Civil War-Era Stamps Enter Usage
On August 17, 1861, the first of several Civil War-era stamps was used for the first time.
In 1860 and 1861, eleven Southern states left the Union and formed the Confederate States of America, an action that resulted in the beginning of the Civil War. On April 12, 1861, the war erupted at Fort Sumter. Less than two months later, the United States discontinued postal services to the South.
However, numerous stamps were still in the hands of postmasters of seceding states. Fearing that these stamps would be sent to the North and sold (thus providing money for the Confederate states), the United States sent a proclamation to all postmasters requesting that the remainders be sent to Washington. When this order was largely ignored, the government made arrangements for designing new issues and demonetizing the old issues.
The process of demonetizing rendered the old stamps invalid, and at the same time replaced them with newly designed stamps. The new 1861 stamps were sent to post offices along with a notice that required an exchange period of six days be announced in local newspapers. During the exchange period, old stamps could be swapped for new ones. After the six-day period, the old stamps were no longer accepted as postage. Four of these new stamps were issued on August 17, 1861.
While the designs of the new issues differed from the old ones, the colors were similar. The Postal Service wanted to be certain there would be no confusion between the two. They felt a change that could be easily recognized was necessary, and so the 1861 issues have the values expressed in numerals instead of being written out.
The Confederates, concerned that the federal government would use the postal system to spread anti-Southern propaganda, quickly set up their own postal service.
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