Confederate mourning cover
United States 3-cent George Washington (USA Scott 26), cancelled by a blue concentric target. Envelope is postmarked by Charlottesville, Virginia, May 14, 1861, on an envelope addressed to William Cabell Rives, a member of the Provisional Confederate Congress meeting in Montgomery. Rives had previously served in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives and as Ambassador to France.
The envelope, with its thin black border, is known as a mourning cover, which was used for a suitable period of time after a death in the family. The docketing indicates that the sender was Rives’s son, who might have been a student at the University of Virginia at that time.
This letter was mailed about a month after Virginia seceded from the United States (April 17, 1861). Virginia was admitted to the Confederacy on May 7, 1861. This cover therefore represents Confederate use of United States postage.
Mail continued to travel uninterrupted under the service of the U. S. Post Office Department until the Confederate Post Office Department officially began service on June 1, 1861. A three-cent stamp paid the letter rate for a distance less than 3,000 miles.