Brother against Brother, Freemason against Freemason
During that Civil War, approximately 410.000 soldiers were interned in prison camps and it has been estimated that about 56,000 of them were Freemasons. There are recorded stories that indicate how these Masons were true to their Masonic obligations and to our Masonic teachings, even while performing their duties as military fighting men.
Civil War history is fraught with examples of brotherly love and compassion occurring between members of the Masonic Order on both sides of the conflict.
Located in the south-side of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania the Friend-to-Friend Masonic Memorial depicts Union Captain Henry Bingham, Union General Winfield Scott Hancock and Confederate General Lewis Addison Armistead. The Generals were personal friends and members of Freemasonry having fought together prior to the Civil War. However, as with many during this time, these brothers were forced to be adversaries.
During the Battle of Gettysburg, Armistead was mortally wounded when he breached Hancock’s line. Union Captain Henry Bingham, a Mason and staff assistant to General Hancock, bent low in the battlefield to provide aid to the Confederate general. The memorial displays Armistead handing over his personal watch to Captain Bingham to be taken to his friend General Hancock. General Armistead did not survive.
These two Generals and a Masonic Captain, thrown into conflict, were united by their friendship and dedication to being compassionate men.
Found in the records of a lodge in Savannah is a story of how, with war raging, Confederate soldiers helped a Union Brother complete a Masonic degree. According to an article from the Georgia Masonic Messenger, shortly after the start of the war, Union soldiers captured the beaches on Hilton Head. Before long, the northerners sent a message under the white flag: A Union soldier had passed through the Fellowcraft Degree before shipping out, and they wanted to see if a nearby lodge could test and raise him to a Master Mason.
Within days, a detail of Confederate cavalry escorted the Fellowcraft Mason and several Master Masons of the north safely through the lines and over 30 miles of Confederate defenses to Savannah and the local Masonic lodge. The brother was there raised to the Degree of Master Mason.
After the ritual was complete, the Confederate cavalry returned their brothers to Hilton Head without incident.
After the war, one of those men wrote, “I was not a Mason during the war, but what I observed of the compassionate ways of the Masons, I was induced to join this beneficent order, and I was made a Mason in 1866. I vowed to pattern my conduct by what I had there observed, especially of how they truly cared for each other. Those Masons were treated with respect, and they were trusted based on their integrity of character.”
A few of the military and civilian officials of the times are shown here.
Governor Andrew Johnson (Later U. S. President), Greenville Lodge #119,
Greenville, TN *
General Winfield Scott, Dinwiddie Lodge #23, Dinwiddie, VA
General George McClellan, Willamette Lodge #2, Portland, OR *
General Winfield Scott Hancock, Charity Lodge #190, Norristown, PA
General (Later President) James A. Garfield, Magnolia Lodge #20, Columbus, OH
General Benjamin F. Butler, Pentucket Lodge, Lowell, MA
Colonel Dan Stover, Kennedy Lodge #56, Elizabethtown, TN **
Major (Sheriff) Elijah Simmerly, Kennedy Lodge #56, Elizabethtown, TN **
Captain Henry Bingham (Lodge unknown. Featured on monument in Gettysburg, PA)
Major (Later President) William B. McKinley, Western Star Lodge #240, Champaign, IL
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, Steubenville Lodge #45, Steubenville, OH
Railroad Magnate Leland Stanford, Prometheus Lodge #17, Port Washington, WI
Tennessee Governor Isham Harris, Paris Lodge #108, Paris, TN *
General Felix Zollicoffer, Cumberland Lodge #8, Nashville, TN *
General Albert Pike, Western Star Lodge #2, Little Rock, AR
General George Pickett, Dove Lodge #51, Richmond, VA
General Lewis Addison Armitage, Alexandria Lodge #22, Alexandria, VA
General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Angerona Lodge #168, Memphis, TN *
* Featured in A HILL TOWARD HOME
** Kennedy Lodge is no longer open. Owing to the wartime economy it lost its charter as members were unable to pay their yearly dues.