Books about Jews and the Civil War

Books about Jews and the Civil War, April 2011

April marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. There’s more gray surrounding the Jews in Blue and Gray than we might think at first glance. Here are some excellent books to learn more and help bridge the gaps in our understanding.

— Marshall Weiss


American Jewry and the Civil War
By Bertram W. Korn, Jewish Publication Society, 1951
(reissued 2001). 412 Pages.

Scholars still consider this nearly exhaustive and meticulously researched publication the definitive book on the topic. It includes transcripts of correspondence among American Jewish leaders and President Lincoln. Though it is now out of print, used copies are readily available for purchase at eBay and Amazon.


Jews and the Civil War: A Reader
Edited by Jonathan D. Sarna and Adam Mendelsohn,
NYU Press, 2010. 448 Pages.

The editors have compiled scholarly essays on topics including Jews and slavery, Jews and abolition, rabbis and the march to war, Jewish soldiers during the Civil War, the home front, and Jews as a class.


Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate
By Eli N. Evans, Simon & Schuster, 1988. 512 Pages.

Much of this carefully researched biography of the Jew who took on roles as the Confederacy’s attorney general, secretary of war and secretary of state is dedicated to the “unusual relationship” between Benjamin and Jefferson Davis.


All Other Nights: A Novel
By Dara Horn, W.W. Norton & Co., 2009. 384 Pages.

Jacob Rappaport, the son of a Jewish merchant from New York, has enlisted in the Union Army to avoid an arranged marriage. He’s sent as a spy to New Orleans to kill his Confederate uncle. When Rappaport arrives at his uncle’s home on Passover, Judah P. Benjamin is among the Seder guests. And that’s just the opening!


For children

The Yankee at the Seder
By Elka Weber, Illustrations by Adam Gustavson, Tricycle Press, 2009. 40 Pages. Ages 4-8.

In 1865, Passover began the day after the Civil War ended. This story is about a Jewish Union soldier who arrives at the home of a Confederate Jewish family in Virginia as they prepare for the Seder.

Private Joel and the Sewell Mountain Seder
By Bryna J. Fireside, Illustrations by Shawn Costello,
Kar-Ben Publishing, 2008. 47 Pages. Ages 9-12.

Based on a true story. It’s spring 1862 and Union Private J.A. Joel and his company are camped in West Virginia. With permission from their commander, he and other Jewish soldiers hold a Seder with three former slaves, now members of the regiment.

Previous post

An immigrant's lasting tribute to Lincoln

Next post

Dramatis personae