Hello, lelliott19, Warbird43 here. Just finished answering your trivia question for 4-17-2020. The red skull cap mentioned was a good clue; in researching it, I came across a thread discussing the action in the Wheatfield on July 2 that contained a reference to BG Paul J. Semmes. Some were wondering why he would wear a red skull cap, and could it have something to do with the Masons. I've done some digging around and found some information that might provide a clue as to why Semmes would be wearing something so conspicuous as a red cap in a battle. Certainly not to identify himself to his troops during the smoke and noise of a fierce fire-fight; that would be a good way to get a bullet thru the head from a Yankee sharpshooter.It's a Georgia brigade so you just know I had to chime in here.
Peter A S McGlashan, a Scottish immigrant, was then Major of the 50th GA Semmes' brigade. When Lt. Col. Francis M. Kearse was killed on July 2, McGlashan assumed temporary command of the regiment. He was eventually promoted to Colonel and was captured at Sailor's Creek April 6, 1865. Years later, McGlashan delivered an address before the Confederate Veterans Association at Savannah in which he recounted the part played by Semmes' brigade [McLaws' division] at the Battle of Gettysburg. Here's an excerpt:
Our brigade, commanded by the soldierly and gallant Paul J. Semmes, was drawn up directly opposite Little Round Top, and consisted of the Tenth, Fiftieth, Fifty-first, and Fifty-third Georgia Regiments; my regiment, the Fiftieth, was then commanded by F. M. Kearse, a gallant South Carolinian. Directly in our front a wooded slope, strewn with large boulders, extended to the top of the ridge, which was separated by a deep ravine from Little Round Top. At the foot of the slope, near the Emmettsburg Road, lay a farm steading, spring house and peach orchard, defended by a 4-gun battery. On the open ground of the ridge top to our left some forty guns were massed, commanding the approach across the valley, in the woods on our front were massed, unknown to us, Sickles Third Corps, posted behind stone fences and other obstructions, making a very strong position.We were ordered to cross the valley, attack and drive in whatever troops might occupy the wooded slope, and carry, if possible, the hights [sic] beyond. A battery near us tried to shell the ground in front, but suffered heavily from the return fire of the enemy's heavy batteries. It was understood that the attack by our right against the enemy's left was ordered at 10 a.m., but for some unexplained reason it was delayed until 4 p.m. In the interim the enemy were heavily reinforcing their lines on Little and Great Round Top. At 4 p.m. the advance began in two lines, Gen. Kershaw's South Carolina Brigade supporting ours. As we went out in the open we were directly exposed to the fire of the enemy's guns, they got our range at once, the first shell killing two men on the left of my regiment.....At the Emmettsburg Road, one-half way across, we encountered the skirmish line of the enemy, which was instantly driven in, and their artillery changed to grape and canister, and so terrible was the fire that nothing but the rapid movement of our line saved it from annihilation.Cheering, and gallantly led by their officers, the line dashed at the edge of the woods in front. Barksdales' Mississippi Brigade being opposite the clear ground to our left, swept on up the ridge, leaving us as we entered the edge of the woods, when a dense mass of the enemy rose up, delivered a heavy fire right in our faces, and charged us with bayonets fixed. The shock was terrible, so swift was the advance of the enemy down the hill that they broke our line by sheer impact of weight and numbers, the first line was driven back on the second, inextricably mixed, and the struggling fighting mass was broken into squads and groups and slowly driven back before the almost irresistible advance of the enemy.And any other troops in existence would have been irremediably broken and scattered under the terrible shock. But these troops were the pride and flower of the South, the men who had conquered at Manassas and Seven Pines, at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and rallying by groups and squads, they gallantly faced their assailants, loading and firing with a rapidity I had never seen equalled. The splendid marksmanship of the Southern soldiers, men raised from childhood with a gun in their hands, told fearfully on the ranks of the enemy, captains, lieutenants, sergeants and corporals seemed to vie with each other in rallying and leading their men, climbing up on the large boulders strewn all about with swords aloft encouraging their men to be instantly shot down, falling in glorious death.Generals Benning and Kershaw and Wofford raged up and down the lines like lions at bay while gallant Paul J Semmes with a red skull cap on his head, his fighting cap we used to call it, dashed along the line like a maddened tiger, shouting, "Look to the front men, look to the front, forward, forward." Gallant Col. Kearse leading his regiment and shouting like a demon actually charged sword in hand through the enemy's line and gloriously fell shot through the body to be terribly avenged by his maddened men. Gen. Semmes shot through the thigh, fell beside a large boulder whence we dragged him out and sent him to the rear, with a captured flag. Gen. McLaws cool and imperturbable as if on parade, rallied his line inspiring us all.[Colonel Peter A. S. McGlashan, "Longstreet at Gettysburg," an Address delivered before the Confederate Veterans Association, Savannah, Georgia, November 15, 1898.]<to be continued>EDIT TO ADD: Has anyone else ever read that Brigadier General Paul J Semmes wore a red skull cap?
As to the red cap having a connection with the Mason, well, yes and no. Semmes, from what I can find, was not a Mason. He was however, a member of a secret society known as the Knights of The Golden Circle. This society drew heavily on the Free Masons (and later the Knights of Pythias) for their rituals and society structure. It was based primarily on preservation of slavery. It existed from 1851-1916 and included many influential people before and after the war. Semmes joined in 1860 as a BG. The KGC was a shadow society and little has been recorded of its activities, other than hear-say.
Just a little on the Free Masons (and I am no expert by any means). Everything in the Masonic world has a meaning, and that includes colors. Red is the Symbol of Regeneration, assigned to the Royal Arch Degree since that degree teaches the Regeneration of Life. It is also symbolic of a pioneering spirit and leadership, promoting ambition and determination. Just the color for a warrior.
In all probability, there were a good number of the KGC in the Confederate armies (and probablly some in the Union armies as well). So it may be that Semmes wore a red skull cap into battle to identify himself to friend and foe alike as a member of the secret society, the KGC, ensuring he would not be shot accidentally by a fellow member. Or, perhaps the wearing of a red cap was a good luck charm. Or, maybe it was to keep his head warm. It's just another of those little mysteries of the Civil War that will never be answered.
Anyway, just wanted to pass these thoughts along; enjoy your trivia questions and researching them. Have a good evening ................ Warbird43, out