General Order No. 11: when Ulysses Grant expelled the Jews

grant cartoon

Ulysses S. Grant , the 18th president of the United States, is generally acknowledged one of the greatest military commanders in U.S. history.  There is one huge negative on his career as a Civil War general, however.  Under General Order No. 11, Grant expelled all Jews from Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.  And although he would spend much of his presidency promoting the rights of Jews (as well as blacks and Native Americans), General Order No. 11 remains a stain on Grant’s reputation.

The immediate cause for issuance of the order was the black market in Southern cotton during the Civil War.  Northern textile mills — as well as the Union Army itself — relied on cotton from the south.  Although President Lincoln allowed limited trade in Southern cotton, it was not enough to satisfy demand.  Cotton prices soared on the black market, and unlicensed traders openly bribed Union officers to allow them to buy cotton without a permit. Continue reading

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