On December 17, 1862 the Union’s most successful general issued an order requiring all Jews to leave a sizeable part of the United States. Ulysses S. Grant’s Order Number 11 stated that:
1. The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department [of the Tennessee] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.
2. Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters.
3. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.1
The Jews “as a class” had been exiled from many countries in the past and banned from many areas within countries they had been permitted to settle in, but they had never been forcibly expelled from any part of the United States. Grant’s order carried with it an immediate physical threat of expulsion and imprisonment for Jews in Kentucky and Tennessee, but it also carried a more wide ranging threat for Jews everywhere in the country. If Grant’s order was allowed to stand, would they be safe anywhere in the United States? If they could be sent away from their homes and businesses in two states, should they ever purchase real estate in any state since they might be deprived of it’s enjoyment by military decree?2
The threat was compounded by Grant’s growing popularity. While Northern generals east and west proved cautious or incompetent, Grant was a fighting general whose aggressive nature was coupled with diligent planning and brilliant battlefield decision making. In a little over a year he had gone from a little known officer to fame as a heroic general.3
Now Grant appeared to have set himself up as America’s most prominent enemy of the Jews.
In a letter Grant wrote on the same day as the Order, he explained to an official in Washington that the Jews were money grubbers who behaved unethically and threatened the army’s security and its morals. In other words, he deployed common anti-Semitic accusations against not individual Jews, but the Jews as a people. His resort to the ancient remedy of exiling the Jews placed him on the same level as those Jew-haters that many of America’s Jewish immigrants had suffered under in Europe before coming to this country.4
The way the Jewish community in the United States responded to Grant’s order and Abraham Lincoln’s reaction to it would signal a victory over bigotry that would benefit both immigrants in America and Jews in the Old World alike. It would also, ultimately, save Grant from his own prejudices.
In coming articles we will examine Grant’s motives in issuing the order and how the order was counteracted.
Video on Expulsion of the Jews
1. When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan D. Sarna published by Schocken (2012); Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity 1822-1865 by Brooks Simpson published by Houghton Mifflin (2000) pp. 163-164; The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, Volume 7: December 9, 1862 – March 31, 1863 edited by John Y Simon SIU Press. p. 56 (1979).
2. When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan D. Sarna published by Schocken (2012) Kindle Location 608.
3. Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity 1822-1865 by Brooks Simpson published by Houghton Mifflin (2000);Grant: A Biography by William McFeely published by Norton.
4. When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan D. Sarna published by Schocken (2012) Kindle Location 608.
The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that examines the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear twice monthly between 2011 and 2017. Here are the articles we have published so far:
1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War – Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.
2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America – Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.
3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist– A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.
5. …And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants
10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.
12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?– The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.
17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers
39. A German Regiment Fights for “Freedom and Justice” at Shiloh-The 32nd Indiana under Col. August Willich.
40. The Know Nothing Colonel and the Irish Soldier Confronting slavery and bigotry.
43. Union Leader Ben Butler Seeks Support in New Orleans-When General Ben Butler took command in New Orleans in 1862, it was a Union outpost surrounded by Confederates. Butler drew on his experience as a pro-immigrant politician to win over the city’s Irish and Germans.
49. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Richmond-The Irish brigade in the Peninsula Campaign from March 17 to June 2, 1862.
50. Peninsula Emancipation: Irish Soldiers Take Steps on the Road to Freedom-The Irish Brigade and Irish soldiers from Boston free slaves along the march to Richmond.
54. Making Immigrant Soldiers into Citizens-Congress changed the immigration laws to meet the needs of a nation at war.
60. Emancipation 150: “All men are created equal, black and white”– A German immigrant reacts to the Emancipation Proclamation
Immigration Vacation -Civil War Sites