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Civil War "Adversity Cover" Circa 1862

During the U.S. Civil War, the Union blockade prevented many supplies from entering the Confederacy. That included paper and envelopes. Southerners still sent letters to one another, but they had to be frugal and creative. They would use whatever paper they had, including wallpaper. They would actually fashion envelopes out of wallpaper. Today, such envelopes are called "adversity covers."

Figure 1 shows one such cover that was mailed on February 13, year unknown but 1862 or later, from Desotoville, Alabama to Tompkinsville, Alabama, a distance of some 13 miles. Both towns were located in Choctaw County, which is in the southwestern part of the state. Desotoville no longer exists, and Tompkinsville is a neighborhood in Pennington, Alabama (population 329 as of 2020).

Figure 2 shows the inside of Figure 1. It's a well fashioned envelope.

The cover is franked with a vertical pair of 5-cent Confederate stamps depicting Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. These stamps - Confederate Scott 7 - were issued in July 1862. That issue date places this cover in 1862 or later.

I don't have the contents of this letter, but they must have been important. Confederate postage rates were raised to 10-cents for all distances effective July 1, 1862, and this letter traveled all of 13 miles for that cost.

I have no information on the sender. I do know the letter was sent to the attention or "politeness" of a Mr. Allen Hill and that the recipient was a Mrs. M. A. Simmons. A search on turned up one possible match for Mrs. Simmons in Choctaw County - one Martha A. Simmons - but without more information, I cannot make a definitive connection. The name Allen Hill also appears in the Alabama census, but none that lived in Choctaw County.

I'll have to be satisfied with caring for a peculiar piece of Civil War memorabilia.

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