A History Continued

As sectional tensions heightened, Moses became a staunch secessionist and a fiery orator for the South’s cause. At 49 years old, Moses was too old to fight for the Confederacy, but was appointed as the Confederate Commissary for Georgia, in charge of supplying and feeding 54,000 Confederate soldiers. His nephew, Edward Warren Moise, who had trained to be a lawyer with his uncle in Columbus, spent $10,000 organizing a company of 120 soldiers which became part of the Confederate army. Once, when food supplies were low, Moses went back to Georgia to make personal appeals for people to donate food and money. During the war, Moses became close with Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and was with him during the Battle of Gettysburg. Three of Moses’ sons fought for the southern cause, with one being killed in battle. Moses is famous for carrying out the last orders of the Confederacy, when President Jefferson Davis ordered him to keep boxes filled with $40,000 worth of gold and silver bullion and make sure it was used to help defeated returning soldiers. Traveling with armed guards after the South’s surrender, Moses took the gold and silver to Augusta, where he negotiated an agreement with a Union general, who promised to use the money to care for and feed former Confederate soldiers.

After the war, Moses returned to Columbus, where he resumed his law practice. He had suffered a financial blow during the war, having invested much of his money in slaves prior to secession. All but one of his former slaves left Esquiline after their emancipation. His net worth went from $55,000 in 1860 to $35,000 in 1870. Since he had not served in political office before the war, Moses was eligible to run. Moses served in the Georgia legislature during Reconstruction and was a fierce critic of the state’s Republican administration.

Moses was never a member of B’nai Israel, though he did have a strong identity as a Jew. When his daughter got married in 1865, he tried unsuccessfully to get a rabbi from New Orleans to perform the ceremony, which took place under a chuppah. In 1878, he backed one candidate for political office, whose opponent raised Moses’ Jewishness as a disqualifying factor.  Moses responded to his critics on August 29, 1878 in the local newspaper; his assertion of Jewish pride was reprinted around the country: “I feel it an honor to be of a race whom persecution can not crush, whom prejudice has in vain endeavored to subdue.” When he ran for congress, Moses explained, “I wanted to go to congress as a Jew and because I would have liked in a public position to confront and do my part towards breaking down the prejudice.” When Moses died in 1893, he was buried in a family cemetery on the Esquiline Plantation.