U.S. Civil War ended during Passover

Can you imagine your feelings as a northern Jew on the first night of Passover in 1865, a day after receiving the news that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, ending America’s Civil War?
After the youngest child asks the question “Why is this night different from all other nights?” we probably would be thinking of fellow Jews, lost in the war, no longer able to celebrate the freedoms they fought and died for, no longer with us at the Seder table.
Because of a shortage of space, let the following remarks of an unnamed Union officer be considered representative of Jewish soldiers in both the Union and Confederate forces.
“Personally, I know several Hebrews who served in the California regiments known as the ‘California Column,’ but in the long years that have elapsed, I have forgotten their names.
“They were all good faithful soldiers to the flag they pledged to defend. One I remember, Soloman Davidson, belonged to a regiment which saw service in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.
“Davidson was a brave man, carrying dispatches and orders from one part of the command to another, regardless of storms and dangers of Indian ambush.
“I have only good things to say regarding the performance of our Hebrew soldiers.”
As for Jews living in the South at that time, most lived and worked in cities, rather than on farms or plantations.
Any slaves they owned were workers in their homes or laborers in their business.
There is an anti-Semitic rant which alleges that Jews dominated the slave trade before the Civil War, but in reality, according to slave historians, Jews accounted for only 1.25 percent of all slave owners.
On April 15, 1865, four days after the start of Passover, President Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre, then carried across the street to a boarding house, where he died the next morning.
At Lincoln’s last gasp of breath, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton said, “Now he belongs to the ages.”
Some say there is a link between Lincoln’s life and Passover, which marks the end of slavery for the Israelites in Egypt. Lincoln’s death coincides with Passover in the Hebrew calendar every year.
We need to also remember the end of slavery in our own country as we celebrate Passover, the story of our ancestors going from slavery to freedom.
My parents, of blessed memory, escapees of Czarist shtetls with hopeless futures, experienced their Passover by coming to America to live a life under freedom.
“God Bless America!”

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