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Jews and the Civil WarA Reader$

Jonathan D. Sarna and Adam D. Mendelsohn

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780814740910

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814740910.001.0001

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Divided Loyalties in 1861

Divided Loyalties in 1861

The Decision of Major Alfred Mordecai

(p.201) 7 Divided Loyalties in 1861
Jews and the Civil War

Stanley L. Falk

NYU Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines how the Civil War ended the military career of Major Alfred Mordecai, a professional soldier with incompatible loyalties to both North and South. Mordecai, a senior officer in the Ordnance Department of the U.S. Army, was forced by the advent of the Civil War to make a most difficult choice. Southern born and oriented, Mordecai was sympathetic to the Southern position. On the Northern side, he had served the United States faithfully for more than four decades, and he loved and firmly believed in the Union. Torn by divided allegiances, Mordecai postponed his choice as long as he could. In the spring of 1861, however, he made the only decision that logic and conscience allowed. This chapter recounts the dilemma faced by Mordecai in light of his views about slavery and highlights the psychological dimensions of the inner conflicts and moral quandaries created by the Civil War.

Keywords:   military career, Alfred Mordecai, North, South, U.S. Army, slavery, Civil War

When Confederate batteries opened fire on beleaguered Fort Sumter on the morning of April 12, 1861, Major Alfred Mordecai, a senior officer in the Ordnance Department, United States Army, was testing artillery carriages at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He immediately hurried back to his post as commanding officer of Watervliet Arsenal, a major ordnance installation located just outside of Troy, New York.1 Like thousands of other Americans, he found himself faced with the problem of divided loyalties.

Major Mordecai was a distinguished army scientist who had made great contributions in weapons development and ballistics during a military career that spanned more than four decades. Born in North Carolina in 1804, he had entered the United States Military Academy in 1819. After graduating at the top of his class, he had held a number of important positions and commands, had been sent by the War Department on several consequential missions, and, above all, had been an active and outstanding participant in the development of American military technology. In April, 1861, he was at the height of his long and distinguished career when the booming guns in Charleston harbor pushed him one step closer toward the inevitable and agonizing decision that would end his service in the United States Army. A sensitive, perceptive, gentle man, he was horror-stricken by the knowledge of what lay before him and his country.

Along with many of his fellow Army officers, Mordecai was forced by the advent of the Civil War to make a most difficult choice. Southern (p.202) born and oriented, he was sympathetic to the Southern position. The other members of his father’s large family were scattered throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama, and Mordecai was closely bound to them by strong ties of loyalty and affection. On the Northern side, Mordecai had served the United States faithfully for more than forty years, and he loved and firmly believed in the Union. His wife, Sara, moreover, and their children were all Northern by birth and belief. And finally, he was, above all, a conscientious, sincere, and highly honorable man. Torn by divided allegiances, he postponed his choice as long as he could. But in the spring of 1861, when further delay was no longer possible, he made the only decision that logic and conscience allowed.2

Mordecai’s views on the major questions dividing the nation can best be described as moderate or, in his own words, “conservative opinions.” Above all, he desired the preservation of the Union and saw “no hope for the country if divided.”3 Such a division, he believed, would split the nation “into incoherent fragments, to become the inveterate foes of each other, and the scorn and contempt of the rest of the world.” He had “no patience to think of the spectacle” that America would present under these circumstances, and “no disposition to join in the miserable strife” that would result.4

He viewed with growing annoyance, disgust, and apprehension the activities of extremists on both sides. In 1850, when he was still confident that a peaceful and satisfactory solution could be found to the problems dividing North and South, he suggested, as his own “favorite plan” for ending tensions, the hanging of “a dozen or twenty politicians—without being very particular in the choice of them either.”5 But as the heat of the intersectional dispute intensified, his jocular tone changed to one of growing dread. He condemned abolitionism, that “wide spread sentiment at the North, … grown to a fearful extent within a few years”6 and at the same time denounced the “madness and folly” of Southern radicals.7 The extremists were leading the country to civil war, a prospect “dreadful to contemplate,”8 which must be averted by all means possible. “How much easier and better it would be to sit down in peace,” he exclaimed, “than to purchase it with the horrors of revolution and civil war!”9

Mordecai saw the quarrel between North and South as basically “a struggle about the institution of slavery,” and here, while he completely opposed the North “for attempting to interfere,” he had “no sympathy” for the Southern “feeling, or doctrine rather, as lately inculcated.”10 From boyhood, he had looked upon slavery in the United States “as the (p.203)

Divided Loyalties in 1861The Decision of Major Alfred Mordecai

Alfred Mordecai in uniform.

Courtesy of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

(p.204) greatest misfortune and curse that could have befallen us,” and he had often thought of how “prosperous” might have been the states of the upper South had they been “relieved from this incubus.” That slavery had been maintained, however, he firmly believed to have been the result of Northern abolitionist activities. Furthermore, slavery had been “expressly protected” by the Constitution, and those who had retained it were “entitled to the enforcement of their constitutional rights with regard to it, both in the letter and the spirit.”11 Mordecai’s Southern relatives had been slaveholders at least as far back as he could remember; indeed, his brother George, a wealthy Raleigh businessman, owned about one hundred slaves.12 Yet, while Mordecai believed that Negroes were better off as slaves in America than “as savages in Africa, or than they would be as freemen,” he “never wished to be one of the agents in thus bettering their condition.” He had owned but one slave in his life, and he had purchased her only to free her.13 In sum then, while deploring slavery, he had “no objection to its existence, under the circumstances in which we have it here,” and, while condemning Southern extremism, he was “utterly averse to any participation in the schemes for destroying, or weakening, the hold of the masters on their slaves, unless they themselves shall be willing to abandon it.”

He hoped, until the very end, that some solution might be found, that both sides might “yet see the utter madness” of the course they were pursuing to their “ruin.” The South had a “duty” to “try all constitutional remedies, before resorting to the extreme of revolution.” But Southerners also had “the right to judge of the injury” that they had sustained or with which they were threatened, and “of the remedy and redress” that they should seek. And should the majority of them believe their “existence and happiness” to be “inconsistent with the maintenance of the Union,” then, declared Mordecai, “let them go in peace.”14

It is not clear just when Mordecai first realized that Civil War was inevitable, and that it would force a fateful decision upon him. Until 1850, at least, he had no doubt that some “final adjustment” could be worked out,15 and it was not until late 1859 that political questions began to intrude in his personal correspondence. Prior to that time, while becoming increasingly aware of the growing tensions, he tended to avoid discussion of the problems they raised. John Brown’s raid on the Harpers Ferry Armory in October, 1859, however, brought home to him the extent of the growing schism. It raised dramatically the prospect of civil war, and filled him with “many anxious thoughts.” Living as he was at Watervliet Arsenal, in (p.205) the heart of the North, he found few kindred souls with whom to discuss the great questions of the day. Only to his family did he express his growing anxiety. In hopes of encouraging moderate views in the North, he sent to the editor of the Albany Argus part of a letter from his brother Samuel that had taken a critical but restrained view of the Brown incident. He saw in such moderate opinions, still evident in some areas of the North, the only hopes for avoiding an intersectional conflict.16

