1995 32¢ Civil War
Issue Date: June 29, 1995
City: Gettysburg, PA
Quantity: 15,000,000 panes of 20
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
The release of the 20 Civil War stamps marked the most extensive effort in the history of the U.S. Postal Service to review and verify the historical accuracy of stamp subjects. 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 U.S.P.S. was to show the wide variety of people who participated in the Civil War.
Monitor and Virginia
At the start of the Civil War, the Union not only possessed the pre-war Navy, but also the industry capable of meeting wartime demands, placing it in a position to gain the upper hand in naval warfare. But this position was seriously challenged when the Confederate Virginia sailed into Hampton Roads.
In an effort to construct a Navy, the Confederates had raised the Merrimack, a sunken Federal ship. Covering the wooden ship with iron plates, they renamed it the Virginia. Sailing into Hampton Roads on March 8, 1862, the Virginia easily destroyed two Union warships and grounded three others, raising Confederate hopes of breaking the Union blockade. The following day when the Virginia returned to finish the job however, she was met by the ironclad Monitor.
The first battle in history between armored ships, that clash between the Virginia and the Monitor changed the course of naval warfare. After four hours of fighting neither ship was able to gain the upper hand. The Monitor however, proved to be the superior vessel, and eventually a large ironclad fleet was modeled after her. Interestingly, many of the Monitor’s features, including the revolving gun turret, were invented by John Ericsson, who is commemorated on a 1926 5¢ stamp.
Robert E. Lee
The son of Revolutionary War hero “Light Horse Harry” Lee, Robert Edward Lee was judged to be the most promising officer in the U.S. Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. Strongly opposed to secession, he was offered the position of field commander of the Union Army, but when Virginia seceded, he resigned and joined the Confederate Army. For a time he served as military advisor to Jefferson Davis, and in July 1862, Lee succeeded General Joseph Johnston as commander of the Confederate Army in the east. Decisive, willing to run tremendous risks, and a master at inspiring his troops, Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia in a series of brilliant victories, including the Battles of the Seven Days, Second Battle of Bull Run, and Fredericksburg. At Chancellorsville he boldly divided his troops to defeat a larger Union force, winning his most masterful victory.
Determined to take the offensive, Lee moved into Pennsylvania to mount a campaign against the North. But after three days of savage fighting at Gettysburg, he was forced to retreat. By the spring of 1865, Lee’s forces had been badly beaten, and on April 9th he surrendered. Despite his defeat, Lee opposed the bitterness sweeping through the nation, and instead urged his fellow southerners to accept the outcome of the war.
For 18 years Clara Barton had worked as a teacher, and then as a Patent Office clerk in Washington. D.C. At the outbreak of the Civil War, however, she was one of the first volunteers to provide nursing care for the Union wounded. After the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, she began advertising in newspapers for medical supplies, and received such enormous quantities that she soon established her own distribution center.
By July 1862, she had obtained the surgeon general’s permission to work in the front lines. In 1863, she carried her work to Charleston during siege operations there, and then went on to Fredericksburg for Grant’s Wilderness and Spotsylvania campaigns in 1864. A familiar figure in Union camps and field hospitals, she soon earned the title “the angel of the battlefield.”
After the Civil War Barton went on to nurse the wounded in other wars. Learning of the International Committee of the Red Cross while serving in the Franco-Prussian Wars, she returned home in 1873 and began an eight-year campaign to establish an American branch of the Red Cross. Seeing the organization into formal existence in 1881, she became its first president – a position she held until 1904. After her retirement she traveled extensively, lecturing on health-related topics.
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant’s success as a military officer is nearly unparalleled in American history. When the Civil War broke out, the North needed officers, and Grant was given command of a volunteer regiment. In early 1862, he set out on the Kentucky-Tennessee River campaign that would make him famous. Despite devastating losses at Shiloh, Grant seemed to be without fear of failure, and he soon proved himself to be a bold and brilliant strategist. In March 1864, Grant was appointed commander in chief of all Union armies. Since 1862, Lincoln had favored a cordon offense, in which the Union armies would advance on all fronts, pitting vast northern resources against the South. In Grant, Lincoln had finally found the leadership needed to carry out such an offensive.
