MASONS AT THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG
The Masonic Friend to Friend Monument
The Battle of Gettysburg, which took place from July 1 through July 3, 1863, is the most famous, most bloody, and in many ways the most significant battle of the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865. Robert E. Lee took his Confederate Army of Northern Virginia on a controversial invasion of the Northern States in an effort to alleviate Virginia from having armies continue to fight there, and also in an effort to bring the Union Army of the Potomac out of its fortifications, to a climactic battle that could end the war and result in independence for the Confederate States of America.
Abraham Lincoln understood the significance of Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania, and he appointed Union Major General George G. Meade to lead the United States army, with orders to prevent any attack on Washington, D.C., or Baltimore, Maryland. General Meade led his army into northern Maryland, while General Lee split his army into different parts with missions leading to the hoped-for capture of Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, with other missions to follow. However, Lee did not realize that Meade's army was as close as it was, until June 28. Then, he issued orders for the parts of his army to regroup at Cashtown or Gettysburg.
In the meantime, some of Lee's army was camped near Gettysburg, and some of Meade's army was in Gettysburg. They clashed briefly on June 30, and again in much larger numbers on July 1. Both sides threw in reinforcements, until the July 1 battle became a very large battle, very hard fought by both sides. At the end of the day the force of overwhelming numbers resulted in a Confederate victory for that day. The Union army regrouped on the hills and ridge south of Gettysburg, in a very strong position, under the leadership of Major General, and Brother, Winfield Scott Hancock, one of the most widely admired generals of the Civil War.
On July 2, General Lee attempted to defeat the Union army by attacking both ends of it, in another extremely hard-fought day with thousands of casualties. One of the most significant events of that day was the defense of a hill called Little Round Top by a Maine regiment commanded by Colonel (later Major General), and Brother, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. When his men ran out of ammunition, knowing that if he gave up his position the entire battle might be lost, he ordered a bayonet charge that might have been suicidal. Instead, he won a highly-praised victory, plus a Medal of Honor, and fame that resulted in his being later be elected Governor of Maine four times.
The climax of the battle took place on July 3. After a quiet morning, in early afternoon General Lee ordered the most massive cannon attack ever on the North American continent. Then, he ordered about 12,000 men to attack the center of the Union position, across about a mile of open country. Both the Southerners and Northerners generally showed great courage in facing each other, realizing that this might be the event that would decide the war and the fate of our country. Among the leaders of this event, known as Pickett's Charge, was Confederate Brigadier General, and Brother, Lewis Addison Armistead. The leader of the Union force being attacked was the Union Major General, and Brother, Winfield Scott Hancock.
Armistead and Hancock were both career soldiers, and before the Civil War they were friends when both were U.S. Army officers in California. Both were also Freemasons.
When the Confederate attack reached the Union line at Gettysburg, there was fierce fighting. General Armistead was shot twice, and as he went down he gave a Masonic sign asking for assistance. A fellow Mason, a Union officer named Henry H. Bingham, then a Captain, later a higher officer and then a very influential Congressman, came to Armistead's assistance and offered to help. Armistead reportedly asked to see and talk with his friend General Hancock, but he was told that Hancock had been very badly wounded just a few minutes earlier. Union Brother Bingham then helped Confederate Brother Armistead off the field and to a hospital, but Armistead died two days later. General Hancock, to the surprise of many, recovered and resumed his command later in the Civil War.
This incident, of a Freemason who was a Union officer helping a Freemason who was a wounded Confederate officer, is one of the greatest examples of the ideals of Freemasonry in action. In 1993, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania completed and dedicated a monument on the Gettysburg National Cemetery, with the cooperation and support of the United States government, that shows Brother Bingham, a Union officer, assisting Brother Armistead. This statue is extremely dramatic, and it is called the "Masonic Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial."
In the words of Sheldon A. Munn, one of the Freemasons who helped bring about the construction of this monument:
"The 'Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial,' at Gettysburg will help demonstrate to the world that Freemasonry is, indeed, a unique fraternity; that its bonds of friendship, compassion and brotherly love withstood the ultimate test during the most tragic and decisive period of our nation's history; it stood then as it stands now, as 'A Brotherhood Undivided!'"
