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Hiding in Plain Sight – Why Some Jewish American Soldiers Served Under an Alias

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After years of reviewing Civil War pension records of Union soldiers at the US National Archives, our team has discovered that serving under an alias was not uncommon. Many who are knowledgeable about Jewish American history have assumed that the use of an alias was in response to antisemitism. Our research finds this true in a handful of cases, but the overwhelming majority of Jewish soldiers who served during the American Civil War under an alias did so to avoid recriminations by family and friends or simply to keep their families from worrying about their well-being.

 

Joseph Levy (1842-1920) aka Joseph Reese

4th NY Infantry, Company K 

Bill Ritchie and I enlisted at the same time.  He enlisted under the name of Bill or Wm. Richards and I took the name of Joseph Reese.  I don’t know his object in changing his name.  I was influenced partly by Ritchie changing his name and partly by the desire to avoid ridicule as a jew.

Simon Schiff (1841-1871) aka Joseph Schaeffer

108th OH Infantry, Company I 

“The reason he said enlisted under the name of Schaeffer, was that he did not want them to think he was a Jew.”

Jacob H. Stern (1844-1914) aka John G. Loomis

17th NY Infantry, Company H (1861-1863)

I enlisted at the city hall, and I saw Ralph Davis from this city who I was afraid would tell my father who was opposed to me going into the army and he would not have allowed me to go had he known I was going in the army, and to avaoid [sic] my father and keep him from finding me I took an assumed name as I was under 18 years old when I enlisted.” 

Henry Redwitz (1833-1913) aka Charles Clark

US Navy (1861-1865)

Charles Clark was given by me to prevent and avoid any annoyance by my family, who at that time very much was opposed of taking the steps of my enlistment.”


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