Civil War

Topical Reference Page
A group of Civil War soldiers gathered in front of a mail tent

The National Postal Museum is proud to offer Civil War-related material and stories as seen through the lens of postal history and philately. We hope you enjoy the collection of resources that we have assembled.

July 30, 1993 - August 15, 1998

When the conflict between the north and south finally exploded into war, the nation's communication system was also ripped in two. The system instituted to unify the country through the dissemination of information was instead used to solidify the break.

Although the exhibit is not currently on display in the Museum, selected portions of the exhibit are still available online.

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32-cent Civil War pane of twenty issued June 29, 1995, front
The Postal Service issued a 20 stamp sheet of 32-cent Civil War stamps on June 29, 1995 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Designed by Mark Hess of Katonah, New York, the stamps are the second installment of the Classic Collection.
"Rose of Washington" cover insert
The conflict between the northern states, known as the Union, and the southern states that...
Object Spotlight
Newton Scott 1864 Civil War letter, page 1
Research Articles
As tensions in the United States rose to a fever pitch and civil war broke out in 1861, Union leaders began to develop ways to isolate the mutinous southern states. In addition to erecting a blockade meant to keep supplies from reaching the South, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair cut off mail service to states that had seceded.
Object Spotlight

The National Postal Museum’s collection of 5.9 million postal and philatelic objects—the second largest in the Smithsonian institution—is much older than the museum. It all began in the 1880s with a single photograph and a pane of Confederate stamps: the Robertson Confederate pane.

a Confederate States of America stamp
The Confederate government in Richmond, Virginia, assumed control over the economic, political, and military life of the South. The Confederacy solved the problem of moving mail by creating its own postal service. The C.S.A.
Civil war cover with a flag and a Washington stamp
A portion of the National Postal Museum's collection of covers of the American Civil War, a bloody clash between two sections of the nation, is available on the museum's collection database.
Eliot A. Landau
Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War
March 6, 2009 - March 8, 2009

Eliot Landau's award-winning philatelic exhibition combined philately, ephemera, and artifacts in an engaging exploration of Lincoln's presidency, the Civil War, and Black History.

Postal money order rate card
First issued by the Post Office Department in 1864, domestic money orders were popular among Civil War soldiers away from home and they quickly boomed with the immigrant population when the service was extended to foreign money orders in 1869.

The Museum has acquired a Confederate postage stamp printing plate that was confiscated during the Civil War. The copper plate was ordered by the Confederate States of America and manufactured by De La Rue & Co. of London in 1862. The federal vessel Mercedita captured the British ship Bermuda between Bermuda and Nassau April 27, 1862, and as part of the contraband, the printing plate was brought to Philadelphia and sold.

nine railway mail clerks posing for a photo
Research Articles
The Railway Mail Service (RMS) was one of the most significant changes in the postal system to arise during the Civil War. The original experiments for the service took place in Missouri, but ended quickly because of the unreliable nature of the railway system during the war. The service took off once it was moved to states under full northern control.


Related Blogs

Object of the Month: The Confederate Lost Plate

One spring morning in 1862, the calm of the northern Abaco islands of the Bahamas was shattered by cannon fire. The American Federal warship...

Writing Home: One Couple’s Letters from the Civil War

“My Love, Once more I am going to try to write to you under difficulties as usual.”

World's First Charity Stamps Raise Money For Soldiers' Relief During Civil War

On June 13, 1861, two months to the day after Federal troops surrender Fort Sumter to Confederate forces, President Abraham Lincoln...


Additional Resources

Remembering the War Through the Mails

A 2006 Winton M. Blount Symposium on Postal History paper presented at the National Postal Museum by Steven R. Boyd, Ph.D.

A Nation at Civil War: Contrasting Postal Systems

A 2008 Winton M. Blount Symposium on Postal History paper presented at the National Postal Museum by Van Koppersmith and Wade E. Saadi.

Official Needs, Post Civil War Nationalism

A 2010 Winton M. Blount Symposium on Postal History paper presented at the National Postal Museum by Steven R. Boyd, Ph.D.