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The Jewish Community Reacts to Grant’s Expulsion Order

January 28, 2013   View Discussion

The Jewish Community Reacts to Grant’s Expulsion Order

Patrick Young, Esq.

by Patrick Young, Esq. - Blogger

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Jews in 1860s America made up less than 1% of the total population. Roughly half of them were immigrants. Many Americans only knew the Jews through their Bibles and ancient stereotypes.

While America was becoming a haven for the persecuted Jews of Europe, some citizens were uncomfortable with an influx of people whose loyalties they suspected. General Grant’s December 1862 order expelling the Jews from his military district was supported by many of these Americans. For example, soon after the order was issued, an Associated Press reporter wrote in an article that “The Jews in New Orleans and all the South ought to be exterminated [because they] are always found to be at the bottom of every new villainy.”1

Jews worried that Grant’s order reflected the anti-Semitic attitudes expressed by some abolitionist adherents of evangelical Christianity. One of the most radical abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison had described a Jewish opponent as “a lineal descendant of the monsters who nailed Jesus to the cross…”  The fierce Protestantism of anti-slavery crusaders sometimes made them antagonists of Catholics and Jews.  In turn, the abolitionists were often equated with Know Nothings by immigrants. In common with some Irish immigrants, a few Jewish leaders feared that the recent emancipation of African American slaves might foreshadow the displacement of unpopular immigrants by newly freed blacks.2

Beyond Grant’s motives, rabbis and other leaders worried that the entire American Jewish community was stigmatized by his order. Jews in Kentucky appealed Grant’s expulsion in a telegram to Abraham Lincoln. They alleged that if the order was to stand, Jews would be viewed by other Americans as an outlaw class. This, they argued would only serve to increase prejudice against the Jews everywhere in the United States. Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise was Cincinnati’s leading rabbi and the publisher of a Jewish newspaper. He was the Jewish community leader closest to Grant’s command. As Jews in several towns began to be ordered out by local military commanders, he tried to rally his people to protest the expulsion. He wrote:

Israelites, citizens of the United States, you have been outraged, your rights as men and citizens trampled into the dust, your honor disgraced, as a class you have been officially degraded! It is your duty, the duty of self-defense, your duty first to bring this matter clearly before the president of the United States and demand redress, the satisfaction to the citizen who has been mortified and offended.3

Jews tried to rally support beyond their communities by implying that if they could be expelled now, other unpopular minorities, like Irish Catholics, could be the next target. They also warned military leaders that the issuance of Grant’s order could ignite protests that would distract from the war effort. But their main focus accorded with Rabbi Wise’s call. Delegations from Kentucky, Ohio, and elsewhere were soon on their way to Washington to try to meet with Lincoln to lay out their case for revocation of the expulsion order before the president.4

Video: Jewish Soldiers React to Grant’s Order

1. When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan D. Sarna published by Schocken (2012) Kindle Location 622; Jews and the Civil War: A Reader by Jonathan D. Sarna NYU Press (2011); American Jewry and the Civil War by Bertram Korn published by Atheneum (1951); Anti-Semitism in America by Leonard Dinnerstein published by Oxford University Press (1994); American Judaism by Jonathan D. Sarna published by Yale University Press (2004); Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity by Brooks Simpson published by Houghton Mifflin (2000).
2. When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan D. Sarna published by Schocken (2012) Kindle Location 631-644.
3.When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan D. Sarna published by Schocken (2012) Kindle Location 303.
4.When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan D. Sarna published by Schocken (2012) Kindle Location 314.

The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that will examine the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear monthly between 2011 and 2015, the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. Here are the articles we have published so far:

1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War - Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.

2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America - Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.

3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist- A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.

4. Immigrant Leader Carl Schurz Tells Lincoln to Stand Firm Against Slavery.

5. ...And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants

6. The Rabbi Who Seceded From the South

7. The Fighting 69th-Irish New York Declares War

8. The Germans Save St. Louis for the Union

9. New York’s Irish Rush to Save Washington

10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.

11. Carl Schurz Meets With Lincoln To Arm the Germans

12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?- The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.

