Simon Waterman

Simon Waterman’s entry in the 1870 U.S. Census for Alexandria, Virginia makes it clear that he was doing quite well for himself. The Bavarian immigrant owned a clothing store, and had a combined property value of $4,500. Waterman’s large family also caught my attention. With his wife, Caroline, a fellow Bavarian who was thirteen years his junior, Simon fathered an impressive nine children. After further research, I was disappointed to find very little information about Simon and the Waterman family was readily available online. However, Simon’s loyalties to the South during the Civil War left a record that I was able to explore.

Union troops occupied Alexandria starting in May 1861, and citizens who were thought to be disloyal to the Union were subject to investigation. All Alexandrians were required to prove his or her allegiance to the Union.[1] If they could not do this, they were forced to leave the city. The Union originally intended the Oath of Allegiance to be required for military and government personnel, but as the war continued, it was also applied to business owners such as Simon.[2] Simon and Caroline Waterman appeared in the provost marshal’s records as two Alexandrians . It is noted that Simon associated with rebels but was “guarded in conversation.”[3] Simon initially refused to declare his loyalty and would have been deported in June 1863 along with Caroline and several fellow merchants. However, the Watermans narrowly avoided this situation when the Secretary of War rescinded the order of deportation.[4] Simon signed an Oath of Allegiance to the Union on July 9, 1863.[5] There were many versions of the Oath of Allegiance, as it evolved during the course of the Civil War. The Alexandria Library has several examples of the Oath, but it is unclear which version Simon would have signed.[6]

After the Civil War, Simon Waterman further integrated into white, southern society, and was elected to the city Common Council in 1870.[7] He appears in the 1880 U.S. Census, living on East Royal Street with Caroline and four of their children. Their son, Josiah (listed as J.H.) evidently joined his father in the clothing business, as he, too, is listed as a “dealer in clothing.” Simon died in 1882, but Caroline did not pass away until 1905. Both are buried in Home of Peace Cemetery along with their son Inman, who died in 1863 at the age of three.[8] Presumably, their children who survived childhood moved away from Alexandria and were buried elsewhere.

Through researching Simon Waterman, I was able to discover more information about the occupation of Alexandria during the Civil War. I was not aware that so many business owners were pressured into signing the Oath of Allegiance to the Union. It also gave me an interesting glimpse into the lives of Southern Jews who supported the Confederate cause. Only after being nearly deported did Simon choose to sign the Oath of Allegiance. German Jews who settled in the South were often eager to adopt local customs in order to gain approval from Southerners.[9] For a businessman such as Waterman, it would be particularly advantageous if he appeared to assimilate in every sense. He risked losing white customers if he did not support the Confederacy. Keeping this information in mind, did Simon resist signing the Oath of Allegiance out of a desire for acceptance, or did he hold out because he truly believed in the Confederate cause? Southern Jews tended to support the Confederacy both out of loyalty to their adopted society and to Jewish tradition.[10] Southern Jews who supported the Confederacy were certainly in the majority, so it would make sense for Simon to be one of them. Most likely, he resisted signing the Oath out of genuine loyalty to the Confederacy, while also knowing that doing so would make a statement to his white (and black) neighbors. Signs of loyalty by Southern Jews during the war helped to ensure postwar success and white acceptance in post-war Alexandria, and Simon Waterman enjoyed the fruits of his resistance to the Oath.

[1] “Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities-Alexandria, VA,” Institute of Southern Jewish Life, 2014, Accessed September 23, 2015, http://www.isjl.org.

[2] “Oath of Allegiance in Virginia, 1862-1865,” Alexandria Library, 2015, Accessed September 22, 2015. http://www.alexandria.lib.va.us/client/en_US/home/?rm=OATH OF ALLEGI0|||1|||0|||true.

[3]  Melvin I. Urofsky, “Virginian Jews in the Civil War.” Jewish Life in Mt. Lincoln’s City,” Accessed September 22, 2015, http://www.jhsgw.org/exhibitions/online/lincolns-city/exhibits/show/mr-lincolns-city/essays/urofsky

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Oath of Allegiance, May 1862-1865,” Alexandria Library Genealogy Resources, Accessed Septermber 22, 2015; http://www.alexandria.lib.va.us/custom/web/lhsc/genealogyresources/oath/OATH_alpha.html

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities-Alexandria.”

[8] Find A Grave: Home of Peace Cemetery, Accessed October 1, 2015, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=2183655.

[9] Robert N. Rosen, “Jewish Confederates,” in Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History, ed. Marcie Cohen Ferris and Mark I. Greenberg (Lebanon: University Press of New England, 2006), 111.

[10] Ibid, 116.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*