Confederate Postal Service
Backstory and Context
The Confederate States of America (CSA) formed their own Post Office Department on February 21, 1861. John H. Reagan was named as the service's postmaster general. In all Reagan placed 8,535 of the nation's 28,586 post offices under Confederate control and sought assistance from southern-sympathizers in the U.S. Post Office Department. Reagan tried to bring not just employees from the Federal system into his, but also all that they could bring in the way of maps, reports, forms and plans that would build and strengthen the new service.
The area included in the present State of West Virginia was never in fact a part of the Southern Confederacy, yet there was a brief period when the Confederacy could claim nominal control over the whole region. That was the brief interlude between May 9, 1861, when Virginia was admitted into the Confederate States, and June 20, 1861, when the secession of the western counties from seceded Virginia was completed at Wheeling as the Restored Government of Virginia, loyal to the Federal Union. Authority of the Confederate government was not respected in the western area and it was at best a paper control.
But the organization of a loyal government and, two years later, the creation of the State of West Virginia could not and did not prevent Confederate control, civil and military, over certain areas held for a short time only, while others -- notably Monroe County, as a single unit -- were dominated by Confederates down to the closing days of the conflict. In these counties money for support of Confederate soldiers and their families was appropriated by the county courts; to maintain trade fractional money "shinplasters" were issued under authority of acts of the Confederate Congress, and such essential services as post offices and post routes were maintained.
The Confederate postal service did operate in West Virginia, and continued in operation as an organized service at various places after statehood was achieved, and on down until very shortly before the final scene at Appomattox. Official records are lacking -- the story of the Confederate post offices west of the mountains must be patched together from little scraps and mentions in letters, diaries, newspapers, and the recollections of persons who had first-hand knowledge of the events of the wartime years. The only official evidence of Confederate operation of post offices west of the mountains is found in the postmarked envelopes (covers, as termed by collectors) which are treasured in a great many outstanding Confederate philatelic collections. These covers are exceedingly scarce and when offered on the market usually command a premium over items of like date bearing the postmarks of offices east of the mountains.
A minimum estimate of the post offices in West Virginia that were operated by the Confederacy would number well over fifty, but only a few of the major offices can be certainly identified as having once served under the Stars and Bars. But starting with Harpers Ferry, at the tip of the Eastern Panhandle, the line of known Confederate post offices runs to the south and south-west through Shepherdstown, Martinsburg, Charles Town, Rippon, Moorefield, Franklin, Romney, Travellers Repose (now Bartow), Huntersville, White Sulphur Springs, Frankford, Lewisburg, Red Sulphur Springs, Salt Sulphur Springs, Union and Peterstown -- the last four offices named are in Monroe County. Reaching into the interior there are several covers bearing the Beverly manuscript postal markings, and on to the south Fayetteville and Kanawha Court House (now Charleston) served briefly under the Confederates.
Stutler, Boyd B.. The Confederate Postal Service in West Virginia, October 1st, 1962. Accessed September 23rd 2019. http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh24-1.html.
The Confederate Postal System, A Nation Divided. Accessed September 23rd, 2019. https://postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/current/binding-the-nation/a-nation-divided/Confederate-postal-system.html.