December 17th, 1862 – General Order No. 11
Gen. U.S. Grant’s Hanukkah Gift to the Jews
With the recent Spielberg movie we’ve been hearing a lot about Lincoln, the president who waged a war against our southern ancestors…
But you will likely not hear anything about the day Lincoln’s darling general, Ulysses S. Grant, issued what some say is the broadest most visible act of anti-Semitism in the United States…others say it is the most blatant official episode of anti-Semitism in the entire 19th century….
How can this be?? Coming from the great freedom fighters credited with fighting to ‘free the slaves’???
What’s it all about anyway? General Order No 11 was issued by Gen. Grant on December 17, 1862….and it expelled all Jewish people from the areas of Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi the Military District under Grant’s control…sending them from their homes and livelihoods under fear of arrest or worse.
Here is the order verbatim:
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.
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. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.
So what’s this trade permit thing about? Well you see, even though at war, business between the north and south went on, and cotton was a ‘hot commodity’. The Union even used southern cotton for its tents and uniforms. So rather banning the purchase of southern cotton, trade permits were issued to control it. Along with the Treasury Department, the duty fell to highest US commanding general so Grant was responsible in his territory.
Apparently Grant was resentful about having to be bothered, and as prices for cotton soared in the fall of 1862, Grant’s HQ was overrun by merchants seeking permits. Even Grant’s own father appeared one day seeking trade licenses for a group of Cincinnati merchants, some of whom were Jews!!!!
There were also some unscrupulous dealings involving black market cotton and… unlicensed traders bribed Union officers to allow them to buy Southern cotton without a permit. As one exasperated correspondent told US Secretary of War Seward, “Every colonel, captain or quartermaster is in a secret partnership with some operator in cotton; every soldier dreams of adding a bale of cotton to his monthly pay.”
A handful of the illegal traders were Jews, although the great majority were not. In the emotional climate of the war zone, ancient prejudices flourished. The terms “Jew,” “profiteer,” “speculator” and “trader” were employed interchangeably. Union commanding General Henry W. Halleck linked “traitors and Jew peddlers.” Grant shared Halleck’s mentality, describing “the Israelites” as “an intolerable nuisance.”
Convinced that the black market in cotton was organized “mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders,” Grant issued General Order 11 on the first day of Hanukkah – December 17th 1862.
Grant’s dogs of war enforced the order at once in the area surrounding Grant’s headquarters in Holly Springs, Mississippi.
Some Jewish traders had to trudge 40 miles on foot to evacuate the area!!!
In Paducah, Kentucky, Grant’s henchmen gave the town’s 30 Jewish families—all long-term residents, (none of them speculators and at least two of them Union Army veterans) 24 hours to leave.
Well, Lincoln took so much heat over this over the coming weeks, that he told his Commanding General Henry Halleck to rescind it, and Grant did so 3 days later.
The issue would come up in Grant’s 1868 Presidential campaign. Some sources say he transcended his anti-Semitic reputation ‘carrying the Jewish vote”. After the election, he issued an apology saying it was telegraphed out before I could think it over.
He is credited for trying to make amends by offering Joseph Seligman a prominent Jewish Businessman the post of secretary of the Treasury, and for appointing more Jews to public office than any US President before him.
However, General Order 11 is a monument to the tyrannical tactics used during the prosecution of the war on the South…are these roots of the Holocaust?
Historian, Augusta Jane Evans Wilson Chapter 2640