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The Jewish Confederates

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The Jewish Confederates
By Robert N. Rosen
University of South Carolina Press, 2000
543 pages, 179 illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-57003-363-6

Reviewed by Boris Segel - September 14, 2016

I would hazard a guess that most people are unaware of the role that Southern Jews played throughout the American Civil War, or even that there were numerous Jews that supported the Confederate cause. In his book, The Jewish Confederates, Civil War historian Robert N. Rosen provides readers with the opportunity to expand their knowledge of Southern Jewish history throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, as well as to learn about an important, but often overlooked aspect of Civil War history. Within the pages of this monumental work, Rosen also explores the cultural aspects of Southern Jewry, from the communities in which they lived to where they came from and how they ended up living in the American South. He looks at not only well known figures such as Judah P. Benjamin, but also those from every walk of life from privates to colonels as well as shopkeepers, nurses, housewives, and more. Throughout, Rosen gives particular attention to the military participation of Jews in the Southern army, as well as their religious practices on and off the battlefield. He also examines the motives and viewpoints of those who were stalwart supporters of the Confederate cause, as well as those that vehemently opposed it. He tells the stories of Jewish men who tried to avoid conscription, those who enlisted voluntarily, and those who deserted. Perhaps of most interest to students of Jewish history, Rosen also examines the lack of anti-Semitism that seems to have prevailed in the South, compared to the higher levels of anti-Semitism that were perceived to have existed in the North.

The Jewish Confederates is a remarkable book, and it is a book that fills a gap in the chronicles of the American Civil War and in American Jewish history. The book is filled with more than 175 illustrations that give a face to the many men and women whose lives are touched upon in this history. The text is well indexed and copious endnotes have been provided, as well as a useful glossary of Jewish terms. Most important, Rosen writes with the skill of a novelist, interweaving sometimes weighty details with insightful and homey attributes, thereby creating a compelling and fast-moving narrative that will hold your interest from beginning to end. Consequently, this book is ideal for not only historians, but also general readers interested in exploring a little known aspect of the Civil War.

Related Reviews:

The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000, by Hasia R. Diner.
Offers a general survey of Jewish life in America, covering both historical, religious, and social milestones.

Mordecai: An Early American Family, by Emily Bingham.
In this work, Bingham provides a fascinating glimpse of Jewish life in America, from Colonial times through the Civil War.

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