Yesterday some dumbass tied a Confederate flag to the doors of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park in New York City. I’ve tried to find a picture of the flag tied to the doors to confirm my suspicion that the moron who did this is a Confederate navy aficionado.
Regardless, the person who did this is also historically illiterate. The only worse thing than a racist, anti-Semitic neo-Confederate is a historically illiterate one. Unfortunately, there were Jewish Americans who supported the Confederacy.
The most prominent Jewish Confederate was Judah P. Benjamin, who is pictured above. Benjamin, known as both the brains of the Confederacy and the Dark Prince of the Confederacy – the latter was, at the time it was used to refer to him, an anti-Semitic allusion by the Christian Confederates to Benjamin’s being Jewish – served as the Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State of the Confederate States of America. That was after he served as a US Senator from Louisiana. Prior to that he was a Louisiana state legislator, a founder of the Illinois Railroad, and the owner of a plantation and 150 slaves until he sold both the plantation and the slaves in 1850. Benjamin also established and ran the Confederacy’s intelligence service, so in addition to everything else he was the Confederacy’s spymaster. After the Confederacy fell he escaped to England and became a Queen’s Coroner.
Another prominent Jewish Confederate was Raphael J. Moses. pictured above. He served in the Army of Northern Virginia as LTG James Longstreet’s Commissary Officer and held the rank of major. It fell to Major Moses to carry out the last order of the Confederacy: to take $40,000 in gold and silver bullion from the Confederate treasury to feed and provision defeated Confederate soldiers returning home from the war. Over a dozen of Moses’s family members also served in the Confederate military and his great grandfathers on both sides had served in the War of Independence. Moses, like Benjamin, was a plantation owner, though in Georgia. It was there that he was the first person to commercially grow peaches in Georgia.
There were, of course, other Jewish Confederates, as well as a small number of plantation and slave owning Jews in both the US south and in the Caribbean, though they were fortunately few in relation to their Christian counterparts. The definitive work on this topic is Eli Farber’s Jews, Slaves, and the Slave Trade: Setting the Record Straight.
America’s original sin of slavery was, unfortunately, interfaith, ecumenical, and non-denominational. And while the Confederate naval jack has largely become a general symbol of racism, hate, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia because these racists are too stupid to know what flag they’re flying, it is important to remember that while most Jewish Americans aren’t proud of our religious forebears unfortunate associations with the Confederacy and slavery, it doesn’t mean that we’re historically illiterate about it either.
We leave the last word to LTG William Tecumseh Sherman!