Freemasonry as it was Practiced During the American Civil War

freemasonry and the civil warOn November 6, 1860, prior to Abraham Lincoln’s election for United States President he declared that, “Government cannot endure half slave and half free.” He was referring to the common practice during those times, mostly within the southern states, of human slavery. However, these causes weren’t a full or primary cause of this war. If the Confederacy were successful in their efforts the Union, as being the United States would no longer be able to avail the benefits from those southern states with their productions, especially of cotton textiles and bountiful food crops without paying tariffs to a separate nation.

The American Civil War was started in 1861 and it ended in 1865. The Confederacy of the southern states prepared itself for war starting on February 4, 1861. It consisted of eleven states who aimed to secede from the Union and establish itself as a separate and independent country.

The war’s first battle was on April 1, 1861 at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. But it wasn’t until January 31, 1865, that the United States Congress abolished slavery by passing the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution.

On May 10, 1865 President Andrew Johnson officially ended the American Civil War after the surrender was declared at Appomattox, Virginia.

Thousands of lives were lost and many had been badly wounded and would suffer until their eventful death relieved their pains.

Estimates are that at least 110,070 were killed in battles or later  died from the wounds inflicted in battles, and another 199,790 or so from diseases that were attributed in some way due to that war.

However, these reported testaments of compassionate acts by the Freemasons show a brighter side of those four years of strife and the unusual ways of war; often fathers and sons fighting on opposite sides as were blood and fraternal brothers and friends was far too common. This allowed the “Light of Masonry” to shine brightly even during those troubling times.

During that Civil War, approximately 410.000 soldiers were interned in prison camps and it has been estimated that about 56,000 of them were Freemasons. There are recorded stories that indicate how these Masons were true to their Masonic obligations and to our Masonic teachings, even while performing their duties as military fighting men.  When they were confronted with a wounded and distressed brother, they did all they could to provide comfort and compassionate assistance. I’ll here cover just a few examples of those reports that demonstrate the kindness and concerns shown for their Masonic Brethren, in some cases for others without regard for which side they were fighting. The Masonic sign of distress was witnessed and responded to quite frequently during those troubling times.

Lt. Col. