Civil War Masonry-The Better Angels Our Nature

Dave Hull

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#1
For the Masons in the group, I was able to get an autographed copy of The Better Angles of our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War by Br. Mike Halleran at Alexandria Washington Lodge #22. He gave an excellent presentation, with the highlight being his self described National Treasure moment, when doing research on a Ironclad with the S&C between the smoke stakes. After going through 19 boxes of personal effect of the third Captain of ship, a Master Mason, he and the Harvard trained curator discovered a "Navy Code Book."

He sat back like the clouds had parted and started to laugh. The curator asked what was so interesting about the Naval Code book and Br. Mike said, "you folks have no idea what you have here do you?" The woman was total perplexed and said "what do you mean" Br. Mike just patted the leather bound volume and said "It is a Masonic cipher." He quickly pointed out the first line, Will you be off or from?

He had some great pictures in his slide deck, I had never seen before. One was particularly amusing with a picture of 7 Ohio men in white aprons. He found the picture in a box with the caption "Ohio Army Surgeons prepare for work" Turns out they were the officers of one of the many field lodges.

I had heard a great deal about the book from a few members of the Patriot Lodge, who gave it the highest recommendation. If the book is as good as the presentation, I can hardly wait to start it.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Better-Angels-Our-Nature/dp/0817316957
 

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#2
Dave, if you haven't come across it yet I highly recommend "House Undivided, The story of Freemasonry and the Civil War" by Allen E. Roberts. Copywrited in 1961.
 

Robtweb1

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#3
Do either of theses books have information broken down by state, such as notable general officers or active lodges within regiments?
 

Dave Hull

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#4
I know RW Paul Sleeper did a chart of Federal and Confederate Generals some years ago, notating known Masons. I will see if I can find that around here.

Mike Halleran went to the Grand Lodge Conference minutes from 1858 to get a list of Lodges throughout the US and the reported memberships. On pages 51&52, he charts by state, the number of lodges, number of members and the male population between the ages of 18-45, as asked on the 1860 census, and extrapolated out white men under the age of 21 and assigned a factor for white men over the age of 45. Based on the research he conducted Georgia had approximately 8.7% of the total white male population serving in the Army who were Masons. The average for the entire country, he concluded, was a little more than 4% of the men serving in both armies were Masons.

I have read Roberts, House Undivided, and came to the same conclusion Mike did when he started the book; an overwhelming lack of documentation and many anecdotal tales which had been passed down from generation to generation within Lodges. Mike decided to do a scholarly work based on documented fact. He references the many myths, but only goes into great detail where, based on the documentation he could find, would in his words "satisfy a Jury, there was probably cause."

One of the many things he discovered when researching the book were just how many regular Joes there were in the Fraternity at the time. Since a larger portion of the population was literate, there is, for the first time written evidence in large volumes. One piece evidence he discovered was a letter home from a private serving in a Minnesota unit, who wrote his his wife back home. There was nothing mentioned in the letter to his wife, indicating he was a mason, but the envelop had hand drawn stamps (There was a US postage stamp on the envelop located in the correct position) surrounding the edges, of the Square, the Plumb, the Level and the S&C's. I guess the guy wanted to ensure his letter got home safely and quickly and figured any Brothers in the Postal Service would take extra care to see his letter arrived unmolested and on time.

I read the introduction, preface and first two chapters late last night and early this morning. It is a real page turner. His first chapter gives an overview of the craft so the profane have an idea of what Masonry is and some of the symbols we employ.
 

unicornforge

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Near Gettysburg, PA
#5
It might be a good idea to take a moment and point out that the first step to join the Freemasons, a fellow can call his local Masonic Lodge or his state's Grand Lodge and ask for an application. The contact information, phone numbers and addresses are likely to be available on the Internet.
--- The only requirements to become a "regular" Freemason is to be a man of good character, and a belief in God, however he personally defines God, and to *ask* for an application.
--- Comasonry, is a separate organization and if I understand correctly, accepts both men and women.
--- Prince Hall Freemasonry, another organization, and again if I understand correctly, defines God in specifically Christian terms and is composed predominantly of African Americans.

Hopefully this information helps prevent folks from feeling left out.
 

Robtweb1

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#6
It might be a good idea to take a moment and point out that the first step to join the Freemasons, a fellow can call his local Masonic Lodge or his state's Grand Lodge and ask for an application. The contact information, phone numbers and addresses are likely to be available on the Internet.
--- The only requirements to become a "regular" Freemason is to be a man of good character, and a belief in God, however he personally defines God, and to *ask* for an application.
--- Comasonry, is a separate organization and if I understand correctly, accepts both men and women.
--- Prince Hall Freemasonry, another organization, and again if I understand correctly, defines God in specifically Christian terms and is composed predominantly of African Americans.

Hopefully this information helps prevent folks from feeling left out.
I've never heard of Comasonry. Is this the Eastern Star?
 

unicornforge

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#7
I've never heard of Comasonry. Is this the Eastern Star?
Traditional "regular" Freemasonry, Co-Freemasonry ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Co-Freemasonry ), and Prince Hall Freemasonry are three completely separate and different organizations. To my humble understanding none of the *regular* U.S. Grand Lodges recognize Co-Freemasonry nor do they accept Co-Freemasonry membership documents.
 
Joined
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#9
I was raised in The Masonic Hall located on Marshall St. in Richmond, Va. The oldest lodge hall in continuous use in the country. The cornerstone was laid in 1787. It was used as a hospital in both the war of 1812 and and the ACW. Chief Justice John Marshall attended lodge in this building and the Marque de Lafayette was made an honorary member when he attended.
 

Dave Hull

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Location
Northern Virginia
#11
I've never heard of Comasonry. Is this the Eastern Star?
I had not heard the term Comasonry before, but we did have a female Past Masters from a Lodge holden under the GL of Belgium attend one of our open supper programs at the Patriot Lodge. The GL of Virginia does not recognize Lodges chartered under the GL of Belgium, but we do recognize the GL of Virginia Prince Hall Inc.

We were late to the show in Prince Hall recognition. I have attended Lodge in DC a number of times since the recognition and sat in Lodge with many PH brothers (DC recognized PH long ago.) I have had many PH brothers who worked for me from Maryland and DC and of course while I was in the Army. From my experiences, PH Masons take the Craft very seriously. Virginia Masons, both PH and Blue Lodge, certainly missed many years of fellowship caused by the delayed recognition, from both sides.

A good friend of mine was the first Black Master in a Virginia Blue Lodge. He comes from a long line of PH Masons, who disowned him when he petitioned a Blue Lodge, thankfully, since the recognition they have recanted.
 

FourLeafClover

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#12
Just a note on lodge numeration. As each lodge is established, it has a unique number ascribed. Denoting its position in chronological order.
2 of my uncles are members in Kilwinning Ayrshire."The Mother Lodge". It was originally no.1 lodge. It was then found in Arbroath was another claiming No.1.
Documentary evidence was provided to prove Kilwinning was indeed founded in 12th century, and was the first.
To avoid all others upping their number by one. Arbroath retained its No.1 status. And henceforth Kilwinning is known as "The Mother Lodge".
 



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