Masons who played key roles at the Battle of Gettysburg
Winfield Scott Hancock
Born February 14, 1824 in Montgomery Square near Norristown, Pennsylvania. West Point class of 1840, graduated 18th out of 25, at age 20. Served in Mexican and Seminole Wars and Utah (Mormon) Expedition. Chief Quartermaster in Los Angeles, California. Civil War Brigadier (1 star) and Major (2 star) General. Wounded severely at the Battle of Gettysburg. Considered one of the best Union generals. After the Civil War served in the U.S. Army, later Democratic candidate for President of the U.S. in 1880. Died February 9, 1886, at Governorís Island, New York. Buried in Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Member of Charity Lodge #190, Norristown, Pennsylvania, Royal Arch Mason, #90, and Hutchison Commandery, Knights Templar #22.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Born September 8, 1828 in Brewer, Maine. College Professor at Bowdoin College, Maine; spoke 7 languages. Lieutenant Colonel and later Colonel of the 20th Maine Regiment, later Brigadier (1 star) and Major (2 star) General. Wounded 6 times during the Civil War. Hero of Little Round Top, for which he received the Medal of Honor. At Appomattox he was the General who received the formal surrender of the Confederate Army, from Major General John B. Gordon, a fellow Freemason. After the War, Chamberlain was elected Governor of Maine 3 times, later President of Bowdoin College, a businessman and author. Died February 24, 1914. Buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Brunswick, Maine. There is a museum about him in Brunswick.
Member of United Lodge #8 in Brunswick, Maine.
Lewis Addison Armistead
Born February 18, 1817, in New Bern, North Carolina. Came from a military family; his uncle commanded Fort McHenry during the British bombardment in the War of 1812 which inspired the Star Spangled Banner. Attended West Point 1833, 1834-1836, but resigned. Served in the Mexican War where he was twice awarded for bravery. He was serving in California with Winfield Scott Hancock when the Civil War began, and he resigned to travel cross country to join the Confederate forces. Colonel and later Brigadier (1 star) General. Died July 5, 1863, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Member of Alexandria-Washington Lodge #22 in Virginia. Charter member of Union Lodge 37 in Fort Riley, Kansas.
Other Freemasons who played significant roles at the Battle of Gettysburg:
Captain Henry H. Bingham, Chartiers Lodge #297, Cannonsburg PA, Life Member of Union Lodge #121 in Philadelphia. Received the Medal of Honor. Elected to Congress in 1878, where he served 33 years and was one of the leaders of Congress. Died March 24, 1912, in Philadelphia, aged 70. Buried in North Laurel Hills Cemetery, Philadelphia.
Major General Henry Heth, Senior Warden of Rocky Mountain Lodge #205 in Utah Territory. Very close friend of Robert E. Lee. Military career, severely wounded at Gettysburg but survived. After the War he started an insurance business in Richmond. Died in 1899, age 73. Buried in Hollywood Cemetery.
Brigadier General Solomon Meredith. Commander of the "Iron Brigade," also called the "Black Hat Brigade." Born May 29, 1810 in Guilford County, Virginia. Had 3 sons in the Union Army, 2 of whom were killed. After the War he was surveyor general of the Montana Territory. Member of Cambridge Lodge #105, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Brigadier General Alfred Iverson. Columbian Lodge #108, Columbus, Georgia. His father was a U.S. Senator from Georgia before the War. After the War he was a businessman in Georgia and later an orange grower in Kissimmee, Florida. Died in 1911, age 82.
Major General Carl Schurz. Born March 2, 1828, in Cologne, Prussia. Very well educated, but left Europe after he supported failed revolutions. Prominent politician in the U.S., supported Lincolnís election in 1860, and a leader of the German-American community. Given a Generalship to command the large number of Germans in the Union Army. Did not have a distinguished career in the Civil War. After the War we supported equal rights for Blacks, Ambassador to Spain, U.S. Senator from Missouri, and Secretary of the Interior. Died in 1906 in New York City, where a park is named for him. Member of Herman Lodge #125 in Philadelphia.
Brigadier General John B. Gordon. Born February 6, 1832 in Upson County, Georgia. Attended University of Georgia and trained in law. At the Battle of Antietam he was wounded so severely in the head that only a bullet hole in his hat prevented him from drowning in his own blood. Wounded 8 times. After the War he was elected U.S. Senator from Georgia 3 times, later Governor of Georgia. Member of Gate City Lodge #2 in Atlanta.
Brigadier General George T. "Tige" Anderson. Left college in Georgia to enter the Mexican War. Severely wounded in Gettysburg. After the War he was a railroad freight agent and then police chief in Anniston, Georgia. He was a Freemason, but details are not known.
Brigadier General John H.H. Ward. Born in New York City in 1823. Fought in many Civil War battles, but removed from the Army in 1864 for misbehavior and intoxication in the face of the enemy. This was disputed for 30 years, and never settled. After the War he served as clerk of courts in New York. In 1903 while vacationing in Monroe, New York, he was run over by a train and killed. Became a Mason in Metropolitan Lodge #273, New York City, f1855. Royal Arch Mason, Commandery, Shriner, Active 33rd degree in the AASR, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.
Brigadier General Rufus Ingalls - Williamette Lodge #2 Oregon
By Abraham Lincoln, at the Gettysburg Cemetery, November 19, 1863:
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
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