Mississippi’s Jewish population began to grow in the late 19th Century, principally in the central part of the state, eventually reaching a community of about 1,500 in the Delta alone.
But there had always been some Jews. And, so, Dr. Simon Baruch, the South Carolina surgeon of post-war fame who was assigned to the 13th for a few months in mid-1864, wasn’t the only one.
In fact, there were eight Jews among the 13th’s infantryman, according to Simon Wolf’s 1895 book The American Jew As Patriot, Soldier and Citizen. It was written, as Wolf relates:
“….at a time when the public mind throughout the civilized world was wrought to a high pitch of excitement by the flaunting villainy of the Russian government in the outrageous persecution of its Jewish subjects, when the wave of anti-Semitism was at floodtide in Germany, and was flowing high in France….”
Only five of Wolf’s eight names appear in the McLean and three in the Howell rosters. The three who don’t appear in either roster, all named Jonas, apparently were brothers: Charles H. and Julian, privates, and S.A., a major.
McLean, as always, has the most detail on the 13th’s ranks. Here’s what he has on Wolf’s other five, all privates:
Private Jacob Rosenbaum, Co. C, the Kemper Legion: “Jake,” mustered in at DeKalb, Kemper County. He was 18 years old, single, and a printer by trade who lived near DeKalb, north of Meridian.
(Howell also lists a Private David Rosenbaum, of Co. C, who may have been Jacob’s brother. Neither Wolf nor McLean list him.)
Private Solomon Levy, Co. D, the Newton Rifles: Howell has him as S.J. Levy of Co. K, The Pettus Guards, and McLean also has him in Co. K: “Sol” Born in Germany, 26 years old, a peddler, who lived near Stonewall, southwest of Meridian, and mustered in at Marion, which is northeast of Meridian.
Private Daniel Baum, Co. I, the Minutemen of Attala: not in Howell but McLean has him: Born in Prussia, age 24, enlisted in Kosciusko, Attala County. McLean sources Baum as found in Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray, 1861-1865 by Mamie Yeary.
According to McLean, Baum, who had been assigned the brigade bakery, was “accidentally wounded” in both legs at Sharpsburg and went home to Mississippi on a disability furlough.
Private Charles L. Gross, Co. K, the Pettus Guards: is in Howell and McLean also has him: age 21, born in France, occupation was peddler, lived near Stonewall, enlisted in Marion, Lauderdale County.
According to McLean, Gross was discharged in November, 1862, by order of the Secretary of War because he said he was a French citizen, not an American citizen, and he wanted to return to France.
Private Samuel Loeb, Co. K, the Pettus Guards: not in Howell but McLean has him: Born in Germany, also a peddler, who lived near Stonewall.
Peddler was then a traditional Jewish occupation in Europe and the antebellum South. Peddlers sold merchandise to farmers and planters until they had amassed enough capital to open a store.
Jews also served in the Union armies and, Wolf says, seven of them were awarded the Medal of Honor for exceptional valor.
Reading historian James McPherson’s excellent For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, I found this: “As commander of the 120th Ohio, Colonel Marcus Speigel was one of the highest-ranking Jewish officers in the Civil War…[in January 1864] he was killed in the Red River campaign…”
This post was updated on March 3, 2011.