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Letters from Robert E. Lee to Rev. Max Michelbacher of Richmond, VA congregation "Beth Ahabah"

Hd. Qrs: Valley Mt:
29 Aug 1861

Rabbi M.J. Michelbacher, 
Preacher Hebrew Congregation,
"House of Love" Richmond, Va:

Revd Sir

I have just received your letter of the 23d inst: requesting that a furlough from the 2nd to the 15th Sept. be granted to the soldiers of the Jewish persuasion in the C.S. Army, that they may participate in the approaching holy services of the Synagogue.

It would give me great pleasure to comply with a request to earnestly urged by you, & which I know would be so highly appreciated by that class of our soldiers. But the necessities of war admit of no relaxation of the efforts requisite for its success, nor can it be known on what day the presence of every man may be required. I feel assured that neither you or any member of the Jewish congregation would wish to jeopardize a cause you have so much at heart by the withdrawal even for a season of a portion of its defenders. I cannot therefore grant the general furlough you desire, but must leave to individuals to make their own applications to their Several Commanders, in the hope that many will be able to enjoy the privilege you seek for them. Should any be deprived of the opportunity of offering up their prayers according to the rites of their Church that their penitence may nevertheless be accepted by the Most High, & their petitions answered.

That your prayers for the success & welfare of our Cause may be granted by the Great Ruler of the universe is my ardent wish.

I have the honor to be, with high esteem,

Your obt' Servt.

Gen'l Commd.

Headquarters Army Northern Virginia
April 2, 1863

M. J. Michelbacher, Minister of Hebrew Congregation, Richmond, Va.


It will give me pleasure to comply with the request contained in your letter of the 30th ult., as far as public interest will permit. But I think it more than probable that the army will be engaged in active operations, when, of course, no one would wish to be absent from the ranks, nor could they in that event be spared. The reports from all quarters show that General Hooker's army is prepared to cross the Rappahannock, and only awaits favorable weather and roads. [This was during the Chancellorsville Campaign -- L.B.]

The sentence in the case of Isaac Arnold has been suspended, until the decision of the President shall be known. Thanking you very sincerely for your good wishes on behalf of our country, I remain, with great respect,

Your obedient servant,

R.E. Lee

Headquarters Army Northern Virginia
Sept. 20, 1864.

Rev. M.J. Michelbacher, Richmond, Va.


I have received your letter of the 15th inst., asking that furloughs may be granted to the Israelites in the army, from September 30th to October 11th, to enable them to repair to Richmond to observe the holy days appointed by the Jewish religion.

It would afford me much pleasure to comply with your request did the interests of the service permit; but it is impossible to grant a general furlough to one class of our soldiers without recognizing the claims of others to a like indulgence. I can only grant furloughs on applications setting forth special grounds for them, or in accordance with the general orders on that subject applicable to all the army alike.

I will gladly do all in my power to facilitate the observance of the duties of their religion by the Israelites in the army, and will allow them every indulgence consistent with safety and discipline. If their applications be forwarded to me in the usual way, and it appears that they can be spared, I will be glad to approve as many of them as circumstances will permit. Accept my thanks for your kind wishes for myself, and believe me to be,

With great respect,
your obedient servant,

R.E. Lee