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Civil War Mail Delivery

U. S. Mail wagon
U. S. Mail wagon

Ever wonder how all those letters that people find in their attics from Civil War soldiers got delivered during the war?

The mail did actually go through, although the postal service admittedly had trouble catching up to units on the march. Sometimes troops went weeks before the letters from home found them.

Many letters were sent without stamps. The postal service let them go through as long as they had the soldier’s name, rank and unit. They collected the “postage due” when they delivered the letter back to the person the letter was addressed to.

Stationary varied from fancy Union letters with American flags and eagles to small slips of paper. A cursory look at the letters themselves would bring you much as you might expect – good handwriting from the mothers. And letters from the soldiers sometimes legible, often times not. Some of the spelling was phonetic, with some soldiers unable to spell the same word the same way in different sentences.

A typical regiment in the North sent about 600 letters per day. According to reports, average postal rates were three cents per letter for Union soldiers. In the South, that same letter took a ten cents stamp to post. It is estimated the average letter during the war years arrived at its destination in about two weeks.

The first Confederate stamp was a five cent stamp with a picture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis on it.

Several private companies also carried the mail, particularly across the divide between the North and the South, including the Adams-Southern Express Company.

Soldiers who were mostly lonely and bored savored the receipt of a letter when their name was announced at mail call.

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