Civil War "forever" stamps issued by Post Office for the Sesquicentennial

What better way to remember the Civil War than the commemorative stamps of two historic battles. Photo: The firing on Fort Sumter, S.C.

VIENNA,Va., March 7, 2012 — The first stamps of the four year Civil War sesquicentennial stamps have been unveiled by Post Office officials in Charleston, S.C.  Stamps will be issued annually in commemoration of the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War, which raged from 1861–1865, beginning when the opening shots were fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

The site of the new stamps is within earshot of the place where the attack took place, having the honor of being the first stamp. Its companion stamp shows the fighting at the Battle of First Manassas or Bull Run as it was called in the North. The accompanying description of the battle fails to state that the Southern troops won the battle, saying only that while the Northern Army had hoped to “crush the rebels,” instead they witnessed “fierce resistance from Southern troops and a preview of the long war to come.” Translation: the South won.

The stamps will be issued on a two-sided sheet, six of each design on the front, and a description of what they portray on the reverse. It is anticipated that a large number of the stamps will not be used for postage, but will become collectors’ items.

Battle of the First Bull Run

The two depictions on this first sheet were actually introduced on April 11, 2011, which was the anniversary day of the opening salvo while the Manassas Battle did not take place until July 21 of that year.  National Park Service sites protect each of these two iconic battle places ensuring that they will continue to be preserved.

The two scenes were the creation of Phil Jordan of Falls Church, Virginia, who used an old Currier & Ives lithograph entitled “Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor” for that one, and the Manassas or Bull Run picture is a reproduction of a 1964 painting by Sidney E. King titled “The Capture of Rickett’s Battery.” 

This portrays the fighting on Henry Hill during the battle, which also was the site of Gen. Thomas J. Jackson receiving his battlefield sobriquet. When General Barnard Bee saw Jackson’s troops advancing, he shouted to his men, “There stands Jackson standing like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians.”

One wonders why some depiction of Jackson did not make the directorial cut for the stamp, since it arguably is one of the best-known episodes in Civil War history.

For the background image on the stamp pane, Jordan used an old photo dated around 1861 of a Union regiment assembled near Falls Church, Virginia. With the plethora of Union-related symbolism, one wonders if the creators were aware that there were two sides fighting in the War, two armies participating, and that both sides won various battles. Of course “Bull Run” is the name used by the Northern Army, which named its battles by the nearest body of water.  Southern troops and leaders denoted theirs by the nearest town. Again, there were two participants in this war!!

Sometime this year, stamps recalling the Battle of New Orleans and the Battle of Antietam (also called Sharpsburg) will also be released. Another double-sided set will be issued each ensuing year from 2012 until the final set is released in 2015.

You can visit your local Post Office to make your sesquicentennial purchase.

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Martha M. Boltz

Martha Boltz is a frequent contributor  to the long running Civil War features in The Washington Times America At War feature in the print and online editions. She has been a regular contributor to the original Civil War Page and its successor page since 1994, and is a civil war buff, historian, and writer. "Someone said that if we don't learn about the past, we are condemned to repeat it," she said, "and there are lessons of all sorts inherent in this bloody four-year period of our country's history."  She is a member of several heritage and lineage groups, as well as the Montgomery County Civil War Round Table. Her standing invitation is, "come on down - check the blog - send me your comments and let's have fun with its history and maybe learn something at the same time."


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