Civil War Centennial

Civil War Centennial

This series features five stamps – one for each year of the Civil War – to commemorate its 100th anniversary.

US #1178 Fort Sumter
US #1178
Fort Sumter
When South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860, plans were made quickly to seize the U.S. forts in the Harbor at Charleston, S.C. – Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter. The forts were under the command of Major Robert Anderson. Anderson had established his command at Fort Moultrie, but moved to Fort Sumter for its superior defenses.

Fort Sumter was of little strategic importance to the U.S. It was incomplete, and all 60 of its guns faced the sea. However, it became a symbol of national unity. To President Lincoln, giving up the fort meant accepting secession. After demands for surrender, Confederate forces began a fierce bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Two days later, Union forces evacuated the fort. The Confederates allowed Anderson and his men to leave with their flag and weapons. Union forces regained control of Fort Sumter in February 1865.
US #1179 Battle of Shiloh
US #1179
Battle of Shiloh
The Battle of Shiloh was fought in Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, a village 20 miles north of Corinth. Union General Ulysses S. Grant stopped there while moving his troops down the Tennessee River. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston decided on a surprise attack on Grant’s 42,000 troops with his 40,000 men.
The battle, named after a church on the battlefield, was fought on April 6 and 7, 1862. On the first day, Johnston’s surprise attack nearly smashed through Grant’s defenses. Johnston was killed in the fighting. The next day, Grant was reinforced with troops, and the general drove the Confederates to Corinth. About 13,000 Union troops and nearly 11,000 Confederate troops died at the battle.
US #1180 Battle of Gettysburg
US #1180
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the American Civil War. General George C. Meade commanded a Union army of about 90,000 men against General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army of 75,000. The two forces met by accident in the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Both sides suffered terrible casualties, 22,800 men from the North and 22,600 from the South. However, the Confederates lost the battle. The Confederate army was battered and unable to recover from the loss. The South was never again able to launch a major offensive.
US #1181 Battle of the Wilderness
US #1181
Battle of the Wilderness

In the spring of 1864, the Union and Confederate armies were in a race toward Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s main objective was to get between Lee’s army and Richmond, thus severing its communications and supplies.

On May 3, 1864, the Union army crossed the Rapidan River and entered a dense forest known as the Wilderness. Knowing that Lee avoided engagements on difficult ground, Grant ordered his men to camp for the night. The next morning they would set off and attempt to get between Lee and Richmond.

The following morning, as the Union army was beginning its march out of the Wilderness, the Confederates attacked. Because of the thick vegetation in the forest, it was difficult to see or maneuver properly, making an effective battle impossible. Cavalry and artillery were useless in such an environment, so much of the fighting was nearly hand to hand. Before long, the flashes from muskets ignited the dry underbrush. Fire claimed the lives of many wounded still lying on the battlefield.

Grant considered the battle a Union victory because he was able to accomplish his objective of getting his troops across the Rapidan River (practically in the face of Lee’s army) and re-forming as a unit on the other side. However, because of the heavy casualties on both sides, history remembers it as a tactical draw.

US #1182 Appomattox
US #1182

On April 9, 1865, after a week of almost daily conflicts with Grant’s Union army, Lee’s Confederates approached the small Virginia settlement of Appomattox. After a short battle with a much larger Union force at Appomattox, Lee sent word to Grant that he wished to surrender.

The two generals, each with a small group of officers, met in the parlor of Wilmer McLean to negotiate terms. Grant’s terms were generous. Soldiers were allowed to keep their horses for the next year’s plowing, and officers were allowed to keep their pistols. Grant also ordered that Confederate prisoners be fed with Union rations and that the Union soldiers refrain from celebrating the victory in the presence of the defeated Confederate army.

At long last, America’s tragic Civil War had come to an end.


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