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Michael Mitchell Allen
Chaplain, "Cameron Dragoons"

Michael M. (Meir) Allen, born in Philadelphia in 1830, is the first known Jew to serve as chaplain in the United States Army. He was not chaplain to only the Jewish soldiers in his regiment, but chaplain for the entire regiment. As the regulations then stood, only a "regularly ordained minister of some Christian denomination" could serve as a chaplain. Even though there were many so-called chaplains who were unfit for their position, Allen was singled out by the Young Men's Christian Association because he was Jewish. He had received some rabbinical training from his religious leader, Rev. Isaac Leeser of Philadelphia, and possessed a certificate of chaver which meant that he was an observant Jew who had studied the Shulkhan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law). He was a melamed (Hebrew teacher) of the Philadelphia Hebrew Education Society and frequently officiated as a cantor at Isaac Leeser's congregation. However, he was not a "regularly ordained minister", certainly not of a Christian denomination, and so not qualified for the position of chaplain. Rather than face the shame of losing his commission and being expelled from the regiment, Allen resigned as chaplain. In 1866 he moved to New York City where he married Julia Spanier, of a distinguished German rabbinic family and became the director of Hebrew studies at the Talmud Torah (Hebrew School) of the Spanish-Portuguese congregation Shearith Israel. In 1873 Allen emigrated to Germany in order to be with his wife's family in Hannover, Prussia. A letter written to a friend back in the United States shortly after his arrival in Hannover expresses his deep committment to Orthodox Judaism and his satisfaction at the religious devotion of Hannover Jewry. He wrote, "our Holy Religion is observed by our people here as it was in times gone by, when no reforms had crept in to mar the observance of our rites and ceremonies." He went on to say that this was due mainly to the influence of his wife's uncle, the Landesrabbiner (Chief Rabbi) of Hannover Province.

Chaplain Allen kept a journal during the month of September, 1861. It contains little of historic interest but gives a good account of how an Orthodox Jew in the Union Army observed the Jewish holidays. Because writing on the Sabbath and holidays is forbidden by Jewish law, Allen probably recorded the entries for those days (which are very brief) at some later date. The text of the journal was transcribed by David de Sola Pool in 1948 and printed in the Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society in 1961.

Chaplain "Cameron Dragoons"

September 4th, 1861. 5622 [5621]
September 4, 1861. Wednesday
Elul 29th, 5621

"Camp Stoneman." Washington City.

Our camp is delightfully situated, about 11/2 miles from the city, on high and healthy ground, commanding a fine view of the Capitol, and the Potomac on the south, with hills in the distance.

Our Regiment arrived here 23rd of August from Philadelphia, consists of 10 companies, of cavalry, Field and Staff officers, as follows:

Colonel Max Friedman
Lieut. Col. J. Becker
Surgeon Dr. Bryan
Asst. Surgeon H.C. Yanow
Chaplain M.M. Allen
Qu. Master Jacob Aub
Adjutant Burlo

Title of Regiment "Cameron Dragoons," 1st Penna Cavalry

Captains of companies, as follows:

Co. A Capt. J.B. Hartman
" B " Heuser
" C " Davis
" D " Lewis
" E " Kleinz
" F " Wilson
" G " Hennessy
" H " E.A. Rowland
" I " J. O'Farrell
" K " Brown

Did not rest well during the night, owing to the sharp cannonading. Kept up during almost the entire night, and the noise and confusion consequent upon the starting of 2 or 3 Regiments encamped in our vicinity, for the Virginia side of the river. Read today of the brilliant achievement of our naval forces, under Genl. Butler of Conn.: Stringham who bombarded with their vessels, Fort Clark and Hatteras at Hallnos inlet on the North Carolina coast; they took possession of the 2 ports, 2 vessels of the rebels and 730 rebel prisoners. I expected to have gone home for "New Year" but could not get a furlough, so must content myself with the prospect of visiting home very soon, hoping and trusting in the One Above that the coming year may be one of health and prosperity not only to my dear family, but of peace to us all and also to our distracted country. Spent part of the morning in riding horseback. Being eve of Rosh Hashanah, went in to Washington at 41/2 P.M. and at 6 went to Shool, a very nice room, just consecrated in D Street near 12th. Returned to camp at 10 P.M., having supped with friend A. Solomons, [Adolphus S. Solomons, photographer and publisher, prominent Orthodox Jewish activist] and retired at 11 P.M. Weather clear and warm.

Thursday, September 5, 1861
Tishri 1st, 5622

Rosh Hashanah, 1st day. A New Year has commenced. Weather heavy and rain all day. Arose at 51/2 A.M., and started for town at 61/2 A.M. went to Shool. The Shool very full, and order pretty good. Shool out at 12 M. Breakfast with A[dolphus] S[olomons] and at 3 P.M., as the rain had slacked a little went out to Camp. Returned at 9 P.M.

Friday, Sept. 6/61. Tishri 2/5622.

Arose at 5 AM, and went into town and to Shool. Weather, cloudy in morning but about 9 AM, cleared off and very warm. Left Shool at 91/2 o'c, took breakfast with a friend at Willards. Walked up Penna Av., saw Saul Scott and staff, on the portico of his house, in full dress uniform, just about having his Photograph taken. Went out to Camp at 11 o'clock. Remained there during the day and returned at 91/2 PM.

