Jewish Civil War Soldiers’ Passover Seder on the Battlefield in 1863

During the Civil War soldiers were paid in gold and silver coins, and there was an extreme shortage of small change. On payday, a soldier would exchange part of his salary for sutler tokens, which he would then use to purchase necessities from the regimental store.

In honor of the Jewish holiday of Passover, here’s a wonderful story related to a G.W. Forbes Civil War Sutler’s Token.

A Rare Association With 1862 Battlefield Passover Seder: a G.W. Forbes Civil War Sutler’s Token
A Rare Association With 1862 Battlefield Passover Seder: a G.W. Forbes Civil War Sutler’s Token

Joseph A. Joel, a Jewish private in the Ohio 23rd Regiment, told the story:

Approaching Feast of Passover, twenty of my comrades and co-religionists belonging to the Regiment, united in a request to our commanding officer for relief from duty, in order that we might keep the holydays, which he readily acceded to. The first point was gained, and, as the Paymaster had lately visited the Regiment, he had left us plenty of greenbacks. Our next business was to find some suitable person to proceed to Cincinnati, Ohio, to buy us Matzos…

Horseradish or parsley we could not obtain, but in lieu we found a weed, whose bitterness, I apprehend, exceeded anything our forefathers “enjoyed”. We were still in a great quandary; we were like the man who drew the elephant in the lottery. We had the lamb, but did not know what part was to represent it at the table; but Yankee ingenuity prevailed, and it was decided to cook the whole and put it on the table, then we could dine off it, and be sure we had the right part. The necessaries for the choroutzes we could not obtain, so we got a brick which, rather hard to digest, reminded us, by looking at it, for what purpose it was intended.

I strongly recommend you read the full story – an absolute delight!

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