Issued 1,000,000
  • Scott #10
    10c Blue (Frame Line) (Jefferson Davis)
    • Line Engraved (A&D)
    • Earliest Use 19 APR 1863
    • Quantity Issued 500,000
    Scott #11
    10c Blue / Green (Jefferson Davis)
    • Line Engraved (A&D)
    • Earliest Use 21 APR 1863
    • Quantity Issued - See Below **
    • All Color shades from Dark Blue to Greenish-Blue to true Green
    Scott #11
    10c Blue (Jefferson Davis)
    • Line Engraved (K&B)
    • Earliest Use 4 OCT 1864
    • Quantity Issued - See Below **
    Scott #12
    10c Blue / Green (Jefferson Davis)
    • Line Engraved (A&D)
    • Earliest Use 1 MAY 1863
    • Quantity Issued - See Below **
    • All color shades from Dark Blue to Greenish-Blue to true Green
    Scott #12
    10c Blue (Jefferson Davis)
    • Line Engraved (K&B)
    • Earliest Use 4 SEP 1864
    • Quantity Issued - See Below **
    Scott #13
    20c Green (George Washington)
    • Line Engraved (A&D)
    • Earliest Use 1 JUN 1863
    • Quantity Issued 2,350,000

    Scott #14
    1c Yellow / Orange (John C. Calhoun)
    • Typograph (De La Rue)
    • Earliest Use - No Postal Usage
    • Quantity Printed 400,000

    ** The Archer and Daly printings of CSA #11 and CSA #12 together totalled approximately 47,600,000. The Keatinge and Ball printings of CSA #11 and CSA #12 together totalled approximately 15,000,000.

    Printers
    Hoyer and Ludwig (H&L) Richmond, Va
    J.T. Paterson Augusta, Ga
    De La Rue London, England
    Archer and Daly (A&D) Richmond, Va
    Keatinge and Ball (K&B) Columbia, SC

    The colors given in the table represent the main color by which the stamps are known. Please bear in mind that on many of these stamps, there exists a very wide variation in the color shades. The Confederate Stamps were also issued imperforate (without perforations) such that the stamps had to be cut from the sheet with scissors. A very few of the CSA #11's and CSA #12's were experimentally perforated in Gauge 12 1/2. A very few were also privately perforated or rouletted by some local postmasters using sewing machines or whatever other device may have been handy. These genuinely perforated and rouletted Confederate stamps are quite scarce. As a basic rule, when confronted with a perforated Confederate stamp, be very careful as it most likely has phony perforations. A genuinely perforated Confederate stamp needs to be authenticated by an expert.

    PART X -- CONCLUSION

    As stated in PART VIII, many reprints and facsimiles of CSA stamps do exist. Because many of the covers and cancellations are themselves quite valuable, this has left the door wide open for fakery and counterfeiting. In obtaining CSA items for your collection, first do your own homework and research and be satisfied with what you are buying. Second, we strongly recommend that you buy material only from highly reputable dealers or auction houses that will stand behind what they sell and guarantee its authenticity. Certificates of Authenticity can be obtained for a fee from the Confederate Stamp Alliance (CSA), the Philatelic Foundation (PF), the American Philatelic Society (APES), and Professional Stamp Expertizing (PSE).

    Before concluding, a few words need to be said concerning condition. Confederate material is now 130+ years old. Born during the time of a devastating war, CSA stamps and covers were created under the most trying of circumstances often with very poor quality printing and inferior material. The paper then had to endure decades of storage in attic boxes and trunks subject to the heat and humidity of the South without any thought of preservation. The bottom line is that CSA covers are not perfect. They show their age and the years of abuse. Many have stains. Flaps may be missing. Little pieces are sometimes nibbled from the edges and corners. Tears, wrinkles, and creases are often present. It is now up to us the collector of today to preserve this heritage for our future generations. Those hunting for "perfection" in their stamp and postal history collections will be sorely disappointed in Confederates. However, the collectors willing to temper condition with history will be greatly rewarded.

    More information about Confederate Stamps and Postal History can be found at our internet web site: http://members.aol.com/jlkcsa/. Also, feel free to contact either one of us at the address below if you have more questions or you would like a membership application brochure for the Confederate Stamp Alliance. {Note: A Confederate Stamp Alliance Membership Application can be printed out directly from this web site -- JLK.}

              John L. Kimbrough		Conrad L. Bush
              10140 Wandering Way	205 Hughes Street
              Benbrook TX 76126		Fort Walton Beach FL 32548
              (817) 249-2447		(850) 243-1638
    

    John L. Kimbrough MD is a retired US Air Force Colonel (Military Surgeon) who is currently a full-time stamp dealer working exclusively with the stamps and postal history of the Confederate States of America. Dr. Kimbrough both collects and exhibits CSA material and is also a contributing writer for the Confederate Philatelist journal.

    Conrad L. Bush, also a retired US Air Force Officer, is a well-known and respected Confederate collector and exhibitor of the General Issue stamps as well as a prolific Confederate philatelic writer with many articles to his credit for various publications. His new book on the Confederate Fancy Cancels was published in November 1997. The honorary rank of "General" was conferred on Mr. Bush by the Confederate Stamp Alliance in recognition of his many years of service to the hobby and the Alliance.

    (Covers and Stamps illustrated but not attributed to a collection are from my current CSA sales stock and may have been sold to private collectors prior to publication of this article. -- JLK)

    john@csastamps.com