Location is Key
Mail delivery must overcome the complexities posed by troop movements, supply lines, and transportation means. The most challenging and time consuming part of moving mail arises in a theatre of operation. Issues of security, difficult terrain, and transportation resources can slow dispatches. At times, limiting the size and weight of mailed items has helped to ensure that the mail goes through.
“I am truly glad to hear that you had rec’d some of my letters. I have the advantage of you. I know where to write to you. Your home is stationary, mine is upon the wide world, wherever I pitch my tent there is my home for the time being. A soldiers’ life is uncertain & his abode more.”
—Lieutenant William McKean to his father, November 13, 1846
No Easy Task
Delivering mail in war zones is fraught with difficulty. During the American Revolution, postal couriers scoured the countryside to find George Washington’s elusive army. Two hundred years later during the Vietnam War, the military experimented with using bags like this one to drop mail from helicopters. Unfortunately, this type of bag blended in with the jungle too well, making it difficult to locate.
An “Outrageous” Bill
Creating and maintaining the system that made delivering military mail possible was expensive, requiring the government to devote vast resources to the task. Postal and military officials tried many ways to coordinate management and decide financial responsibility. In this 1862 letter, an officer from the Quartermaster General’s Office questioned the transportation costs charged by the Post Office Department.