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During the Civil War, Gen. Ulysses Grant Began Expelling Southern Jews—Until Lincoln Stepped In

July 23, 2019 in History

By Erin Blakemore

The 1862 letter was short, but its meaning was clear—and devastating. “You are hereby ordered to leave the city of Paducah, Kentucky, within twenty-four hours,” it read.

Cesar Kaskel couldn’t believe it. He had emigrated to the United States after leaving Prussia, where he was discriminated against and financially ruined because he was Jewish. Now, the Union Army was telling him he was being expelled from his new home and his business for the same reason.

Kaskel was about to become one of the Jewish people ordered to leave towns in Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee during the Civil War. They were victims of General Orders No. 11, a discriminatory wartime declaration issued by General Ulysses S. Grant.

Grant’s decree was “the most sweeping anti-Jewish regulation in all of American history,” historian and rabbi Bertram W. Korn noted in his book American Jewry and the Civil War.

Though the 1862 orders were aimed at cotton speculators, they gave all Jews—speculators or no—just 24 hours to leave their homes, businesses and lives behind. It was the culmination of a wave of anti-Semitism that swept through the United States in the year before the Civil War… and a decision that would haunt Grant for the rest of his life.

An illustration depicting Paducah, Kentucky in the 1860s.

By 1860 there were an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Jewish people in the United States, up from 15,000 in 1840. That dramatic rise was the result of poverty and discrimination in Germany and Central Europe, where Jewish people were often excluded from trade, prevented from marrying and subject to pogroms and other violence.

The United States offered the promise of economic and social freedom. But Jewish immigrants were not always welcomed into their new communities, especially in the North. New Jewish enclaves in American cities were viewed with suspicion by those who recognized neither their language nor their religion. Once the Civil War broke out, things got even worse.

In the North, popular newspapers disparaged Jews as secessionists and rebels and blamed them for destroying the national credit. And though some Jews occupied high-ranking roles within the Confederacy, anti-Semitism was widespread in the South as well.

Almost as soon as the war began, illegal trade and smuggling between North and South started. Though the Union blockaded Southern ports, goods still made their way over the border, and profiteers continued their …read more


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