Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War
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by Adam D. Mendelsohn
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.