As a descendant of Jewish Confederate soldiers who fired the last shots in defense of Mobile at the end of the War Between the States, I found Rabbi Jonathan Miller's 27 July attack on the South I struggle to understand Southerners' affection for the Confederacy to be highly ignorant and offensive. He certainly does not speak for my People, and I would appreciate the opportunity "to tell the other side of this story".
Rabbi Miller's article is insulting to the millions of decent Southerners whose ancestors fought for their homeland, especially those of us whose families fought for the South. Confederate soldiers overwhelmingly served their country with honor, courage, and valor, sacrificing much, sometimes their lives, and all they owned, defending their people and cities that were under attack by the North.
Some 3,500 to 5,000 Jews fought honorably and loyally for the Confederacy, including its Secretary of War and later State, Judah Benjamin. My then 16 year old great grandfather (Andrew Jackson Moses) served, as did his four brothers, their uncle, his three sons, and some two dozen other members of my Mother’s extended family (the Moses’ of South Carolina and Georgia). More than half a dozen of them fell in battle, largely teenagers, including the first and last Confederate Jews to die in battle (Albert Moses Luria and Joshua Lazarus Moses).
We know first hand, from their letters, diaries, and memoirs, that they and their comrades-in-arms were not fighting for slavery, but rather to defend themselves, their families, homes, and country from an often brutal invading army that was trying with great success to kill them, burn their homes and cities, and destroy everything they had.
Three of the Moses brothers fought with Culpeper's Battery, which on the last real day of the War, 9 April, 1865, the day General Lee surrendered, at the battle of Fort Blakeley, fired the last artillery barrages in defense of the Fort and Mobile, finally being overrun by a Union force outnumering theirs by twelve to one. At this, the last large infantry battle of the War, the eldest brother, Joshua, was killed; Horace was captured laying land mines (returning home from Union captivity "a skeleton" in his Mother's words); and Perry was wounded earlier and evacuated to New Orleans.
On that same day, a unit of Sherman’s army, which had just burned nearby Columbia, South Carolina, headed towards my family’s hometown of Sumter, presumably to do the same to it. My great grandfather rode out to fight Potter’s Raiders, along with some other teenagers, old men, and the wounded and invalids from the local hospital, a mission as hopeless as it was valiant. And with their families and homes and their own lives in mortal danger, defending slavery was the last thing on their minds.
It is strange to see a rabbi praising the Union army as if it were some human rights organization, and comparing Confederate memorials to the Nazi swastika. .It was the top Union General, Ulysses S. Grant, who on 17 December, 1862 issued the infamous General Order # 11 expelling all Jews "as a class" from his area of operations, including parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. Union commanders also forbade Jews from riding on trains (November, 1862), and wrongly blamed them for whatever economic troubles the North encountered.
In contrast, Confederate Commander General Lee respected his Jewish soldiers and did his best to accommodate their religious observances and holidays.
It was this same Union Army (led by many of the same Civil War generals, including Sherman, Grant, Sheridan, and Custer)) that engaged in virtual genocide against the Native Americans in what we euphemistically call "the Indian Wars," often massacring harmless, defenseless old men, women, and children in their villages.
Other war crimes specifically committed by Grant include:
Ordering the destruction of an entire agricultural area to deny food to the South (the Shenandoah Valley, 5 August, 1864); Leading the mass murder of the Plains Indians to make land available for the western railroads (the eradication of the Plains Indians, 1865-66);
Overseeing the complete destruction of defenseless Southern cities, and conducting such warfare against unarmed women and children (e.g., the razing of Meridien, and other cities in Mississippi, spring, 1863).
Contrast these atrocities (and many others too numerous to list) with the gentlemanly policies and behavior of the Confederate forces. My ancestor Major Raphael Jacob Moses, who was General James Longstreet’s chief commissary officer and is credited with carrying out the Last Order of the Confederate Government, was forbidden by General Robert E. Lee from even entering private homes in their raids into the North, such as the famous incursion into Pennsylvania. Moses was forced to obtain his supplies from businesses and farms, and he always paid for what he requisitioned, albeit in Confederate tender.
Moses and his Confederate colleagues never engaged in the type of warfare waged by the Union forces, especially that of General William T. Sherman on his infamous "March to the Sea" through Georgia and the Carolinas, in which his troops routinely burned, looted, and destroyed libraries, courthouses, churches, homes, and cities full of defenseless civilians, including my hometown of Atlanta.
It was not the South but rather the other side that engaged in genocide and other war crimes. While our ancestors may have lost the War, they never lost their honor, or engaged in anything that could justify the vilification that is so often directed at them nowadays .
We honor our ancestors and their military leaders with memorials because they showed amazing courage and valor, enduring incredible hardships against overwhelming and often hopeless odds, in fighting for their homeland. Rabbi Miller sort of acknowledges some of this towards the end of his article, but he is apparently unaware of most of this history.
Perhaps this letter will help educate him a bit about the proud history of Our People here in our beloved Southland..
Thank you for taking the time to consider these facts.