A national hero after the war, Grant was appointed a full general, the first to hold such rank since George Washington. In 1868, he accepted the Republican nomination for the presidency. Winning by an overwhelming victory, he served as president for two terms. Despite being in constant pain from throat cancer, he later wrote a two-volume autobiography, Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, which today is regarded as one of the great classics of military literature.
Battle of Shiloh
One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, the Battle of Shiloh was named after a church on the battlefield. Ironically Shiloh means “place of peace.” A pivotal battle, it left Union armies in control of the central Mississippi River and large areas of western territories.
By the spring of 1862, Union forces had pushed into southern Tennessee. In an effort to cut off the South from the railroad line that linked it with the East, the North planned to join General Buell’s troops with Grant’s at Corinth, Mississippi. But the Confederates, hearing of the plan, decided to strike Grant at Pittsburgh Landing before the two armies could unite.
The surprise attack on April 6, 1862, caught Grant off guard and nearly crushed his troops. Believing he had Grant exactly where he wanted him, General Beauregard ordered his troops to withdraw for the evening. It was perhaps the greatest mistake of the war, for when he returned the next morning Beauregard found the ground he had evacuated the night before now manned by fresh troops from Buell. After a desperate attempt to break through Union lines, Beauregard ordered his troops to retreat to Corinth. Following Grant’s heavy losses many people urged Lincoln to replace him. But Lincoln refused, saying, “I can’t spare this man – he fights!”
After an undistinguished career in the military, Jefferson Davis entered the political scene, and in 1845 won a seat in the House of Representatives. Following the Mexican War, he returned to politics and served as a U.S. senator from 1847-50.
Appointed secretary of war in 1853 by President Pierce, Davis introduced more efficient weapons and an improved system of infantry tactics. In 1857 he was re-elected to the Senate. A familiar figure on the debate floor, he was a staunch supporter of slavery, championing the constitutional rights of the states. When Mississippi seceded from the Union, Davis resigned from the Senate hoping to become head of the Army of the Confederate States. Instead he was appointed president of the Confederacy.
Inaugurated on February 18, 1861, he led a thoroughly unprepared and ill-equipped nation into the Civil War. Difficulties with his Congress and his perceived mismanagement of the war caused him to be unpopular with many. Shortly after Lee’s surrender, Davis was taken prisoner, and indicted by a grand jury for treason. Released on bail, he was never tried. His suffering in prison and his lifelong defense of the southern cause later won him the respect of his fellow southerners.
Born in Tennessee and orphaned at an early age, David Farragut began his naval career as a midshipman on board the U.S.S. Essex. After fighting in the War of 1812, he served on various ships, mostly in the Mediterranean. In 1823 he sailed to the Caribbean to help fight pirates, and during the Mexican War he saw duty on both sea and shore.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Farragut showed his loyalty to the Union when he gave up his home in Norfolk, Virginia to fight on the northern side. Placed in command of the campaign to capture New Orleans and gain control of the Mississippi, he was able to capture the city in April 1862. For two years he blockaded the Gulf Coast and controlled river traffic.
In 1864 he was ordered to capture Mobile Bay. When his iron-clad Tecumseh was sunk by a torpedo, Farragut was warned that Fort Morgan’s guns, as well as those from the Confederate Tennessee, were directed at his fleet. “Damn the torpedoes,” he replied, “Full speed ahead!” In a sweeping victory, the Tennessee was defeated and Fort Morgan surrendered, further demoralizing the South. When Richmond fell, he was one of the first Northern officers to enter the city. In 1866, Congress created the rank of admiral especially for him.
A leading spokesman of American blacks during the 1800s, Frederick Douglass devoted his life to the abolition of slavery and the fight for black rights. Born a slave, he was sent at age 8 to Baltimore to work for one of his master’s relatives. There, helped by his new master’s wife, he began to educate himself. In 1838 he escaped to New Bedford, Massachusetts.
In 1841, at a meeting of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, Douglass delivered a speech on what freedom meant to him. The society was so impressed they hired him to speak about his experiences as a slave. An avid abolitionist, he also fought against segregation in jobs, schools, and churches.
