After not faring well as a storekeeper in Richmond, Virginia, Captain Mordecai Myers, who was self-educated, achieved success as a military hero and a politician. He was born in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1776, the same year that the American Revolution began. One of the great thrills of his life happened while watching General George Washington take the oath of office as the first President of the United States of America.
He joined the military company under the command of Colonel John Marshall, who was to become the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. After his tour of duty in the army, he went to New York to try again operating a retail store, which also turned out to be a failure. He then tumed to politics, where he achieved success.
He became a member of Tammany, which was a political group fighting the old conservative Federalist Party in New York. This political machine managed to break the strangle-hold of the Federalists and Myers started politically moving up the ladder.
While he was engaged with his newfound political life, Myers studied military tactics for two years. He joined an artillery company un- der the command of Captain John Swarthout and, later, he was commissioned as an officer in the infantry. When the War of 1812 started, Mordecai Myers was commissioned a captain in the 13th Pennsylvania Infantry. Captain Myers became a hero when he saved more than two hundred men and their military supplies.
General John Parker Boyd sent Captain Myers to Sacketts Harbor, where two boats loaded with more than 250 men and military supplies were wrecked. When he arrived to rescue them, he found the two boats were fast filling up with water, the sails were flapping aimlessly in the wind, many of them were drunk from partaking freely of the liquor from the hospital stores and there was complete chaos among the crew.
Exercising great energy and skill and risking his life, Myers and his men rescued more than 200 men and saved what was left of the military supplies. However, fifty men lost their lives by drowning.
Myers distinguished himself in a number of engagements during the Canadian campaign. During one of these engagements at Chrysler's Farm, he was seriously wounded. He recovered from his wounds and became involved in politics in New York City. He was elected to the New York State Assembly and then decided to move to Schenectady, where he became the city's first Jewish mayor.
Myers died at the age of 95 in 1871, remaining active to the end in politics and Jewish circles.
This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
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Last updated 12 May 2011