Message for Steve Cohen / Thank you for your vote
To: Mr. Steve Cohen
Memphis Center City Commission
Dear Mr. Cohen:
Thank you for your sensible and courageous vote, as a member of the Memphis Center City Commission, against renaming your city parks honoring Confederate veterans.
You mentioned your Jewish heritage in explaining your vote, and this may have been more relevant than you realized, considering the great contribution made by Southern Jews in defending their country that was under attack by the North.
This is described in detail in Robert Rosen’s "The Jewish Confederates" and Mel Young’s "Last Order of the Lost Cause."
Some 3,500 to 5,000 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). More than 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 and their comrades-in-arms were not fighting for slavery, but rather to defend themselves, 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.
It was a top Union General, Ulysses S. Grant, who on 17 December, 1862 issued the infamous General Order # 11 expelling all Jews "as a class" from his area of operations, including parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. It was this same Union Army (led by many of the same Civil War generals) that engaged in virtual genocide against the Native Americans in what we euphemistically call "the Indian Wars," often massacring harmless, defenseless old men, women, and children in their villages.
It was not the South but rather the other side 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 the vilification directed at them today.
Thank you for your brave and lonely stand in favor of preserving this proud aspect of Memphis’ heritage.