13. Why the Germans Fought for the Union

14. Why Did the Irish Fight When They Were So Despised?

15. The “Sons of Garibaldi” Join the Union Army

16. The Irish Tigers From Louisiana

17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers

18. The St. Louis Germans Set Out To Free Missouri

19. Wilson’s Creek Drowns Immigrant Dream of Free Missouri

20. English-Only in 1861: No Germans Need Apply

21. After Bull Run: Mutineers, Scapegoats, and the Dead

22. St. Louis Germans Revived by Missouri Emancipation Proclamation

23. Jews Fight the Ban on Rabbis as Chaplains

24. Lincoln Dashes German Immigrants Hopes for Emancipation

25. When Hatred of Immigrants Stopped the Washington Monument from Being Built

26. Inside the Mind of a Know Nothing

27. The Evolution of the Know Nothings

28. The Know Nothings Launch a Civil War Against Immigrant America

29. The Know Nothings: From Triumph to Collapse

30. The Lasting Impact of the Know Nothings on Immigrant America.

31. Lincoln, the Know Nothings, and Immigrant America

32. Irish Green and Black America: Race on the Edge of Civil War

33. The Democratic Party and the Racial Consciousness of Irish Immigrants Before the Civil War

34. The Confederates Move Against Latino New Mexico

35. Nuevomexicanos Rally As Confederates Move Towards Santa Fe—But For Which Side?

36. The Confederate Army in New Mexico Strikes at Valverde

37. The Swedish Immigrant Who Saved the U.S. Navy

38. The Confederates Capture Santa Fe and Plot Extermination

39. A German Regiment Fights for “Freedom and Justice” at Shiloh-The 32nd Indiana under Col. August Willich.

40. The Know Nothing Colonel and the Irish Soldier Confronting slavery and bigotry.

41. Did Immigrants Hand New Orleans Over to the Union Army?

42. Did New Orleans’ Immigrants See Union Soldiers As Occupiers or Liberators?

43. Union Leader Ben Butler Seeks Support in New Orleans-When General Ben Butler took command in New Orleans in 1862, it was a Union outpost surrounded by Confederates. Butler drew on his experience as a pro-immigrant politician to win over the city’s Irish and Germans.

44. Union General Ben Butler Leverages Immigrant Politics in New Orleans

45. Thomas Meager: The Man Who Created the Irish Brigade

46. Thomas Meagher: The Irish Rebel Joins the Union Army

47. Recruiting the Irish Brigade-Creating the Irish American

48. Cross Keys: A German Regiment’s Annihilation in the Shenandoah Valley

49. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Richmond-The Irish brigade in the Peninsula Campaign from March 17 to June 2, 1862.

50. Peninsula Emancipation: Irish Soldiers Take Steps on the Road to Freedom-The Irish Brigade and Irish soldiers from Boston free slaves along the march to Richmond.

51. Slaves Immigrate from the Confederacy to the United States During the Peninsula Campaign

52. The Irish 9th Massachusetts Cut Off During the Seven Days Battles

53. Union Defeat and an Irish Medal of Honor at the End of the Seven Days

54. Making Immigrant Soldiers into Citizens-Congress changed the immigration laws to meet the needs of a nation at war.

55. Carl Schurz: To Win the Civil War End Slavery

56. Carl Schurz: From Civilian to General in One Day

57. Did Anti-German Bigotry Help Cause Second Bull Run Defeat?

58. Immigrant Soldiers Chasing Lee Into Maryland

59. Scottish Highlanders Battle at South Mountain

60. Emancipation 150: “All men are created equal, black and white”- A German immigrant reacts to the Emancipation Proclamation

61. The Irish Brigade at Antietam

62. Private Peter Welsh Joins the Irish Brigade

63. Preliminaries to Emancipation: Race, the Irish, and Lincoln

64. The Politics of Emancipation: Lincoln Suffers Defeat

65. Carl Schurz Blames Lincoln for Defeat

66. The Irish Brigade and Virginia’s Civilians Black and White

67. The Irish Brigade and the Firing of General McClellan

68. General Grant Expells the Jews

69. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Its Destruction At Fredericksburg.

70. Fredericksburg: The Worst Day in the Young Life of Private McCarter of the Irish Brigade

71. Forever Free: Emancipation New Year Day 1863

72. Private William McCarter of the Irish Brigade Hospitalized After Fredericksburg

73. The Immigrant Women That Nursed Private McCarter After Fredericksburg

74. Nursing Nuns of the Civil War

75. The Biases Behind Grant’s Order Expelling the Jews

76. The Jewish Community Reacts to Grant’s Expulsion Order


Painting of the Return of the 69th from Bull Run Unearthed

Blog Posts

Why I’m Writing The Immigrants’ Civil War

The Five Meanings of “The Immigrants’ Civil War”

Free Yale Course with David Blight on the Civil War

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New Immigrants Try to Come to Terms with America’s Civil War

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Germans Re-enact the Civil War-But Why Are They Dressed in Gray?

Leading Historians Discuss 1863 New York City Draft Riots

The Upstate New York Town that Joined the Confederacy

Civil War Blogs I Read Every Week

Book Reviews

The Harp and the Eagle: Irish American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861 to 1865 by Susannah Ural Bruce

Jews and the Civil War: A Reader Edited by Jonathan Sarna and Adam Mendelsohn

Civil War Citizens edited by Susannah Ural Bruce

Germans in the Civil War: The Letters They Wrote Home edited by Walter Kamphoefner and Wolfgang Helbich

A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War By Amanda Foreman

Irish Green and Union Blue by Peter Welsh

Immigration Vacation -Civil War Sites

Fort Schuyler- Picnic where the Irish Brigade trained





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