America's Worst Anti-Jewish Action

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December
17, 2006 is the 144th anniversary of the worst official act of
anti-Semitism in American history.

On that day
in 1862, in the midst of the Civil War, Union general Ulysses
S. Grant issued his infamous "General Order #11," expelling
all Jews "as a class" from his conquered territories
within 24 hours. Henry Halleck, the Union general-in-chief, wired
Grant in support of his action, saying that neither he nor President
Lincoln were opposed "to your expelling traitors and Jew
peddlers."

A few months
earlier, on 11 August, General William Tecumseh Sherman had warned
in a letter to the Adjutant General of the Union Army that "the
country will swarm with dishonest Jews" if continued trade
in cotton is encouraged. And Grant also issued orders in November
1862 banning travel in general, by "the Israelites especially,"
because they were "such an intolerable nuisance," and
railroad conductors were told that "no Jews are to be permitted
to travel on the railroad."

As a result
of Grant's expulsion order, Jewish families were forced out of
their homes in Paducah, Kentucky, Holly Springs and Oxford Mississippi,
and a few were sent to prison. When some Jewish victims protested
to President Lincoln, the Attorney General Edward Bates advised
the President that he was indifferent to such objections.

Nevertheless
Lincoln rescinded Grant's odious order, but not before Jewish
families in the area had been humiliated, terrified, and jailed,
and some stripped of their possessions.

Captain Philip
Trounstine of the Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, being unable in good
conscience to round up and expel his fellow Jews, resigned his
army commission, saying he could "no longer bear the Taunts
and malice of his fellow officers… brought on by … that order."

The officials
responsible for the United States government's most vicious anti-Jewish
actions ever were never dismissed, admonished or, apparently,
even officially criticized for the religious persecution they
inflicted on innocent citizens.

Hatred
of Jews in the Union

The exact
reason for Grant's decree remains uncertain. As author and military
historian Mel Young points out in his book "Where They Lie,"
Grant's own family was involved in cotton speculation (as well
as owning slaves!), so he perhaps considered Jewish traders as
competition. And the language spoken by the many Dutch and German-speaking
peddlers and merchants in the area was probably confused with
Yiddish and many were mistakenly taken to be Jewish.

But the underlying
reason for this Order was doubtlessly the prejudice against and
hatred of Jews so widely felt among the Union forces.

Such bigotry
is described in detail by Robert Rosen, in his authoritative work

The Jewish Confederates
; by Bertram Korn in his classic

American Jewry and the Civil War
; and by other historians
of the era. They recount how Jews in Union-occupied areas, such
as New Orleans and Memphis, were singled out by Union forces for
vicious abuse and vilification.

In New Orleans,
the ruling general, Benjamin "Beast" Butler, harshly
vilified Jews, and was quoted by a Jewish newspaper as saying
that he could "suck the blood of every Jew, and …will detain
every Jew as long as he can." An Associated Press reporter
from the North wrote that "The Jews in New Orleans and all
the South ought to be exterminated. ..They run the blockade, and
are always to be found at the bottom of every new villainy."

Of Memphis,
whose Mississippi River port was a center of illegal cotton trading,
The Chicago Tribune reported in July, 1862, "The Israelites
have come down upon the city like locusts…Every boat brings in
a load of the hooked-nose fraternity."

Rosen writes
at length about the blatant and widespread anti-Semitism throughout
the North, with even The New York Times castigating the anti-war
Democratic Party for having a chairman who was "the agent
of foreign jew bankers."

New Englanders
were especially hateful, and one leading abolitionist minister,
Theodore Parker, called Jews "lecherous," and said that
their intellects were "sadly pinched in those narrow foreheads"
and that they "did sometimes kill a Christian baby at the
Passover."

Jews
in the South Treated Well

Meanwhile,
in the South, Southern Jews were playing a prominent role in the
Confederate government and armed forces, and "were used to
being treated as equals," as Rosen puts it, an acceptance
they had enjoyed for a century-and-a-half.

Dale and
Theodore Rosengarten, in A
Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish
Life
, observe that in 1800, Charleston had more Jews than
any city in North America, and many were respected citizens, office
holders, and successful entrepreneurs. Some referred to the city
as "our Jerusalem"; and Myer Moses, my maternal family
patriarch, in 1806 called his hometown "…this land of milk
and honey." And so it seemed.

Some 3,000
or more Jews fought for the South, practically every male of military
age. Many carried with them to the front the famous soldiers'
prayer, beginning with the sacred prayer the "Shema,"
written by Richmond Rabbi Max Michelbacher, who after secession,
had issued a widely-published benediction comparing Southerners
to "the Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea."

