Masons at the Battle of Gettysburg
and 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!'”
For more information, see:
Munn, Sheldon A. Freemasons at Gettysburg. Thomas Publications, PO Box 3031, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 17325, 1993, ISBN 0-939631-68-7.
Roberts, Allen E. House Undivided: The Story of Freemasonry and the Civil War. Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Richmond, Virginia, 1961, ISBN 0-88053-056-1, also available from Anchor Communications, Highland Springs, Virginia, the publishing company operated by Brother Roberts’ widow and children.
The following is from a handout used on a Masonic tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield in 1999
Freemasons and the Battle of Gettysburg
A Masonic Tour of the Battle of Gettysburg
April 17, 1999
organized by Benjamin B. French Lodge #15, FAAM, District of Columbia
(handout by Paul M. Bessel, April 16, 1999)
What the Civil War was about – Why it is important
Slavery – 1776 to 1860
Political fighting & Compromises (Clay’s role, PGM of Kentucky, but renounced?)
1850’s – Kansas-Nebraska Act – Dred Scot decision – John Brown (Mason, renounced)
1860 election (role of Masons in the election)
The Civil War defined the U.S. we live in, and the U.S. became a world model
What happened in the Civil War before the Gettysburg campaign
Lincoln and his generals
Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, George B. McClellan, Joseph Hooker
Bull Run (July 1861), Peninsula & 7 Days (March-July 1862), 2nd Bull Run (August 1862), Antietam (September 1862), Fredericksburg (December 1862), Chancellorsville (May 1863)
Honor, stand and fight — Loading and firing muskets and cannons
Capture, POW’s, paroles
Electing officers — 9 month men leaving to go home
Draft, Bonuses — Discipline, executions — 2nd Maine and Chamberlain
Income taxes — Paper money
Women in battles
Black soldiers — Confederates kidnapping Blacks on way to Battle of Gettysburg
Soldiers’ actions toward civilians
Imprisoning without trials — Suspension of writ of habeas corpus by both sides
Mines, submarines, trench warfare, aerial warfare, machine guns
Why the Battle of Gettysburg took place – What led up to it
Lee’s goals – Union responses
“Fighting” Joe Hooker, George G. Meade new commander days before Gettysburg
What happened at the Battle of Gettysburg, in general
days 1, 2, 3
James (“Pete”) Longstreet, Ewell, A.P. Hill (not D.H. Hill), Henry Heth, John B. Gordon
Pickett, Kemper, George J. Stannard (Vermont), Henry Bingham
Masons who played key roles at the Battle of Gettysburg:
(1) 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 Governor’s 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.
(2) 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.
(3) 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 include:
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 Lincoln’s 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. Listed in some publications as having been a member of Gate City Lodge #2 in Atlanta, but members of that lodge say there are no records to support that claim, so it is not accurate to say that he belonged to this lodge.
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
Brigadier General Joseph B. Kershaw – Kershaw Lodge #29 South Carolina
Brigadier General Alfred T.A. Torbert – Temple Chapter #2 Delaware
Brigadier General William Barksdale – Columbus Lodge #5, Columbus, Mississippi
Major General David B. Birney – Franklin Lodge #134 Pennsylvania
Brigadier General Harry T. Hays – Louisiana Lodge #102 Louisiana
Major General Daniel Butterfield – Metropolitan Lodge #273 New York
Brigadier General John W. Geary – Philanthropy Lodge #255 Pennsylvania
Major General Alfred Pleasonton – Franklin Lodge #134 Pennsylvania
Brigadier General George J. Stannard – Franklin Lodge #4 Vermont
Brigadier General James L. Kemper – Linn Banks Lodge #126 (PM) Virginia
Major General George E. Pickett – Dove Lodge #51 Virginia
Brigadier General John D. Imboden – Staunton Lodge #13 Virginia
By Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain:
“… war is for the participants a test of character; it makes bad men worse and good men better.” [cited in: In The Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain & The American Civil War, by Alice Rains Trulock, 1992, page 349]
Also by Chamberlain, in a Memorial Day address in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1897:
“…everyone has in him, slumbering somewhere, the potencies of noble action, and on due occasion these are likely to make themselves manifest and effective.” The secret to unlocking those potencies could be found in the two souls residing in each person, for by striving for one’s better soul, the soul of love and community, one could thus find the path toward greater glory, the road toward true heroism. “Every man has in him the elements of a hero,” a conscious effort to put others before himself and to achieve a “largeness of action.” In all of this, there is something lofty and spiritual, the fulfillment of divine destiny. [cited in: The Gettysburg Nobody Knows, edited by Gabor S. Boritt, 1997]
About Winfield Scott Hancock:
“General Hancock appears the very beau ideal of the soldier. His figure is tall and finely shaped. His eye is clear, blue, inquiring, benignant in repose, but inspiring in danger and in earnestness. In manners, no man ever surpassed him.
He is the embodiment of knightly courtesy, yet his dignity is of the simple republican type that reminds one of the ideal Cincinnatus. No young officer, with apprehensions, for the first time, ever reported to him and went away with any other feeling than that Hancock was the man he wanted to serve under for life.