During 1860, he watched with growing apprehension and dread the increasing antagonisms on both sides. Nor was he encouraged by the nominations for that year’s presidential election. Lincoln and his party, he believed, promised no good for the South. Stephen A. Douglas was, or would soon be, “driven into opposition,” and might any day be seen “in the Republican ranks.” Nothing could be expected of John Bell, the Unionist candidate. And even if John C. Breckinridge, “the only hope of peace and safety for the South,” was elected, this would but postpone “the evil day” when the growing population of the North would make Republican success a certainty.17 Mordecai himself was “willing to put up” with any party save the Republican, in hopes that the four years before the next presidential contest might bring some means of saving “our goodly fabric from ruin.”18 Apparently he felt that some temporary solution, at least, might be reached to prevent any political or economic upheaval, for during the summer and fall he made several investments in North Carolina state bonds.19 And even when Lincoln was elected, he took heart from the fact that the Republicans were a minority in the new Congress and, as such, could do nothing “seriously injurious” to the South.20 As late as mid-December, 1860, then, only three days before South Carolina seceded, Mordecai was still seeking to buy additional North Carolina bonds.21

By now, however, he had begun to think seriously about the course he should pursue in the event of the disruption of the Union. Eschewing any public declaration of his intentions, he condemned his fellow officers who had already taken actions or made statements that might tend to encourage those “trying to precipitate dissension.” He, himself, intended to continue to discharge his duty and to “uphold conservative opinions” until the future was clear, believing that in this manner he would be doing his best “to discourage the mad proceedings of fanatics, North or South.” Should “the worst” occur, it would then be time enough for him to act, “and you may be sure,” he wrote his brother George, “that I shall not be found in opposition to my own people.”22

(p.206) In his attempt to follow a moderate course, Mordecai encountered no adverse pressure from friends and relatives. Some, like his old friend and colleague Major Benjamin Huger of South Carolina, later to accept a Confederate commission, urged moderation, patience, and hope.23 Others, like Sara, his wife, and their children, remained silent, understanding the difficulty of the decision before him, and, by their restraint, assisting him in his attempt to maintain a neutral course.24 While still others, like his sister Caroline, could only sympathize with his plight, but offer nothing in the way of a solution.25 The fact that his mother, brothers, and sisters, and their families were living in the South was, in itself, an argument for Mordecai to make a quick decision in favor of the South. But it was for the most part a silent argument, for, until the spring of 1861, his relatives, despite their strong feelings, limited themselves to expressions of the Southern viewpoint, and at no time attempted to persuade Mordecai to cast his lot with them.

The first definite endeavor to bring Mordecai South was made by North Carolina’s Governor John W. Ellis, on January 15, 1861. Knowing Major Mordecai to be a native of his state, he requested Representative Warren Winslow, also of North Carolina, to offer him “a good position and a good salary” if he would resign from the Army and take on “the work of putting N. C. on a war footing.” Winslow forwarded this offer to Mordecai through a mutual friend, Captain Theodore T. S. Laidley, despite Laidley’s advice that Mordecai would probably decline.26

Mordecai’s reaction was as Laidley had predicted. Through Laidley, he informed Congressman Winslow that he was declining Ellis’s offer, while at the same time he wrote George Mordecai, in Raleigh, asking him to inform the governor of his decision. The “controlling reason” for this, he told his brother, was that he refused to “do anything to sanction or encourage revolutionary measures,” so long as there was “the least hope of an adjustment of our national trouble.” On this course he was determined. “I shall continue to discharge my duty,” he declared, “in the fervent hope that the calamity which has befallen us may yet be remedied without bloodshed, and that the alternative of choosing sides in a civil war may never be presented to me.”27

In addition to the North Carolina offer, there was also some talk in Virginia of asking Mordecai to head an Ordnance Corps in a new state military organization. Here, however, there was doubt as to whether or not he would accept service in that state in preference to North Carolina, and no offer, even as informal and indefinite as that of Governor Ellis, was (p.207) made. Mordecai learned of this through a nephew, who tended to take a disparaging view of the entire matter. Not only were the chances of an offer doubtful, he explained, but the salary was “no great shakes either.”28 Needless to say, Mordecai made no attempt to acquire further information. As he wrote his sister in early February about these Southern offers: “As long as there seems to be any possibility, (not to say hope!) of continuing to serve the United states, I shall make no other arrangement and give no encouragement to think that I shall make any other.”29

In March, came another offer from the South, this one a definite and important one. On the 4th of that month, Colonel William J. Hardee of the new Confederate army, a former United States cavalry officer and a good friend of Mordecai’s, wrote to extend an offer from President Jefferson Davis. Davis, who had known and respected Mordecai for many years, did not want “to seduce any officer from his allegiance,” but he believed that Mordecai was “a true Southerner” in his feelings,” and might prefer service in the Army of the Confederate States.” There was to be a Corps of Engineers and a Corps of Artillery—the latter would be charged with Ordnance duties—and the President, Hardee informed Mordecai, “would be pleased to place you at the head of either as you may elect.” If he desired to accept, Mordecai was to telegraph Hardee the words “I will,” or “I will accept.”30

Mordecai lost no time in replying to Hardee, and his answer was brief and to the point. While “truly grateful” to Davis “for this new proof of his good opinion,” Mordecai was “compelled to decline entertaining” the President’s offer. Nor would he explain his reasons. “I will only say,” he added, “that my decision on the subject was made on the occasion of a previous proposition of a similar kind”—presumably the offer from North Carolina.31 To his brother George, he explained that he was still “determined to remain at liberty to adopt, in my own time, such a course as my deliberate judgment on the progress of events may dictate.”32 His refusal of a Southern commission left Davis no choice but to offer the post of Chief of Ordnance to Captain Josiah Gorgas, the only other ordnance officer then available, who received the appointment by default.33

Not all of the pressures for Mordecai to join the Confederacy came from the South. As a Southerner commanding the most important arsenal in the country, he was subject to growing suspicion by those unfamiliar with his high standards of honor. This suspicion might well have driven a weaker or more self-interested officer South. But it did not affect Mordecai’s determination to bide his time and then take only the course he knew to be right.

(p.208) Until he made the final decision concerning his future, Mordecai, like most of the other officers facing a similar choice, continued to work and carry out his duties to the best of his ability. Beginning in mid-January, 1861, after Mississippi and Alabama had followed South Carolina from the Union, Watervliet Arsenal began to receive an ever-growing flood of orders for supplies. There were orders for artillery, carriages, and ammunition, for harnesses and small-arms cartridges, for muskets and for gunpowder. Everything that could be manufactured, taken from storage, purchased, or obtained from other nearby arsenals was being shipped in response to these orders. A large part, if not all, of the ordnance supplies for the projected expeditions to Fort Pickens and other Gulf forts were shipped from Watervliet. “We are fabricating and issuing, by day and night,” noted one of Mordecai’s officers.34 More men were hired, the shops were lit by gas for night work, and Mordecai had little time for anything other than filling supply orders.

