This once happy country is inflamed by the fury of war; a
menacing enemy is arrayed against the rights, liberties, and freedom of
this, our Confederacy.
Here I stand now with many thousands of the sons of the sunny
South, to face the foe, to drive him back, and to defend our natural
O Lord, God of Israel, be with me in the hot season of the
contending strife...Be unto the Army of this Confederacy, Inspire them
with Patriotism. Give them when marching to meet, or overtake the enemy,
the wings of the eagle...
Guide them, O Lord of battles, into the paths of
victory....Grant that they may even advance to wage battle, and to
battle in Thy name to win. O Lord, God, Father, be Thou with us.
--"The Prayer of the C.S. Soldiers", by Rabbi Max Michelbacher
When the War Between the States broke out, the Jews of the South, and
especially South Carolina, showed the same patriotism, courage, and
willingness to sacrifice as their Christian neighbors.
It is a proud yet little known aspect of American Jewish history,
long ignored or misrepresented by liberal historians (including many
Jewish scholars) intent on demonizing the South, idolizing the North -
especially its leader, president Lincoln - and falsely portraying the
War as a conflict over slavery and human rights. But the important
contribution of Jews to the Confederacy cannot be denied.
DEFENDING THEIR HOMELAND
Robert Rosen begins his classic book, "The Jewish Confederates," by
describing how at the outbreak of war, the Jews of Charleston, "proud
of their history and patriotism dating from the American Revolution,
rallied to the cause."
He recounts the consecration of the new Charleston synagogue Kahal
Kadosh Beth Elohim (Holy Congregation House of God) , on March, 19,
1841, where Rabbi Gustavius Poznanski "spoke for generations of Jewish
Charlestonians when he exclaimed that 'this synagogue is our temple,
this city our Jerusalem, this happy land our Palestine. And as our
fathers defended with their lives that temple, that city, and that
land, so will their sons defend this temple, this city, and this land'."
Indeed they did. In just one day, 21 June, 1862, at the Battle of
Secessionville, on James island near Charleston, three Jewish
Confederates were lost - Private Robert Cohen, Corporal Isaac Valentine
-- and Private Gustavius Poznanski Jr, killed, as Rosen wrote,
"defending his temple, his city, and his land, just as his father said
he would from the pulpit ... twenty one years before."
THIS LAND OF MILK AND HONEY
Hatred and persecution of Jews was widely present in the North. But
in the South, Southern Jews were playing a prominent role in the
Confederate government and armed forces, and "were used to being
treated as equals," as Rosen puts it, an acceptance they had enjoyed for
[Dale and Theodore Rosengarten, in "A Portion of the People: Three
Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life," observe that in 1800,
Charleston had more Jews than any city in North America, and many were
respected citizens, office holders, and successful entrepreneurs. Some
referred to the city as "our Jerusalem"; and Myer Moses, my maternal
family patriarch, in 1806 called his hometown "...this land of milk
Some 3,000 or more Jews fought for the South, practically every male
of military age. [Many carried with them to the front Rabbi
Michelbacher's widely published soldiers' prayer (beginning with the
sacred prayer, the "Shema,"), comparing Southerners to "the Children
of Israel crossing the Red Sea."] As Rosen observes, "Jewish Johnny Rebs
went off to war for patriotism and love of country....Their chief
reasons for fighting were: to do their duty, to protect their homeland,
to protect Southern rights and liberty, and ...to support their
Many Jewish Confederates distinguished themselves by showing, along
with their Christian comrades, amazing courage, dedication, and valor,
while enduring incredible hardships against overwhelming and often
NOTABLE CONFEDERATE JEWS
The best known Southern leader of Jewish ancestry was Judah P.
Benjamin, often called "the brains of the Confederacy", who served
President Jefferson Davis successively in three key positions:
Attorney General, Secretary of War and Secretary of State of the
Confederacy. Towards the end, he also acted as head of the espionage
service, overseeing the establishment of spying and propaganda
operations in the North and Canada, and efforts to burn strategic
buildings, storehouses, and bridges in Union territory.
