VERY FINE. A MAGNIFICENT SOUTHERN LETTER UNPAID COVER WITH THE DISTINCTIVE UNION CITY TENNESSEE NEGATIVE HANDSTAMP AND CORNER CARD OF THE SHORT-LIVED LA GRANGE SYNODICAL COLLEGE. ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BOSHWIT COLLECTION AND OF CONFEDERATE POSTAL HISTORY.
Steven C. Walske's recently published analysis of mail service at the onset of the Civil War provides new information about circumstances surrounding the use of the coveted "Southern Letter Unpaid" marking. Postmaster General Blair's May 27 suspension order prohibited post offices from forwarding southbound mail to disloyal Southern states. However, northbound mail continued to be sent via Louisville. Through June 6, northbound mails were forwarded to Louisville from Memphis or Nashville. From June 7 through 12, only the Nashville post office forwarded mail to Louisville, and Louisville continued to forward mail north. With the resignation of W. D. McNish as Nashville's Federal postmaster on June 12, "Louisville held the mails still being sent north by the discontinued post office at Nashville. This held mail later became the well-known 'Southern Letter Unpaid' mail" (Walske).
United States postage stamps affixed in the South (and entires used from the South) were regarded as contraband and were refused as prepayment. On June 24, Dr. J. J. Speed, the postmaster at Louisville, was advised to forward letters from the South to the loyal states after removing postage. With approximately 5,000 such letters accumulating at Louisville by this date, Postmaster Speed employed a more practical means of invalidating postage by creating the "Southern Letter Unpaid" handstamp.
Immediately after receiving instructions from Washington to forward the held mail, the Louisville post office began marking letters. Some of these have circular datestamps (June 27, 28 and 29 being the most common dates), while others have no Louisville datestamp. The Louisiana office continued to use the June 29 datestamp until the end of the Southern Letter Unpaid period on July 12.
This cover is unusual in that it was posted from Union City, Tennessee, without stamps or any notation of postage paid (U.S. or Confederate). The presence of a corner card on a Southern Letter Unpaid cover is also extremely unusual. The Chi Mu Society was a fraternal organization (Sigma Chi) at La Grange Synodical College, which was founded in 1857, but closed in 1861 due to the Civil War. It was used as a storage facility by the occupying Union army.
Illustrated in Shenfield book (p. 8). Ex Emerson.