A Conversation with Dr. Jonathan Sarna, Author of When General Grant Expelled the Jews

Mar 16, 2012

Conflict and uncertainty can make life difficult for minorities in the United States.  As we’ve seen, events of the last decade have led some to be suspicious of American Moslems.  This isn’t new in our history.  During the U.S. Civil War, it was Jewish Americans who came under suspicion.  Adding to existing prejudices were broad accusations of trading with Confederates and undermining the Union.  Things came to a head in December 1862 when U.S. Major General, and future President, Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order Number 11 expelling all Jews from areas under his command, including western Kentucky.  But, thanks largely to a Paducah shopkeeper, it was rescinded soon after.  How the order came to be, how it was revoked, and how it strengthened both Grant and the American Jewish community is the subject of a new book by Dr. Jonathan Sarna titled When General Grant Expelled the Jews and I spoke with him from his office at Brandeis University.