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Abraham Lincoln, Noting “We Have Not Yet Appointed a Hebrew,” Names C.M. Levy an Assistant Quarter Master with the Rank of Captain, November 4, 1862. Courtesy of The Shappel Manuscript Collection.

C.M.Levy, the son-in-law of Rabbi Morris Raphall of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, was a well-known Orthodox Jew in New York. In response to his application for the position of quartermaster, responsible for the housing, transportation, clothing, and supply of the troops, Lincoln, on November 4, 1862, noted to Secretary of War Stanton, “We have not yet appointed a Hebrew.” Describing Levy as “a capable and faithful man” (the word faithful, with typical Lincoln wordplay, carried a double meaning), Lincoln appointed him Assistant Quarter-Master, with the rank of Captain. Some fifty other Jews likewise served as quartermasters in the Union army.

Abraham Lincoln, "About Jews," To Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, January 25, 1865. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.

While Lincoln had granted a travel pass to his chirpodist and personal emissary, Issachar Zacharie following the fall of Savannah, Zacharie never made it to the city in December, having, on the way, been placed under arrest by Secretary of War Stanton. Untypically brusque, Lincoln shows his teeth to the Secretary of War. In a letter that commences with the term, "About Jews," Lincoln demands respect for Zacharie, and orders that he be given a second pass to Savannah.

Portrait of a peddler carrying his wares. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Peddling goods, a Jewish occupation going back to the Middle Ages in Europe, represented a natural starting point in America for young, male, immigrant Jews. Most of the 16,000 peddlers in America in 1860 were Jews. Needing little capital, as goods were usually acquired on credit from other Jews, hardworking peddlers could do well, accumulating resources sufficient to open dry goods and clothing stores throughout the frontier; some also moved into clothing manufacturing. Lincoln became acquainted with at least three Jewish clothiers in Illinois: Julius Hammerslough of Springfield, Henry Rice of Jacksonville, and Abraham Kohn of Chicago.

Photograph of Lincoln by Samuel Alschuler wearing Alschuler's velvet trimmed coat for this photo. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Samuel Alschuler, a Jewish photographer lent Lincoln his own velvet-trimmed coat for this photo taken in Urbana, Illinois, on April 25, 1858, just as Lincoln would begin his Senate campaign against Stephen Douglas. Lincoln would again sit for Alschuler two years later, after he was elected president.

Abraham Jonas photograph. Courtesy of the Wells Family Collection.

Abraham Jonas was a Jewish lawyer in Quincy, Illinois whom Lincoln first met in 1843. Jonas was a staunch supporter of Lincoln throughout their more than two decades of friendship. The correspondence between the two men demonstrates their personal, professional, and political closeness, with Lincoln calling Jonas “one of my most valued friends.”

Lincoln Testimonial for Issachar Zacharie, September 20, 1862. Courtesy of The Shapell Manuscript Collection.

Podiatrist Issachar Zacharie came highly recommended to treat Lincoln after amassing a host of testimonials, mostly from leading politicians and generals. In the historic week that followed Antietam, the single bloodiest day in American history, and the week in which Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet, Lincoln found time to write three testimonials for Zacharie, attesting to his skill in treating his feet and “what plain people called backache.” Within months, Zacharie would become Lincoln’s emissary to the Jewish community in Union-occupied New Orleans.

Carte-de-visite of Issachar Zacharie. The Shapell Manuscript Collection

Alonzo Chappel, The Last Hours of Abraham Lincoln, 1868. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

A Jewish doctor at Lincoln’s deathbed: Alonzo Chappel’s famous 1867 painting depicts the ten-by-fifteen-foot room in which Lincoln lay dying as large enough to be filled with almost as many doctors who later claimed to be there. Of the nine actually in attendance, Dr. Charles Liebermann, a Russian-born Jewish ophthalmologist and a leading Washington physician, is prominently featured here, gazing intently at the president. Lierbermann had attended at Lincoln’s deathbed throughout the nine-hour coma.

Edward Salomon’s pistols. Courtesy of The Shapell Manuscript Collection.

Colonel Edward Selig Salomon was a German-Jewish immigrant who enlisted in the 24th Illinois as a first lieutenant. A hero of the battles of Gettysburg and Atlanta, he won quick promotions for battlefield bravery and rose to command the 82nd Illinois, known as the “Jewish Company.” Later brevetted a brigadier general, he remained active in veterans’ affairs and entered politics, becoming the clerk of Cook County, Illinois, a role in which he was celebrated and honored by the local citizens with the presentation of dueling pistols in 1867.

Abraham Jonas to Abraham Lincoln, December 30, 1860. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Abraham Jonas, Lincoln’s close friend, warned the president-elect of an assassination plot planned for his first Inauguration. Jonas had sons living in the South, from whom he learned rumors of a plot to kill Lincoln. The warnings did not go unheeded: Lincoln was smuggled into Washington, arriving safely in the dead of night ten days before the Inauguration.

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