To his subordinates he was always kindliness itself. He put one at ease at once; gave confidence; made a man think better of himself; made him think he amounted to a good deal more than he ever before suspected. This was one of the great secrets of Hancock’s success on the field. The men and officers all felt that they had come in personal contact with their commander; that they had made him think they were brave, good, reliable men; and when the crisis came, they would rather die than destroy that opinion.
Hancock’s reproof, on the other hand, was not a thing to be wished for twice. He was severe in his requirements, and sometimes made his colonels and generals wish that they were anywhere but under the plain severity of his talk. Yet after the lesson was taught, the wound was at once healed by some attention, so kindly and so gracious, that the object of it felt at last that he had really gained by the transaction. Thus he was to his subordinates.
What he was to his superiors is a matter of history. No more loyal executor of orders ever bestrode a horse. There are brilliant reputations whose dead and living owners owe them to that loyal performance of duty. He went forward cheerfully, without murmuring or questioning, in the accomplishment of what was assigned to him, from first to last, willing to do anything and be anything in the service of his country.”
— written by a soldier who served under him
[cited in a webpage about Winfield Scott Hancock on the Internet]
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 soconceived 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.” [emphasis added]
Books about the Battle of Gettysburg, the Civil War, and Freemasonry
Biographies, and Books about, Masons at the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War
Hancock the Superb, by Glenn Tucker, published 1960 in Indianapolis and New York
Winfield Scott Hancock: A Soldier’s Life, by David M. Jordan, published 1988 by Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, ISBN 0-253-36580-5
In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain & the American Civil War, by Alice Rains Trulock, published 1992 by The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, ISBN 0-8078-2020-2
Through Blood & Fire at Gettysburg: General Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine, by General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, published 1994 by Stan Clark Military Books, Gettysburg, ISBN 1-879664-17-8, (from a 1913 article in Hearst’s Magazine)
Stand Firm Ye Boys From Maine: The 20tth Maine and the Gettysburg Campaign, by Thomas A. Desjardin, published 1995 by Thomas Publications, Gettysburg.
“General and Brother Joshua L. Chamberlain: A Mason Who Had the Soul of a Lion and the Heart of a Woman,” by Charles W. Plummer, in The Maine Mason, volume 19, number 1, Spring 1991, pages 8-11.
Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine (videotape), 1994, bc productions, Brunswick, Maine
“Trust in God and Fear Nothing”: Gen. Lewis A. Armistead, CSA, by Wayne E. Motts, Published 1994 by Farnsworth House Military Impressions, 401 Baltimore Street, Gettysburg PA 17325, ISBN 0-9643632-08
Freemasons and Gettysburg
Freemasons at Gettysburg, by Sheldon A. Munn, published 1993 by Thomas Publications, PO Box 3031, Gettysburg PA 17325, ISBN 0-939631-68-3
House Undivided: The Story of Freemasonry and the Civil War, by Allen E. Roberts, published 1961 (reprinted 1964 and 1976) by Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Richmond, Virginia, ISBN-0-88053-056-1
Befriend and Relieve Every Brother: Freemasonry During Wartime, by Richard Eugene Shields, Jr., published 1994 by The Carolina Trader, Monroe, North Carolina
Witness to the Young Republic: A Yankee’s Journal, 1828-1870, by Benjamin Brown French, editors: Donald B. Cole and John J. McDonough, published 1989 by University Press of New England, Hanover and London
“My Enemy, My Brother: An Incident at Gettysburg”, by William D. Robertson, published in The Philalethes, June 1993, page 61
General Books (and other items) about the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War
Gettysburg: A Meditation on War & Values, by Kent Gramm, published 1994 by Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana, ISBN 0-253-32621-4
The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, by Edwin B. Coddington, published 1968 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, ISBN 0-684-18152-5
The Gettysburg Nobody Knows, edited by Gabor S. Boritt, published 1997 by Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 0-19-510223-1
Gettysburg: The Second Day, by Harry W. Pfanz, published 1987 by The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, ISBN 0-8078-1749-X
To Hold This Ground: A Desperate Battle at Gettysburg, by Susan Provost Beller, published 1995 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, ISBN 0-689-50621-X
The Third Day at Gettysburg & Beyond, edited by Gary W. Gallagher, published 1994 by The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, ISBN 0-8078-2155-1
Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, by John Michael Priest, published 1998 by White Mane Books, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, ISBN 1-57249-138-8
Pickett’s Charge: A Microhistory of the Final Attack at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, by George R. Stewart, published 1950 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, ISBN 0-395-59772-2
Gettysburg (videotape), by Turner Pictures, 1993, (based on the novel, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara)
Glory Road: The Bloody Route from Fredericksburg to Gettysburg (volume 2 of The Army of the Potomac trilogy), by Bruce Catton, published 1952 by Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York
Never Call Retreat, by Bruce Catton (volume 3 of The Centennial History of the Civil War), published 1965 by Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York
The Civil War: A Narrative – Fredericksburg to Meridian (volume 2 of a 3 volume series), by Shelby Foote, published 1963 by Random House, New York.
The War for the Union: The Organized War 1863-1864 (part of the series The Ordeal of the Union), by Allan Nevins, published 1971 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, ISBN 684-10428-8
Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, by James M. McPherson, published 1988 by Oxford University Press, Inc., ISBN 0-345-35942-9