The Confederate Post Office Department

The Post Office Department of the Confederate States of America was established February 21, 1861, by an act of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States. On March 6, 1861, the day after Montgomery Blair’s appointment by President Abraham Lincoln as Postmaster General of the United States, former U.S. Congressman John Henninger Reagan was appointed postmaster general of the Confederate States of America by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States.

South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas already had seceded from the Union. In the following months, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and most of Tennessee followed suit. Reagan instructed southern postmasters to continue to render their accounts to the United States as before until the Confederate postal system was organized. Meanwhile, he sent job offers to southern men in the Post Office Department in Washington. Many accepted and brought along their expertise, as well as copies of postal reports, forms in use, postal maps, and other supplies.

In May 1861, Reagan issued a proclamation stating that he officially would assume control of the Post Office Department of the Confederate States on June 1, 1861. Postmaster General Blair responded by ordering the cessation of United States mail service throughout the South on May 31, 1861.

Although an able administrator headed the Confederate Post Office Department, its mail service was continuously interrupted. Through a combination of pay and personnel cuts, postage rate increases, and streamlining of mail routes, Reagan eliminated the postal deficit that existed in the South. But blockades and the invading Northern army, as well as a growing scarcity of postage stamps, severely hampered postal operations.

Federal mail service in the South gradually resumed as the war came to an end. By November 15, 1865, 241 mail routes had been restored, and by November 1, 1866, 3,234 Post Offices out of 8,902 in the South were returned to federal control.

Postmaster General Reagan was arrested at the end of the war but later was pardoned and eventually made it back to Congress, where he became chairman of the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads.