1995 32¢ Civil War
· Issued for the 130th anniversary of the Civil War
· Second pane in the Classic Collections Series
· Declared the most popular stamps of 1995 by the USPS
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Series: Classic Collections
Value: 32¢, rate for first-class mail
First Day of Issue: June 29, 1995
First Day City: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Quantity Issued: 300,000,000
Printed by: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
Format: Panes of 20 in sheets of 120
Why the stamps were issued: To mark the 130th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.
About the stamp designs: The Civil War stamps featured artwork by Mark Hess, who had previously produced the artwork for the Legends of the West sheet. The USPS explained that they liked his painting style because of its “folksy stiffness,” that “emulates people standing uncomfortably in front of daguerreotype cameras.”
Monitor & Virginia (#2975a) – Hess found this stamp to be one of the most challenging – picturing two large horizontal ships on a vertical stamp. And most existing images of the ships and battle were horizontal. Hess opted to picture the ships from above, with the USS Monitor in the foreground and the CSS Virginia behind it. After the stamp was released, a collector pointed out that the Confederate flag on the Virginia was inaccurate – the white bar in the middle should stop at the blue canton, but is show extending all the way to edge.
Robert E. Lee (#2975b) – According to Hess, his portrait of Robert E. Lee was in “the grand manner style of painting.” He wanted to “show Lee as an incredibly proud, heroic figure…. That was appropriate to his character.” He depicted Lee in his field uniform with his colonel’s stars (rather than his dress uniform which would have carried his general’s wreath. Behind Lee, his horse Traveller is rearing while being handled by an aide with dark clouds, smoke, and fire in the background.
Clara Barton (#2975c) – The portrait of Clara Barton is based largely on an 1865 photo taken by Mathew Brady. The famed nurse is shown inside a field hospital with other medical tents in the background.
Ulysses S. Grant (2975d) – Ulysses S. Grant’s portrait was based on a famous photo of the Union general taken at City Point during the Siege of Petersburg in 1864. As Hess described the image, “It’s just such a typical pose for him. He was a calm guy, laid back, not a big blustery person.” Hess replaced the tent from the original photo with a landscape and mountains in the distance.
Shiloh (#2975e) – The Battle of Shiloh stamp shows Union troops successfully defending against Confederates at the “Hornet’s Nest.”
Jefferson Davis (#2975f) – The Jefferson Davis portrait was based on the only painting from life of the Confederate president while in office. Hess originally wanted to picture the Confederate executive mansion in the background, but it wasn’t recognizable enough. Instead, he developed a scene symbolic of the South – a tree with Spanish moss and a sidewheel steamboat moving down a river.
David Farragut (#2975g) – Naval commander David Farragut is shown on a rope ladder aboard his flagship, USS Hartford. Hess consulted a National Archives photograph for Farragut’s face and loosely based his post on an 1886 painting of the Hartford at Mobile Bay. Hess also posed for photographs to correctly capture the body language of such a position.
Frederick Douglass (#2975h) – Known for his eloquent speeches, Frederick Douglass is pictured giving a speech on his stamp. Hess used several photos as the basis of Douglass’s face. The background was made solid green to set it apart from many of the other stamps’ blue and yellow backgrounds.
Raphael Semmes (#2975i) – Raphael Semmes is pictured on his ship Alabama with a Union ship burning in the background. He’s shown facing away from the ship with his arms crossed.
Abraham Lincoln (#2975j) – Hess originally produced a sketch of President Lincoln delivering a speech, but once the decision was made to use conventional portraits for the two presidents, he changed his design. The Lincoln stamp was based on two well-known photographs of the president. Behind the president stands a half-finished US Capitol dome, as it appeared during the war, and dark clouds indicating the Civil War as a dark and troubled time in his life.
Harriet Tubman (#2975k) – The Harriet Tubman stamp image was based on a painting called “On to Liberty” as well as a modern engraving. She’s pictured leading a group of escaped slaves from the woods to a Union Army encampment.
Stand Watie (#2975l) – The stand Watie portrait was based on two photographs taken later in his life. He’s depicted riding a horse away from a raid on a Union river vessel.
Joseph E. Johnston (#2975m) – The Joseph E. Johnston portrait was based on a photo of the commander from the Valentine Museum in Richmond, Virginia. He expanded the portrait to show Johnston looking up from a map while at Kennesaw Mountain.
Winfield Hancock (#2975n) – The image of Winfield Scott Hancock was based on a painting by Julian Scott depicting the Battle of Williamsburg, Virginia in May 1862.
Mary Chesnut (#2975o) – Hess used photos of Mary Chesnut as the basis for his stamp portrait. However, the photos were all of her full face, so he had to take artistic liberties to show her in profile. He was able to work from images of her actual diary to illustrate that correctly. Knowing that she often wrote at Jefferson Davis’ home, he recreated the scene there, drawing from furniture and fixtures from the time.
Chancellorsville (#2975p) – Hess’ depiction of the Battle of Chancellorsville is from behind the Union line, which is being rushed by Confederate infantry.
