Grant’s General Orders #11 (1862) (expelling Jews)
In December 1862, in the midst of the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant issued an order expelling all Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi because, as the document claimed, ‘‘The Jews as a class violat[e] every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also [War] Department orders.’’ Local commanders were to furnish passes for Jews to cross military lines solely for the purpose of leaving the department of the Tennessee, themilitary district under Grant’s command, and anyone returning would be arrested and confined to prison. No passes were to be given them for the purpose of visiting headquarters in an effort to secure trade permits.
Grant had responded to the thriving black market in southern cotton. Although at war, northern mills needed southern cotton, and President Lincoln had allowed limited trade to satisfy some of the demands of the mills, in part to furnish uniforms and other textiles to the Union Army. Technically, one needed a license to engage in this trade, but in fact many people ran the borders, since the price of cotton had soared.
Some of these unlawful traders were indeed Jews, but not all Jews were engaged in the trade, and the vast majority of illegal traders were non-Jews. People like Grant, General Henry Halleck and others, however, used the term ‘‘Jew,’’ ‘‘profiteer,’’ and ‘‘speculator’’ interchangeably. Grant described the Jews as ‘‘an intolerable nuisance,’’ and no doubt his anti-Semitism reflected that of many other people in the army and the government.
Although army officers began to carry out Grant’s order, a group of Paducah, Kentucky, Jewish merchants, led by Cesar Kaskel, sent an indignant telegram to Abraham Lincoln, condemning Order No. 11 as an ‘‘enormous outrage on all laws and humanity,. . . the grossest violation of the Constitution and our rights as good citizens under it.’’ Jewish leaders organized protest rallies in other cities and sent dozens of telegrams to the White House.
Kaskel arrived in Washington on January 3, 1863—two days after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect—and, along with influential Jewish businessman and the Cincinnati Congressman John A. Gurley, went to the White House to see the president. Lincoln immediately ordered Halleck, the commanding general of the Union army, to have Grant revoke Order No. 11. As the president told another delegation of Jews that arrived three days later, Grant had been wrong to issue the order and he believed that ‘‘to condemn a class is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad.’’ Grant later proved a friend to Jews, won much of their vote in his presidential campaigns, and named several Jews to high office. But his Order No. 11 remains the sole example of blatantly anti-Semitic action by the government of the United States.
MELVIN I. UROFSKY
References and Further Reading
- Ash, Stephen V. ‘‘Civil War Exodus: The Jews and Grant’s General Order No. 11.’’ The Historian 44 (1982): 502–523.