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Class Dismissed

- Abstract

In December 1862, from his military headquarters in Mississippi, Major General Ulysses S. Grant issued a directive expelling “Jews as a class” from the immense war zone known as the Department of the Tennessee. General Orders No. 11 was the most notorious anti-Jewish edict ever issued by an official of the U.S. government, and it was overruled by the commander in chief, President Abraham Lincoln, as soon as he learned of it in Washington.

Notwithstanding its sweeping terms, the order turned out to have little immediate impact on the thousands of Jews living in the area under Grant’s command. Only about 100 Jews were uprooted, primarily in northern Mississippi and in Paducah, Kentucky. Grant’s expulsion order had no discernible effect on the war or on his own military career, either. Lincoln later promoted him to lieutenant general—a rank previously held only by George Washington—and named him commander of all Union armies. Grant became a national hero and was twice elected president. 

About the Author

Jeff Jacoby is an op-ed columnist for the Boston Globe.