Saturday, Sept. 7, Tishri 3, 5622.

Day clear and quite warm. Did not go into town. In afternoon, walked over to "Camp Meigs", on my return, saw the "Baloon" reconnoitering over the river. Returned at 10 PM.

Sunday, Sept. 8th, Tishri 4.

Arose at 51/2 AM. Very cool pleasant and invigorating. "Fast of Gedaliah." Did not fast, not feeling able to do so. Had service at 8 o'clock. Lectured on "Peace and Harmony." All the officers and companies were present under command of Lieut. Col. Becker, and they all in their uniform looked very well. After dress parade in afternoon, went with Col. Becker and other officers to see Mr. B. Jost at his plantation, and had a very pleasant time. Went and returned, on horseback, distance there and back about 4 miles. Evening clear. Returned at 9 o'clock.

Monday, Sept. 9th, Tishri 5.

Arose at 51/2 AM. Slight rain, but cleared up finely and quite warm. A.T. Jones Spatz and Neuhorne arrived with Col. Friedman from Philada. Evening clear. Retired at 91/2 PM.

Tuesday, Sept. 10, Tishri 6.

Arose at 51/2 AM. Day clear. Went in town met with the above mentioned Philadelphians, rode around and visited the Capitol, Patent Office and White House. Returned to Camp at 12 M. At 4 PM., a standard was presented to the Regiment by A.T. Jones in behalf of Philada friends. ATJ made a very neat and appropriate speech. Clear in evening. Retired at 111/2 PM.

Wednesday, Septr 11, Tishri 7.

Arose at 5 AM, not feeling very well. Heavy rain and wind during the night. Close and warm; had a furlough to go to Philada for 4 days. The Paymaster visited the Camp, so I did not leave. At 5 PM the two first Squadrons (4 companies) of our Reg't left for Virginia to encamp at Roche's Mills, 3 miles from the Long Bridge. Col. Becker commanded the Squadrons and they went off in fine style. Retired at 10 PM.

Thursday, Septr 12, Tishri 8.

Rained very hard all night. Morning clear. Arose at 5 1/2 AM, went in town after breakfast. Yesterday there was a skirmish near Falls Church, Va, in which our men drove back the rebels. Left at 21/2 PM. for Philada, arrived there at 9 PM.

Friday, Septr 13, Tishri 9th.

In Philadelphia. Day clear and fine. Attended to various matters. Went to Shool at 6 o'clock. Retired at 11.

Saturday, Septr 14, Tishri 10.

Yom Kippur. Day fine and pleasant. In Shool (Franklin St) all day. [Beth El Emeth--- Orthodox congregation of Rev. Isaac Leeser] Read Shahrith and Minhah. [Morning and afternoon prayer services] Did not feel very well fasting. Started at 11 PM for Washington.

Sunday, Septr 15. Tishri 11th.

Arrived in Washington at 7 AM, and went out to Camp. Day clear and very warm. Had service at 101/2 AM. at Parade and Inspection at 6 PM. Retired at 10 o'clock.

Monday, Septr 16. Tishri 12th.

Morning clear and pleasant. In Camp all day. Was appointed Postmaster of the Regiment. Rode Horseback in the afternoon. Retired at 91/2 PM.

Tuesday, Septr 17. Tishri 13.

Arose at 51/2 AM. Went into town at 8 AM, returned at 12. Weather very warm. Very heavy heavy rain in PM Retired at 9 PM.

Wednesday, Septr 18. Tishri 14.

Arose at 51/2 AM. Eve of Succoth. Weather warm. Went into Post Office at 8 AM. Evening moonlight. Retired at 9 PM.

Thursday, Septr 19. Tishri 15.

1st day of Succoth. Arose at 51/2 AM. Went in to town at 71/2 o'clock and went to Shool. Dined in town, and came out to camp at 3 PM. Weather very warm, and night moonlight. Retired at 9 PM.

Friday, Septr 20. Tishri 16.

2nd day of Succoth. Arose at 51/2 AM and went in town to Shool at 8 o'clock. Night moonlight. Retired at 9 o'clock.

Saturday, Septr 21, Tishri 17.

Sabbath of Middle days. --- Arose at 6 AM and went into town at 8 oc. Went to Shool and dined in town. Weather warm and clear. Returned to camp at 2 PM. Very hard rain in afternoon and evening. Retired at 9 PM.

Sunday, Septr 22. Tishri 18.

4th day of Succoth. Morning cloudy. Review at 91/2 AM by Genl. Stoneman. Lectured at 5 PM. Retired at 9 PM. Evening moonlight and clear.

Monday, Septr 23rd, Tishri 19.

5th day of Succoth. Arose at 51/2 AM. Went in town at 81/2 and returned at 11. Day warm and very fine. Sent in my Resignation as Chaplain. Retired at 9 PM.

Tuesday, Septr 24. Tishri 20.

6th day of Succoth. Arose at 6 AM. Rode in to Post Office. Went with the regiment at 3 PM. to ground ab[ou]t one mile east of the Capitol, and was reviewed with all the other cavalry. Was a very pretty sight. Returned to camp at 7 1/2 PM. Day clear and pleasant. Retired at 9 PM.

Wednesday, Septr 25. Tishri 21.

Arose at 5 A.M. went to Shool at 6 Hosannah Rabbah. Weather clear and pleasant. Returned to camp at 11 AM.