[Davis' wife Varina called him her husband's "right arm." In 1852, he
became the second Jewish senator (representing Louisiana) in U.S.
history ( the first being Florida's David Levy Yulee ).
credited with being the first Jew appointed to a Cabinet position in a
North American government, as well as being the first to be seriously
considered for nomination to the Supreme Court, which he declined .]
The world renowned sculptor, Moses Jacob Ezekiel of Richmond, was a
highly decorated soldier who, after a march of 80 miles with his fellow
VMI cadets, fought in the Battle of New Market, and later in the
trenches defending Richmond. His mother, Catherine Ezekiel, said she
"would not tolerate a son who would not fight for home and country".
[Ezekiel wrote in his memoirs "we were not fighting for the
perpetuation of slavery, but for the principles of States Rights and
Free Trade, and in defense of our homes which were being ruthlessly
[Major Adolph Proskauer of Mobile, Alabama who graces the cover of
Rosen's book, joined Capt. Augustus Stikes's company, the Independent
Rifles of Mobile, Alabama, which became Company C, 12th Alabama. He was
wounded several times, and a fellow officer once wrote of him, "I can
see him now as he nobly carried himself at Gettysburg, standing coolly
and calmly with a cigar in his mouth at the head of the 12th Alabama
amid a perfect rain of bullets, shot and shell. He was the
personification of intrepid gallantry and imperturbable courage." ]
In North Carolina, six Cohen brothers fought in the 40th Infantry,
and in my family, the five Moses brothers from Sumter served from
beginning to end.
THE MOSES FAMILY
As the War drew to a close, my great grandfather, Andrew Jackson
Moses, participated in a deadly dangerous mission as hopeless as it was
valiant. The date was April 9, 1865, the same day that Lee surrendered
to Grant at Appomattox. Having run away from school at sixteen to
become a Confederate scout, Jack rode out as part of a hastily-formed
local militia to defend his hometown of Sumter, South Carolina.
Approaching rapidly were the 2,700 men of Potter's Raiders, a unit
attached to Sherman's army which had just burned Columbia and most
everything else in its path, and Sumter expected similar treatment.
In his compelling account of the encounter, "Recollections of
Potter's Raid," Allen Thigpen describes how Sumter's 158 or so ragtag
defenders - teenagers, old men, invalids, and wounded from the local
hospital - amazingly were able to hold off Potter's battle-seasoned
veterans for over an hour and a half at the cost of a dozen lives.
[Jack got away with a price on his head, and Sumter itself was not
burned after all. But some buildings were, and there are documented
instances of murder, rape, and arson by the Yankees, including the
torching of our family's 196 bales of cotton.]
Meanwhile, on that same day, Jack's eldest brother, Lt. Joshua
Lazarus Moses, who was wounded in the War's first major battle, First
Manassas (Bull Run), was defending Mobile in the last infantry battle
of the War. With his forces outnumbered 12 to one, Josh was
commanding an artillery battalion that, before being overrun, fired the
last shots in defense of Mobile.
Refusing to lay down his arms, he was killed in a battle at Fort
Blakely a few hours after Lee, unbeknownst to the troops, surrendered-a
battle in which one of Josh's brothers, Perry, had been wounded, and
another brother, Horace, captured while laying land mines.
The fifth brother, Isaac Harby Moses, having served with distinction
in combat in the legendary Wade Hampton's cavalry, rode home from
North Carolina after the Battle of Bentonville-the last major battle of
the war-where he had commanded his company after all of the officers had
been killed or wounded. His Mother Octavia proudly observed in her
memoirs that he never surrendered to the enemy forces.
He was among those who fired the first shots of the War when his
company of Citadel cadets opened up on the Union ship, Star of the West,
which was attempting to resupply the besieged Fort Sumter in January,
1861, three months before the War officially began.
Last Order of the Lost Cause
The Moses brothers' well known uncle, Major Raphael Jacob Moses,
from Columbus, Georgia, is credited with being the father of Georgia's
peach industry. He was General James Longstreet's chief commissary
officer and was responsible for supplying and feeding up to 50,000 men
(including porters and other non-combatants).
[Their commander, Robert E. Lee, had forbidden Moses from entering
private homes in search of supplies during raids into Union territory,
even when food and other provisions were in painfully short supply. And
he always paid for what he took from farms and businesses, albeit in
Confederate tender-often enduring, in good humor, harsh verbal abuse
from the local women.]
