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An Invitation of Honor

June 13, 2019

Because its commanding officer had been severely wounded at Chancellorsville, the 82nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Edward S. Salomon at Gettysburg.  Salomon was a member of the “religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks,” that General Halleck referenced in his rebuke to General Grant.  Near the end of the Civil War, Salomon was promoted to brigadier general.  In 1870 President Grant appointed him Governor of the Washington Territory.  Salomon thus became the first Jew in U.S. history to hold a governorship.

Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, who had called General Order No. 11 an “outrage,” now reconsidered his opinion of Grant:  “The appointment shows that President Grant has revoked General Grant’s notorious order No. 11.”  Seven years had elapsed since Grant withdrew the order.  The Rabbi in turn withdrew his disapproval of Grant.

Not everyone was delighted.  Some Protestant and some Catholic leaders were upset, but Grant continued his policy of inclusion.  He next appointed Dr. Herman Bendell as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Arizona Territory.  In the past such appointments often went to Quakers, but this time Grant appointed a Jewish Civil War surgeon.

Grant was re-elected President in 1872.  When his second term was near the end, he received an invitation to the dedication of Adas Israel synagogue in Washington, D.C.  Grant was the first U.S. President to attend such an occasion.  Nearly fourteen years after issuing the infamous General Order No. 11, Grant became a welcome friend to the Jews.

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