Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Adam Geibel, Shapell Roster Researcher.
“Probably the last charge of this war, it was as gallant as any on record.”
On March 17, 1899, The Jewish South reprinted an article by Dr. Mark Jacob Lehman, editor of the New Orleans based Jewish Ledger. Lehman vividly recounted the sights and sounds of what would become known as the “Last Sedar of the Confederacy.”
One hundred and fifty years later, the article prompted Adam Geibel, one of the Shapell Manuscript Foundation’s Roster Project researchers to ask the question:
“who was this Dr. Lehman and how did he know what happened that night?”
The Seder of Lehman’s account took place in Mobile, Alabama. There is only one Lehman family in Mobile per the 1860 Federal census, thus probable that Jacob M. is Mark Jacob, one of two sons living with cigar maker Abraham Lehman. The other son was Moses (known by his family as Moise, which is Moses, en Francais).
Memorials for the family on findagrave.com confirm that this was Dr. Lehman’s family.
Lehman describes the Seder’s host as “arrayed in the tattered remnants of a Confederate soldier’s uniform, an irreconcilable of France and the Confederacy,” and the Tachrichim as made “in another clime by the hands of his then youthful bride.” Lehman’s father, Abraham, immigrated to America shortly before 1850 from his birthplace – France, and there is no record that Moise ever wedded, thus we believe that this historic Seder took place in the home of Abraham Lehman and his eleven year old son witnessed the event first hand.
As noted in his obituary, ill health prevented Moise from leaving Mobile in April of 1861, but when the War came to Mobile’s front door in 1864, Moise (as Moses) enlisted in Company A of the 22nd Louisiana (Consolidated) Infantry. While the 22nd was originally an infantry unit, they were retrained to crew the heavy cannon that protected Mobile from Union land and sea threats.
Fifty year-old Abraham Lehman was an enlisted member of Captain Baas’ Company of the 1st Mobile Alabama Volunteers at the time of the siege of Mobile. The regiment was “composed of citizens over 45 years of age,” organized specifically and solely for the defense of Mobile City and County. As a younger man, he may have served as a soldier in France before immigrating to America, but we have not yet found evidence of such.
Dr. Lehman mentions that among the Seder guests, mostly Privates with a few subalterns (ranks above a Private but below a Captain), there was a French Captain from the 22nd Louisiana and a Major from a distinguished South Carolina family. We may never know whether Lehman ever knew the names of the guests or if he forgot them over the passage of time. Fortunately, the details of Dr. Lehman’s account give us clues to who might have been there. For example, a quick check of our database reveals that at least three soldiers in the 22nd Louisiana were in Mobile in April of 1862: Private Samuel Blum, Adjutant Lieutenant Benjamin Oppenheimer and Sergeant Joseph Zimmern. We have not yet determined if these men were Jewish, nor if the other twelve soldiers in our database who served in the unit were Jewish or in Mobile during Passover. We have not yet identified the name of the French Captain, but we do believe that the identity of the man Lehman described as “a ranking major, a native of South Carolina, his family distinguished for able men, all conscientious Israelites” is Major Washington Marks of the 22nd (Consolidated) Louisiana Infantry. The son of Alexander and Esther (Hetty) Hart Marks, born in Columbia and raised in the Jewish traditions and customs of the times in Charleston, South Carolina, was in Mobile that night. Standing six foot tall in an age when most men stood half a foot shorter, with grey eyes, black hair and a dark complexion (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~marksfamily/markspage.htm#wash), he probably cut a figure that no impressionable boy would ever forget.
As the clock wound down in the final weeks of the Confederate States of America in late March of 1865, Federal forces besieged the coastal city of Mobile, Alabama. With 45,000 troops, the Federals outnumbered the 4,000 Confederate defenders at better than ten to one odds. The final Federal assault began in earnest on April 9th – Palm Sunday for the Christians, the day before the start of Pesach for the Israelites, and the official end of the War of the Rebellion and the Confederacy. For those gathered in the home of Abraham Lehman that next night, “the Sedar proceeded uninterrupted.”
Enjoy your Passover, Friends.