In 1845 Douglass published his autobiography. Fearing his identity in the book would lead to his capture, he fled to England where he continued to speak against slavery. In 1847 he returned to America and founded the antislavery newspaper, the North Star.
During the Civil War, Douglass became an important advisor to President Lincoln, and the two met often to discuss the problems of slavery. Douglass was also instrumental in recruiting blacks for the Union Army. After the war he served in several government positions, and was U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891.
A lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, Raphael Semmes resigned his commission in February 1861 to run a purchasing mission for the Confederacy – actually buying armaments from manufacturers in New England and New York. In April he was placed in command of a Confederate ship, the CSS Sumter.
During a six-month cruise he seized 18 enemy ships before abandoning the Sumter in Gibraltar. Semmes then made his way to England, where he took command of the screw sloop CSS Alabama. Setting sail in September 1862, he embarked on a commerce -destroying cruise that would last nearly two years. Seizing and destroying nearly 70 ships in the mid-Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea, Semmes made his way to Cherbourg, France. Engaged in battle on June 19, 1864, by the Union screw sloop USS Keararge, the Alabama was sunk off the coast of Cherbourg.
Semmes did not surrender with his ship, but instead managed to return home where he was placed in command of the James River squadron. When Richmond was evacuated in 1865, he burned his ships and, arming his sailors as infantry, surrendered with General Joseph Johnston at Greensboro, North Carolina.
When Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861, several states had left the Union and the nation was on the brink of Civil War. Less than two months later, when southern soldiers fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, President Lincoln was forced to take a stand. He chose to preserve the Union at all costs. Successfully navigating the bitter differences dividing North and South, he guided our country through four of the most critical and bloodiest years of its history.
Elected for a second term in 1865, Lincoln set forth his plan for bringing the seceded states back into the Union stating, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in – to bind up this nation’s wounds….” He was not to see his plans brought to fruition however, for on April 14, 1865, a bullet from an assassin’s gun took the life of one of history’s most beloved men.
The American people mourned for him as they had never mourned before, and millions lined the railroad tracks as his body was brought back to its final resting place in Springfield, Illinois. Today, the Lincoln Memorial stands in Washington, D.C. as a lasting tribute to this great president.
The granddaughter of Africans brought to America in the chain holds of a slave ship, Harriet Tubman was born into slavery on a plantation near Cambridge, Maryland. In 1849 she escaped, and via the underground railroad, went north to Philadelphia. Vowing to help other slaves escape she made nearly 20 trips back to Maryland. Called Moses by her people, after the biblical figure who led the Jews out of Egypt, she became the most famous “conductor” of the underground railroad.
Although no exact number is known, it is estimated that during the 1850s she helped more than 300 slaves escape to freedom. Rewards for her capture once totaled about $40,000. Remarkably, she was never caught and never once during any of her rescue trips did anyone get left behind.
Serving as a nurse, scout, and spy for the Union Army, Tubman helped free more than 750 slaves during one military campaign. After the war she returned to Auburn, New York, where she helped raise money for black schools. In 1908 she established the Harriet Tubman Home for elderly and needy blacks. A postage stamp was issued in her honor in 1978 as part of the Black Heritage Series.
The son of a full-blooded Cherokee, Stand Watie attended mission schools in Georgia, where he grew up to be a prosperous planter, as well as the publisher of a newspaper for the Cherokee. In 1835, he was one of the four Cherokee who signed a treaty agreeing to give up their tribal land in Georgia and move to Oklahoma. A band of Cherokee opposing the treaty killed the other three signers, but Watie managed to escape and became chief of those who supported it.
When the Civil War broke out, a group of Cherokee formed an alliance with the Confederacy. Commissioned as a captain in 1861, Watie was given command of the first Cherokee unit in the Confederate Army. His unit, a group of volunteers known as the Cherokee Mounted Rifles, fought in several battles, including Pea Ridge, Arkansas. In 1864 he was promoted to brigadier general, and was the only Native American to attain this rank in the Confederate Army. Faithfully supporting the southern cause, Watie was one of the last Confederate officers to surrender.
