Illustration by Art Seiden

Florida Atlantic University Libraries

Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America

from Colonial Times to 1900:





Major Alfred Mordecai: A Man Torn Between Two Loyalties

by Seymour "Sy" Brody

Major Alfred Mordecai entered West Point at age 15 and he graduated first in his class in 1823. He was born in Warrentown, North Carolina, in 1804 and he died in 1887.

Upon graduation, Mordecai became an assistant professor at the United States Military Academy in New York. Later, he was commissioned in the engineers and was involved in the construction of two forts in Virginia. Eventually, he became commander of the Washington Arsenal.

Mordecai was recognized for his meritorious service in the line of. duty during the Mexican War (1845-1847) with his promotion to major. When the war was over, he was sent to Mexico to adjust claims for losses suffered by Mexicans during the conflict.

The military sent him and Captain George B. McClellan, who became one of the top generals in the Civil War, to observe the Crimean War in 1854. They were granted a private conference with Czar Nicholas I and Mordecai's observations were published by Congress.

Mordecai made important contributions to the military technology with his introduction of scientific research and development to the military art. He wrote several notable books on the military, which included Second Report of Experiments in Gun Powder (1849) and Ordinance Manual for the Use of Officers of the United States Army (1841, revised in 1950).

When the Civil War between the states broke out in 1861, it created a dilemma for him. He was tom with his love for the South, his distaste for secession and his loyalty to the army and country. Mordecai made a decision to retire from the U.S. Army at age 57, so he wouldn't have to fight against either side.

His devotion to his conscience probably cost him a higher place in American history. When he resigned, he was one of the best military professionals in the country. He was on a par with all the well-known generals of the Civil War.

His son, Alfred Mordecai, Jr., whose feelings were less sensitive to his Southem heritage, joined the North in the Civil War in 1861. He died with the rank of General in 1920.


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