Lincoln’s Jewish Spy

The Life and Times of Issachar Zacharie


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About the Book

Born into a Sephardic Jewish immigrant family, Dr. Issachar Zacharie was the preeminent foot doctor for the American political elite before and during the Civil War. An expert in pain management, Zacharie treated the likes of Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, General George McClelland and most notably, President Abraham Lincoln. As Zacharie’s professional and personal relationship with Lincoln deepened, the President began to entrust the doctor with political missions. Throughout Lincoln’s presidency, Zacharie traveled to southern cities like New Orleans and Richmond in efforts to ally with some of the Confederacy’s most influential Jewish citizens. This biography explores Dr. Zacharie’s life, from his birth in Chatham, England, through his medical practice, espionage career and eventual political campaigning for President Lincoln.

About the Author(s)

E. Lawrence Abel is an emeritus professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. He is the author of more than forty books and his articles have been published in various popular and scholarly magazines and journals.

Bibliographic Details

E. Lawrence Abel
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 264
Bibliographic Info: 10 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8046-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3983-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Author’s Note xi
Introduction 1

Part One. The Past Is Prologue
1. “Sucking the egg” 4
2. “Act according to the custom of that place” 11

Part Two. I. Zachariah, Jr., Cheroperdist
3. “No Cure No Pay” 18
4. “Where more money could be made faster” 24
5. “We the undersigned” 28
6. “A humble individual” 30
7. California 36
8. “Prince of chiropodists” 43
9. The Mystic Cords of Memory 53
10. “A chiropodist of marvelous skill” 58
11. “Dr. Zacharie has operated on my feet” 66
12. “Ode to Dr. Zacharie” 70
13. “My own chiropodist is a Jew” 76

Part Three. Spy and Diplomat
14. The General Prohibition 80
15. “Spare no expense” 89
16. Spymaster 96
17. “Monomaniacs” 111
18. A Service He Alone Was Capable Of 118
19. He Lacks Stability 126
20. “Done things for me that would astonish you” 136
21. “Can’t go Lincoln” 142
22. “I promised I would elect you” 149
23. “My family are crazy with joy” 156

Part Four. Later Years
24. “Surely you don’t intend to go for Grant” 164
25. “Republics are unquestionably ungrateful” 174
26. Return to England 179
27. Death of an Eccentric Man 184
28. Aftermath 188

Appendix: Zacharie’s Accounts 199
Chapter Notes 201
Bibliography 231
Index 245

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “It is probable that most American historians, even those who specialize in our national fratricide, have never heard of Dr. Issachar Zacharie, Lincoln’s English-born and Jewish chiropodist, confidante, emissary and spy. That is unfortunate, because he is one of the most extraordinary figures to come out of the Civil War era. E. Lawrence Abel has ably corrected the deficiency, giving Zacharie center stage with lots of light in this wonderful book. It gives one pause to wonder: How many other nuggets of gold remain hidden to us?”—John C. Fazio, author of Decapitating the Union: Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and the Plot to Assassinate Lincoln
  • “A lively, well-researched, and richly textured account of Abraham Lincoln’s ‘enigmatic intimate,’ spy and chiropodist, Issachar Zacharie. This biography adds a new dimension to the story of Jews and the Civil War.”—Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University, author of When General Grant Expelled the Jews
  • “Dr. Abel’s sweeping research uncovered the real-life tale of a Jewish foot doctor who had the ear of President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Issachar Zacharie was a bon vivant, a humanitarian, a celebrated wit, a Grand Supreme Ruler of the Masons—and a wily Civil War spy.”— Kathryn Canavan, author of Lincoln’s Final Hours
  • Lincoln’s Jewish Spy: The Life and Times of Issachar Zacharie is a rich, fast-paced yet meticulously researched account of a man who was, by turns, a Presidential confidant, confidence man, Chiropodist General of the Union army, would-be spymaster, Confederate peace negotiator and emissary to his fellow American Jews, who didn’t always know whether or how to take him. Mostly overlooked until now, his Issachar Zacharie is by turns brave and roguish, selfless and self-dealing, passionate to help the Jews, the Union and mostly himself—in short the sort of character we often find lurking in the wings of the Lincoln story. Abel does a service to scholars and lay readers alike to place him at center stage.”—Richard Willing, U.S. Intelligence Analyst
  • “Issachar Zacharie was a self-trained, self-promoting chiropodist whose loyal patients were Civil War generals, government big-wigs and, famously, Abraham Lincoln himself. Yet Zacharie also managed to convince the savvy 16th president that his diplomatic skills transcended his considerable toe-trimming capabilities. Who was this enigmatic, complex personality who rose from poverty and managed to mingle with many of America’s leading citizens in both the North and the South? Dr. Ernest Abel’s well-researched and interesting biography sheds new light on the life and career of this entrancing figure—a genuine American Jewish original!”—Dr. Gary P. Zola, Executive Director, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives & The Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • “Though I didn’t have the chance to read his biography of David Stanley, the general often credited with being the true “father” of the Army of the Cumberland’s mounted arm, his The Calvary of the Army of the Cumberland (2016), and the Calvaries at Stones River: An Analytical History (2017) are both excellent.”—Civil War Books and Authors