John H. Reagan to Clark, April 1861

In addition to the misery caused by battle, the Civil War disrupted many everyday aspects of life. The Confederacy struggled to take over ordinary government services such as postal delivery. John Henniger Reagan, a former U.S. Congressman from East Texas, was appointed postmaster general of the Confederacy. In this letter, Reagan instructs the governors of the Confederate states to continue to pay their accounts to the U.S. postal service as before until a Confederate postal service could be organized.

U.S. postal service to the Confederacy was cut off on May 31, 1861. Although Reagan was an able administrator, Confederate postal service throughout the war was exceedingly poor. Very few stamps were issued, and delivery was handicapped by Federal control of the Mississippi River, destruction of railroads, blockade by sea, and invading army by land. Most people came to rely on travelers and soldiers on furlough as an informal alternative to the postal service.

At war's end, Reagan went on the run with other officials of the former Confederacy. Eventually, he was arrested along with Jefferson Davis and former Texas governor Francis R. Lubbock. During his imprisonment, he recognized the reality of the Confederacy's defeat and wrote an open letter to his fellow Texans urging them to recognize the authority of the United States and to renounce secession and slavery. Pardoned and released, he returned to Texas in December 1865, only to find himself the object of scorn for his conciliatory stance.

Events proved Reagan right, and he eventually won the nickname the "Old Roman" as a compliment to his willingness to sacrifice personal popularity for the greater good. He was reelected to Congress in 1874, and became a United States Senator in 1887. In 1891, he became the chairman of the newly formed Railroad Commission, which became a uniquely powerful body in regulating not only railroads, but many other aspects of the Texas economy. He retired in 1903 and died in 1905.

"War, Ruin, and Reconstruction"

Reagan to Clark

"War, Ruin, and Reconstruction"

John H. Reagan to Clark, April 1861, Records of Edward Clark, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: March 30, 2011