Slandering the Confederacy

To: karen.trout@roanoke,com,

To the Editor:

Slandering the Confederacy
By Lewis Regenstein

One often sees attacks on the Confederacy, comparing it to Nazi Germany and its battle flag to the swastika, as Ronald Mitchiner did in his 19 September essay, "The Real History of the War Between the States."

Such ignorant analogies are highly offensive, especially to those of us who are Jewish, and shows the writer knows little about either the Confederacy or the Nazis.

Over 3,000 Jews fought honorably and loyally for the Confederacy, including its Secretary of War and later State, Judah Benjamin. My great grandfather also served, as did his four brothers, their uncle, his three sons, and some two dozen other members of my Mother’s extended family (The Moses’ of South Carolina and Georgia). Half a dozen of them fell in battle, largely teenagers, including the first and last Confederate Jews to die in battle.

We know first hand, from their letters, diaries, and memoirs, that they were not fighting for slavery, as is so often and falsely alleged, but rather to defend themselves and their comrades, their families, homes and country from an invading army that was trying to kill them, burn their homes and cities, and destroy everything they had.

If you want to talk about Nazi-like behavior, consider the actions of a leading Union commander, General Ulysses S. Grant, whose war crimes included the following actions:

  • Ordering the expulsion on 24 hours notice of all Jews "as a class" from the territory under his control (General Order #11, 17 December, 1862), and forbidding Jews to travel on trains (November, 1862);
  • Ordering the destruction of an entire agricultural area to deny the enemy support (the Shenandoah Valley, 5 August, 1864).
  • Leading the mass murder, a virtual genocide, of Native People, mainly helpless old men, women, and children in their villages, to make land available for the western railroads (the eradication of the Plains Indians, 1865-66). What we euphemistically call "the Indian Wars" was carried out by many of the same Union officers who led the war against the South – Sherman, Grant, Sheridan, Custer, and other leading commanders.
  • Overseeing the complete destruction of defenseless Southern cities, and conducting such warfare against unarmed women and children (e.g., the razing of Meridian, and other cities in Mississippi, spring, 1863).

Contrast these well documented atrocities (and many others too numerous to list) with the gentlemanly policies and behavior of the Confederate forces. My ancestor Major Raphael Moses, General James Longstreet’s chief commissary officer, was forbidden by General Robert E. Lee from even entering private homes in their raids into the North, such as the famous incursion into Pennsylvania. Moses was forced to obtain his supplies from businesses and farms, and he always paid for what he requisitioned, albeit in Confederate tender.

Moses always endured in good humor the harsh verbal abuse he received from the local women, who, he noted, always insisted on receiving in the end the exact amount owed.

Moses and his Confederate colleaques never engaged in the type of warfare waged by the Union forces, especially that of General William T. Sherman on his infamous "March to the Sea" through Georgia and the Carolinas, in which his troops routinely burned, looted, and destroyed libraries, courthouses, churches, homes, and cities full of defenseless civilians, including my hometown of Atlanta.

After Sherman burned Columbia, South Carolina to the ground, a battle-hardened unit (Potter’s Raiders) headed towards nearby Sumter, presumably to do the same, my then 16 year old great grandfather, Andrew Jackson Moses, rode out to defend his hometown, along with some other teenagers, invalids, old men, and the wounded from the local hospital. It was a mission as hopeless as it was valiant, and I am sure that slavery was the last thing on their minds, as they faced certain defeat. Their courage, in the face of overwhelming odds against them, demonstrates why we are so proud of our ancestors.

It was not the South but rather our enemies that engaged in genocide and other war crimes. While our ancestors may have lost the War, they never lost their honor, or engaged in anything that could justify their being compared to Nazis. It was the other side that did that.

Sincerely yours,

Lewis Regenstein
Atlanta, GA

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