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Judah P. Benjamin - The Jewish Confederate

4.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0029088807
ISBN-10: 0029088801
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This well-written and well-researched volume replaces Robert Meade's biography (1943) as the standard study and is a significant contribution both to Southern Jewish and Civil War history. Unlike previous biographers, Evans sees Jewishness as the key to understanding Benjamin's life. He also traces in fascinating detail Benjamin's relationship with Jefferson Davis. Sometimes, Evans moves beyond the available evidence, e.g. when he adduces Jewish reasons for Benjamin's flight, and argues that in the wake of the Lincoln assassination "a nation of Christ-haunted people searched instinctively for the Jewish scapegoat." Nevertheless, this is highly convincing overall. For most libraries. Jonathan D. Sarna, Hebrew Union Coll . -Jewish Inst. of Religion, Cincinnati
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 467 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (February 8, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029088801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029088807
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #869,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Dr. Victor S. Alpher on February 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Judah P. Benjamin is little remembered for his service to the United States of America, the Confederate States of America, and the United Kingdom. Born in the West Indies, he ended his life as Queen's Counsel in Great Britain. In between, he came to Charleston, South Carolina, studied law in New Orleans, became the first Jewish Senator--from antebellum Louisiana. Surprised? I was. Then, service as Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State of the Confederate States of America. Almost universally well-liked and respected, the "smiling lion" whose face adorns every Confederate $2 bill (you can check your collection); this was a most remarkable Victorian American, in all respects.
Frequently the brunt of castigation in newspapers for problems with military supply and ordnance, probably trailing close behind Jefferson Davis (also a former U.S. Senator) himself, this book is a very intriguing and documented biography. Sadly now out of print, I still highly recommend it to any student of the Civil War, the Confederacy, the history of Jews in America, jurisprudence (he wrote a book on Contracts that is still important in the United Kingdom)...he should not be forgotten. Judah P. Benjamin was a spirited man who made the most of his talents (even marrying into Catholic New Orleans aristocracy) and yet is known by few, and probably understood by even fewer.
He is as much a part of American history and identity as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Sam Houston. However, don't look for a film about him to come out from Hollywood anytime soon. You'll have to read the book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a life this man lead. When I saw him on the Confederate $2 bill i wondered, who is this fellow. We are not taught about the second tear of US and Confederate greats so you have to find out for yourself about fellows like Benjamin.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a comprehensive biography of a major but often overlooked figure in the southern Confederacy. I bought it as a gift for a Civil War buff, and he reported that it is very well written and that he learned many facts from it of which he was previously unaware. Judah Benjamin himself was the ultimate survivor. Well-educated and very able, he was the "go-to guy" for the inept, waffling Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. This is a story of yet another "eminence grise" who rose and fell with the fortunes of war-- but in Benjamin's case, he survived and managed to carve out a life for himself in Britain after the Civil War. Naturally since he was a Jew, Benjamin was blamed for Davis's inability to lead or for that matter, in too many cases to make any meaningful decisions at all. Upon the close of the war, Benjamin believed he would be hanged for treason by the victorious Union army, so he fled to Britain and became a well-known barrister, respected and allowed to live in peace. I recommend it to all Civil War buffs, historians and teachers of history, for the light the book throws on a fascinating but relatively unknown figure.
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Format: Hardcover
Many consider Judah P. Benjamin "the Brains behind the Confederacy". The author, Eli N Evans also wanted to covey how the Jewish people interacted with their Southern neighbors. Charleston, SC was the first community in America to grant Jews the right to vote and to permit them to engage in any trade of their choosing.

Judah P. Benjamin (1811-84) grew up in Charleston, attended Yale University for two years and was at the top of his class when he abrutly left. His leaving Yale under mysterious circumstances caused considerable speculation that haunted him in public life as a Senator from Louisiana and later as as the Treasurer and Secretary State of the Confederacy.

Young, Judah P. Benjamin arrived in New Orleans in 1828 with five dollars in his pocket. New Orleans was permissive, raucous and a mystical place whose population grew from 50,000 to 100,000 between 1830 to 1840. Benjamin could not have picked a better place to begin his career. Benjamin worked odd jobs, as a teacher, processing accounts in a mercantile house, and finally as a law clerk. He constantly read all the law books he could get his hands on and soon mastered the complex Napoleonic Code which required mastery of French Language. A wealthy Creole official asked Benjamin to teach English to his daughter, Natalie. He agreed to this arrangement under the condition that she would teach him French while he taught her English. Benjamin was 21 and Natalie was 16. The tutoring lessons soon evolved into a courtship.

Benjamin soon became one the best lawyers in New Orleans and one of its wealthiest citizens. In 1842 Benjamin was elected to the Louisian legislature as a Whig.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an incredible book. I feel as if, until now, I never truly learned history, or at least, the facts about the Civil War. One of the most startling issues is the role played by France and England. Another that was new to me is the huge difference in numbers between the armies of the federals and the Confederates: The South really never had a chance. Even when they won a battle, the numbers they lost were a deep wound that could not be healed. And they had such a paucity of provisions, when they seceded that it was almost a foregone conclusion they could not win.

When I read about the thugs policing the city of Richmond, and the women who looted the stores, not very different from our current time-- History repeats itself.

I never knew, before reading this book, about the rampant, overt anti-semitism--major newspapers, too. And it was national, not just in the south. What an ugly time in our history.
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