Jews and the Civil War: A Reader
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At least 8,000 Jewish soldiers fought for the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. A few served together in Jewish companies while most fought alongside Christian comrades. Yet even as they stood “shoulder-to-shoulder” on the front lines, they encountered unique challenges.
In Jews and the Civil War, Jonathan D. Sarna and Adam Mendelsohn assemble for the first time the foremost scholarship on Jews and the Civil War, little known even to specialists in the field. These accessible and far-ranging essays from top scholars are grouped into seven thematic sections—Jews and Slavery, Jews and Abolition, Rabbis and the March to War, Jewish Soldiers during the Civil War, The Home Front, Jews as a Class, and Aftermath—each with an introduction by the editors. Together they reappraise the impact of the war on Jews in the North and the South, offering a rich and fascinating portrait of the experience of Jewish soldiers and civilians from the home front to the battle front.
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Having made up his mind, Mordecai could now only wait and hope and continue his work. Rumors that he would resign and join the Confederacy grew stronger in the area around Watervliet, and when he left for Fort Monroe, at Craig’s direction, in early April, some of the local newspapers carried charges that he was deserting to the South. The fact that Sara and their daughter Laura accompanied him—in order to pay a long-promised visit to Mordecai’s eighty-six-year-old mother in Richmond—seemed to
God’s favor and to enable soldiers to fight without fear of death. Historian Harry Stout explained that the Confederacy declared many fast days, a practice previously more common in the North, to bind the civilian populace to the war effort, to seek God’s favor, and to enable civilians and troops alike to display their patriotism and piety—then defined as the same thing.6 In part because of the Confederacy’s cultural traditions, and in part because it recognized that it lacked both the manpower
72. Greenberg, “Becoming Southern,” 62–63. 73. Ashton, Rebecca Gratz, 203. 74. Rebecca Gratz to Ann Gratz, November 24, 1845, Rebecca Gratz Papers, P-9, American Jewish Historical Society (hereafter AJHS); quoted in Ashton, Rebecca Gratz, 198. 75. Smith-Rosenberg, “Female World,” 73. 76. Ashton, Rebecca Gratz, 199; Richea Gratz Hays to Rebecca Gratz, May 27, 1844, Gratz Family Papers, Collection no. 72, box 16, APS. 77. Ashton, Rebecca Gratz, 200. 78. Lawrence W. Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow:
Blacks and Jews” (Simon Wiesenthal Center, 1994); Nat Trager, Empire of Hate: A Refutation of the Nation of Islam’s “The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews” (Coral Reef Books, 1995); and Saul S. Friedman, Jews and the American Slave Trade (Transaction, 1998). More important scholarly studies of the subject include Seymour Drescher, “The Role of Jews in the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” Immigrants and Minorities 12 (July 1993): 113–125 David Brion Davis, “Jews in the Slave Trade,”
priests threw the firebrand of abolitionism into the very heart of this country. … Remember the violent abolition speeches and denunciations of all opponents from the [Henry Ward] Beecher and [Theodore] Parker factions and another host of eccentric minds. … Remember the petition to Congress by the Presbyterian synod of Pittsburgh, Pa., at the beginning of this war, praying to acknowledge God and Jesus, and abolish slavery. 27. The Israelite, January 24, 1862, p. 236: Years ago we knew nothing