Last Sunday's story was a fascinating review of the role that Jews played in the Confederacy. Many people know that Judah Benjamin served prominently in the Confederate government, but fewer realize that there was a substantial Jewish community in the South, and in Richmond in particular. These Jews in the main were strong supporters of the Confederacy and served in the military. I recently discovered that a relative by way of marriage was a Jewish merchant who served in a Confederate unit.
Again, few people realize that Jews were subjected to substantial prejudice... not by the South, but by Northern luminaries, mostly notoriously by none other than U.S. Grant, who issued this lovely General Order #11:
The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.This Order, countermanded by Abraham Lincoln, would have expelled the Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Concurrent with this vile piece of infamy, Grant had written a letter to the Assistant War Secretary as follows:
Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.
HDQES. THIRTEENTH A. C., DEPT. OF THE TENN.,The incident raised hackles even in the North, where the New York Times criticized the Order's "disregard of the simplest rules of English composition. To be dealt harshly with is had enough, but to be vilified in execrable English is cruel, if not unusual, punishment." The Times did get around to condemning the content of the Order as well.
Oxford, Miss., December 17, 1862.
HON. C. P. Wolcott, Assistant Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.: I have long since believed that in spite of all vigilance that can be infused into post commanders, the specie regulations of the Treasury Department have been violated, and that mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders. So well satisfied have I been of this that I instructed the commanding officer at Columbus to refuse all permits to Jews to come South, and I have frequently had them expelled from the department, but they come in with their carpet-sacks in spite of all that can be done to prevent it. The Jews seem to be a privileged class that can travel everywhere. They will land at any wood-yard on the river and make their way through the country. If not permitted to buy cotton themselves they will act as agents for someone else, who will be at a military
post with a Treasury permit to receive cotton and pay for it in Treasury notes which the Jew will buy up at an agreed rate, paying gold. There is but one way that I know of to reach this case; that is, for the Government to buy all the cotton at a fixed rate and send it to Cairo, Saint Louis, or some other point to be sold. Then all traders (they are a curse to the army) might be expelled.
It's well to remember that in history, it is rare that virtue resides entirely on one side of the ledger.