In its collection,the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has a number of Masonic and fraternal artifacts related to American Civil War history. Freemasons were among the thousands of Confederate and Union soldiers fighting throughout the four-year conflict. This stereocard shows a Masonic military lodge that was reportedly photographed in November 1863 on Folly Island, South Carolina. It was not uncommon for Masons in the military to form military or traveling lodges during times of war. The 1st New York Engineer Regiment is believed to have established this particular lodge. They constructed the lodge with materials found on the island. This photograph is one of the most unique Masonic lodge images in our collection.
Military lodges were usually connected to specific units. These lodges received a special dispensation from the Grand Lodge of the state in which the regiment was organized in order to be chartered and recognized as a lodge. Like other lodges, military lodges needed “volume of sacred law”, most likely a bible, and “working tools” commonly used in ritual, like a square and compasses.
In 1861, the Grand Lodge of New York passed a resolution granting dispensations for military lodges with a stipulation that no men from outside of New York could be made Masons without the permission of the Grand Lodge. In addition, the dispensation had to be recommended by a lodge in the state and bear the names of seven petitioners. Many Grand Lodges granting dispensations for military or traveling lodges were concerned about how these lodges and their operations might impact the integrity of Freemasonry. In 1863, due to overwhelming jurisdictional issues and questions about legality, New York passed a resolution against the "further establishment or continuance of military lodges."
These special lodges were just one of the many ways that Freemasonry was visible during the Civil War. For more information about our collection as it relates to Freemasonry during the Civil War please visit our previous blog posts at: http://bit.ly/1HD7som
Halleran, Michael A., The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War, University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 2010.
Ross, Peter, A Standard History of Freemasonry in the state of New York, New York: The Lewis Pub. Co., 1899.
Hyde, William L., History of the One hundred and twelfth regiment, N.Y. volunteers,Fredonia, NY: McKinstry, 1866.