Despite his preoccupation with these duties, Mordecai was forced to interrupt his routine to answer charges by those suspicious of his Southern birth. In December, 1860, at the direction of the Ordnance Office, he had sold to Gazaway B. Lamar, a Southern purchasing agent, 10,000 old obsolete muskets that the Ordnance Department had long since declared to be useless for military service. There was nothing unusual about the sale—similar transactions had been carried out before with both Northern and Southern purchasers, when anyone could be found to buy the old weapons—and Secretary of War John B. Floyd has been cleared of charges that he was selling arms to the South with malice aforethought.35 In December, 1860, however, many Northerners took a dim view of making any arms, however unserviceable, available for Southern use. Late that month, the New York Evening Post printed a rumor about Lamar’s muskets, and asked caustically, “Where is General Wool?”36

Major General John E. Wool, a veteran officer with a distinguished career dating back to the War of 1812, commanded the Department of the East, which included New York State. In this capacity, he had no authority whatsoever over Watervliet Arsenal, which was responsible only to the Ordnance Department. Yet he was hardly a man to take a slur lying down, and he was used to having his way. Accordingly, after sending off a sharp note to the editor of the Evening Post explaining his lack of authority, he wrote another to Mordecai, demanding to know what was going on at the arsenal. Mordecai was then away from Watervliet on temporary duty, or else he would have certainly refused to answer Wool’s peremptory (p.209) demand. But the young lieutenant he had left in charge of the post failed to realize, or thought it more discreet to overlook, Wool’s lack of authority, and sent the general a brief report of the arms transaction. This apparently satisfied Wool, but Mordecai would hear from him again.37

Before he did, however, in mid-January, 1861, he felt constrained to write a letter of explanation to Colonel Henry K. Craig, the Chief of Ordnance, about another matter of a similar nature. Already rumors had begun to spread about the dangers involved in leaving a Southerner in command of Watervliet Arsenal, about supplies being shipped to the Confederacy, and about the possibility “that Major Mordecai was unsound.”38 In 1859, the arsenal foreman had designed and built a new machine for the production of bullets. As was his custom in such cases, and as was perfectly permissible, Mordecai had allowed the foreman, on his own time and at his own expense, to have copies made of the plans of the machine and to sell them to a local machinist. But with a cautious eye to the heightened tensions of the day, Mordecai now wrote Craig an explanation of the entire matter, and offered to recall the plans. As he pointed out, however, there was no requirement for secrecy at the arsenals, and the machine could be seen by any visitor and, since it was not patented, reproduced by any intelligent mechanic.

Craig must have agreed, for there is no indication that any further action was taken on the matter. Nor does it seem to have started any rumors or gossip at the time. Later in the year, however, after Mordecai had left Watervliet, there were a few newspaper charges that he had “had a hand in a transfer of the patterns for the bullet machine … inconsistent with the interests of the Government.”39 But he was able to refute these charges effectively by sending each paper a brief explanation and a copy of his original letter to Craig. That letter undoubtedly saved him a good deal of trouble and embarrassment.

It did not, however, prevent an encounter with General Wool. The Ordnance Department had always procured from private manufacturers a large part of the supplies it distributed. In January, 1861, in order to ensure speedy fulfillment of the heavy supply orders suddenly pouring into Watervliet, Mordecai had contracted with two private workshops in Troy for the manufacture of brass fuze plugs for shells. News of this reached the suspicious General Wool in the form of rumors that a former employee of the arsenal, with the assistance of Mordecai’s foreman, was manufacturing machines for making fuzes for the South. This time Wool was not satisfied to write Mordecai a letter, but instead sent his aide to the arsenal to check on the matter.

(p.210) Mordecai had not forgotten the first instance of Wool’s interference, and he was determined to set no precedent recognizing that Wool had any authority over him. Should he admit to any such authority, he would only invite continued interference by Wool in arsenal matters. The peremptory old general might seriously interfere with the smooth workings at Watervliet, at a time when the post was swamped with large and important supply orders. Accordingly, he told Wool’s aide, to use that officer’s words, that “he did not know anything of it [the matter of the fuzes], and really wished the General would address the authorities at Washington if he desired to know anything of the Arsenal”—and then cut short the interview.40

Temporarily thwarted, and probably fuming, Wool, without Mordecai’s foreknowledge, sent for the arsenal foreman, who promptly denied that he knew anything of the matter.41 After mulling on this for several weeks, Wool again took the bit between his teeth and decided to report the entire incident to Winfield Scott, the Army’s aging Commanding General. Not only did he complain about Mordecai’s “great want of courtesy to a superior officer,” but he also dredged up the matter of the 10,000 old muskets sold to G. B. Lamar. There was only one way, wrote Wool, to stop such activities, and that was to make the arsenal subject to his “inspection”—or, in other words, his control.42

When Wool’s report on Watervliet was referred to Colonel Craig, he immediately came to the arsenal commander’s defense. “I feel confident,” he wrote of Mordecai, “that he would not permit anything to be done, by anyone employed at the Arsenal, prejudicial to the interests of the United States.” As further proof that Mordecai “appreciated the responsibilities resting upon him,” Craig enclosed a copy of Mordecai’s earlier letter concerning the bullet machine. Turning then to Wool’s request that Water-vliet be made subject to his inspection, the Chief of Ordnance chose to ignore the general’s obvious effort to gain control of the arsenal. Instead, he merely pointed out that Ordnance regulations called for inspections to be made by an ordnance officer, and that the Ordnance Department had sufficient officers, properly trained, to carry out this task.43

Having taken care of Wool’s complaint to Scott, Colonel Craig turned to Mordecai for his version of the matter,44 which the Watervliet commander provided by return mail. In a lengthy letter to the Chief of Ordnance, Mordecai explained his handling of Wool’s aide, pointed out that no ordnance establishment in the country had ever made any attempt whatsoever at conducting operations in secret, and stated that as long as (p.211) the manufacture of cannon, small arms, ammunition, and other supplies was contracted to private manufacturers it was impossible to keep this material secret.

Mordecai was particularly disturbed by Wool’s “imputation of censure” of his conduct as commander of Watervliet Arsenal. Since the general’s letter to Scott had asked for control only of Watervliet, rather than of all the arsenals in the Department of the East, it was obvious, felt Mordecai, that he was being singled out for special attention. “I invite,” he declared, “the most rigid scrutiny into my administration of the arsenal; and I trust that, in common justice, no effect will be given to the imputation referred to, until such a scrutiny shall have been made, by a Court of Inquiry or other competent authority.”45

Craig forwarded Mordecai’s letter to General Scott, with his own favorable concurring endorsement.46 This ended the matter, and Mordecai had no more trouble from the fiery General Wool.

