Excerpt from THE WAR WITHIN
by Carol Matas
“General Grant got so mad, what with all the profiteering that’s going on already, well, he’s made an order for the Department of the Tennessee, which is all the land hereabouts in Mississippi and into Tennessee and Kentucky, that all Jews must be expelled from these territories within twenty-four hours of the order. That is, twenty-four hours as of today.”
Ma looked blank. “I don’t understand,” she said.
“He blames the Jews for trading in cotton. He wants them out.”
“But we live here,” Ma said, still not comprehending.
Henry spoke up then. “It isn’t true!” he exclaimed. “The Jews aren’t involved—no more than anyone. Why, it’s mostly the army that’s doing it. I see it all the time.”
Joanna had turned pale and could not seem to speak. I tried to make sense of it all but was unable to.
“I know it is not true,” Captain Mazer said. “I am ashamed to be part of an army that would issue such an iniquitous order, and I want you to know that I for one will do what I can to protect you. I won’t send you away, that is for certain. The townsfolk depend on you. They don’t see you as different because you are Israelites, and I am sure they will not give you away. And with your last name, Green, why, it isn’t obvious, is it, that you are Israelites—I mean, to the Union troops. I am sure it will all blow over.”
“Do you mean to say,” Joanna said slowly, “that we are to be thrown out of our house and sent away because we are Jews?”
There was a long, horrible pause.
“Not if I can help it,” Captain Mazer said quietly.
Suddenly I understood. Suddenly I realized what we could be facing.
“And you,” I said, standing up, “you Yankees lecture us on equality. You lecture us about our slaves! Yet you would stand by and let this happen?”
Captain Mazer couldn’t seem to answer. After an awkward pause he bowed, and thanked Ma for her hospitality. Then, along with Private Katz, he withdrew, leaving us to try to comprehend what we had just been told. I sank back into my chair, a feeling of dread washing over me. Could this happen? And if it did, what could be worse?
From The War Within. Copyright © 2001 by Carol Matas.