Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Friend to friend: Freemasonry lives in the heart

Two Masonic articles, both about lecturers, hit my radar screen this morning.

The first began with a probable crackpot, Bill, who gives weekly talks on how Freemasons rule the world. His proof? The eye in the pyramid on the dollar bill.

To my relief, Bill's story isn't what the article is really about. It's about power and money and American politics, about how corporations funnel through "campaign contributions" just enough money to "underpaid" politicians to get them elected, who then grant favors to the corporations. This is nothing we don't already know, but it's interesting to read about it from the point of view of someone writing a blog in Singapore.

So... if some of the CEO's of the Fortune 500 happen to also be "high level" Freemasons, then I guess you could technically say, "Freemasons rule the world!"

The second article is about Dr. Kendall Wilson, who will give a talk titled "Freemasonry During the Civil War — How Each Affected the Other," on Saturday, May 19, 2007, in the auditorium of the Greenbrier Valley Campus of the New River Community & Technical College in Lewisburg, West Virginia as part of the Battle of Lewisburg Living History and Reenactment, May 18-20, 2007.

We've probably all heard that during the Civil War, Freemasons from the North and the South laid down their weapons on occasion to sit in lodge together, then went out the next day and continued to try to kill each other.

The article relates a story of brotherly love on the battlefield, quoting an uncited Justin Lowe:
As the battle (Gettysburg) waned, it became clear that Armistead's injuries were fatal. Knowing that his old friend was somewhere behind the Union lines, Armistead exhibited the Masonic sign of distress. This was seen by Captain Henry Harrison Bingham, the Judge-Advocate of Hancock's Second Corps (Chartiers Lodge #297, Canonsburg, Pa.). He came to the fallen Armistead, and declared that he was a fellow Mason.

The two men spoke for a time, and when Armistead realized that Bingham had direct access to Hancock, he entrusted some of his personal effects to him. Among them were his Masonic watch, the Bible upon which he had taken his obligations, and a number of other items. Bingham said his farewells, and then returned to the Union camp to deliver the items.

Armistead died two days later.

The fact that Armistead chose to use the Masonic sign of distress signified that his war was over, and that there was another, more pressing matter on his mind, even on the field at Gettysburg. What could lead one of the highest ranking and most intelligent officers in the Confederacy to lay aside all of the ideology of the war and call for a brother of the Craft from the other side?
In a world where civility is woefully lacking, among profanes and Masons alike, this story is a reminder of what Freemasonry is about: Brotherly love of and between all God's children. We should all take a lesson here.

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  1. Very good my friend! I have a picture of that statue at Gettysburg that I took long before I became a member of the Craft. The stories of brother against brother and Brother against Brother has always been of great interest to me.

  2. Your post concerns a subject near and dear to me as I have just written an article in Heredom concerning Masonic courtesy during the Civil War, an excerpt of which is found here:

    There is a lot of apocrypha about the Craft and the Civil War, and the Armistead/Bingham story is chief among them. There are many accounts that Armistead gave and spake the GHSD when he fell at "The Angle" at G-burg, but accounts from soldiers standing alongside him from various VA regts make no mention of any gesture of the sort, while describing his posture and the position of his wounded body with some detail. There is no question that Bingham did receive some of Armistead's personal effects, but I have yet to see conclusive proof, although I have requested it from the proponents of this tale, that anything more occurred on the field.

    That being said, there are scores of documented accounts that do bear up the supposition that an inordinate degree of Masonic charity was present during the war, that it was prevalent, fairly wide-spread, and talked about by contemporary sources. That, in and of itself, is testimony to our great band of brethren.

    Incidentally, this alone was reason I joined the Order.

  3. That was an excellent and most interesting article, Brother. Well done.

    I would hope that Masons of today would show such brotherhood as those you wrote about did.

    — W.S.


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