Despite the suspicions and difficulties Mordecai encountered because of his Southern birth, and despite the knowledge that the Confederacy offered him rank and position, the acceptance of which would be no dishonor, he continued to discharge his duties “faithfully and zealously, without any reservation or arrière-pensée.”47 The increasing volume of orders for supplies occupied him constantly at the arsenal, and there was no slackening in his efforts to carry them out. “I shall continue to execute them as fast as possible,” he told Colonel Craig.48

But even as he labored on, the news from the South became more and more depressing. As, one after another, efforts to find a solution to the great problem splitting the country were unsuccessful, Mordecai became increasingly pessimistic.49 By the middle of March, 1861, he realized that he could not put off a decision much longer. He still hoped to avoid one, but, if and when it became necessary, he now knew what he planned to do.

So far, he had given neither his relatives in the South nor his immediate family around him any more than a hint of what action he intended. On the morning of March 18th, he sat down with Sara and the children and read them a long letter that he had started the day before to his brother Samuel in Richmond. “In these calamitous times,” he began, “it is well that relatives and friends should understand each other’s positions, and as my views may not be fully known by our family, I will devote this leisure Sunday to communicating to you so much of them at least as may influence my own action in relation to public affairs.”

(p.212) The letter outlined his thoughts and feelings on the issues of the day: his belief in the South’s constitutional right to maintain slavery, and his recognition of the North’s abhorrence of that institution; his condemnation of extremists on both sides; his opinion that secession was unnecessary but legitimate; and his conclusion that splitting the nation would be a spectacular tragedy. He had “no disposition,” he explained, “to join in the miserable strife which will result from the entire rupture of our Union. If I am doomed to witness that calamity …, you know that I would not take sides against the south; but … I should be almost equally reluctant to enter the ranks against those with whom I have been so long associated on terms of close intimacy and friendship.” He hoped to avoid a decision, but, should civil war occur, his “first wish” would be to retire to private life, and find some “civil pursuit” by means of which he could support his family during the “miserable remnant” of his days. He wished that his “southern friends” would understand his position, and he knew that they would “appreciate” his motives “for adhering to the last, to the hope, even the most feeble, of a re-adjustment” that might “repair this incredible calamity.” Should his “family relations with the north” exert any influence on his final decision, he knew that he would “not be liable to misconstruction” by those in the South.50

Having made up his mind, Mordecai could now only wait and hope and continue his work. Rumors that he would resign and join the Confederacy grew stronger in the area around Watervliet, and when he left for Fort Monroe, at Craig’s direction, in early April, some of the local newspapers carried charges that he was deserting to the South. The fact that Sara and their daughter Laura accompanied him—in order to pay a long-promised visit to Mordecai’s eighty-six-year-old mother in Richmond—seemed to lend credence to the accusations. Hardly had he reached Fort Monroe, however, when the attack on Fort Sumter recalled him to Water-vliet. Stopping in Richmond on April 13th to pick up Sara and Laura, he heard the news of Sumter’s surrender that day. His brother George urged him to resign from the Army immediately, and it was now clear to Mordecai that he could no longer postpone his decision.51

There remained one final chance of avoiding this decision. He telegraphed his old friend Major Benjamin Huger, himself in the process of resigning, to meet him in Baltimore, where the two conferred briefly and agreed on a possible solution. Then he hurried on to New York, where, on April 15th, as Lincoln issued his first call for volunteers, he took a few moments to send a hasty personal note to Colonel Craig. This letter contained his last hope of remaining in the United States Army.

(p.213) Briefly outlining to the Chief of Ordnance his unwillingness to continue supervising the production of munitions to be used against his relatives and friends, Mordecai requested that he be relieved of command of Watervliet Arsenal and transferred to an area like California, where he believed he might be free from involvement in any possible military operations.52 This, he felt, was the only way he could remain in the Army. He sought it, out of consideration for his family, in “the hope, however small, of better times.”53

Back at Watervliet, Mordecai immediately threw himself into the heavy work at the arsenal while awaiting a reply from Craig.54 Events beyond his control, however, now took a hand to remove his one last chance of staying in the Army. On April 19th, Craig wrote Mordecai that he “thought well” of his request for a transfer, and that he would write him “further on the subject.”55 But before he could so, or take any other action on the transfer, he fell ill. His absence from duty at this critical moment in the nation’s history irked the new Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, who promptly assigned the post of Chief of Ordnance to the next senior ordnance officer, Lieutenant Colonel James W. Ripley. The change, ostensibly temporary, was, in fact, permanent, and Ripley was to take a different view of Mordecai’s request than had Craig.56

Mordecai, meanwhile, continued to work frantically at the job of filling the large and urgent supply orders that were pouring into the arsenal. Despite his loyal and energetic efforts, he found himself more and more the object of local suspicion and mistrust, feelings increased, no doubt, by the secession of Virginia on April 17th.57 On the 20th, still without an answer to his letter to Craig, he received a note from the Chief of Ordnance, dated the 18th, that only increased his frustration. Local founders around Watervliet, Craig said, had complained to the Secretary of War that Mordecai’s orders for shot and shells from private workshops were going only to those who had been “busy in furnishing supplies to the seceding states.” Without commenting on these complaints, Craig suggested that Mordecai so distribute his orders “as to give no cause for rumors” that they were being “given to the enemies of the Union.”58

Craig’s note only served to underline a letter that Mordecai had received a day or so earlier from Raleigh. In this letter, his brother George had urged him to resign his commission at once “and accept service in the Southern army.” Furiously attacking Lincoln’s “absurd and violent measures,” George called for “every friend of the South and especially every Southern man to take a firm decided stand” against them. Then he (p.214) outlined the practical reasons why Mordecai should join the Confederacy. Mordecai’s ties, said George, were almost entirely with the South, and his feelings and opinions were Southern. If he resigned and remained in the North, he would be regarded with “jealousy and suspicion,” and constantly insulted and abused, and might even be forced into a state militia to fight against the South. The Confederacy, on the other hand, offered “honor and distinction” in military service, or, if he desired, a much better opportunity for civilian employment, as well as the warm welcome of family and friends.59

There was considerable truth in George’s reasoning, but to this letter, and a similar one written two days later, Mordecai could only reply with a plea for patience. “You have no adequate idea,” he wrote, “of the state of things in this quarter.”60 At the Mordecai home in Richmond, meanwhile, the air was crisp with tension and “painful excitement.” “Everybody anxiously inquires what is Major Mordecai going to do,” reported Emma Mordecai, “and we answer we do not know.”61

