‘When General Grant Expelled The Jews’

General Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president of the U.S., reading on porch of Drexel Cottage near Saratoga Springs, New York on July 20, 1885. (AP)Text of General Orders No. 11 telegraphed to Brigadier General Mason Brayman. (Page 1 of 2)Text of General Orders No. 11 telegraphed to Brigadier General Mason Brayman. (Page 2 of 2)Petition of Missouri B'Nai N'rith to Abraham Lincoln, January 5, 1863.

When Ulysses S. Grant was a general in the Civil War, he issued an order expelling all of the Jews from the territory under his control — basically the modern states of Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi. The order is known as General Order 11 and is dated Dec. 17, 1862.

The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department… are hereby expelled… within 24 hours.

Post commanders will see that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and anyone returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement

It sounds like something from Germany in the 1930s, but it was issued just weeks before President Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation.

To the extent that this episode has been remembered at all, it’s been known as a historic low point for anti-Semitism in America and a tarnish on Grant’s legacy.

But it turns out the whole story is a lot more complicated than that. The narrative asserted in a new book suggests that the event eventually lead to important advances for Jews worldwide, and a personal redemption for Grant.


  • Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish studies at Brandeis University; author, “When General Grant Expelled the Jews”


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