A remarkable autograph cover from Confederate general Robert E Lee will sell as top lot in Robert A Siegel Auction Galleries' sale of the Richard L Calhoun Collection of Charleston, SC on February 27 in New York.
The cover is the only recorded endorsement (signature in lieu of postage) from Lee during his short tenure at Savannah, Georgia in the US civil war. Bearing his autograph, and an unusual returned and forwarded postal use between Charleston and Savannah, it is estimated at $15,000-20,000.
The sale follows Siegel's auction of The Benjamin Wishnietsky Collection of Confederate States on February 26, which stars a "Southern Letter Unpaid" cover at $30,000-40,000.
The Robert E Lee cover is a buff envelope addressed in his hand to "Honble Wm. Porcher Miles Charles S.C.", and was sent shortly after Lee arrived in Savannah on November 8, 1861 to bolster coastal defences. William Porcher Miles was a pro-slavery States' Rights advocate and a hawk who pushed for secession.
Postmarked with a "Savannah Geo. Nov." circular date stamp and "paid 5" in an oval hand stamp, it was returned from Charleston with a "Charleston S.C. Nov 24, 1871" double-circle date stamp and a red crayon "fw 5".
The cover was later readdressed to Richmond, Virginia in early 1862, with a "Savannah Ga. Paid" date stamp, and a red "Due 5" applied but then struck out by a black grid cancel.
Charleston, South Carolina is renowned as the place where the tensions of the US civil war first sparked, having declared itself an independent republic in December 1860. Charleston remained in Confederate control throughout the war, but the Calhoun collection focuses on just the first year - a particularly tumultuous time for the post office under postmaster Alfred Huger.
Richard L Calhoun is a respected collector and author of various publications on Confederate states postal history, incuding two books: "The Confederate Postmaster Provisionals of Virginia" and "Charleston, South Carolina and the Confederate Postmaster Provisionals".