Jonathan D. Sarna: When General Grant Expelled the Jews





Jonathan D. Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University and chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History. This article is adapted from his new book, When General Grant Expelled the Jews.

On Dec. 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued the most notorious anti-Jewish official order in American history: “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 within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.” Known as General Orders No. 11, the document blamed Jews for the widespread smuggling and cotton speculation that affected the area under Grant’s command. That area, known as the “Department of the Tennessee,” stretched from northern Mississippi to Cairo, Ill., and from the Mississippi River to the Tennessee River. Grant ordered Jews expelled from every inch of it and warned that “any one returning ... will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners.” Lest anyone try to change his mind, Grant made clear that “no passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application for trade permits.”...




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