Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yom Kippur, 1861

On August 10, 1861, Cary Gratz, the son of Rebecca's brother Ben, was killed at the Battle of Wilson's Creek on the side of the Union. His stepbrother and cousin, Jo Shelby, the son of Ben's second wife Ann, fought for the Confederacy in the same battle. Rebecca had known both young men since boyhood. This is an extract from a letter of Rebecca's to Ann, who was not Jewish, dated September 13:

"How I wish by sharing I could lessen My poor brother's grief!

I sympathize with you, too My dear Ann, in the anxiety which is so harassing by the uncertain accounts the papers bring of the contending Armies -- we may pray for Jo's personal safety -- tho' we cannot for the success of his arms -- Faith in Him, who in justice & in Mercy rules over the destiny of all, must give us patience! Tomorrow will be a holy day with us -- Sabbath & day of Atonement, when memorials of the dead mingle with petitions for the living -- and we endeavour to purify ourselves by devotion, confession & repentance -- you will all be remembered by me, in the house of prayer --"

(For the full letter, see Letters of Rebecca Gratz, edited by Rabbi David Philipson.)

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