Thursday, February 23, 2023

Booknotes: Delivered Under Fire

New Arrival:
Delivered Under Fire: Absalom Markland and Freedom's Mail by Candice Shy Hooper (Potomac Bks, 2023).

Candice Shy Hooper's Delivered Under Fire is the first biography of Kentucky-born Absalom Hanks Markland (any relation to Lincoln's mother?), who was appointed special agent of the United States Post Office in 1861 and gained a reputation as an exceptionally able administrator of the military mail system in departments under U.S. Grant's oversight.

From the description: "During the Civil War his movements from battlefield to battlefield were followed in the North and in the South nearly as closely as those of generals, though he was not in the military. After the war, his swift response to Ku Klux Klan violence sparked passage of a landmark civil rights law, though he was not a politician. When he died in 1888 newspapers reported his death from coast to coast, yet he’s unknown today."

He's obscure enough to not even have a Wikipedia biography. According to his Find A Grave bio, Markland was a teacher, business entrepreneur, government clerk, and lawyer before the Civil War. He was also involved in newspaper press and railroad interests. As Grant's command responsibilities expanded, so did Markland's duties, and after the war President Grant appointed him to an Assistant Postmaster General position. According to Hooper, Markland's close contacts and associations with Grant, Lincoln, and Sherman, sometimes on a daily basis, have generally "escaped modern notice, until now."

More from the description: "At the beginning of the Civil War, at the request of his childhood friend Ulysses S. Grant, Markland created the most efficient military mail system ever devised, and Grant gave him the honorary title of colonel. He met regularly with President Abraham Lincoln during the war and carried important messages between Lincoln and Generals Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman at crucial points in our nation’s peril. When the Ku Klux Klan waged its reign of terror and intimidation after the Civil War, Markland’s decisive action secured the executive powers President Grant needed to combat the Klan."


  1. I’m still working on the question of whether he was related to Nancy Hanks. COVID shuttered key archives as I was about to embark on that quest. But there are tantalizing clues pointing to a connection. . .


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