Confederate States of America put their live President on the stamps

When an area of a country breaks away some traditions fall away. One American tradition that ended in the Confederacy was not putting current leaders on postage stamps. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The stamp today is the most common issue of the Confederacy. It featured an engraving of Confederate President Jefferson Davis by Ferdinand Joubert. The first 12,000,000 copies were printed in London by De La Rue and the shipment to Richmond included printing plates and paper to continue production of the stamp locally. The English paper ran out and the plates became worn so over time the quality of the printing deteriorated. I believe my copy is a later printing.

Todays stamp is issue A4, a five cent stamp issued by the Confederate States of America in 1862. It was a single stamp issue. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $7 mint but with no gum on the back. Gum would have doubled the value and it would have doubled again used. There is a mistake version of this stamp with the image of President Davis printed on both sides of the paper. It is worth $2,500.

The post office of the Confederacy is the department of the civilian government that functioned the best. The Postmaster John Reagan sent an agent to Washington with letters offering jobs to Union postal officials. Many accepted. The use of American stamps was banned after 7 weeks and local postmasters issued provisionals until the definitive stamp issues were ready. The postal rates were set higher than the Union, five cents on this stamp is the equivalent of $1.36 and only was good for a letter going less than 100 miles. The post offices stayed in operation until the end of the war.

Jefferson Davis grew up in Mississippi under wealthy circumstances. He served in the US Army in the Mexican War and owned a plantation that used slave labor. His first wife died of malaria after 3 months of marriage. After 10 years single Davis remarried the granddaughter of the governor of New Jersey and they had 4 children. He got into politics and served as Senator from Mississippi where he argued against succession. At a Constitutional Convention after succession. Davis was appointed the President of the Confederacy. The only other candidate considered was Robert Toombs of Georgia.

The war dragged on for almost 4 years when Confederate General Lee surrendered to Union General Grant. Davis and his cabinet escaped Richmond and headed south. The idea was to set up the government in exile in Havana and continue resistance in the large area of the South that was still controlled. It wasn’t to be  and the Union caught up to him in Georgia. Southerners think the story that he was captured in female clothes trying to escape detection is a myth. He only had on his wife’s overcoat to keep off the cold. Okay then… He was held in irons awaiting trial for treason until Papal intervention and a large bail payment allowed his release. He lived for a time in Canada and Scotland before his legal troubles ended and he returned to the South. In Memphis, now separated from his wife he started an insurance company with former Confederate Officers as his agents. He also fought legally to reclaim his plantation which had been divided and rented out to his former slaves. Eventually his situation improved after the end of Reconstruction and Davis was able to write books and profit from Confederate nostalgia.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Postmaster Reagan. Putting together a successful post office in a new country during a war must have been a big undertaking. I can forgive him for breaking tradition and including President Davis on the stamps. Just founding fathers would not have done enough to make clear the Confederacy was something new. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

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