Many Jewish
Confederates distinguished themselves by showing, along with their
Christian comrades, amazing courage, dedication, and valor — and
all enduring incredible hardships against overwhelming and often
hopeless odds.

The Confederacy's
Secretary of War and later State was Judah P. Benjamin, and the
top Confederate commander, General Robert E. Lee, was renowned
for the respect he showed his Jewish soldiers.

Some find
it peculiar that a people once held in slavery by the Egyptians,
and who celebrate their liberation every year at Passover, would
fight for a nation dedicated to maintaining that institution.
(The Israelites later owned their own slaves, rules
for the proper treatment of whom are set out in the Bible.)

But while
slavery is usually emphasized, falsely, as the cause of the War,
Confederate soldiers felt they were fighting for their homeland
and their families, against an invading army from the North that
was trying, with great success, to kill them and their comrades,
burn their homes, and destroy their cities.

And anyone
with family who fought to defend the South, as over two dozen
members of my extended family did, cannot help but appreciate
the dire circumstances our ancestors encountered.

The Moses
Family

Near the
end of the War Between the States, as I grew up hearing it called,
my great grandfather, Andrew Jackson Moses, participated in a
deadly dangerous mission as hopeless as it was valiant. The date
was April 9, 1865, the same day that Lee surrendered to Grant
at Appomattox. Having run away from school at sixteen to become
a Confederate scout, Jack rode out as part of a hastily formed
local militia to defend his hometown of Sumter, South Carolina.

Approaching
rapidly were the 2,700 men of Potter's Raiders, a unit attached
to Sherman’s army which had just burned Columbia and most everything
else in its path, and Sumter expected similar treatment.

Along with
a few other teenagers, old men, invalids, and wounded from the
local hospital, Sumter's 158 ragtag defenders amazingly were able
to hold off Potter's battle-seasoned veterans for over an hour
and a half at the cost of a dozen lives.


 

Joshua
Lazarus Moses
 

 
 

Jack got
away with a price on his head, and Sumter was not burned after
all. But some buildings were, and there are documented instances
of murder, rape, and arson by the Yankees, including the torching
of our family's 196 bales of cotton.

Meanwhile,
on that same day, Jack’s eldest brother, Lt. Joshua Lazarus Moses,
who was wounded in the War's first real battle, First Manassas
(Bull Run), was defending Mobile in the last infantry battle of
the War. With his forces were outnumbered 12 to one, Josh was
commanding an artillery battalion that, before being overrun,
fired the last shots in defense of Mobile.

Refusing
to lay down his arms, he was killed in a battle at Fort Blakely
a few hours after Lee, unbeknownst to them, surrendered — a battle
in which one of Josh's brothers, Perry, was wounded, and another
brother, Horace, was captured while laying land mines.

The fifth
brother, Isaac Harby Moses, having served with distinction in
combat in the legendary Wade Hampton’s cavalry, rode home from
North Carolina after the Battle of Bentonville — the last major
battle of the war — where he had commanded his company after all
of the officers had been killed or wounded. His Mother proudly
observed in her memoirs that he never surrendered to the enemy
forces.

He was among
those who fired the first shots of the War when his company of
Citadel cadets opened up on the Union ship, Star of the West,
which was attempting to resupply the besieged Fort Sumter in January
1861, three months before the War officially began.

Last
Order of the Lost Cause

The Moses
brothers' well-known uncle, Major Raphael J. Moses, from Columbus,
Georgia, is credited with being the father of Georgia's peach
industry. He was General James Longstreet’s chief commissary officer
and was responsible for supplying and feeding up to 50,000 men
(including porters and other non-combatants).

Their commander,
Robert E. Lee, had forbidden Moses from entering private homes
in search of supplies during raids into Union territory, even
when food and other provisions were in painfully short supply.
And he always paid for what he took from farms and businesses,
albeit in Confederate tender — often enduring, in good humor,
harsh verbal abuse from the local women.

Interestingly,
Moses ended up attending the last meeting and carrying out the
last order of the Confederate government, which was to deliver
the remnant of the Confederate treasury ($40,000 in gold and silver
bullion) to help feed, supply and provide medical help to the
defeated Confederate soldiers in hospitals and straggling home
after the War — weary, hungry, often sick or wounded, shoeless,
and in tattered uniforms. With the help of a small group of determined
armed guards, he successfully carried out the order from President
Jefferson Davis, despite repeated attempts by mobs to forcibly
take the bullion.

