Plate 49. General Post-Office, Army of the Potomac

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Text and photograph from Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, Vol. II. Negative by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, text and positive by Alexander Gardner.
The Post-Office at the Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac was a great institution. Thousands of letters passed through it every week, and in the movements of the army, its welfare was regarded as almost of as much importance as any other department. Each regiment had a post boy, who carried the letters of his command to brigade headquarters. There the mails of the different regiments were placed in one pouch, and sent up to division headquarters, and thence to corps headquarters, where mail agents received them and delivered them at the principal depot of the army, to the agent from General Headquarters. When the army was encamped around Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburg, the corps mail agents delivered their mails to the headquarters agent at Falmouth station, the latter agent going through by rail and steamer to the General Post-Office at Washington. During the Petersburg campaign the mails going North were consolidated at City Point. As the mails passed to and from the army daily, the work required a large number of men, nearly all of whom were private soldiers detailed for such duty.
The photograph shows the tent used by the Post-Office Department at General Headquarters. The cases for the letters were made of rough boards, which on a march were packed away in the bottom of an army wagon, one being sufficient to carry the whole establishment, including the tent and its furniture. So systematically was this department conducted, under the supervision of Wm. B. Haslett, Postmaster, that a letter which left Boston on the morning of the first of the month, reaching Washington on the night of the second, would generally be delivered to the private soldier in the trenches at Petersburg on the night of the fourth. At times, however, the mails would accumulate in the office at Washington, necessitating a delay of several days before they could be assorted and placed in the several army pouches, one of which was kept for every corps, and detached command of the army.
Currently not on view
date made
Gardner, Alexander
place made
United States: Virginia, Brandy Station
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 6 3/4 in x 9 in; 17.145 cm x 22.86 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
related event
Civil War
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Gardner's Sketchbook
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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