By April 23rd, having still received no reply to his request for a transfer, and unaware that on that very day Craig was being replaced as Chief of Ordnance,62 Mordecai sent the colonel an angry and urgent letter. He was angry because Craig had seen fit to pay attention to what Mordecai rightfully felt were unjust criticisms of his purchases of ordnance supplies from private workshops. The mildness of Craig’s note of the 18th on this subject had not disguised its implied rebuke. “It must be obvious to you,” snapped Mordecai, “that if the commanding officer of the arsenal is to be subject to the surveillance of irresponsible persons, who are interested in misrepresenting his actions, and still more, if he have not the confidence of the head of the Ordnance Department, it is impossible for him to discharge his duties properly.” His request of the 15th for a transfer, Mordecai continued, had been in anticipation of just such difficulties. On the assumption that Craig had not received that request, he was renewing it now. Since he himself could not leave the arsenal, he was giving his letter to Lieutenant Horace Porter, one of his officers, for delivery, and he begged Craig for a “prompt answer by the same officer.”63

Craig’s reply to Mordecai’s original request for transfer, delayed when riots in Baltimore disrupted mail service in and out of Washington, reached Watervliet on April 24th, the day after Porter had left for the capital.64 The brief but encouraging note must have lifted Mordecai’s sagging spirits, for he still was unaware that Craig had been relieved, and he waited impatiently for Porter’s return with the hoped-for transfer from Watervliet.

(p.215) Lieutenant Porter, meanwhile, aware of the interruption to rail service through Baltimore, had boarded a troop transport in New York, to come by sea, and did not reach Washington until April 29th. Hastening to the Ordnance Office, he found Lieutenant Colonel Ripley in charge.65 Ripley and his assistant, Captain William Maynadier, were both as busy as two men could be in trying to supervise and co-ordinate the vast flood of orders rushing in and out of the Ordnance Office, but they stopped for a minute to read Mordecai’s letter, and to consider how to answer it. Unlike Craig, Ripley was unwilling to grant Mordecai’s request for transfer. He regarded Mordecai as one of his ablest officers, and he needed him at Watervliet. There would be little left of military discipline and organization if assignments were to be based on personal wishes rather than on the needs of the service. Regretfully, but correctly, the Chief of Ordnance concluded that he must refuse the request, whatever the consequences.

Both Ripley and Maynadier knew and respected Mordecai, and they hoped to send him a reply that would, while denying him a transfer, dissuade him from resigning. To Maynadier, whose friendship with Mordecai was especially close, fell the task of composing a reply for Ripley’s signature.

Your application to be relieved from duty at Watervliet Arsenal [read the letter] is not founded on any grounds that would induce me to recommend a compliance with it, at any time, and especially now when your valuable services are so necessary. I am not aware of any failure on your part to give satisfaction to the government in your official capacity, and whatever idle rumors or vague charges may have arisen from the excitement of the times, or the pique or malice of disappointed or bad men, they have not, and shall not affect in the estimation of this Department, or elsewhere so far as I have the power to prevent it, the high character for capability, for industry and for intelligence in the discharge of your professional duties, and for integrity and fidelity in all things which you have established by useful and faithful service to the government of the United States during so many years. You may rest assured that the character and reputation of no officer shall suffer from any imputations that may be brought against him for the honest and faithful discharge of his duties to the United States Government, so far as my efforts to protect him can possibly be exerted.

Then, turning back to the business of preparing for war, the letter closed with an order for artillery equipment urgently needed in Washington.66

(p.216) Lieutenant Porter returned to Watervliet with Colonel Ripley’s letter on May 2nd.67 Mordecai knew by now of Craig’s relief,68 so he may have already guessed at the contents of the letter Porter carried. At any rate, Ripley’s tone of finality convinced Mordecai that there was “no hope of a different decision,”69 and he wasted no time in replying.

First, he addressed a brief note to the Adjutant General of the Army: “I hereby tender the resignation of my commission as Major of Ordnance in the Army of the United States, and request that it may be accepted by the President.”70 Enclosing this in a letter to Ripley, he thanked the Chief of Ordnance for the “complimentary terms” of his letter of the 29th, and stated that “peculiar circumstances,” unnecessary to explain further, made it impossible for him to remain at Watervliet. Since he no longer had any hope of being relieved, he was resigning from the Army. He was submitting his resignation through Ripley, so that the latter could pick a new arsenal commander before forwarding it to the Adjutant General. “After thirty-eight years of faithful service,” wrote Mordecai, “I trust that I need not assure you that the public interests here will, in the mean time, be perfectly safe in my hands.” He closed with the wish that his replacement would arrive soon, and that “a suitable inspection” might be made of the Arsenal before he departed. The letter was signed simply, “A. Mordecai,” without the indication of rank and branch with which he had been closing official letters for nearly four decades.71

In a separate, personal letter to Ripley, Mordecai expressed his regrets at the step he had been forced to take. He recommended a successor for the Watervliet command, and assured Ripley that he would keep his resignation a secret until the new commander arrived, or until it was announced in Washington, so as not to interfere with operations at the arsenal. He had “no intention of joining the Southern army,” but would take his family to Sara’s home in Philadelphia, “and make arrangements for my future life.”72

Having taken this final step, Mordecai threw himself back into the work at the arsenal, at which he continued until he was relieved.73 Ripley received Mordecai’s letters and resignation on May 5th, and, the next day, forwarded the resignation to the Adjutant General. By the 10th, it had been accepted by Secretary of War Cameron and President Lincoln, effective as of the 5th. A note from the Ordnance Office informed Mordecai that the officer he had recommended to replace him at Watervliet would be there as soon as he himself could be relieved. But on May 14th, even before Mordecai’s successor arrived, a copy of the War Department order announcing Mordecai’s resignation reached the arsenal. On that day, (p.217) accordingly, he relinquished the Watervliet command to the next-ranking officer on the post and began preparations to leave.74

Mordecai’s resignation produced varied reactions. Many of his friends, both Northern and Southern, were sympathetic and understanding, although some on both sides regretted his decision to remain neutral.75 His fellow Army officers who knew him well were probably the most understanding of all. From Captain Maynadier, who, ironically, was promoted to major to fill the position vacated by his old friend, came a brief but warm note, regretting Mordecai’s resignation, but expressing respect for his judgment. “I offer you no compliment,” he said. “I would scorn to flatter such a man as I know you to be—but I cannot express the sorrow I feel at losing such a comrade and such an officer.”76 And a young lieutenant named Stephen Vincent Benet, then teaching at West Point and later to be Chief of Ordnance, summed up the feeling of many officers at the resignation of Mordecai and others like him:

And so one by one [he wrote Mordecai] the shining lights of the Ordnance are being extinguished, and those of us who are left cannot but grieve at the sad necessity that forces our best officers from the Army. In your retirement you will at least have the consoling reflection that your honors have not equalled your deserts, and that your resignation received the approval of your own conscience.77

Not everyone was as kind as this, however. Some of the Troy and Albany newspapers picked up and published the news of Mordecai’s resignation even before it was officially announced. Initial editorial comment was adverse, and in the Troy area the “lower class of the population,” in Mordecai’s words, “were in the greatest excitement,” calling for his arrest and even threatening personal violence to prevent him from joining the Confederacy. Mordecai’s friends among the “higher class of people” remained steadfast, however, and extended their sympathy and assistance.

