I Do Declare! Lesser Known Confederate History Months

I Do Declare! is an ongoing series* finding the hidden gems from our governor’s proclamations.*

There was a hubbub recently when Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell declared April would be Confederate History Month. Even Frank Rich got indignant and self-righteous. Ok, he always does that, but other people were mad too. Why would he honor the Confederacy, and do so without even mentioning that whole slavery thing? Outrage overflowed. Gov. McDonnell eventually backtracked and jammed a paragraph in the middle that acknowledged that, you know, slavery was bad.

For what it was worth, Gov. McDonnell’s Confederate History Month proclamation is sandwiched on his website’s 2010 Proclamations page between the less controversial Administrative Professionals Week and Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The whole incident makes one wonder: what other tremendous proclamations are out there? Well, I did a little research into the topic, and rather quickly realized there is a veritable treasure trove of topics about which to write, and it would be a disservice to you, the reader, to write about only one of these. As such, a week-long series on the hidden treasures that are our nations’ governors’ proclamations begins today with a proclamation from April by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue.

In 2009, Sonny Perdue signed off on Georgia’s own version of Confederate History Month, and was immediately engulfed in a media firestormnobody cared. Not a single out of state news organization bothered to cover it. And it really is a shame that nobody bothered to draw the nation’s attention to this gem. Much like Gov. McDonnell’s proclamation, it makes no mention of slavery whatsoever. That is what it is, but the fun does not stop there. The proclamation’s middle three paragraphs make Confederate Georgia seem like a Benetton ad.

The middle three paragraphs are devoted to the Jew(s) that served the Confederacy:

WHEREAS: Among those who served the Confederacy were many Jews who saw action in the Confederate armed forces as well as in governmental service. Most notability, Judah P. Benjamin held three cabinet positions in the Confederate States Government and was the first Jewish person to hold a cabinet position in North America.

Now, I’m not necessarily am disputing this idea that there were “many” Jews who saw action as Confederates, but the subtitle on a 1989 biography of Benjamin was*The Jewish Confederate*. Benjamin does seem like an interesting guy though, hailing from Christiansted, St. Croix, whose wikipedia page lists the rather eclectic group of him, Alexander Hamilton and Tim Duncan as its three notable people.

The proclamation goes on, with paragraphs about two more Jews of the Confederacy, one was a nurse (and later author), the other was Charles Wessokowsky,  a Prussian immigrant who became a soldier and happened to leave behind a useful journal. As an added bonus, according to the proclamation, “served as Grand High Priest of Georgia in the Masonic Order.”

So let that be a lesson to all you would be proclaimers. Reviving Confederate History Month in a border state that went for Obama = not okay, WHEREAS continuing a longstanding tradition of honoring the Confederacy (since enshrined in law) but making it inexplicably entirely about Jewish Confederates is totally fine.

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