William T. Sherman (#2975q) – William T. Sherman is pictured with a pair of binoculars, preparing to scan the area. The binoculars are based on a pair that Sherman owned. Hess used two different photos as the sources for Sherman’s head and body.
Phoebe Pember (#2975r) – There were very few photos of Phoebe Pember, so Hess based his portrait on a single photo. She’s shown stirring something in a tin cup by a hospital bed occupied by a wounded soldier. Two bottles can be seen on a table behind her as well as a pair of crutches.
Stonewall Jackson (#2975s) – Hess pictured Stonewall Jackson atop his horse, Sorrel. He used several photos of the general to capture his features. The horse was stuffed after its death, so Hess was able to base his painting on the actual horse.
Gettysburg (#2975t) – Hess based his image for the Battle of Gettysburg on the cyclorama painting by Paul Philippoteaux at the Gettysburg National Military Park. It pictures Confederate General George Pickett’s men in hand-to-hand fighting with Union soldiers at the stone wall, known as the Angle, which has been called the high tide of the Confederacy. On the right side, Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Armistead waves his hat on his sword, just moments before he was killed.
First Day City: The official first day ceremony was held at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, the site of one of the war’s most famous battles. Because they received a large number of requests, the USPS made the stamps available for sale across the country the same day.
Unusual facts about these stamps: The Civil War sheet was available by mail order in uncut press sheets of six panes. Of these, 20,000 were signed by stamp artist Mark Hess. The USPS also produced a set of postcards featuring the same images as the stamps (US #UX200-19). Imperforate and partially imperforate error panes have also been found.
About the Civil War Stamps: The Civil War stamp sheet featured 16 individuals – eight from the Union and eight from the Confederacy. The four battles in the corners included one victory for each side and two that are considered draws.
This was the second sheet in the Classic Collections Series following the famed Legends of the West sheet. Stamps in this series follow a similar format – 20 stamps, a decorative header, and information about each stamp printed on its back under the gum.
Plans for the Civil War sheet began while the 1994 Legends of the West sheet was still in its planning stage. The USPS believed that the Civil War was a natural addition to the new series and would be informational for the public. Initially the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee rejected the idea, saying they should wait 20 years for the 50th anniversary of the war. But they were eventually swayed and the Civil War stamps were created. A group of historians were tasked with making a list of protentional subjects and Shelby Foote was hired to make the final selections. Foote was an expert in the Civil War, having written a three-volume history of the war and been featured in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary series on the war.
The USPS wanted the Civil War stamps to have more action to them – so only the two presidents were depicted in traditional portraits. The rest of the individuals were placed in the field or amidst an activity. After the Legends of the West mix-up, in which the Bill Pickett stamp mistakenly pictured his brother Ben, the USPS completely revamped their research process. The release of the 20 Civil War stamps marked the most extensive effort in the history of the USPS to review and verify the historical accuracy of stamp subjects. As Hess completed each version of his paintings, they were sent to a panel of experts who commented on the historical accuracy of everything from the weather to belt buckles.
Some of the people and battles featured in the Civil War sheet had appeared on US stamps before. This was also the second time the Civil War was honored – a set of five stamps (US #1178-82) was issued for the centennial in the 1960s. And from 2011-15, the USPS issued a series of stamps for the war’s 150th anniversary (US #4522/4981).
History the stamps represent: Each of the 16 individuals and four battles featured were chosen from a master list of 50 subjects, which included presidents, generals, major battles, rank-and-file soldiers, women, African and Native Americans, and abolitionists. The goal of the USPS was to show the wide variety of people who participated in the Civil War.
Those chosen to represent the Union were: Abraham Lincoln, America’s 26th president; Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant; Major General William Tecumseh Sherman; Major General Winfield Scott Hancock; Vice Admiral David Glasgow Farragut; Clara Harlowe Barton, volunteer nurse and founder of the American Red Cross; abolitionist Harriet Ross Tubman, who helped slaves escape the South through the “Underground Railroad;” journalist and orator Frederick Douglass.
Confederate honorees included: Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy; General Robert Edward Lee; Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan Jackson; General Joseph Eggleston Johnston; Phoebe Yates Pember, who administered the Confederate hospital in Chimborazo; Rear Admiral Raphael Semmes; Mary Chestnut, a wealthy plantation owner’s wife, whose diary is an excellent source of historical information; Brigadier General Stand Watie (De-ga-do-ga), the Native American who fought the South’s last military engagement – and won.
Four battles were also chosen. Shiloh was the first great battle of the war. More Americans died in the two days of fighting at the Battle of Shiloh than in all the American wars up to that time. Chancellorsville was a stunning victory for the South, despite the fact that the Confederacy lost Stonewall Jackson in that fight. The Battle of Gettysburg, which raged for three days, resulted in a Union victory and turned the tide of the war. Never again was the South able to launch another aggressive attack. The world’s first battle between ironclad ships, the Battle of the Monitor and the Virginia resulted in a tie, but changed naval warfare forever.