19 May 2010

Washington DC: Civil War Jews, May 27

Are you familiar with Civil War General Ulysses Grant’s Order No. 11? It called for the expulsion of all Jews in his military districts comprising areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

On December 17, 1862, Major General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Orders No. 11. The New York Times called it "one of the deepest sensations of the war."

The order read:
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.

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.

To commemorate Jewish American Heritage Month, a panel will discusses the contributions of Jewish men and women during the Civil War, including the infamous order above. Each panelist will discuss a key text, including documents and events.

The program takes place Thursday, May 27, at 7pm, in the William G. McGowan Theater

The moderator will be Dr. Gary P. Zola, executive director of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives and Professor of the American Jewish Experience at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institution of Religion.


-- Eli Evans, former president of the Revson Foundation and author of "Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate;"

-- Dr. Pamela S. Nadell, director of the Jewish Studies Program at American University and co-editor of "Women and American Judaism: Historical Perspectives."

For more information about the program, click here.

For more information on Grant's Order, click here for images of the document and here for the background and chronology of the order and its revocation.


  1. Grant had a father in law who was also secessionist. Grant's father in law, at the time of this order, was coming to see Grant and bringing his Jewish business partner with him. It just so happens that this Jewish man dealt in cotton. The order was generated by Grant due to Grant's distaste of Jewish cotton businessman, who were profiting from the war at the time. Grant was reprimanded for this order.

  2. When Grant ran for President, he and the Republican Party had to confront this issue, which was raised during the campaign. As a result, Grant tried to make things right and to woo the Jewish community. This may explain why he was present for the 1876 dedication of Adas Israel's original building in Washington, D.C.