The Civil War period was one of high emotion, openly on display on covers known as “patriotic covers.” Citizens expressed their political ideology by using envelopes decorated with flags, portraits, slogans, cartoons, and battle scenes. The custom originated in the North, where these designs were immensely popular.
There are thousands of different Northern patriotic designs, while there are fewer than 200 Confederate designs showing period postal use. The South lacked the North’s industrialized advantages and was short of supplies. Thus Confederate patriotics are rarer and more valuable.
The most common Confederate design was a flag with 7 to 13 stars, depending on when the cover was printed. A star was added when each state was admitted to the Confederacy. Also featured were pictures of cannons, soldiers, tents, cartoons, and caricatures. Many covers included slogans, verses, and imprints as well.
Most patriotic covers were used early in the war. Few Confederate patriotic covers were used after 1863.
One of the rarest of Confederate patriotics is the “Hanging Lincoln,” which portrays Abraham Lincoln hanging by his feet from the limb of a dead tree. Lincoln’s hands were tied, with an ax and a fence rail hanging from his neck. An 11-star Confederate flag flew above him while the Union Stars and Stripes lay on the ground. One of the numerous verses that accompanied the caricature is: “Abe Lincoln, the destroyer. He once split rails, now he has split the Union.”
Collectors should take note that this is an area which contains dangerous fraudulent covers. There exist genuine unused patriotic envelopes which have been transformed by adding genuine Confederate stamps with counterfeit postmarks and address panels. Others are modern creations. Detecting such covers can be difficult. Thus formal certification should be considered if there is any doubt as to authenticity.