President Hayes’s Lifelong Friendship With a Jewish Soldier

May 3, 2022
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During the Civil War, the 23rd OH Infantry Regiment famously produced several men who went into public service, amongst them, two presidents: Rutherford B. Hayes, and William McKinley. The 23rd OH also happened to produce an interesting piece of American Jewish history with the improvised Passover seder organized in 1862 by British-born soldier Joseph A. Joel. Along with twenty of his Jewish comrades, Joel was warmly encouraged by his commanding officer, Major Rutherford Hayes, to hold the Seder where they were encamped, in West Virginia.  Joel had enlisted as a Private in 1861, and by 1863 had been discharged for disability after having sustained eight gunshot wounds, and losing the tips of two fingers. Despite the difference in rank, religion, and age (twenty years) the two men grew close over the years, with Joel naming his first-born son for his former commander and comrade.  This collection traces that friendship from Hayes’s pre-presidential days, in which he responds to Joel naming his son after Hayes,  confides in his friend that he is finished with public office, and finally, invites Joel to attend his anniversary party at the White House, where Hayes served from 1877-1889. 

Curated Manuscripts for President Hayes's Lifelong Friendship With a Jewish Soldier