As soon as the press published news of his resignation, Mordecai wrote letters of full explanation to the local editors, and released to them copies of some of the official correspondence concerning his resignation. He made it clear that he intended to sit out the war as a civilian. Publication of these letters, and of sympathetic editorials and other letters by his friends, helped to calm public sentiments. Mordecai himself, busy at the arsenal anyway, made a point of avoiding public appearances, and the excitement soon died down. Nevertheless, on about the 24th of May, when (p.218) he and his family were packed and ready to go, they deemed it safer to leave the arsenal quietly and at night. And on at least two occasions, later in the year, Mordecai felt constrained to answer newspaper charges that he had turned over material to the South while at Watervliet.78

In the South, meanwhile, the other members of the Mordecai family had no word of their brother, and could only hope for his safety. They hesitated to communicate with him directly through the mails, lest correspondence from Richmond or Raleigh cause him to fall under suspicion, and sent their letters via circuitous channels.79 A note from George urged Mordecai to come to North Carolina and accept a military command. The state he wrote, was “in a perfect sink of anarchy and confusion,” and badly in need of a good military leader. Scarcely a day passed that he was not asked whether his brother “would come on and accept the appointment of commander in chief.”80 His sister Ellen also urged Mordecai to come where he was “not only desired, but needed in directing the military affairs” of North Carolina. The family made promises of assistance, and offered to provide a home for Mordecai and his family. Similar offers came from Southern friends.81

North Carolina officials trying frantically to organize the state’s military forces took heart from Mordecai’s resignation, and spoke confidently of “his probable advancement” to the position of major general in command of state troops.82 In Richmond, President Davis was informed of the resignation even before it was officially announced or the implementing orders issued by the War Department. Still anxious to secure Mordecai’s services, he asked Samuel Mordecai what his brother intended to do. Now that the major had at last left the Union Army, perhaps he could be persuaded to accept a Southern commission. But Samuel could only refer to Mordecai’s statements published in the newspapers that he intended to retire to private life, an intention that Davis hoped would change.83

By early June, Mordecai and most of his immediate family were living in Philadelphia. For the first time since he had submitted his resignation, he was able to sit down and write his Southern relatives a lengthy letter, detailing the events of the preceding month, thanking them for their offers of assistance, and again declining to come South. Once more he described his feelings about the great question that had divided the nation, and begged his brothers and sisters to understand his point of view. He depreciated the possible value of his military services to the Confederacy, and pointed out that the loss of his assistance to either side was “by no means” as great as his friends, or his “unfriends,” seemed to think. To his regret, his son Alfred, soon to graduate from the United States Military (p.219) Academy, was determined to accept his commission. Mordecai emphasized that this was not because of any urging on his part, but was due, rather, to the boy’s West Point training and associations. Mordecai, himself, could only repeat that his Southern friends should be content with the “sacrifice” he had made. “Do not cease to love me,” he begged.84

Mordecai’s pleading notwithstanding, it was another two months before his family in the South could completely forgive him for the step he had taken. They did not blame the decision entirely on him, but rather were certain that Sara had persuaded or influenced him in his course. This he was quick to deny. She had acquiesced uncomplainingly in his decision, but had had no part in the making of it. Another sore point with those in the South was young Alfred’s determination to fight in the Union Army, and Mordecai’s unwillingness to attempt to dissuade him. George Mordecai pointed out that their brother Augustus had two sons in the Confederate Army, as did their brother Solomon, and, said George, “if it will afford Alfred any pleasure or gratification to take the chance of killing or being killed by them, I have nothing to say.”85

Despite these feelings, the tie of family love and loyalty was too strong to be broken. Early in August, Mordecai received letters from his family that showed the understanding and love his brothers and sisters still bore for him. He read their words of forgiveness through “almost blinding tears” of relief.86

Mordecai’s military career was now ended. Having taken the decisive step of resigning from the Army, and refusing to join the South, he was faced with the problem of supporting himself and his family. “You cannot know,” he wrote his brother Samuel, “what I have sacrificed …: the labor of a whole life seems to be rendered useless …; from the enjoyment of easy comfort, and even luxury, my family … may soon have to look poverty in the face.”87 Most of his savings were invested in the South, and the family would be dependent on his income. At the age of fifty-seven, for the first time in his life, he was seeking a job.

But what sort of a job? A soldier and a scientist, the only trade he knew was the preparation and testing of the tools of war. Yet he was determined that he would have nothing to do with the prosecution of the Civil War, and this to him meant avoidance of any occupation remotely related to military service. During the war, therefore, he refused many good positions. He declined to serve as a consulting engineer on the repair of Fort Delaware, near Philadelphia. He turned down offers to teach in or administer military schools. He would not accept the position of Inspector General of Kentucky and the job of organizing a force for defense of that state.

(p.220) Any and all offers of this sort he gratefully but firmly refused.88 Mordecai was not the only Army officer to resign his commission and refuse to fight for either side—indeed, there were at least thirty others89—but it is doubtful if many were as scrupulous in their neutrality as he.

Determined to avoid “all connection with Mil[itar]y Affairs,”90 Mordecai and his family lived quietly in Philadelphia during the war years. He turned to teaching to support himself, but the bulk of the family income came from a school run by his three daughters.91 With the end of hostilities, when passions had calmed and rancor eased, he began the search for a new and permanent career. “This great reverse of fortune, in the evening of life,” he wrote, “I have endeavored to bear with philosophical patience; solaced by the companionship of my affectionate wife and by the love and good conduct of our dear children; not without also the comfort afforded by the sympathy and regard of many kind and esteemed friends.”92


Reprinted with permission from Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society 48 (1959): 147–169, copyright © 1959 by the American Jewish Historical Society.

(1.) Alfred Mordecai, “Personal Memoranda,” p. 86, Alfred Mordecai Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. This collection is hereinafter cited as AMP. References in this essay to dates and events connected with the start of the Civil War are based on J. G. Randall, The Civil War and Reconstruction (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1937), chaps. iv–ix, passim.

(2.) For Mordecai’s life and military career, see Stanley L. Falk, “Soldier-Technologist: Major Alfred Mordecai and the Beginnings of Science in the United States Army,” Ph.D. dissertation, Georgetown University, 1959.

(3.) Mordecai to George Mordecai (a brother), Dec. 17, 1860, George W. Mordecai Papers, Southern Historical Collection, No. 522, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C. These papers are hereinafter cited as GWMP. Mordecai’s attitudes and feelings that led to his final decision can be reconstructed, in general, from correspondence in AMP and GWMP, especially for the period from Nov., 1859, through June, 1861. Also helpful is the correspondence in Jacob Mordecai Papers, Duke University, Durham, N.C. (hereinafter cited as JMP).

(4.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai (a brother), March 17, 1861, AMP.

