Raphael J. Moses
A Confederate stalwart
1830s residence of Israel Moses, his wife Deborah (Cohen), and their son Raphael J. Moses. Israel Moses (1787-1849) a South Carolina-born merchant, broker, and auctioneer, was chosen president of the reformist Convention of IsraelitesA group of forty-seven mostly young men, who, in 1824, wrote a petition to the adjunta of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston calling for a variety of changes, including English-language sermons and an abbreviated service. When their petition was denied, they founded the Reformed Society of Israelites, the first organized effort to modernize Judaism in the United States. in 1825. His wife Deborah Cohen Moses, a feme sole trader, held the lease to their home in her own name, and also owned property on King Street. A dry goods store on the east side of King Street was listed as the shop of Israel Moses in 1835, but was probably being managed by Mrs. Moses.
The Moses’ only surviving child, Raphael J. Moses (1812–1893), wrote in his memoir of his time on Beaufain Street: “My boyhood may be condensed into one word: I was the impersonation of mischief.” Raphael attended a series of schools in rapid succession: the first run by his mother, the second by a Mr. Southworth, the third by Bishop John England, “a celebrated Catholic Divine,” and finally the academy kept by Isaac Harby, “a splendid teacher who believed in ‘as the twig is bent the tree is inclined’ and ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’” At age twelve and a half, Raphael convinced his parents “to consider my education finished” and went on to Philadelphia where he studied bookkeeping and the law, among other pursuits.
Returning to Charleston, he entered the dry goods business and, in 1834, became engaged to fellow Charlestonian Eliza Moses following a walk on the Battery, which he described as “a beautiful promenade, with the sea washing its base … its surroundings all provocatives of love.” According to his friend Joseph Lyon, Raphael Moses came under communal scrutiny for keeping his shop open on the Jewish Sabbath. The whole family left Charleston for good in the late 1830s, first for Florida, where his parents Israel and Deborah both died. Raphael recalled, “I had to perform the burial service … [because] we were about the only Jews.” In 1849, he and his family resettled in Columbus, Georgia, where he became a prominent politician, lawyer, and plantation owner. During the Civil War, Raphael J. Moses served the Confederate army as a chief commissary officer.
See New Georgia Encyclopedia for a portrait of Raphael J. Moses.
Read Joseph Lyons’ diary on the Lowcountry Digital Library.
See Project Muse for an introduction to the Lyons diary.