Jew­ish Sol­diers in the Civ­il War: The Union Army

  • From the Publisher
January 4, 2022

Offers an engag­ing account of the expe­ri­ences of Jew­ish sol­diers in the Union Army dur­ing the Civ­il War

What was it like to be a Jew in Lincoln’s armies? The Union army was as diverse as the embat­tled nation it sought to pre­serve, a unique mix­ture of eth­nic­i­ties, reli­gions, and iden­ti­ties. Almost one Union sol­dier in four was born abroad, and natives and new­com­ers fought side-by-side, some­times uneasi­ly. Yet though schol­ars have parsed the tri­als and tri­umphs of Irish, Ger­mans, African Amer­i­cans, and oth­ers in the Union ranks, they have remained large­ly silent on the every­day expe­ri­ences of the largest non-Chris­t­ian minor­i­ty to have served.

In ways vis­i­ble and invis­i­ble to their fel­low recruits and con­scripts, the expe­ri­ence of Jews was dis­tinct from that of oth­er sol­diers who served in Lincoln’s armies. Adam D. Mendel­sohn draws for the first time upon the vast data­base of ver­i­fied list­ings of Jew­ish sol­diers serv­ing in the Civ­il War col­lect­ed by The Shapell Ros­ter, as well as let­ters, diaries, and news­pa­pers, to exam­ine the col­lec­tive expe­ri­ence of Jew­ish sol­diers and to recov­er their voic­es and sto­ries. The vol­ume exam­ines when and why they decid­ed to enlist, explores their encoun­ters with fel­low sol­diers, and describes their efforts to cre­ate com­mu­ni­ty with­in the ranks. This mon­u­men­tal under­tak­ing rewrites much of what we think we know about Jew­ish sol­diers dur­ing the Civ­il War.

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