In 1861, the year the Civil War began, there were just 151 Jewish families in Michigan. The small population, largely comprised of recently arrived Eastern European immigrants, were grateful for the religious and economic safe-haven they found in their new American homeland. From those 151 Jewish families, 181 enlisted to serve in the Union Army, serving in 40 of Michigan’s 46 regiments. During the rebellion, Michigan provided 90,747 troops, 85,000 of whom were volunteers. Nationally, approximately 6,000 Jews served in the Union Army, and 2,300 fought for the Confederacy. Six Jews received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Michigan’s Jewish Civil War soldiers can be traced to every major battle of the war. Thirty-eight of these men would perish from wounds, disease, or the conditions experienced in prison, camp or hospitals. In April 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered and the American Civil War came to a close.
This marker, located along the Detroit Riverfront at Milliken State Park in Detroit, honors these war heroes who risked their lives so that others could continue to find freedom in this new American land. On the other side of this marker is another that describes the arrival of Chapman Abraham, Detroit’s first Jewish resident.
Source: Contents of this article are taken, in part from an article written by Arnold Collens and published in Michigan Jewish History, Fall 2015.
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