On April 24, 2012, The U.S. Postal Service issued the second of an annual series of Forever stamps that pay tribute to one of the most far-reaching events in our nation’s history: the American Civil War.
The stamps in this second series remember the Battle of New Orleans, the first significant achievement of the U.S. Navy in the war, and the Battle of Antietam, which marked the bloodiest day of the war.
A major achievement of the United States Navy during the war, the Battle of New Orleans placed the Confederacy’s most vital port in Union hands and as a result, Southern trade, finance, and shipbuilding were greatly disrupted.
Five months later came the bloodiest single day not only of the Civil but in American history — the Battle of Antietam.
The Battle of New Orleans stamp is a reproduction of an 1862 colored lithograph by Currier & Ives titled “The Splendid Naval Triumph on the Mississippi, April 24th, 1862.” It depicts Admiral David G. Farragut’s fleet passing Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip on the way to New Orleans.
The Battle of Antietam stamp is a reproduction of an 1887 painting by Thure de Thulstrup. The painting was one of a series of popular prints commissioned in the 1880s by Boston publisher Louis Prang & Co. to commemorate the Civil War.
The stamp pane’s background image is from a photograph of Union soldiers in the vicinity of Fair Oaks, VA, circa June 1862, and includes comments on the war by David G. Farragut, James C. Steele, Walt Whitman, and the New York Times. It also includes some of Charles Carroll Sawyer’s lyrics from the popular 1862 song “Weeping, Sad and Lonely,” or “When This Cruel War Is Over” (music composed by Henry Tucker).
Soldiers were allowed to mail letters without stamps beginning in July 1861 by writing “Soldier’s Letter” on the envelope; postage was collected from the recipient. In July 1863, postage rates were simplified and in some cases lowered when distance-based letter rate categories were eliminated and all letters given the lowest rate. That same month, free home delivery of mail was introduced in the nation’s largest cities. And in November 1864 the money order system began, making it safer for soldiers and citizens to send money through the mail. A letter that cost 3 cents to mail in 1861 would cost seventy-seven cents in today’s dollars.
The Library of Congress has some great photos of Civil War mail wagons. You can check some of them out at:
While you’re there, take a look at some of the other Civil War drawings and photographs that have been digitized. There are several, and they are searchable. The Library of Congress has an excellent digital collection on many subjects and they are a great resource for historians.