Following the war, he went to Washington, D.C. as a representative for the southern Cherokee. He spent his final years in Oklahoma as an influential planter and businessman.
Joseph E. Johnston
A West Point graduate, Joseph Eggleston Johnston had a distinguished career in the U.S. Army before resigning his commission to join the Confederacy. Promoted to full general following his decisive contribution to the victory at the First Battle of Bull Run, he was given command of the main Confederate Army in Virginia. When the Union Army advanced up the Virginia peninsula the following spring, Johnston moved in to attack. Wounded in the fighting that followed, he was succeeded by Robert E. Lee.
Following his recovery he was given overall command in the west, and in 1863 was placed in charge of the Army of Tennessee with orders to lead an offensive attack against Union troops in Chattanooga. Realizing the capabilities of his army, he instead began a brilliant retreat in front of General William T. Sherman’s advance towards Atlanta. Despite his skilled leadership Johnston was relieved by President Davis who thought him too cautious. In 1865 he returned to field command at the head of a small army opposing Sherman’s advance through the Carolinas. Against Davis’ wishes he surrendered to Sherman on April 26, 1865. In 1891, after standing in the rain at the funeral of his old adversary W. T. Sherman, Johnston died of pneumonia.
After graduating from West Point in 1844, Winfield Scott Hancock went on to serve with distinction in the Mexican War, and later became one of the Potomac Army’s best corps commanders. Still in California at the outbreak of the Civil War, he returned east to help General George McClellan organize and train the Army of the Potomac.
Appointed a brigadier general of volunteers, Hancock served in the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. In May of 1863 he took command of II Corps, which he led for most of the remaining two years of the war. Seriously wounded at Gettysburg, where he played a major role, Hancock returned to the front lines to participate in the attack on Richmond, Virginia the following spring, leading II Corps in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.
Following the war he continued to serve as a major general on the frontier. His military policies in Louisiana and Texas during the Reconstruction won Hancock the support of the Democrats, who nominated him for the presidency in 1880. After losing in a close election to Republican candidate James Garfield, he returned to military life.
As the daughter of a South Carolina governor and U.S. Senator, Mary Boykin Miller was immersed in politics from childhood. At age 17 she married James Chestnut, Jr. The only surviving son of one of the largest landowners in the state, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1858 – a position he resigned from when Lincoln was elected President. He then returned south as a delegate to the Confederate Provisional Congress, and later served as personal aide to Jefferson Davis.
Mary was a popular hostess, and her hotel quarters in Montgomery soon became a fashionable salon where the elite of the new Confederacy came to socialize and exchange information. Aware of the magnitude of the events unfolding around her, she began keeping a diary in February 1861. Everything Mary saw and heard she candidly recorded, from political rumors and firsthand reports of battles, to wartime romances, parties, and funerals.
Excerpts from her journals appeared in the Saturday Evening Post under the title “A Diary from Dixie,” and later several heavily revised editions were also published.
Battle of Chancellorsville
Following the Union defeat at Fredericksburg in December of 1862, Major General Joseph Hooker, who succeeded Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac, established his winter camp across the Rappahannock River and in the spring resumed his drive to Richmond. Using troops to keep Lee’s attention focused on Fredericksburg, he sent another force around the town to attack the Confederate flank.
But on May 1st he hesitated, withdrawing his forces to a defensive position at Chancellorsville, a town west of Fredericksburg. The following day, although outnumbered by nearly 3 to 1, Lee boldly attacked Hooker, forcing his troops back from their crucially held positions. The final crushing blow came when “Stonewall” Jackson’s brilliant surprise attack collapsed Hooker’s right wing. The attack cut the Union army almost in half and three days later it was forced to retreat.
Lee’s most masterful battle, Chancellorsville was also a costly one. On May 2nd, while scouting ahead under cover of darkness, Jackson was accidentally shot. Eight days later, he died of pneumonia. Mourning the loss, Lee wrote, “I know not how to replace him.” Unable to find a second “Stonewall” Jackson, Lee was never able to win another victory such as Chancellorsville.