Moses ended up attending the last meeting of the Confederate
government (on 5 May, 1865 in Washington, Georgia) and carrying out its
last order. He was instructed by Jefferson Davis to deliver the remnant
of the Confederate treasury ($40,000 in gold and silver bullion) to
help feed, supply and provide medical help to the defeated Confederate
soldiers in hospitals and straggling home after the War-weary , hungry,
often sick or wounded, shoeless, and in tattered uniforms. With the help
of a small group of determined armed guards, he successfully carried
out the order, despite repeated attempts by mobs to forcibly take the
OBSERVING THE SABBATH
Major Moses' three sons also served the Confederacy, one of whom,
Albert Moses Luria, courageously picked up and threw a live Union
artillery shell out of his fortification before it exploded, thereby
saving the lives of many of his compatriots.
At age nineteen, he was shot above the right eye while leading
his men in a charge over the enemy's fortifications at the decisive
Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks) on 31 May, 1862. He was the first
Jewish Confederate killed in the War; his cousin Josh, killed at Mobile,
In "Last Order of the Lost Cause," Mel Young recounts a poignant
family story: the day Albert joined the Columbus City Light Guards,
of the 2nd Georgia Infantry Battalion. He was called to duty in
Columbus, five miles from home, on Saturday, 20 April, 1861 on just two
hours' notice. After marching from the armory to the depot, Albert
writes, "we were met by an immense concourse of citizens - assembled to
bid us 'God Speed.' "
Among the crowd were several members of his family - aunts,
uncles, and cousins - whom Albert wrote he was surprised to see, since
observant Jews do not ride or work their horses on the Sabbath, and so
they had walked several miles into town to bid him adieu.
As he wrote in his journal, "I did not anticipate seeing them, for it
was Saturday I knew they could not ride & hardly expected they
would pay me the compliment of walking in."
Besides Albert Luria and Josh Moses, at least seven other members of
the extended family, of the almost three dozen who fought, gave their
lives in defense of the South.
HATRED OF JEWS IN THE NORTH
While Jews were generally accepted as members of their communities
in the South , in the North anti-Semitism was widespread, including the
Union army, government, and leadership.
Many instances of this widespread Yankee bigotry are described in
detail by Bertram W. Korn, in his classic work, "American Jewry and
the Civil War (1951); by Robert Rosen, and by other historians of the
era. They recount how Jews in Union-occupied areas, such as New Orleans
and Memphis, were singled out by Union forces for vicious abuse and
In New Orleans, the ruling general, Benjamin "Beast" Butler, harshly
vilified Jews, and was quoted by a Jewish newspaper as saying that he
could "suck the blood of every Jew, and ...will detain every Jew as long
as he can." An Associated Press reporter from the North wrote that "The
Jews in New Orleans and all the South ought to be exterminated...They
run the blockade, and are always to be found at the bottom of every new
And the single worst act of official act of anti-Semitism in
American history was carried out by Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant,
who on December 17, 1862, issued his infamous "General Order # 11,"
expelling all Jews "as a class" from his conquered territories within 24
On 4 January, 1863, President Lincoln had Grant's order
rescinded, but by then, some Jewish families in the area had been
expelled, humiliated, terrified, and jailed, and some stripped of their
Other anti-Jewish orders and statements were issued by generals
Grant and William Sherman, and no Union official was ever fired,
disciplined, or even reprimanded for their acts of bigotry and
OUR SACRED DUTY
After the war, Octavia Harby Moses, the Mother of the Moses brothers
(and my great grandmother), devoted her life to memorializing "The
Lost Cause". In 1869 she was unanimously elected president of the
"Ladies Monumental Association" in Sumter, a forerunner of the United
Daughters of the Confederacy. Succeeding her in her crusade was her
eldest daughter Rebecca, who wrote that "Daughters and grand daughters
were all taught by her that this was a sacred duty."
Today, the heritage and honor of our ancestors are increasingly
under attack. We must never cease fighting to prevent this history
from being distorted or forgotten. It is our sacred duty.
-- Lewis Regenstein, a Native
Atlantan, is a writer and author. E-mail Regenstein@mindspring.com