Mar 2, 2012

It was an April morning three days after General Robert E. Lee had surrendered to General U.S. Grant. The Southern troops, led by General John B. Gordon, a Mason, were marching in columns towards the Northern troops who were standing in formation waiting for the Southerners to stack arms and fold their flags. Suddenly a shifting of arms is heard. Gordon looked up with alarm. There was nothing to fear. General Joshua Chamberlain had ordered his troops to assume the position of "honor answering honor." Immediately, the Confederate troops snapped to attention and returned the honor. It was the first act to heal the wounds of a nation that had spent four years and 618,000 lives in civil war. That command of "honor answering honor" was ordered by a Mason.

Major General Joshua Chamberlain was a member of United Lodge #8, Brunswick, Maine. After the war, he became Governor of Maine from 1866-1871 and President of Bowdoin College from 1871-83.

And for my closing example, we go back a few years but now we are again on our own state's soil in Gettysburg, and perhaps the best example of the ties of brotherhood which occurred on the battlefield at Gettysburg. This battle, the turning point of the War, saw 93,000 Federal troops doing battle with 71,000 Confederates. Of those numbers, more than 35,000 were killed or wounded in the three days of fighting from July 1 to July 3, 1863. Of the men who fought, 17,930 were Freemasons, including the roughly 5,600 who became casualties.

One of the most famous events and one that I have mentioned earlier that occurred at Gettysburg was the huge Confederate infantry push known as Pickett's Charge. On July 3, Pickett (a member of Dove Lodge #51, Richmond, Va) led nearly 12,000 men on a long rush across open fields towards the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. It has been called the last and greatest infantry charge in military history.

One of the men leading that charge was Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead, CSA. He was a member of Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge #22 in Alexandria. Originally from North Carolina, he had attended West Point, and fought with the US Army for a number of years before resigning his commission to fight for the Confederacy. During that time, he had occasion to serve with now Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, USA (Charity Lodge #190, Norristown, Pa.) while both men were in the west. The two had become good friends. However, with Armistead's resignation, it had been nearly two and a half years since the two men had had any contact. Until Gettysburg, that is.

It was Hancock who had taken command of the fragmented Union troops on Cemetery Ridge on July 1, and organized them into a strong front that had withstood three days of pounding from the Confederate guns. And it was his position, in the center of the Union line, that was the focus of Pickett's Charge. General Armistead led his men and vaulted the stone wall, yelled "give them cold steel" and headed for the cannons that had until recently been firing on his men.

As he laid his hand on one of the guns of the 4th US Artillery, the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry fired upon the gray coated General and the men who had followed him. Many went down including Armistead. He was heard to cry for help "as the son of a widow." Colonel Rawley W. Martin of the 53rd Virginia lay near by and witnessed as some of the men of the 69th Penna. Rose up and came to Armistead's aid. Captain Henry H. Bingham (Chartiers Lodge #297, Canonsburg, Pa.) physician and Mason, was brought to assist Armistead. Armistead inquired of his friend and Masonic Brother General Winfield Scott. Learning that Hancock had also been wounded, he entrusted to Bingham his Masonic watch and personal papers to give to his friend and Brother General Hancock. Two days later Armistead died in a Union hospital on the Spangler farm of his wounds.

Bingham survived the war and in fact won a Congressional Medal of Honor in 1867. He retired in 1867 and went on to become a member of the United States Congress where he served for 33 years. He died in 1812 at the age of 70.

General Hancock survived his wounds though it was a long time until he returned to the Army. He later commanded the Department of the East of the United States Army and died in 1886 still in command. In 1880, he had lost an attempt for the United States Presidency to James Garfield.

There were other instances like this, I am going to insert two of them here.

In the battle for Galveston, Texas a young Union naval officer who was a Mason was killed on board one of the Union vessels.
An armistice was sought and given for his burial at sea and his father, a Confederate officer, attended the funeral on board.

Masonic Burial by the Enemy

On June 11, 1863, the Federal gunboat Albatross, with Lieut. Commander J. E. Hart of St. George's Lodge #6 in New York in command, wasa anchored on the Mississippi River opposite the town of Bayou Sara (some accounts say St. Francisville) which is 15 miles above the Rebel fortification Port Hudson. The gunboat was part of the ships laying siege to Port Hudson, Louisiana. Commander Hart had been in a delirium for many days and was confined to quarters. A shot rang out and the Ship's executive officer Theodore E. Dubois and the doctor found the commander dead.

The officers of the ship not wanting to bury their commander in the river sent a flag of truce ashore to discover if there was a local Masonic Lodge. William W. Leake, the acting Master of Bayou Sara lodge was approached by Captain Samuel White, who lived near the river, to hold a Masonic Funeral for Commander Hart.

Brother Leake replied, "As a soldier of the Confederate Army, I think it is my duty. As a Mason, I know it is my duty."On June 13th, a few members of the local lodge in Masonic regalia gathered and met the procession of 50 men from the Albatross under a flag of truce at the top of a hill. Brothers Benjamin F. and Samuel F. White of Bayou Sara, the surgeon and the two officers of the gunboat who were Masons were in the procession along with a squad of marines at "trail arms."

Leake and the local Brothers marched in front of the corpse to Grace Episcopal Church Cemetery and buried Brother Hart in the Masonic Section with military and Masonic honors with the service of the Episcopal Church read over him. Brother Leake led the Masonic part of the services. The US Surgeon and officers asked the Brothers to join them on the Albatross for dinner but they declined. The surgeon then offered Brother Leake to supply him with medicines for his family. Brother Leake declined but later the surgeon sent a few medicines to Leake through Brother Samuel White.

Hart's grave was marked with a wooden head plate for many years, and eventrually a permanent marker covering the whole grave was dedicated. This marker states: "This monument is dedicated in loving tribute to the universality of Freemasonry."


2nd Lieutenant
Dec 19, 2006
Worcester, MA
Rank and organization: Captain, Company G, 140th Pennsylvania Infantry. Place and date: At Wilderness, Va., 6 May 1864. Entered service at: Cannonsburg, Pa. Born: 4 December 1841, Philadelphia, Pa. Date of issue: 31 August 1893. Citation: Rallied and led into action a portion of the troops who had given way under the fierce assaults of the enemy.