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11 November 2015

We Remember All Who Have Served, (part 1, Pre 1900).

Cemetire du Pere-Lachaise, Paris.
Today in America it is Veterans Day, when we pause for a moment to honor all the military veterans, both men and women who have sacrificed their time, their families and even their own lives to defend freedom in all parts of the world. In other parts of the world they celebrate it under different names such as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day. In the United States, the Jews have been a part of the military since almost the beginning of the country. In the mid 1730's, Jews, most of whom were of Spanish or Portuguese descent were enrolled in the militia. From that time till now, men and women have served their country with honor. Today, I would like to mention just a few of the men who served with honor and courage. Those men played a valuable part in making the United States the country it is today.
During the American Revolution we find the account of Lieutenant Colonel David Salisbury Franks, who began his military career in the 1770's.  He was arrested in Montreal for speaking against King George III. In 1776, he was appointed to be the Paymaster to the American garrison in Montreal. When the army retreated from Canada he joined up with a Massachusetts Regiment. In 1778, he ordered to service as Aide de Camp under General Benedict Arnold. After General Arnold's Treason, Franks was cleared of any suspicion of wrong doing and at the end of the war was given 400 acres of land for his service.
It shouldn't be surprising that lieutenant Colonel Franks would have such patriotic feelings toward the United States. He had the great example of his brother in law, Haym Salomon, who was perhaps one of the greatest hero's of the American Revolution. During the Revolutionary War, there were many delegates to congress and officers in the Army, who because of their service had become unable to pay their daily expenses. By not being home on their farms or at work they had lost that source of funds to help during these rough times. Haym Solomon, a great patriot stepped in and provided money to the Colonies and also to these men to help them keep pushing forward the work of independence. Many of the early leaders of the United States were the benefit of his act, and his great act put him in a very hard situation. He was put in prison by the British for his act of Patriotism to his new homeland. He was after a few years able to escape and went right back to serving his country. He helped broker loans between the US and other countries and he became quite well know, he was even authorized to call himself "Broker to the Office of Treasury of the United States" . However, even though at the start of the war he was a wealthy man by the end of it he lost most of that money. The service that these men gave is by no means limited to one war, it was repeated time and time again throughout our history. A few examples of the great service given by Jewish military personnel are as follows;

War Of 1812.
  1. Commodore Uriah P. Levy. He was the Master of the Brig-of-War Argus during the War of 1812. In a battle in the British Channel he was captured and put in prison for a time. Upon his death in 1862, he was the highest ranking officer in the United States Navy. His service was over 50 years.
  2. Levi Myers Harbi. He began his military service very early, serving in the War of 1812 at the age of 14. During that time he was also a prisoner of the British by escaped after 2 years by swimming away. For over 52 years he served his country and fought for freedom all over the world, eventually becoming a Captain. During his service he also served in the Mexican War, the Seminole War and was a ships commander in the fight against pirates in Tripoli and Algiers. He also took a leave form his service to help the fight for independence in Texas. his final service was as a Commodore for the Confederate Army in the US Civil war.
The Civil War. 

 This is no doubt one of the darkest times in our nations history. The prospect of brother fighting brother can never be a good thing, however even in this dark time, Jews came forward to serve. It has been said that the percentage of Jews withing both the armies was far higher than the percentage of Jews within the general populations. While exact numbers may not be known, various sources give the number of Jews who joined the Union army as being over 2,000 from New York alone. Many stories have been written about this war, but a few people stand out to me as incredible examples;
  1. Edward S. Solomon. Colonel of the 82nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which had over 100 Jewish men. He fought at many of the famous battles of the war. He was sited for gallantry at the Battle of Gettysburg. Post war he was appointed by President Grant to be the Governor of the Washington Territory.
  2. General L. C. Newman. From New York he died of wounds received at Chancellorsville, but not before President Abraham Lincoln arrived at his bedside to present his commission as a General.
  3.  Captain Edward M. Moise. from Georgia he was a cavalry officer. He was usually in the front of his company and on one day alone he had three different horses shot out from under him. Yet he never stopped.
  4. Captain Ullman. Commander of Company E of the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry. After the war he continued to serve his country. He finally lost his life along side General George Custer in 1876.
War Memorial, London.
We could go on and on with stories of the bravery of those who have served us. Yet the most
important thing to remember is that in the case of the Jewish servicemen, most did not have a long history in the United States. Many were immigrants or the children of immigrants who answered the call to step in and defend their new country. It was and continues to be the ultimate act of service toward millions of people they will never meet. May we always keep them in our thoughts, not just on this special day.



Happy Veterans Day to all.




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