Civil War

Published on December 17th, 2012 | by Newt Rayburn


December 17, 1862 in Oxford, Mississippi: General US Grant issues the controversial “General Orders No. 11”

On December 17, 1862 Union General Ulysses S. Grant issued a most controversial directive from his headquarters in Oxford, Mississippi.

Known as “General Orders No. 11,” the directive read:

“The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.”

Union General Ulysses S. GrantUnion General Ulysses S. Grant

Union General Ulysses S. Grant

Grant’s order effectively and immediately expelled all Jewish people out of all areas controlled by his Army of the Tennessee, which included, North Mississippi, West Tennessee, and parts of Kentucky.

By the end of 1862, a large cotton black market had developed in the South with prices soaring in the North.

As head of the Army of the Tennessee, Grant was charged with issuing trade permits. Many traders avoided licensing all together in the chaotic south and simply went around Grant’s department.

Upon signing the order, Jews were given 24 hours to leave. Most of them walked out on foot from Oxford, Holly Springs, and other areas held by Grant. 

General Grant warned that “any one returning … will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners.”

A group of Jews from Paducah, Kentucky, led by Cesar Kaskel went to Washington, DC and met with President Abraham Lincoln, who revoked the order on January 6, 1863.

Obviously, this controversial directive shadowed General Grant for the rest of his life and was even an issue in his 1868 Presidential campaign.

However, Grant was successful in convincing Jewish leaders that the order was an anomaly of the Civil War and he was not an anti-Semite. He even claimed that General Orders No. 11 was written by a subordinate and he had signed it without reading it.

General Ulysses S. Grant’s General Orders No. 11: issued December 17, 1862 in Oxford, Mississippi. The Local Voice Ligature

Union General Ulysses S. Grant's Correspondence from Oxford, Mississippi - December 19, 1862
December 5, 1862: General Ulysses S. Grant's troops camped on the Square in Oxford, Mississippi

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About the Author

Newt Rayburn founded THE LOCAL VOICE in 2006. Previously, Newt was Editor of PROFANE EXISTENCE in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Art Director for Ole Miss' LIVING BLUES magazine. Newt won a National Magazine Award in 1999 for his SOUTHERN MUSIC ISSUE with THE OXFORD AMERICAN. A seventh-generation Lafayette County, Mississippian, Newt is perhaps best known as the leader of the Mississippi RocknRoll band THE COOTERS, but he also has the Country & Southern Rock group, HAWGWASH. Newt is a Photographer, Writer, and Civil War Enthusiast.

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