Lieutenant Colonel Solomon Bush was the highest-ranking Jewish officer in the Continental Army and was decorated for his bravery in action. The son of Mathias Bush, a merchant, he was born in Philadelphia in 1753. His first duty in the War of Independence was as deputy adjutant general of the Pennsylvania State Militia. At Brandywine, the militia encountered the British Army. Bullets and cannon balls flew through the air as the two armies intensified their battle. Captain Lewis Bush, the colonel's brother, was mortally wounded.
Colonel Bush was deeply involved in the battle and he received a near-fatal wound that affected him for the rest of his life. Although he survived the battle, he was captured when the British took Philadelphia. He was later freed in an exchange of prisoners between the British and the Americans.
Upon his release, he applied for rations and back pay, and the Supreme Executive Committee of the Continental Army reviewed his request and his records. The review disclosed the distinguished and brilliant service that Colonel Bush had rendered in and out of battle, especially during the winter of 1776, "when the service was critical and hazardous." The Supreme Executive Committee presented him with a special citation.
After the war, Colonel Bush went to England seeking better medical care for his war wound. While he was there, he again found himself in a position to serve his country.
The British, still smarting over their loss in the Revolutionary War, were pursuing a policy that finally led to the War of 1812. The British were seizing and searching American ships and conscripting their sailors into the Royal Navy.
In England, there was no American Consul or Ambassador present to intervene, so Colonel Bush took it upon himself to act on behalf of his fellow citizens. He reported his efforts to President George Washington, whose answers contained warm commendations for the Colonel's successful interventions.
When he returned to America, Colonel Bush applied for the position of Postmaster General, which had recently been vacated. He was the first Jew known to have been considered for a Cabinet rank in the government. He failed to get this appointment and his unhealed war injury hastened his death in 1796. Prior to his death, however, Colonel Bush contributed toward a new building for the Mikveh Israel Congregation in Philadelphia. He will long be remembered for his service to his country as a soldier and a citizen.
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