Jews in the US Civil War

Jewish Soldiers Go to BattleA lesser known fact in Jewish history is the amount of Jewish people who fought in the American Civil War.  Indeed, documentation shows that there were around 10,000 Jews altogether, 3,000 of whom were battling on the Confederate side and 7,000 on the Union side.  At the time in America, there were around 150,000 Jews in total, so the percentage of Jewish soldiers, is quite significant.  Nonetheless, according to a film put out by the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, entitled ‘Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray,’ this figure “grows with every new research” undertaken about the American Civil war.Faith in WarThrough the Shapell Manuscript Foundation’s movie, one learns about what happened to the Jews on the battlefield, vis-à-vis their faith.  How did they react?  What happened to their religiosity and faith during this time?  In addition, there is a focus on how the Jews “participated in the war that split the nation.”  Perhaps also somewhat interestingly is the fact that the Jews who fought this war actually had “leadership roles on both sides.”  In terms of leadership, nine Jews were generals and 21 colonels.  Secretary of State and acting Secretary of War of the Confederacy was a non-observant Jew named Judah P. Benjamin.  Other high executives in the war where Jewish bankers who were instrumental in “providing government financing for both sides of the Civil war: Speyer and Seligman family, for the Union, and Emile Erlanger and Company for the confederacy.”Anti-Semitism in WarThe Jews had a lot to deal with during the war since it was at that time that there were substantial tensions on race, immigration and “economic competition between Jews and non-Jews.”  Indeed it was seen as the “worst outbreak” of such ill-feeling towards Jews in history.  Americans were attacking Jews for being “disloyal war profiteers,” while “accusing them of driving Christians out of business and of aiding and abetting the enemy.”So it wasn’t an easy time. Of course, war is never an easy time for anyone.  But this movie “Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray” looks at the Jewish perspective at the time and how they saw religion in their lives.

Dan Kazan

Dan Kazan has had years of experience writing for some of the largest newspapers and magazines in the USA. He was one of the first pioneers in bringing the news online and has focused most of his recent energies into making Left Justified the high quality online news and opinion site which it is.Dan can be reached at dankazan(at)leftjustified.com.

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