Butler the Anti-Semite
Mrs. Rebecca Levy resided in the New Orleans home of her brother, Confederate cabinet member Judah Benjamin, at the time of the enemy occupation. Northern General Butler seized the home “and also certain other possessions which
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Butler the Anti-Semite
“Some of the most prominent persons of the Union were imbued with prejudice against the Jews. One of these was Major-General Benjamin F. Butler of Massachusetts, conniving careerist and political opportunist of major proportions, who was given the title “Beast” by the Confederacy for his severity during the early military occupation of New Orleans.
One of his better known victims was Mrs. Philip Phillips, wife of the Alabama Congressman, a fire-eating secessionist in skirts. Butler ordered her imprisoned on Ship Island for months . . . . The war Butler waged upon this Jewess and other Southern women made him the Confederacy’s “Public Enemy Number One,” with a price upon his head.
The General revealed the extent to which he had imbibed prejudicial conceptions of the Jews. They were [to him] a tightly-knit and highly organized nation who set themselves apart and defended themselves against others even when one of their group was wrong. They were all “traders, merchants, and bankers.” They were supporting the Confederacy with whole heart – “two of them certainly are in the Confederate Cabinet.”
[A Jewish editor] wondered who the Cabinet officers were . . . the progenitor of “the tribe of Benjamin, the Jewish Secretary of State,” as Butler referred to him in another connection; and then a highly inaccurate report: “I refer to Mr. Memminger as the other member of the Confederate Cabinet. I have been informed that Mr. [Stephen] Mallory is also of the Jewish faith or nationality.” It was apparent that Butler was one of those who, without further investigation, adopt any rumors which support their prejudices.
The Jewish Record of New York . . . reported that Butler had said “he could suck the blood of every Jew, and he would detain every Jew as long as he can.” The editor of the Record said he was afraid to publish details of Butler’s mistreatment of Jewish prisoners because it would only give him a chance to “increase his severities” against them.”
(American Jewry and the Civil War, Bertram Wallace Korn, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1951, pp. 164-166)