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Freemasonry and the American Civil War
Freemasonry is one of the oldest existing fraternities in the world, with origin theories dating them back as far as 3000 years B.C.. The first known printed mention of Freemasonry dates back 1390 A.D. with the Halliwell or Regis poem. Masonry in its present form, Speculative Masonry, dates back to the Grand Lodge of the world in 1717 A.D. in London, England. It is a secret society that has no secrets, that does not hide its buildings, disguise its emblems, nor does it trumpet its acts of charity and service.
The rites of Freemasonry are steeped in the basics of geometry and faith, the concept of both of which caused great social change as new ideas for structures, including concepts of the structure of the universe, arose, as well as also great social distress as the concepts of spirituality were challenged during the European Renaissance.
The goal of a Mason is to be a better man and to make his community a better place. Men raised in Masonry must guard the moral character, protect the weak, and help the helpless. It makes sense, then, that a society that is able to make moral character and charity consistently rewarding has survived and drawn so many to it.
Masonry has been present in America since it's foundation. Central figures, such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock and were Freemasons. During the Civil War, Freemasons fought for both sides, Union General George B. MacClellan was a Mason, as was Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead, and Union Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, Captain Henry Bingham, General Winfield Scott, Confederate General Beauregard, Major General Henry Heth, Brigadier General George E. Pickett... The list goes on.
During the Civil War, Masons formed military lodges within their regiments. Some 94 Union and 150 Confederate military lodges are known to have existed. These military lodges allowed the men who shared Lodge at home to continue their traditions, and also to induct an unknown number of the comrads in arms.
This sense of brotherhood trancended the battlefield, the war and the disagreements of politics that made the Civil War possible. There are numerous accounts of Masons coming to each others aid during the war, regardless which side they fought for. Calling upon your Masonic Brother was more significant than any call of battle.
Today's Freemason Civil War reenactors keep those memories alive. Several recently published articles about Masonry in the civil war, along with the major motion picture, National Treasure has brought masonry to a more prominent place in the minds of Americans, and reenactors. Masons are seeking to create reenacting lodges, to recreate the battlefield lodges of the civil war, and to persue Masonic tradition at its best.
Masonic men, men of strong moral character, of compassion and endurance, are needed both to keep Freemasonry alive, but also because those are the men who are called upon to lead.