(5.) Mordecai to George Mordecai, Aug. 19, 1860, GWMP.

(6.) Mordecai to Ellen Mordecai (a sister), Nov. 29, 1869, AMP.

(7.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, June 2, 1861, AMP. See also Mordecai to [Samuel] Mordecai, Dec. 7, 1859, JMP, and to George Mordecai, Dec. 17, 1860, Jan. 9, 1861, GWMP.

(8.) Mordecai to Ellen Mordecai, Nov. 29, 1859, AMP.

(9.) Mordecai to George Mordecai, Jan. 6, 1861, GWMP.

(p.221) (10.) Except as indicated, quotations in this paragraph are taken from Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, June 2, 1861, AMP.

(11.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, March 17, 1861, AMP.

(12.) Lizzie Wilson Montgomery, Sketches of Old Warrenton, North Carolina (Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1924), pp. 186, 141; Mordecai, “Personal Memoranda,” p. 4; “George W. Mordecai Account Book, 1858–1870,” GWMP.

(14.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, March 17, 1861, AMP.

(15.) Mordecai to George Mordecai, Aug. 19, 1850, GWMP.

(16.) Mordecai to Ellen Mordecai, Nov. 29, 1859, AMP, and to [Samuel] Mordecai, Dec. 7, 1859, JMP.

(17.) Mordecai to George Mordecai, Aug. 7, 1860, GWMP.

(18.) Mordecai to George Mordecai, Aug. 29, 1860, GWMP.

(19.) Rosa Mordecai (a daughter) to George Mordecai, Aug. 28, 1860, and Mordecai to George Mordecai, Aug. 29, Sept. 25, 1860, GWMP.

(20.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, March 17, 1861, AMP. See also Mordecai to [Samuel Mordecai, Nov., 1860], JMP.

(21.) Mordecai to George Mordecai, Dec. 17, 1860, GWMP.

(22.) Ibid.

(23.) Ibid.; Huger to Mordecai, Jan. 11, 26, 1861, AMP.

(24.) Mordecai to “My dear sister,” June 16, 1861, and Sara Mordecai to Ellen Mordecai, Aug. 9, [1861], AMP.

(25.) Caroline Mordecai to A. Mordecai, March 11, 1861, AMP.

(26.) Ellis to Winslow, Jan. 15, 1861, encl. to Laidley to Mordecai, Jan. 17, 1861, AMP; Winslow to Ellis (telegram), Jan. 17, 1860 [1861], War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880–1901), Ser. I, Vol. LI, Pt. 2, p. 7 (hereinafter cited as Official Records); Mordecai to George Mordecai, Jan. 20, 26, 1861, GWMP.

(27.) Mordecai to George Mordecai, Jan. 20, 26, 1861, GWMP. See also George Mordecai to Mordecai, Jan. 23, 1861, AMP.

(28.) Edmund [Myers] to Mordecai, Jan. 27, 1861, AMP.

(29.) Mordecai to “My dear sister,” Feb. 10, 1861, AMP. Emphasis in original.

(30.) Hardee to Mordecai, March 4, 1861, AMP.

(31.) Mordecai to Hardee, March 10, 1861, AMP.

(32.) Mordecai to George Mordecai, March 10, 1861, GWMP.

(33.) Frank E. Vandiver, Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1952), pp. 52–54, 57, and passim.

(34.) Lt. George C. Strong to Col. H. K. Craig, April 9, 1861, Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance (Record Group 156): Watervliet Arsenal, Letters Sent, National Archives, Washington, D.C. (hereinafter cited as OCO /Watervliet, Ltrs Sent, and as NA). For arsenal work during this period, see other (p.222) correspondence in this file and also in OCO: Letters to Ordnance Officers (hereinafter cited as OCO /Ltrs to Ord Ofcrs) and OCO: Watervliet Arsenal, Register of Letters Received, NA.

(35.) Maynadier to Mordecai (telegram and letter), Nov. 24, 1860, OCO /Ltrs to Ord Ofcrs; Lamar to Mordecai, Dec. 1, 3, 1860, copies in AMP; Mordecai to Lamar, Dec. 2, 1860, OCO /Watervliet, Ltrs Sent; Lamar to Floyd, Nov. 21, 1860, and Floyd to Lamar, Nov. 24, 27, 1860, Official Records, Ser. III, Vol. I, pp. 6–7, 9–10; A. Howard Meneely, The War Department, 1861: A Study in Mobilization and Administration (New York: Columbia University Press, 1928), pp. 40–47. Copies of many official letters to and from Mordecai that concerned him personally during this period are filed in AMP. Often Mordecai’s personal copies bear his own notations, with additional information. Where these have been used, they have been checked against the originals, if possible, or against other copies.

(36.) Maj. Gen. J. E. Wool to Floyd, Dec. 29, 1860, Official Records, Ser. III, Vol. I, p. 21.

(37.) Wool to Floyd, Dec. 29, 1860, Official Records, Ser. III, Vol. I, p. 21; Wool to Mordecai, Dec. 27, 1860, AMP; Lt. Geo. T. Balch to Wool, Dec. 27, 1860, OCO /Watervliet, Ltrs Sent.

(38.) Troy Daily News, May 8, 1861, clipping in AMP. This paragraph is based on this and other similar newspaper clippings from 1861, some unidentified, in AMP, and on Mordecai to Craig, Jan. 17, 1861, OCO /Watervliet, Ltrs Sent.

(39.) Troy Daily News, May 8, 1861, clipping in AMP. Some of the other newspapers that printed similar charges were the Albany Evening Journal, the New York Evening Post, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

(40.) Lt. Richard Arnold to Wool, Feb. 1, 1861; Mordecai to Craig, March 2, 1861; copies in AMP.

(41.) Mordecai to Craig, March 2, 1861, copy in AMP.

(42.) Wool to Scott, Feb. 25, 1861, copy in AMP.

(43.) Craig to Lt. Col. L. Thomas, Feb. 27, 1861, copy in AMP.

(44.) Craig to Mordecai, Feb. 27, 1861, copy in AMP.

(45.) Mordecai to Craig, March 2, 1861, copy in AMP.

(46.) Craig to Lt. Col. L. Thomas, March 5, 1861, A Collection of Annual Reports and Other Important Papers, Relating to the Ordnance Department, prepared under the direction of Brig. Gen. Stephen V. Benet (4 vols.; Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1878–1890), III, 567.

(47.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, March 17, 1861, AMP.

(48.) Mordecai to Craig, April 17, 1861, OCO /Watervliet, Ltrs Sent.

(49.) Mordecai to George Mordecai, March 10, 1861, GWMP.

(50.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, March 17, 1861, and to “My dear sister,” June 16, 1861, AMP.

(51.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, March 17, June 2, 1861; clipping from Troy Daily News, May 8, 1861; Mordecai, “Resignation of Major Mordecai: A Card (p.223) of Explanation,” May 8, 1861, Troy Daily Whig, May 9, 1861; Emma Mordecai (a sister) to Sara Mordecai, March 10, 1861; George Mordecai to Mordecai, April 16, 1861; all in AMP.

