October 23, 1862

Anti-Semitic General Benjamin Butler: The Jews "Betrayed Their Savior," He Writes in 1862, "& Also Have Betrayed Us"

Autograph Letter Signed
1 page
SMC 2182

Lincoln needed to win the war, and so he was forced to either ignore or simply counteract the virulent anti-Semitism all around him. General Benjamin Butler, especially, bore watching. "The Jews," that general grandly pronounced "betrayed their Savior; & also have betrayed us." In fact, the only Jews he knew, were Rebel smugglers – and even though he eventually apologized for that impolitic sentiment, he never quite seemed to change his mind. His prejudice led him, not surprisingly, to discriminate against any Jew with whom he came into contact. A prime example is this letter, in which Butler, discussing the arrest of two Jewish blockade-runners, famously displays his anti-Semitism:

"I forward you a translation of a letter from one Schaffter, whom I have arrested, to Zachrisson who is engaged in smuggling arms into Charleston and Mobile through Nassau. He had a branch of his house conducted by one Maas at 36 Beaver St, New York. They are Jews who betrayed their Savior; & also have betrayed us. I think the traitors should be arrested and dealt with there as I have dealt with them here - by imprisoning the man and confiscating the property."

Zachrisson, it would appear from contemporary accounts in Southern newspapers, was a passenger - hailing originally from New Orleans - aboard a British steamer transporting both a "valuable cargo" and a "valuable letter bag" from Nassau to Charleston. The Northern press put the transport down to gun-running, claiming that the apprehended vessel was loaded with arms and ammunition. Neither the Northern or Southern accounts, however, mentioned Zachrisson's religion, or named him a miscreant: those such niceties, were left to "Beast" Butler.

Autograph Letter Signed, as General, 1 page, quarto, Headquarters Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, October 23, 1862. To the U.S. District Attorney, New York.
View American Civil War Manuscripts.

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