Robert E. Lee's Famous Letter Declining to Furlough, As a Rule, Jewish Confederate Troops for the High Holidays

August 29, 1861

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Robert E. Lee's Famous Letter Declining to Furlough, As a Rule, Jewish Confederate Troops for the High Holidays
Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages | SMC 2494

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      Background

      To Rabbi Max Michelbacher, declining a request to furlough Jewish Confederate troops for the High Holidays: "I feel assured that neither you or any member of the Jewish Congregation would wish to jeopardize a Cause you have so much at heart." 

      Lee's original letter was evidently given by Rabbi Michelbacher to Isaac Cohen, a young member of his Richmond Synagogue. Lee had written in his letter that while he couldn't grant a general furlough for all Jewish soldiers, he would leave individual soldiers to make their own applications  to their commanders. Cohen was one of the Jewish soldiers whose own commander did grant him leave and it is likely that Michelbacher gave Cohen the letter so that he could show his own commanding officer that his request was supported by the Confederate Commander in Chief - R.E. Lee. 

      Accompanied by the original yellow envelope and address in a clerical hand to Rabbi Michelbacher as "Minister of the Hebrew Congregation, Home of Love, Richmond, Virginia." 

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      Page 1 transcript
      Hd Qrs; Valley Mt:
      29 Aug 1861

      Rabbi M. J. Michelbacher
      Preacher Hebrew Congregation
      “House of Love” Richmond Va;

      Revd Sir

      I have just recd your letter of the 23rd Inst; requesting that a furlough from the 2nd to the 15th Sept; be granted to the Soldiers of the Jewish persuasion in the C. S. Army, that they may participate in the approaching holy Services of the Synagogue. 

      It would give me great pleasure to Comply with a request so earnestly urged by you; & which I know would be so highly appreciated by that Class of our Soldiers.  But the necessities of War admit of no relaxation of the efforts requisite for its Success, nor can it be known on what day the presence of every man may not be required.  I feel assured that neither you or any member of the Jewish Congregation would wish to jeopardize a Cause you have so much at heart by the withdrawal even for a Season of a portion of its defenders.  I cannot therefore grant the general furlough you desire, but must leave to individuals to make their own application to their Several Commanders, in the hope that many will be able to enjoy the privilege you seek for them, & should any be deprived of the opportunity of offering up their prayers according to the rites of the Church, that their penitence may ^nevertheless be   



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      Page 2 transcript
      accepted by the Most High, & their petitions answered.

      That your prayers for the Success & welfare of our Cause may be granted by the great ruler of the Universe is my ardent wish.

      I have the honor to be with high esteem

      Your Obt Servt

      R E LEE

      Genl Commd.

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      Page 3 transcript
      Confederate States of America,
      ADJUTANT AND INSPECTOR GENERAL'S OFFICE.
      OFFICIAL BUSINESS.

      M. J. Michebacher [sic]
      Minister of the Hebrew Congregation
      House of Love
      Richd Va

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      Confederate States of America, 
      WAR DEPARTMENT.

      Richmond, Sep 11  1861.

        Isaac Cohen     has permission to visit
          Nashville    upon his honor as a 
      man, that he will not communicate in writing or verbally, for publication, any
      fact ascertained by him.

      President's Proclamation