Faulty Philately

Chancellorsville StampSay what you will about the Confederate Constitution, but in one respect it got things right. The C.S. Postal Service, for example, after a year had to be financially self-supporting.

Not so the USPS, as we all know. And for the postcard shown here, it can’t even get the history right.

It’s one of the twenty Civil War postcards issued in June 1995 (the illustrations were also used on first-class stamps, back when you could mail a letter for 32 cents). The set featured colorful pictures of leaders (Lincoln, Davis), generals (Lee, Grant, Jackson, Sherman), battles (Shiloh, Gettysburg, Monitor/Virginia), illustrious civilians (Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman) as well as Southern heroines (Mary Chesnut, Phoebe Pember). There was even a native American, Stand Watie—in Confederate uniform!

But back to the postcard. Yep—look at the text in the upper left: “Chancellorsville (May 1-6, 1883.”

Chancellorsville USPS Postcard-back

The postcard series was printed in 100,000 sets that you could buy for $7.95. The one for Chancellorsville, as we would say today, went viral. Robin Wright, a spokesman in Washington, said the Postal Service was not going to reprint it (too expensive). Besides, Wright added, he didn’t think the postcards would be big collectors’ items.

Wrong. They can take down the statues for Lee and Jackson, but after a quarter-century, I still have my misdated Chancellorsville postcard!

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6 Responses to Faulty Philately

  1. Matthew J. Waters says:


  2. Rhea Cole says:

    If you scratch the surface of the Confederate postal service, you will find the fatal flaw. Because of the constitutional restrictions, the CS Mail was too expensive to use.

  3. Meg Groeling says:

    The recurring nightmare for all historians is an uncorrected typo in the date!

  4. Todd Berkoff says:

    YAY!! Lets commemorate one of the worst defeats in US military history and Lee’s “bold” moves!

  5. Henry Fleming says:

    Thank you for sharing that! Great find! Fyi, I bought a T-shirt off internet made out like a Concert T Shirt and on the back was “Stonewall Brigade,” “Virginia Tour 1861-1863,” and it listed their battles like a concert T shirt would list cities on a tour. The person in charge listed Seven Pines as May 35, 1862. So history takes a backseat to stupidity riding shotgun with the mighty dollar driving.

    May I ask, tangentially … was working for the CS Postal system an excuse for not getting drafted? I’ve read or heard, can’t say where, that the Confederate Postal System was efficient and delivering mail right up to the end.

  6. Angel says:

    Thank you for sharing! I just got 1 set of 20 pcs.

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