(52.) Mordecai made no copy of this letter for himself, and, since it was unofficial, Craig apparently retained or destroyed it, and did not place it in the Ordnance files. There is ample evidence, however, of the contents of the letter. Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai June 2, 1861, AMP; Craig to Mordecai, April 19, 1861, extract copy in AMP; Mordecai to Craig, April 23, 1861, and to Col. J. W. Ripley, May 2, 1861, OCO /Watervliet, Ltrs Sent; Mordecai, “Resignation of Major Mordecai: A Card of Explanation,” May 8, 1861, Troy Daily Whig, May 9, 1861, AMP; Ripley to Mordecai, April 29, 1861, OCO /Ltrs to Ord Ofcrs; [Rosa Mordecai], biographical sketch of her father, Sept. 29, 1933, partial ms. in AMP.

(53.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, June 2, 1861, AMP.

(54.) Ibid.; Mordecai to Craig, April 16, 17, 18, 23, 1861, OCO /Watervliet, Ltrs Sent.

(55.) Craig to Mordecai, April 19, 1861, extract copy in AMP.

(56.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, June 2, 1861, AMP; Robert V. Bruce, Lincoln and the Tools of War (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956), pp. 27–30.

(57.) Mordecai, “Resignation of Major Mordecai: A Card of Explanation,” May 8, 1861, Troy Daily Whig, May 9, 1861, and Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, June 2, 1861, AMP.

(58.) Craig to Mordecai, April 18, 1861, copy in AMP.

(59.) George Mordecai to Mordecai, April 16, 1861, AMP.

(60.) Mordecai to George Mordecai, April 22, 1861, GWMP.

(61.) Emma Mordecai to [Sara Mordecai], April 21, 1861, AMP.

(62.) Adjutant General’s Office (hereinafter cited as AGO), Special Order No. 115, April 23, 1861, NA.

(63.) Mordecai to Craig, and to Lt. Horace Porter, April 23, 1861, AMP.

(64.) Mordecai’s notation on extract copy of Craig to Mordecai, April 19, 1861, AMP.

(65.) [Rosa Mordecai], biographical sketch of her father, Sept. 29, 1933, partial ms. in AMP; Ripley to Mordecai, April 29, 1861, OCO /Ltrs to Ord Ofcrs.

(66.) Ripley to Mordecai, April 29, 1861, OCO /Ltrs to Ord Ofcrs; Maynadier to Mordecai, May 6, 1861, and P. E. Berlin [clerk?], Ord. Office, to Mordecai, May 5, 1861, AMP.

(67.) Notation on copy of Ripley to Mordecai, April 29, 1861, reproduced in unidentified, undated newspaper clipping in AMP.

(68.) A copy of the order replacing Craig with Ripley was apparently sent to Ordnance installations on April 23rd, its date of issue, or shortly thereafter. OCO /Ltrs to Ord Ofcrs.

(69.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, June 2, 1861, AMP.

(70.) Mordecai to AG, May 2, 1861, copy in AMP.

(p.224) (71.) Mordecai to Ripley, May 2, 1861, OCO /Watervliet, Ltrs Sent.

(72.) Mordecai to Ripley, May 2, 1861, in undated clipping from [New York?] Herald, AMP.

(73.) Correspondence to and from Mordecai, May 2–14, 1861, in OCO /Watervliet, Ltrs Sent, OCO /Ltrs to Ord Ofcrs, and OCO: Register of Letters Received, NA.

(74.) P. E. Berlin to Mordecai, May 5, 1861, and to [Sara Mordecai], May 7, 1861, AMP; Records of the AGO (Record Group 94): Register of Letters Received, No. M-289, 1861, NA; Records of the Office of the Secretary of War (Record Group 107): Register of Letters Received, No. A-347, 1861, NA; AGO, Special Order No. 130, May 10, 1861, NA; Mordecai to Ripley, May 14, 1861, OCO /Watervliet, Ltrs Sent.

(75.) Mordecai to “My dear sister,” June 16, 1861, AMP. See also miscellaneous general correspondence for this period filed here.

(76.) Maynadier to Mordecai, May 6, 1861, AMP; AGO, General Order No. 24, May 22, 1861, NA.

(77.) Benet to Mordecai, May 13, 1861, AMP.

(78.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, June 2, 1861; [Rosa Mordecai], ms. biographical sketch of her father, Sept. 29, 1933; and miscellaneous newspaper clippings, 1861; all in AMP.

(79.) Samuel Mordecai to George Mordecai, May 3, 1861, GWMP; George Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, May 5, 1861, JMP; George Mordecai to Mordecai, May 6, 1861, AMP.

(80.) George Mordecai to Mordecai, May 5, 1861, AMP.

(81.) Ellen Mordecai to Mordecai, May 28, 1861; Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, June 2, 1861; Miriam Cohen to Sara Mordecai [May, 1861]; G. Cohen to Mordecai [May, 1861]; A. Minis to Mordecai, May 19, 1861; all in AMP.

(82.) Maj. W. H. C. Whiting to Brig. Gen. S. Cooper, May 11, 1861, Official Records, Ser. I, Vol. LI, Pt. 2, pp. 83–86.

(83.) D. G. Duncan to Confederate Secretary of War L. P. Walker, May 9, 1861, ibid., p. 74: Samuel Mordecai to George Mordecai, June 9, 1861, GWMP.

(84.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, June 2, 1861, AMP.

(85.) George Mordecai to Mordecai, June 26, 1861; Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, June 2, 1861, to “My dear sister,” June 16, 1861, and to “My dear brother and sister,” Aug. 9, 1861; all in AMP.

(86.) Mordecai to “My dear brother and sister,” Aug. 9, 1861, AMP.

(87.) Mordecai to Samuel Mordecai, June 2, 1861, AMP.

(88.) B. F. Green to Mordecai, Oct. 21, 1861; Benjamin Gratz to Mordecai, Oct. 28, 1862; Mordecai to Gratz, Nov. 4, 1862; Brig. Gen. J. G. Totten to Mordecai [May, 1868]; Mordecai to Totten, May 23, 1863; Mordecai to J. B. Tibbits, April 1, 1864; J. F. Lee to Mordecai, Feb. 9, 22, 1865; Mordecai to Lee (extract copy), Feb. 17, 1865; all in AMP.

(p.225) (89.) Ellsworth Eliot, Jr., West Point in the Confederacy (New York: G. A. Baker, 1941), p. 11.

(90.) Mordecai to J. B. Tibbits, April 1, 1864, AMP.

(91.) [Rosa Mordecai], ms. biographical sketch of her father, and Mordecai to [Ellen Mordecai], Oct. 13, 1861, AMP; Samuel Mordecai to George Mordecai, Jan. 28, 1863, GWMP.