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The Jewish Confederates

Robert N. Rosen

Demonstrates the extent of Jewish participation on the Civil War battlefield and throughout the Southern home front.

In his latest study of the Civil War, Robert N. Rosen introduces readers to the community of Southern Jews of the 1860s, heretofore lost to historians and the general public. With the exception of Judah P. Benjamin, Jewish Confederates are largely unknown even to specialists of American Jewish history and Civil War history. Rosen reveals the remarkable breadth of Southern Jewry's participation in the war and strength of Jewish commitment to the Confederate cause. Intrigued by the apparent irony of their story, Rosen weaves a surprisingly complex chronicle that dispels common misconceptions about the Confederacy, its leadership and soldiers, and its Jewish population.

Rosen finds that although many members of the established, prominent Jewish communities of Charleston, Richmond, and Savannah volunteered for battle, the majority of Jewish Confederates were recent immigrants. He describes the communities they established throughout the South and explains their reasons for supporting the cause of Southern independence.

This chronicle relates the experiences of officers, enlisted men, businessmen, politicians, nurses, rabbis, and doctors. He recounts the careers of such important Jewish Confederates as Judah P. Benjamin, a member of Jefferson Davis's cabinet; Col. Abraham C. Myers, quartermaster general of the Confederacy; Maj. Adolph Proskauer of the 125th Alabama; Maj. Alexander Hart of the Louisiana 5th; and Phoebe Levy Pember, the matron of Richmond's Chimborazo Hospital. He narrates the adventures and careers of Jewish officers and profiles the many "Jewish Johnny Rebs" who fought in infantry, cavalry, and artillery units in every major campaign.

Robert N. Rosen was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. Three of his grandparents were emigrants from the "Pale of Settlement"—Russia, Poland, and Belorus. The other grandparent was born in this country just after her parents arrived from Austria in the 1890s. Rosen attended public schools in Charleston, where his high school history teacher was the Charleston historian Solomon Breibart. He studied at the University of Virginia and at Harvard University, where he received an M.A. in history, as well as at the University of South Carolina Law School. The author of A Short History of Charleston and Confederate Charleston: An Illustrated History of the Place and the People During the Civil War, he has practiced law for twenty-six years in Charleston and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America. Rosen has served on the boards of the South Carolina Historical Society and Historic Charleston Foundation, and he chairs the Arts and History Commission of the City of Charleston.

"An eye-opening, myth-shattering, stereotype-breaking work of originality, elegance, and wisdom. A must-read for Civil War buffs, Jewish history fans, and all Americans interested in learning—and you will learn much—about Jewish southerners who placed loyalty to their adopted states above the moral teachings of their tradition (at least as we now interpret them). You may not agree with these Jewish Confederates, but you will surely understand them better."—Alan M. Dershowitz

"Apart from a few prominent individuals such as Judah P. Benjamin and Phoebe Yates Pember, Jewish Confederates have been virtually invisible in the massive body of published work on the Civil War. Robert N. Rosen's impressive study illuminates the world of southern Jews and their role in the Confederacy's bid for independence. It is a major contribution to Confederate studies, and to the broader literature on the Civil War."—Gary W. Gallagher

"Perhaps no identifiable group of Southerners represented a greater paradox than the Jewish community spread all the way from Richmond to New Orleans. In The Jewish Confederates Robert N. Rosen opens a window on the unlikely story of a people apart, with their own religion and cultural customs, functioning within a Southern community that regarded itself as separate and distinct from other Americans. Through the lives of people as diverse as the Confederate statesman Judah Benjamin and the Louisiana teenager Clara Solomon, Rosen reveals the surprising tolerance in the South for this one minority, and the sacrifices they made to prove themselves full citizens of the supposedly xenophobic Southern republic."—William C. Davis

"In this fascinating book Robert N. Rosen illuminates a long-neglected dimension of Confederate history, and, in so doing, makes an important contribution to the debate over the depth of southern white unity and Confederate loyalty. Meticulously researched, The Jewish Confederates makes clear that across the social and economic spectrum Jewish southerners overwhelmingly supported the Confederacy. With fascinating detail about well-known and little-known men and women, Rosen demonstrates that on both the battlefield and the homefront Jewish Confederates proved their loyalty, a loyalty they maintained after 1865 in their embrace of the Lost Cause. All who want to understand the nineteenth-century South should read this book."—William J. Cooper, Jr.

"The Jewish Confederates is the story of a people defining themselves. Robert Rosen has a wonderful capacity to describe people and their character in capsule. He's given us an important book on a very significant topic—felicitously written and festooned with photographs."—Emory M. Thomas

"Robert Rosen's exceptional coverage of southern Jewry during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras stand as a testament to depth, breadth, and length. Jews are actors in the drama unfolding before them as well as the victims of forces beyond their control. Rosen weaves a captivating tale of allegiance, sacrifice, and Jews' ethnic identity and minority status in the South."—Mark I. Greenberg

"Robert N. Rosen has continued in an admirable way his work on assembling information that is necessary to developing a realistic view of the lives of Jews in the South. Thanks to him, we can now take another step in answering the basic questions of why did Jews feel comfortable in the nineteenth-century South, and why was the South so accepting of Jews?"—Elliott Ashkenazi

"This exhaustive study sheds light on a little-remarked curiosity of the Civil War's history: The Lost Cause claimed a great many Jewish partisans, and a regime dedicated to the defense of human slavery proved remarkably resistant to antisemitism."—The Washington Post

"This groundbreaking study is liberally illustrated with photographs and maps, and is written clearly and energetically as a trade book, despite its academic stamp and thoroughness."—Publishers Weekly

"Comprehensive and readerly"—New York Times Book Review

"Larger public and academic libraries should consider this readable book, as should all libraries with strong Judaic or military collections."—Library Journal

 
 

 

book jacket for The Jewish Confederates


 

CIVIL WAR HISTORY
(2000)
7 x 10
543 pages
179 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-363-6
hardcover, $39.95t

AWARDS
2001 Winner of the Independent Publishers Award for History

2001 Choice Outstanding Academic Book

2001 Foreword Book of the Year Award

2002 Nathan Bedford Forrest History Award


 
 

 
 
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