William T. Sherman
At the outbreak of the Civil War, William T. Sherman was offered a Confederate commission. He turned it down, and instead accepted the colonelcy of the 13th Infantry. In 1862, he was placed in command of a division in Grant’s Army of the Tennessee, beginning one of the great partnerships of the war. Following the Battle of Shiloh, Grant assigned him leading roles in what became two of the greatest campaigns of the war – Vicksburg and Chattanooga.
When Grant was appointed commander in chief in 1864, Sherman succeeded him as senior commander in the west. His campaign against General Johnston ended four months later with the capture of Atlanta. Believing the war could only be ended when its harsh realities were brought home to the civilians that supported the front, he put his theory to the test in Atlanta, ordering the destruction of all property with military value. On November 15th, he set out on his famous “march to the sea.” His union with Grant was another brilliant success, and 17 days after Lee surrendered, Johnston surrendered to Sherman, ending the war in the east. Asked by Republicans and Democrats to run for president, Sherman steadfastly refused. In 1869 he succeeded Grant as commander in chief of the army.
During the Civil War, women were a strategic asset to both sides, but especially to the Confederacy. As the men marched off to war they quickly learned to manage plantations, work in factories, and sew uniforms. Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, Virginia was one such example of their gallant efforts. Run almost entirely by women, it was the largest military hospital in the world at the time, treating more than 76,000 men.
For more than two years the hospital was successfully managed by Phoebe Yates Pember, a young Jewish widow who, dissatisfied with the inactivity of civilian life, accepted the position of chief matron of the second division. Like many other Civil War nurses, Pember faced numerous professional barriers and regularly endured insults from those who believed that no respectable woman should minister to the needs of wounded men. Highly competent and strong-minded, she continued to care for them despite these objections.
After the war she wrote an account of her wartime nursing experiences. Her memoirs, “A Southern Woman’s Story” was first published in 1879. Rated as “one of the very best Confederate memoirs,” it provides a vivid account of the conditions in major Confederate hospitals and paints a humane portrait of the common soldier.
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was one of the most brilliant officers who fought under Robert E. Lee. After graduation from the Military Academy in 1864, he went to Mexico as a second lieutenant. By the end of the war, his outstanding soldiering had earned him the rank of major. Although he firmly supported the Union, when Virginia seceded in 1861 he joined the Confederacy.
An unknown when the war started, Jackson became a Confederate hero at Shenandoah Valley when, in a series of lightning marches and brilliant battles, he defeated 60,000 Union troops with less than 17,000 men. He went on to help win numerous other battles, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, and the Second Battle of Bull Run.
In May of 1863, Jackson fought his greatest battle. Attacking Union forces from behind at Chancellorsville, he was able to successfully drive the enemy back. While scouting ahead that evening under the cover of darkness, he was mistaken for the enemy and shot. When doctors were forced to amputate his left arm Lee remarked, “He has lost his left arm; but I have lost my right arm.” Eight days later, he died of pneumonia. And although the Confederates had won the battle, the death of Stonewall Jackson more than offset their victory.
Battle of Gettysburg
By the spring of 1863, the Northern grip on the Confederacy was slowly tightening. Lee knew however, that another decisive victory such as Chancellorsville could loosen that grip, turning the tide in the Confederacy’s favor. Hoping to discourage the enemy and gain much needed European aid, Lee marched north towards Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Union troops under the command of General George Meade paralleled his route.
On July 1st, the war’s greatest battle began when a Confederate brigade ran into a Union cavalry unit. By the end of the day, northern troops had been pushed south of the town of Gettysburg, where they established a strong defensive. In the days that followed, Lee mounted a series of major assaults in an effort to crack the Union front, but the northern troops were able to hold their positions. His attack on the left flank was a devastating failure. And later attacks on the right, center, and rear flanks came too late to succeed.
On July 4th, Lee withdrew his battered army. Despite fresh reserves and further reinforcements, General Meade made little effort to pursue him, allowing Lee’s army to escape. The South’s retreat marked a turning point in the war. Never again would the Confederate Army have the resources to mount a major attack against the North.