Major Moses’
three sons also served the Confederacy, one of whom, Albert Moses
Luria, was killed in 1862 at age nineteen after courageously throwing
a live Union artillery shell out of his fortification before it
exploded, thereby saving the lives of many of his compatriots.
He was the first Jewish Confederate killed in the War; his cousin
Josh, killed at Mobile, the last.

Moses'
Pride in Judaism

Moses had
always been intensely proud of his Jewish heritage, having named
one son "Luria" after an ancestor who was court physician
to Spain's Queen Isabella. Another son he named "Nunez",
after Dr. Samuel Nunez, the court physician in Lisbon who fled
religious persecution in Portugal and arrived from England in
July, 1733 with some 41 other Jews, on a tiny, storm tossed ship,
the William and Sarah. As one of the first Jews in Georgia, Nunez
is credited with having saved the colony in Savannah from perishing
from malaria or some other kind of tropical fever. [It is a tradition
in the Nunez family that it traces its ancestry back to the royal
House of David in Israel, from which it was expelled over two
millenia ago.

After the
war, Raphael Moses was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives
and was named chairman of the Judiciary Committee. One of his
best known writings, reproduced countless times in books and articles,
is a lengthy, open letter he wrote to a political opponent in
1878, who attacked him for being "a Jew." This was a
rare deviation from the general acceptance the South showed towards
its Jews, and Moses hit back hard.

"Had...your
overburdened heart sought relief in some exhibition of unmeasured
gratitude, had you a wealth of gifts and selected from your abundance
your richest offering to lay at my feet," wrote Moses, "you
could not have honored me more highly, nor distinguished me more
gratefully than by proclaiming me a Jew."

On another
occasion, he wrote to his grandson Stanford E. Moses, one of the
ten members of Moses' family to enter the U. S. Naval Academy,
advising him to take pride in his heritage, since "You can
point to your ancestry and show the wisdom of Solomon, the poetry
of David, the music of Miriam, and the courage of the Maccabees.
Who can excel you in your past, and let the question in the future
be, u2018Who shall excel you' ...?"

In Last
Order of the Lost Cause
, Mel Young recounts a proud family
story: the day Moses' heroic son Albert Moses Luria joined the
Columbus City Light Guards, of the 2nd Georgia Infantry Battalion.
He was called to duty in Columbus, five miles from home, on Saturday,
20 April, 1861 on just two hours' notice. After marching from
the armory to the depot, Albert writes, "we were met by an
immense concourse of citizens -- assembled to bid us u2018God Speed.'"
Among the crowd were several members of his family, whom Albert
wrote he was surprised to see, since observant Jews do not ride
or work their horses on the Sabbath, and so they had walked several
miles into town to bid him adieu.

Atrocities
Committed by the North

One cannot
help but respect the dignity and gentlemanly policies of Lee and
Moses, and the courage of the greatly outnumbered, out-supplied,
but rarely outfought Confederate soldiers. In stark contrast and
in violation of the then-prevailing rules of warfare, the troops
of Union generals Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan burned and looted
homes, farms, courthouses, libraries, businesses, and entire cities
full of defenseless civilians (including my hometown of Atlanta)
as part of official Union policy not only to defeat but to utterly
destroy the South.

And before,
during, and after the War, this Union army (led by many of the
same generals, including Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Custer)
used the same and even worse tactics to massacre Native Americans
in what we euphemistically call "The Indian Wars." It would be
more accurate to call it a mass murder -- a virtual genocide --
of Native Americans, including helpless old men, women, and children
in their villages.

The eradication
of the Plains Indians from1865 through 1866, for example, was
carried out to seize land for the western railroads. So the Union
army was hardly the forerunner of the civil rights movement, as
many would have us believe.

Why We
Revere Our Ancestors

The valor
of the Jewish Confederates and the other Southern soldiers, and
the blatant anti-Semitism so prevalent in the North, form a nearly
forgotten chapter of American history. Now it is seemingly an
embarrassment to many Jewish historians, and hardly Politically
Correct in this day of constantly reiterated demonization of the
Confederacy, and worshipful reverence for Lincoln, his brutal
generals, and his oppressive government.

But the anniversary
of Grant's little-remembered Nazi-like decree and his other atrocities
should serve to remind us what the brave and beleaguered Southern
soldiers and civilians were up against. Perhaps it will help people
understand why native Southerners, including many Jewish families,
revere their ancestors' courage, and still take much pride in
this heritage.

November
17, 2006

Lewis
Regenstein [send him
mail]
, a native Atlantan, is a writer and author. This article
originally appeared in the Jewish Press of New York City.

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