Postmasters and Mail Service

General Casey

First Sergeant
Jan 26, 2016
With my background in logistics, I have been contemplating working on an indepth study of logistics in the Civil War, focusing on everything from supplying the soldiers to transportation of goods and personnel and everything in between.

One thing that is of interest is the role of soldiers as division postmasters for mail service. How did one get appointed postmaster for their division? What were their responsibilities? Was mail censored such in later wars? How did mail move and get to the soldiers? Was there a centralized mail facility in Washington or Richmond were mail could be sorted? How did mail reach prisoners, say at Elmira or Andersonville? Were there private businesses that handled packages or mail, such as today (FedEx or UPS type companies)?

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
I know of one CSA division postmaster, from Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws Division - W. D. Wiley from Company G, Cobb's Legion Infantry (from his service records, Fold3), and am also aware of several brigade mail carriers/postmasters.

(Richmond Daily Dispatch, 11 December 1863) A Post Office has recently been established to go along with the army when it moves, headed by Captain John L. Eubank. There are about 10,000 letters sent from the Post Office each day and as many received. This keeps the eight clerks quite busy from early morn until after midnight each day. At the present time there are not less than 400 unpaid letters remaining in the army post office for soldiers and a large number of newspapers upon which the postage has not been prepaid. Only one soldier from each brigade, known as the brigade mail carrier, visits the post office daily to receive the mail. These carriers decline to take mail on which the postage is unpaid.

(A Chautaqua Boy in '61 and Afterwards, by David B. Parker, from the 72nd New York) He ran mail for the Army of the Potomac from 1861 to 1864. In 1861, he traveled daily to the Post Office at Washington for mail of the regiment; letters home were franked by Member of Congress Reuben E. Fenton. In 1862, while still mail carrier for his regiment, he traveled 35 miles daily to Washington, partly by way of steamer. By the winter of 1862 he was in charge of mails for the 3rd and 5th Corps; he placed some men in the Washington Post Office, and was made a Quartermaster with wagons and teamsters under his direction. He held the same position under Meade and Grant, running mail daily on a steamer from Aquia Creek to Washington. A single distribution point was established in the army where mail was collected by representatives of divisions and brigades.

An express service handled money and package deliveries.

Here's a post on Confederate mail delivery during the Gettysburg campaign: