Salem, Virginia: May 24, 1861. Envelope or Cover. This letter was mailed using a U.S. 3-cent Nesbitt (Scott #U10) envelope on May 24, 1861, after Virginia had joined the Confederacy. As such it should have been rejected by the Confederate postal authorities. The letter is datelined, Salem May 24, 1861 and the envelope bears a strong circular Salem postmark also dated May 24. Both are in nice shape. Very good. Item #009324
In this letter, John McCauley, a long time Roanoke representative in Virginia’s General Assembly, requests Davit Hartman to encourage Virgiania’s Governor Letcher to appoint the founder and president of Roanoke College, Dr. David Bittle (a Lutheran minister), as a chaplain in one of the state's volunteer regiments that were forming in the early days of the Civil War. Apparently, Hartman’s actions, if he took any, had little effect on the governor as Bittle is well remembered at Roanoke College for keeping the school open throughout the Civil War. That, however, did not preclude Bittle from playing a military role during the conflict. He organized the school’s students into a Corps of Cadets that fought alongside the Confederate Army near Salem in December of 1863. The students, however, were no match for their union opponents and quickly forced to surrender after which they were just as quickly paroled and sent back to their studies. A college company was mustered once more in September of 1864, this second time as a unit in the Virginia Reserves, but saw no action before the war ended. (Although the Virginia Military Institute’s participation in the Battle of New Market is said to have inspired the Corps of Cadets scene in the John Ford-John Wayne movie, The Horse Soldiers, I’ve thought it possible that the “Holy Joe” President of the film’s Jefferson Military Academy was based upon Dr. Bittle.) An important letter documenting Dr. Bittle’s attempt to receive an appointment as Chaplain in a Virginia volunteer regiment, and an especially scarce use of a U.S. postal envelope within the Confederacy. Any use of U.S. stamps or postal envelopes is scarce, however the Confederate States of America Catalog and Handbook of Postal History (p.22) records no use of any U.S. postal envelopes through the Salem, Virginia post office. The Virginia Tech Special Collections holds two McCauley letters from the Civil War.