Posted tagged ‘anti-Semitism’

Order No. 11

July 15, 2019

I have a friend who, once or twice a year, sends me clippings from newspapers or magazines on topics that he thinks might interest me, or that he recalls I had expressed an interest in, or that he’s interested in and wants to share. (We also exchange postcards from wherever we travel.)

He’s meticulous about neatly trimming the articles from the mother documents, and if he happens to remove the information, he will write on the pages the name of the publication and the date of issue. He’ll also usually include a short note about what he has sent (though not always, which leaves me puzzling sometimes how he thought I’d be interested in whatever he’s sent).

Most recently he sent me clippings from two different newspapers about the George Caleb Bingham painting “Order No. 11.” The painting is being moved from one location to another in Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri.

If you read the link, Order No. 11 (1863) is about a misguided effort at ethnic cleansing in west central Missouri during the Civil War. It was eventually rescinded, though some have observed that the economic consequences to some communities affected then continue today.

And all of that is fascinating to me, but my friend got one detail wrong. There was another Order No. 11, which was attempted a year earlier, and which ordered the expulsion of Jews from parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. A man named Ulysses S. Grant issued this order. Prominent among these places affected was Paducah, Kentucky, where I had spent many summers of my youth (a hundred years later) and where my mother currently lives.

The accusation/assumption/assertion/rationale was that the Jews in these areas were profiteering from the inflated prices of cotton due to the war. (Never mind the non-Jewish cotton merchants who were also benefiting from the higher cotton prices.) Grant’s order was intended to affect only the Jewish cotton merchants, but it was worded poorly enuf that all Jewish people in the region were considered the target.

The Order lasted only a few weeks when the outcry against it reached President Lincoln’s ears and he ended it. It happens, though, that my mother’s condo is just down the street from Paducah’s synagogue, and I think of this dark bit of our history every time I visit her.

So when I respond to my friend’s latest letter with the clippings, I’ll thank him and gently point out that my interest was actually about the other Order No. 11