Postage stamps and postal history of the Confederate States

From Academic Kids

5c Jefferson Davis stamp
5c Jefferson Davis stamp

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of the Confederate States of America.



Although South Carolina seceded from the United States in December 1860, the Confederate States of America (CSA) only came into existence on February 4, 1861 when six seceding states came together to form a central government, then other states joined later in the year. Each seceded first, then joined the CSA, yielding a short period, sometimes only days, in which the state was technically independent of both USA and CSA.

However, the United States Post Office Department continued to handle the mail of the seceded states as usual until June 1, 1861, when the Confederate postal service took over. It established new rates: 5c per half-ounce under 500 miles, 10c per half-ounce over 500 miles, 2c for drop letters and circulars. Later the under-500-mile rate was raised to 10c also. There was also a 50c rate for express mail, and after 1863 a 40c rate for Trans-Mississippi mail to cover the costs of smuggling.

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. Most of the time they simply went back to the old practice of accepting payment in cash and applying a "PAID" handstamp to the envelope. However, a number of postmasters, particularly those in the larger cities, could not afford to be handling long lines of cash customers, and developed a variety of Postmaster's provisionals. These took a variety of forms, from envelopes prestamped with a postmark modified to say "paid" or an amount, to regular stamps produced by local printers. Some are today among the great rarities of philately.


Missing image
10c Thomas Jefferson stamp

Regular Confederate stamps finally appeared on October 16, 1861. The first two stamps were a 5c green depicting Jefferson Davis, and a 10c blue with Thomas Jefferson, both lithographed by Hoyer and Ludwig of Richmond, Virginia. Like all Confederate issues, these stamps were imperforate.

Missing image
2c Andrew Jackson stamp

In 1862, a 2c stamp of Andrew Jackson appeared, in green, and in turn the 5c and 10c stamps were reprinted in blue and rose, respectively. A new 5c stamp of Davis was also issued in large quantities, with 12,000,000 produced by De La Rue in London, and over 36,000,000 by Archer and Daly in Richmond. (Today they can be had for US$10 or so.)

In 1863, a new design of the 2c Jackson appeared, engraved in brown red, along with 10c profile of Davis, engraved in blue. The 10c has two varieties, with and without a set of frame lines around the design. A later redesign replaced the "TEN" of the denomination with a numeric "10", and these were also printed in large numbers. De La Rue also printed a 1c orange depicting John C. Calhoun, but they were never put into use. A 20c stamp with George Washington also came out in 1863 and saw limited use, but genuinely used copies are today worth 10 times more than mint copies.


Missing image
20c George Washington stamp

A considerable number of Confederate covers have been preserved. 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 others. All of these specialties have been intensively studied, although contemporary official records are often fragmentary or missing, and many details remain unclear. Much forging of material went on in the late 19th century, and authentication is a challenge for experts.


  • August Dietz, Postal Service of the Confederate States of America (1929) - the standard work on Confederate philately
  • Dietz Confederate States Catalog and Hand-Book (1931-1986)

External links


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