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To the collectors of Confederate Postal History, what is sometimes contained within the cover can be of just as much interest if not more so than the cover itself. The cover and contents with which this article is concerned has been part of my private collection for over 15 years and has always been one of my favorites.
Shown in Figure 1 is a somewhat ordinary cover with a CSA 10c Blue Type II Archer & Daly stamp tied by the Mobile, Ala double circle postmark dated 20 SEP 1864. The cover is addressed to Mrs. George D. Shortridge, Montevallo Shelby Co., Alabama.
The appeal of the cover is most certainly the letter and the newspaper clipping which it contains. The letter (Figure 2) is extremely lengthly and is from the addressee’s sister consoling her on the death of her sister’s son. Although it is not stated directly in the letter, it is apparent from the contents that the son was in the army and was killed that summer during the fighting around Atlanta.
The letter is clearly datelined Blakely Sept 19th 1864. Blakely does not currently appear on a map of Alabama, but consulting period sources indicate that during the war Blakely was the court house for Baldwin County near Mobile. I am not sure if the town no longer exists or more likely has since undergone a name change.
Contained with the letter is a newspaper clipping taken from the then current Mobile newspaper with a poem. The poem is titled “Somebody’s Darling” and is certainly one of the most famous of the Civil War poems to have come down to us today. This poem and the newspaper clipping (Figure 3) are clearly referred to in the letter.
The cover, the letter, and the poem are all interesting in their own right; but the real reason for this article is what is contained on the reverse of the newspaper clipping. What is on the reverse of the clipping (Figure 4) is part of a column announcing and eulogizing the death of Confederate General Cleburne. Quoting from the clipping: “Among the honored dead of the South, the name of Cleburne will ever stand prominent as one of the great champions of freedom. Since the fall of the lamented Stonewall Jackson, the death of no man is more universally regretted than that of this gallant and distinguished Irishman, who has given his life in defence of his adopted country.” The General in question was Patrick Ronanyne Cleburne (1828-1864), one of only two foreign-born CSA Generals as General Cleburne was born in Ireland and emigrated to New Orleans in 1849. General Cleburne was an excellent combat leader in the Army of Tennessee and beloved by his men.
There is only one problem with this newpaper clipping. The letter is dated 19 September 1864 and clearly referrs to the clipping. However, at that time General Cleburne was very much alive. The announcement of his death by a Mobile newspaper in September 1864 was incorrect. You can’t always rely on what you read in the papers. But was this a strange premonition? Just 2 1/2 months after this letter was written and the announcement appeared in the Mobile newspaper, General Cleburne was indeed dead -- killed leading his division at the Battle of Franklin on 30 November 1864. One can only wonder.