The Forced Jewish Exodus of Paducah, Kentucky

December 28, 1862 (Sunday)

Cesar Kaskel

Though it took a week and a half, General Grant’s order to expel all Jews from his department finally reached Paducah, Kentucky, home of around thirty people of Jewish blood.

A man named Cesar Kaskel was one of them. Born in Prussia, Kaskel came to America about a decade before. He moved to Paducah in 1858. When the war came, he was one of the few in the town who didn’t side with the South. He was even the vice-president of the Paducah Union League Club, while his brother was a recruiter for the Union Army.

But when the Union Army moved in and cotton speculation went wild, secessionists and Jews got the blame. Generals Grant and Sherman both complained about the “unprincipled sharpers and Jews.” According to Sherman, the area had become “infested with Jews,” while Grant too measures to make sure that “the Israelites especially” were kept out. On December 17th, the start of Hanukkah, 1862, Grant finally took the plunge, and ordered all Jews removed from his department.

To Cesar Kaskel, this came as a bit of a shock. When he was summoned to the local Provost Marshal’s office, he had no idea what to think. But when he was handed Grant’s order, it all became clear.

C.J. Kaskel – Sir: In pursuance of General Order No. 11, issued from General Grant’s headquarters, you are hereby ordered to leave the city of Paducah, Kentucky, within twenty-four hours after receiving this order.

By order,
L.J. Waddell, Captain and Provost Marshal

He quickly gathered that it wasn’t personal, it was merely anti-Jewish. All thirty of his Jewish neighbors were also ordered to leave town. In actuality, it was more than thirty. Kaskel describes it as “nearly thirty other Jewish gentlemen, mostly married.”

This forced-exodus included the gentlemen, their wives and children. All but two of Paducah’s Jewish residents left town. Two old ladies on their deathbeds were allowed to stay, to be comforted in dying by neighbors rather than family.

Surprisingly, Kaskel, though furious, did not take out his rage upon Captain Waddell. The officer, he reasoned, was simply following orders (an excuse that wouldn’t fly several decades later). Even if Waddell had dreamed this up on his own, there was little Kaskel could do about it in Paducah.

In fact, there was little he could do about it in Kentucky or in General Grant’s department – he had to leave. But he also had twenty-four hours. He would use the time wisely.

He, along with his brother and three other friends, sent a telegram to President Lincoln in Washington:

“The undersigned, good and loyal citizens of the United States and residents of this town for many years, engaged in legitimate business as merchants, feel greatly insulted and outraged by this inhuman order, the carrying out of which would be the grossest violation of the Constitution and our rights as good citizens under it, and would place us, besides a large number of other Jewish families of this town, as outlaws before the whole world. We respectfully ask your immediate attention to this enormous outrage on all and humanity and pray for your effectual and immediate interposition.”

The telegram was sent the following day, but it seems as if Lincoln never saw it. It wouldn’t be read by General-in-Chief Henry Halleck until two days later.

This is important to know because it was the first news of Grant’s General Order No. 11 to reach Washington. Prior to this, as the story goes, nobody outside of Grant’s department had any inkling that he had expelled all Jewish people from his department.

However, this seems a bit unlikely as the press picked up the story and ran it on December 30th. But here we are, getting ahead of ourselves.

For the time being, Cesar Kaskel would wait for Lincoln’s reply while simultaneously waiting for a transport ship to arrive and take him and his fellow Jewish exiles out of Grant’s department. But since Lincoln never saw the telegram, Kaskel might have to wait longer than he wanted. This is not, however, the last we’ll hear of Cesar Kaskel.

((Sources: When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan D. Sarna; Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 17, Part 2, p505.))

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The Forced Jewish Exodus of Paducah, Kentucky by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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