How the "Lost Cause" poisoned our history books


Ulysses S. Grant championed civil rights in the South during Reconstruction — and he’s still paying dearly for it

Joan Waugh’s fawning praise of General Ulysses Grant ignores the fact that he was one of the cruelest and most brutal and bigoted figures of American military history.

Before he assumed his leadership positions with the Union army, he managed his father-in-law’s slave plantation, later applying the style of a slave overseer to his military tactics.

These tactics emphasized the persecution of Southern civilians, against whom Grant’s troops committed numerous atrocities.

Waugh concedes that Grant banned Jews from trading in cotton, noting that he deeply regretted the action.

Not true !

What he actually did was to commit the worst act of official anti-Semitism in America’s history, along with other anti-Jewish acts for which he never expressed regret or contrition.

In order to stop speculation in cotton, Grant issued orders on 9 and 10 November 1862 banning southward travel in general, stating that “the Israelites especially should be kept out… no Jews are to be permitted to
travel on the railroad southward from any point. They may go north and be encouraged in it; but they are such an intolerable nuisance, that the department must be purged of them”.

The following month, in his notorious General Order # 11, of 17 December, 1862, he expelled all Jews “as a class” from his conquered territories in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Jewish families in the area were not only expelled, but jailed, stripped of their possessions, and generally terrified.

On 4 January, 1863, Lincoln belatedly rescinded Grant’s order, but by then, much damage had been done to the Jewish community in those states.

And throughout the War, Union troops under Grant and their other top generals – William Tecumseh Sherman, and Philip Sheridan – burned, looted and destroyed Southern towns and cities (including my hometown of
Atlanta), homes, farms, courthouses, libraries, and most anything else they came across that would help local residents survive and support themselves.

But these were not the worst crimes of the Union Army. These same generals were responsible for carrying out various massacres of Native Americans during what we politely call "The Indian Wars." Throughout the
period during, preceding, and following the Civil War, defenseless women, children, and the elderly were attacked and slaughtered in their villages.

The South never engaged in these kinds of atrocities against helpless civilians in Union areas it invaded (though its record of persecution of Indians is not much better then the North’s, having expelled rather than
murdered them).

Grant was known to be a brutally effective general, but not a person of decent character, which again became obvious during the numerous corruption scandals of his presidency.

It is for these reasons that Grant is not more fondly remembered or better treated by history. Indeed, he is not a figure we should be proud of, but rather a war criminal who happened to be on the winning side.

Lewis Regenstein
Atlanta, Georgia

Disclosure: almost three dozen members of my extended maternal family, the Moses’ of Georgia and South Carolina, fought for the South during the Civil War.