Sale 988 — The Steven C. Walske Collection of Civil War Special Routes
Sale Date — Thursday, 27 May, 2010
Category — Flag-of-Truce Mail: Galveston-U.S. Blockading Squadron
VERY FINE APPEARANCE. AN EXCEEDINGLY RARE PRISONER-OF-WAR COVER FROM A UNION PRISONER AT THE HUNTSVILLE PENITENTIARY IN TEXAS, SENT VIA FLAG-OF-TRUCE THROUGH GALVESTON AND THE U.S. NAVAL BLCOKADING SQUADRON IN THE GULF.
Federal defeats in Texas in 1863 left a large number of U.S. prisoners in the Houston area. The only U.S. forces near these prisons were the naval ships blockading Galveston harbor. To facilitate the exchange of released prisoners and mail, a flag-of-truce route developed between C.S.A.-controlled Galveston and offshore U.S. naval ships of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. Outgoing letters were carried by U.S. naval ships to Old Point Comfort. They were then transmitted in closed mail bags from there to a distributing post office near the destination, typically Boston, Philadelphia or New York. If unfranked, they were marked "U.S. Ship" and 3c due at the distributing post office. If franked with 3c U.S. postage, they entered the mails at the distributing post office. Only a very small number of covers carried by this route are known, and they are all northbound inner envelopes from one of the three C.S.A. prisons in Texas.
As discussed in detail in the following lot, Captain A. N. Proctor sailed from New York with Company G of the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry in late 1862 (probably after staying at the Brandreth House Hotel) and was captured on January 1, 1863, as his company was attempting to occupy Galveston. He was confined at Huntsville sometime between January and June 1863 and transferred to Camp Groce sometime prior to November. He subsequently was marched to Tyler and Camp Ford in December 1863 before he was finally exchanged. This cover has no date postmarks or docketing identifying the origin. Prisoner records suggest that it was mailed from Huntsville sometime between January and May 1863. Harrison did not identify this cover as originating at Huntsville Penitentiary, but illustrates it on page 65.
Illustrated in Special Routes (p. 83). The Proctor correspondence is discussed in Chronicle (May 1979, No. 102). With 1994 C.S.A. certificate