Looking closely at postage stamps

At first glance, the two U. S. Postage stamps below appear to be exactly the same although the one on the left was printed in Bright Rose Carmine whereas the one on the right was in Shades of Gray. Looking more closely, one of the first noticeable differences is the initials above the 3, with GAR on the left sample and UCV on the right. The smaller print at the top explains those two sets of initials. GAR: “final national encampment of the GAR” (Grand Army of the Republic) and UCV: final reunion United Confederate Veterans. The hat of the older veteran on the left stamp also has a GAR emblazoned on the hat whereas UCV is on the hat of the older veteran on the right. In each case the depiction of the younger soldiers are replicas of one another, signifying, I suppose, the youths as they served in the Civil War.

The veterans of the GAR was founded on April 6, 1866, for those who were in the Union army between April 12, 1861, and April 9, 1865. At the time of the Final Encampment there were sixteen members left, six of whom attended the April 29, 1949 event. There is a Minnesota connection in that the very last survivor of the two armies lived in our state: Albert Woolson who was born in 1850 and died at 106 in 1956. Albert’s father who had moved to Minnesota, enlisted in 1861, but was wounded in an accident and was released from the Union army in July of 1862. He had brought his family, including Albert, from New York to live in Minnesota. Albert’s father died in 1865 after having his leg amputated.

Albert enlisted in 1864 possibly by lying about his age as enlistees were supposed to be 18. He became a drummer and bugler in Company C, First Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment earning $16 per month. Company C was sent to Chattanooga, Tennessee where Albert served to the end of the war.


The GAR U.S. Postage stamp (#985) was issued Aug. 29, 1949, in Indianapolis, Indiana. A total of 117,020,000 of those stamps were produced. The UCV U.S. Postage Stamp (#998) was issued May 30, 1951 in Norfolk, Virginia. A total of 119,120,000 of those stamps were reproduced.

I found it interesting that the UCV stamp was issued on Memorial Day, which the GAR veterans had helped establish. One of the traditional presentations for that holiday is the reading of the May 5, 1868, proclamation establishing May 30 as Decoration Day (later named Memorial Day.)


The founding of the UCV did not come until June of 1889. Up until 1878, there was a federal law prohibiting “rebel” societies. The principles for the GAR had been: Fraternity, Charity, Loyalty. The formation of the UCV was, “strictly social, literary, historical, benevolent.” Of course both were advocates for the well being of their members as well as members’ widows and orphans.

The two groups were not totally antagonistic. For example, the 1st reunion of the UCV invited both Confederate and Union Veterans as well as members of the general public.

The 1st reunion also included a presentation on the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac, the two iron clad ships that had an indecisive battle on March 9, 1962 near Hampton Roads, Virginia on the James River. It was the world’s first ever battle of two iron clad warships.

The Union ship was the Monitor (172 foot, but faster boat) and the Merrimack (263 foot rebuilt frigate — actually then called the Confederate Virginia) was from the south. At least one such description of the Merrimack was that it was like a floating barn roof while the Monitor was described as a Yankee cheese box on a raft. The two ships engaged and the Monitor suffered some damage and moved into shallower water. The Virginia thought they were totally disabled, but the Virginia also had some leaks and retired to the Norfolk shipyard. The battle was over. The two iron clads met again on April 11 but they did not engage in a battle.

Just before the big battle, the Virginia had totally disabled the frigate Minnesota which eventually was sunk.

When Norfolk was abandoned, the Virginia crew destroyed their ship. The Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, NC in December 1862, located in 1973 and salvaged for wreckage in 2002.


There was also some collaboration in 1913. A total of 50,000 Union and Confederate Veterans met for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (1863) to support the naming of that Battleground as a National Park.

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!


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