According to biographer Eli Evans, Judah P. Benjamin, a leading political figure of the Confederacy, "achieved greater political power than any other Jew in the nineteenth century — perhaps even in all American history." It goes without saying that his tenure, like the Confederacy itself, was relatively short-lived.
The History Channel pegs today as the sesquicentennial anniversary of the day Benjamin was appointed the Confederacy’s secretary of war (Nov. 21, 1861), later serving as secretary of state. Benjamin resigned his political post after his suggestion to emancipate slaves who fought for the Confederacy (in a bid to win recognition from foreign powers) fell flat. Once the Union’s victory seemed assured, Benjami fled and eventually relocated to England, where he established himself as a successful barrister.
But according to a 1917 biography excerpted by the Jewish-American History Foundation, Benjamin assumed the position on Sept. 17 of that year.
History Channel may have the edge; in a letter published in the Richmond Enquirer on Nov. 13, Benjamin signed as "acting secretary of war."
For more Jewish Civil War fun, check out a Hebrew-language account of the Battle of Bull Run from 1861 over at On The Main Line.