Civil War Blog

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Commemorative Postage Stamps for the Civil War Centennial, 1861-1865 to 1961-1965

Posted By on April 29, 2013

During the Centennial of the Civil War, which took place during the years 1961 to 1965, the United States Post Office issued a set of five stamps, one in each year, to commemorate five significant events of the war years.

The first stamp issued was on 12 April 1861 in recognition of the firing on Fort Sumter.  The First Day event took place at Charleston, South Carolina, where 602,599 cancels were applied.  The Fort Sumter stamp was the subject of an earlier post on this blog:  Fort Sumter – The War Begins.

The designer of the Fort Sumter stamp, which was printed in light green, was Charles R. Chickering.


The second stamp, printed in black on peach blossom paper, depicted a rifleman at the Battle of Shiloh, and was issued on the anniversary of the battle, 7 April 1862, at Shiloh, Tennessee.  On that day, the Post Office applied 526,062 First Day Cancels.  The stamp was designed by Joel Sickles.


On the anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, 1 July 1963, a stamp designed by Roy Gjertson, was issued at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and featured Blue and Gray soldiers clashing.  There were 600,205 First Day Cancels applied on 1 July.  Many collectors also presented covers to be cancelled at Gettysburg on the 2nd and 3rd days of the battle – but these are considered to be “Event Covers”, not First Day Covers.


The Battle of the Wilderness was the subject of the fourth Civil War Centennial stamp that was issued.  It was designed by B. Harold Christenson, and had its first day of issue at Fredericksburg, Virginia, 5 May 1864, the first day of the battle.  Like the Gettysburg stamp issue, the Wilderness stamp can also be found on covers for the next two days (the battle took place from the 5 May through the 7 May 1864).   Officially, 450,904 cancels were applied at Fredericksburg.  Some collectors traveled to Fredericksburg to obtain the stamps on the first day (which was the only place they were sold on 5 May 1864) and then took them to other post offices for cancel – at places that had a significance to the battle.


The final stamp in the set was issued to commemorate the surrender at Appomattox Court House on 9 April 1865.  The stamp was designed by Leonard Fellman, and depicts Abraham Lincoln with head bowed and the words of his Second Inaugural, “with malice toward none….”  Exactly 653,121 First Day Cancels were applied at Appomattox, Virginia.

This fifth stamp also gave collectors an opportunity to obtain a First Day Cover with all five stamps in the set – but the collectors had to provide the stamps and the cover and present it for cancellation at Appomattox where only the Appomattox cancel was available.  There is no way of knowing how many covers were canceled at Appomattox with all five stamps since the Post Office didn’t keep those records – but they are surely more “scarce” than the individual stamps.

These five stamps were also used by collectors who placed them on various event covers.  During the Civil War Centennial, the Post Office accommodated collectors who wanted to get a “event centennial” cancel.  Thus, the five stamps (and many others as well) can be found on covers commemorating an event on just about every day of the war.


Information on issue dates is from the Scott Specialized Catalog of U.S. Stamps and Covers, 2005.  Basic information on stamp issues from Abraham Lincoln on Postage Stamps, the catalog for a special exhibit prepared for a county historical society in Pennsylvania in 2000.

For other blog posts about United States Postage Stamps and the Civil War see:

Early Postage Stamps Honoring Abraham Lincoln

Postage Stamps Honoring Abraham Lincoln – Bureau of Engraving and Printing to 1909

Abraham Lincoln on Stamps – Regular Issues of the 1920s to the Early 1950s

Former Presidents Who Were Alive During the Civil War

Abraham Lincoln on Stamps – Regular Issues of the 1950s through the 1960s

Abraham Lincoln on Stamps – Commemorative Issues, 1909-1958

Abraham Lincoln on Stamps – The Sesquicentennial Issues of 1959



One Response to “Commemorative Postage Stamps for the Civil War Centennial, 1861-1865 to 1961-1965”

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