Mordecai Sheftall – Continental Army Officer – Georgia


Mordecai Sheftall (December 2, 1735 – July 6, 1797) was a Georgia merchant who served as a Colonel in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and was the highest ranking Jewish officer of the Colonial forces. He was born in Savannah to Perla and Benjamin Sheftall, who had arrived in 1733 to the Georgia colony on the William and Sarah from London, England, with a few dozen other Jewish immigrant families. The Sheftalls were founding among the members of Congregation Mickve Israel. He was married to Frances Hart Sheftall (1740-1820).

==Revolutionary War==

From the outbreak of the Revolution Sheftall was prominently identified with the American cause. He became chairman of “the Parochial Committee,” organized to regulate the internal affairs of Savannah, and composed of patriots opposed to the royal government. As chairman of this rebel committee he was subsequently denounced and persecuted by the British. In 1777 Sheftall was appointed commissary-general to the troops of Georgia and to the Continental troops also; in October of the following year he became “Deputy Commissary of Issues in South Carolina and Georgia”; and he figured as a staff-officer in the Continental line of the Georgia brigade during the war. When the British attacked Savannah in 1778, Sheftall not only took an active part in its defense, but he also advanced considerable sums of money for the American cause. After the city had been taken he was captured, but he resisted all inducements to give up the cause of liberty; as a result he suffered severely from persecution on the part of the British, and was placed on board a prison-ship.

==Religious Life==

Sheftall was an observant Jew. For several years the only Jewish place of worship in Savannah was a room fitted up by him in his own house, where services were held until about 1774. In 1773 he deeded a piece of land for the purpose of erecting a synagogue, but the project was abandoned owing to the incipient war with Great Britain. He and his brother Levi also donated the land for the Savannah Jewish cemetery, which was known for decades as the “Sheftall cemetery.” In 1782, in Philadelphia, Sheftall helped build the synagogue for the Congregation Mickve Israel.