By Zev Roth
When Cesar Kaskel first saw the notice, he likely rubbed his eyes. In a
daze, he probably ran home to his family. One look at him and his wife would
have realized that there was something dreadfully wrong.
"Why, what is it? What happened?" she surely asked.
And then he told her about the order for every Jew to leave his home within
twenty- four hours.
"Leave? Why? What have we done?" she may have asked, bewildered.
And he may have answered: "Do they ever say why when they throw Jews out of
their homes? I just never thought it would happen in America."
Whatever the precise words of their conversation, Kaskel informed his spouse
about General Ulysses S. Grant's General Order 11, signed on December 17,
1862. As Military Governor of newly conquered Civil War territory, he had
issued the order in Holly Springs, Mississippi, mandating the total
expulsion of "the Jews, as a class" from an area corresponding with what is
today Northern Mississippi, Kentucky and Western Tennessee within "twenty
four hours," without trial or hearing
In Paducah, Kentucky, many families were expelled. They could not believe
they were being forced from their homes in so abrupt a manner.
A certain Mr. Silverman from Chicago, visiting the town, unfortunately came
to share the fate of his local brethren, who on December 17, denied even
rail transportation for their exodus, were forced to travel all the way to
Memphis by foot. For his efforts to use some contacts to get a desperate
telegram through to General Grant, Mr. Silverman was promptly thrown into a
Holly Springs prison.
For his part, Cesar Kaskel tried to contact the President of the United
States, Abraham Lincoln. He wrote an urgent telegram to the White House,
protesting "this inhuman order, the carrying out of which would be the
grossest violation of the Constitution and our rights as citizens under it,
which will place us...as outlaws before the whole world."
As it happened, his letter was the second to find its way to Lincoln's desk
concerning the Jewish people. A few days earlier, a missive had arrived from
one B. Behrend, the father of a religious Jewish soldier in the Union army.
Behrend wrote to request Lincoln's assistance in allowing his son to observe
the Jewish Sabbath. He asked Lincoln, "as your namesake Abraham", for his
help in this matter. "This will be exactly lawful, as the Constitution of
the United States ordains it, and at the same time be exactly according of
the teachings of the Bible, as recorded in Leviticus XIX, 18: "Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself."
Kaskel realized, due to the desperation of the situation, that he had to
make a trip to Washington. With the help of Congressman Gurley of Ohio, he
secured an appointment to see President Lincoln. Together, they were quickly
admitted to Lincoln's office on the second floor of the White House.
It quickly became apparent that Lincoln knew little or nothing about the
Jewish expulsion. Kaskel, however, had brought documentation along, and
provided a first-person account of Jews being evicted from their homes.
After carefully listening, Lincoln asked, "And so the children of Israel
were driven from the happy land of Canaan?"
Kaskel said, "Yes, and that is why we have come unto Father Abraham's bosom,
asking for protection."
Lincoln replied "And this protection they shall have at once." He then
ordered that General Order 11 immediately be revoked.
Historians debate whether Ulysses S. Grant was the one responsible for the
expulsion, or whether he had merely carried out the wishes of an
anti-Semitic higher government official. What is clear, however, is that
Lincoln was very sympathetic to the plight of the Jewish Americans affected
by the order.
Perhaps, in part, because of a letter from a Sabbath-observant soldier's
AM ECHAD RESOURCES
Zev Roth is an author living in Israel. His most recent book is "The
Monsey-Kiryat Sefer Express: True Tales from Two Cities" (Targum Press,
|The question is --were there any Jews on the Mayflower? And if they were here during the Mayflower's time -- how did they arrive?|
- J. H. -0/5-/2003
|* * * * *|
|The Confederate States had Jews in high office (Judah P. Benjamin) and many soldiers that were Jewish, Native American, Black, Hispanic, French, German, etc. The last Confederate General to surrender was a Native American named Stands Watie. After hearing about general order #11, I wonder how multicultural the Union was... |
|* * * * *|
|Lincoln rose to the supreme heights of greatness. Jews have been in the new world since the Mayflower. To T.H. - thankfully, due to great men like Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, and all the founding fathers, many of whom shared ideas of democracy with their fellow Jewish mason's, we Jews live as equals in this greatest of all nations, America. And, why not? We've been here since the beginning. We've fought and died in every American war. If only bitter Jew-haters would focus their energies in a more positive direction, they too could achieve something in their lives.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What wonderful words.
Let me ask T.H. this: if you can't live by the American way, why don't YOU go back to where you came from. |
- C. G. -1/0-/2002
|* * * * *|
|Came across this material about General Order 11 in a book and I am considering it for a trivia contest. My recollection is that Grant had been given bad advice implicating Jews being involved in unfair trading practices in the aftermath of the civil war. The Democats used this against him in his campaign for the presidency, the Republicans downplayed it. Apparently he appointed a number of Jews to prominent positions when elected, so the alleged antisemitism was not Grant's.|
- L. K. -0/2-/2002
|* * * * *|
|I have heard that Lincoln's biological father was Jewish. Is there any evidence of this? |
|* * * * *|
|View More Comments|
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5766
As the Cloud Moves On, So Does Life
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759
The Repetitive Trap
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5770
The Cure for Something
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5760
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5764
The Lesson of the Menorah: Focus
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5772
Not to Be Taken Light-ly
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759
A Second Chance at Pesach
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5755
Eldad and Meidad: The Rest of the Story
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5758
Pesach Sheni: Second Chances
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5766
Our Awesome Power
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5764
Our Daily Challenge
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765
Crowned With Humility
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760
On The Heaven And The Earth
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5772
Shlomo Katz - 5763