The Confederate States of America was formed on February 4, 1861. On February 9, 1861, the Confederate Provisional Congress at Montgomery, Alabama, adopted an act to continue in force the laws of the United States of America until the Confederate Congress could change such laws. By default, this made the postal rates of the Confederacy the same as those of the United States. The act prescribing the rates of postage in the Confederacy was passed and received presidential approval and signature on February 23, 1861, but did not go into effect until June 1, 1861.
Postmasters from the seceded states that joined the Confederacy found themselves in a very difficult position. While most postmasters were sympathetic to the South and intended to accept Confederate postmaster commissions, they were still technically under oath to the United States Post Office Department until June 1, 1861. The United States demanded a confirming oath from the Confederate postmasters before shipping additional supplies of U.S. stamps to them during the period between the formation of the Confederacy and June 1, 1861. Confederate Postmaster General John H. Reagan advised Southern postmasters that, in the interests of the people in both parts of the country, it was the wish of the Confederate government that all postmasters continue their duties, render their accounts, and pay all monies to the government of the United States until the Confederate Post Office Department could assume control over its own postal affairs. In a letter written by Reagan in 1898 in reply to some inquiries concerning Confederate postal matters, he explained the Confederate Post Office Department's official position relative to postmaster provisional stamps.
Some of the known 3-cent 1861 postmaster provisionals were adhesive, and some were handstamped. All are rare except the 3-cent Nashville, which was prepared but never issued.