A Civil War & Stamps Kind of Summer

Last year we began a series commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, joining others across the country in paying tribute to the American experience during the tumultuous years from 1861 to 1865. So far, we’ve issued two souvenir sheets—each with two stamp designs.

Civil War: 1862; issued April 24, 2012
Civil War: 1862; issued April 24, 2012

For 2011, one stamp depicts the beginning of the war in April 1861 at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, while the other depicts the first major battle of the war three months later at Bull Run, near Manassas, Virginia. For 2012, one stamp depicts the Battle of New Orleans, the first significant achievement of the U.S. Navy in the war, while the other depicts the Battle of Antietam, which marked the bloodiest day of the war.

Now, we know that summer is fast coming to a close, but we also know that many of you will be traveling to Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks. So we’ve put together a guide of must-see Civil War exhibits for the Civil War buffs and stamp enthusiasts among you.

At the top of the list must surely be “Abraham Lincoln Certified Plate Proofs” at the National Postal Museum. The exhibit features 11 certified plate proofs for postage stamps honoring Abraham Lincoln that were issued from 1894 to 1959. Certified plate proofs are the last printed proof of the plate before printing the stamps. The permanent exhibit is on display in the Philatelic Gallery on the museum’s lower level.

Two other exhibits at the National Postal Museum may also interest you. “Mail Call”tells the history of military mail and includes Civil War letters, while “Binding the Nation” traces the history of mail service in America, including the Southern Postal Administration of the Civil War. Next September, the museum will open the William H. Gass Stamp Gallery, which will include a display of Civil War stamps and mail.

The National Portrait Gallery has several interesting exhibits. “American Origins, 1600–1900” devotes three galleries to the Civil War and includes a group of modern prints produced from photographer Matthew Brady’s negatives. Brady is the focus of a second exhibit, “Matthew Brady’s Photographs of Union Generals.” Also at the museum is “The Confederate Sketches of Adalbert Volck.” A German immigrant, Volck created art that revealed the Confederate mindset.

Other exhibits in town include “Civil War, The Price of Freedom: Americans at War,”at the National Museum of American History, which offers a military history of America, and “Civil War” at the American Art Museum, which includes work by Winslow Homer and others.

Have you seen one of these exhibits? Leave a comment or share a picture with us on Twitter (@USPSstamps). And please let us know about exhibits related to the Civil War and/or stamps that are in your area. We may just check them out!

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