Masons in the Civil War

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Tom Hughes

Corporal
Joined
May 27, 2019
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328
This has always been an interesting topic, but not discussed much.
The men in both the Union and Confederate armies that were members of this fraternal brotherhood of Masons. Their loyalties often times seemed to supercede their sectional devotions.
I found this Yorks Right Masonic sword frog-hanger in a Union camp in Vicksburg, MS. It says: 1858 Patent, Price's Patent.
It was made in Germany.
Evidently, a Union officer had this ceremonial sword with him during the Vicksburg siege and lost the frog.
Any Masons out there that could elaborate?
Could one Mason go to war or do harm to another Mason if so sworn to a sacred brotherhood?
I'm attaching a photo of the relic. It's not in great shape since it was dug in a field.

1858.JPG
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
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I couldn't speculate about all Freemasons, but there's a great story about Frank James. He was ordered to take a prisoner out and shoot him. The prisoner made Masonic hand signals to Frank, who then fired his revolver into a hay stack and released the prisoner. This was reported by another guerrilla (John McCorckle) who witnessed the incident.
 

Rio Bravo

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Col.Henry A.Morrow ( a Mason), Commanded the 24th Michigan of the 1st Brigade ( Iron Brigade) of the 1st Corps at Gettysburg. On the first day he was wounded and captured.
A Confederate Surgeon ( also a Mason) decided that Morrow’s scalp wound was “too serious” for him to be taken along as a prisoner & said he would be better cared for in the north.
The Surgeon most probably saved his life !
 
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DBF

First Sergeant
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I had heard that Masons were bound by a strict moral code that they could not do harm to another Mason. I don't know that to be 100% accurate but I was hoping someone more familiar with FreeMasonry could answer.
I have this story that may bolster your claim - - -

When I was researching on the hanging of southerner Dr. David Wright for the shooting of Union Lt. A.L. Sanborn (that story here) - - -
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/“i-cannot-interfere-a-lincoln.158678/

it so happens that Dr. Wright was a freemason and pressure was put upon the union to release him. There is this passage from the book “The 21st Connecticut Volunteer Infantry” where an assistant provost marshall had to be appointed to carry out the execution as Major Crosby was - - -

“the Masonic Fraternity had decreed his release. It was said that on this ground Major Crosby had declined to hang a brother Mason, and Captain Shepard was therefore appointed Assistant Provost Marshal for that day in order to conduct the execution.”

Captain Shepard carried out the execution of Dr. David Wright.
 

Carronade

1st Lieutenant
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Pennsylvania
There was the incident when Mosby was going to execute seven Union prisoners in retaliation for the execution of seven of his men who had been captured. One of them made a Masonic sign to a Confederate officer, who then designated a different prisoner for execution. Only three were actually killed (two others were shot but survived) so it's not clear if the non-Mason paid the price for Masonic brotherhood.

This grim action did bring an end to execution of prisoners on both sides in "Mosby's Confederacy".
 
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Cavalry Charger

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I'm pretty sure @AndyHall shared a story here, or there was a thread, about the burial of a Mason in unusual circumstances. And I think there is a commemoration held each year in relation to that in which re-enactors take part - all of which I have discovered here, but I can't remember the detail. The upshot of me saying this is they did appear to take their Masonic fraternity quite seriously in some circumstances.
 
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DBF

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Found this article regarding the role of Masons in the Civil War. I knew that General Hancock was a mason, but did not realize the General Armistead was one as well. The article goes on to state that Armistead - - -

“As the battle waned, it became clear that Armistead's injuries were fatal. Knowing that his old friend was somewhere behind the Union lines, Armistead exhibited the Masonic sign of distress. [6] This was seen by Captain Henry Harrison Bingham, the Judge-Advocate of Hancock's Second Corps (Chartiers Lodge #297, Canonsburg, Pa.). He came to the fallen Armistead, and declared that he was a fellow Mason.”

"The footnote [6] - The sign of distress is a secret sign that is taught to a new Brother at the time of his raising to the degree of Master Mason. It is not a sign that is to be used lightly, but only in times of dire need.”
http://www.themasonictrowel.com/Articles/History/united_states_files/freemasonry_and_the_civil_war.htm

I also found this on CWT originally dated 6/24/2019 - lists quite a few generals that belonged to a Masonic lodge.
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/freemasonry-during-the-civil-war.17787/
 
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donna

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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I always thought it was interesting that Lincoln was not a Mason. I have read were he was asked to be one. In the 1860 presidential election all the other candidates, Stephen A. Douglas, John C. Breckinridge and John Bell were Masons.

Other prominent Masons were Thomas H. Benton, Sam Houston, Edwin Stanton, Gideon Wells, David G. Farragut, and Albert Sidney Johnston.

Lincoln's favorite and admired statesman, Henry Clay was a Mason.

It seems he would have wanted to join.
 

Rio Bravo

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Gen.Ulysses S. Grant’s Father & two brothers were members of the Masonic Lodge at Galena, Illinois.
The Father often told friends that U.S. Intended to petition for the degrees, but owing to his army duties, and the Presidency, it was delayed. Grant died before he could become a Mason.
 
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