Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Rebecca Pulls Some More Strings
(See the previous post for Rebecca's first recorded effort to help someone get a job through her political connections in Washington.)
In 1839 Rebecca's nephew-in-law Solomon Cohen in Savannah asked for some help with getting his nephew Julian Myers into the Navy. She was well-placed to do so because by this time the Secretary of the Navy was her old friend James Kirke Paulding. Her inquiry brought a charming reply alluding to their "ancient friendship" and the "thousand recollections" her letter revived. However, much as he would like to please her, Paulding wrote, the complement of midshipmen from Georgia was already full. The family should ask some Georgia congressmen for letters of recommendation for their son. With those in hand Paulding would be able to give Julian his warrant whenever there was an opening among the Georgia midshipmen.
Julian was named a midshipman less than a month later. (I have no information on the circumstances surrounding this swift response.) He would make the Navy his career. At the beginning of the Civil War Capt. Myers resigned his commission and returned home to enter the Navy of the Confederate States of America. After the war, he refused to sign the oath of allegiance to the United States and remained "unreconstructed."
A later recommendation of Rebecca's had what she, a strong Unionist, would have determined to be a better outcome. All we know of it is from an 1861 letter from Lizzie Blair Lee to her husband: "I had a long letter from Aunt Becky today...Frank Etting has an army paymaster's place Father [Francis Preston Blair, Lincoln's advisor] got because Aunt asked for it -- & she evidently is highly gratified."
In this case, Rebecca had put forward a candidate who proved worthy. Frank Marx Etting, her great-nephew, would rise to be Paymaster General of the United States Army. In later life, he was much involved with civic concerns in Philadelphia, perhaps most famously for his tireless work to restore Independence Hall . He also wrote a history of the building.
(Rebecca's letter from 1839 is in the Miriam Gratz Moses Cohen Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is reproduced in The Jews of the United States 1790-1840, A Documentary History, edited by Joseph L. Blau and Salo W. Baron. Some of the information about Myers' subsequent career is from their notes: the rest from his obituary in the New York Times. Elizabeth Blair Lee's letter is in Wartime Washington: The Civil War Letters of Elizabeth Blair Lee, edited by Virginia Jeans Laas, and available on Google Books.)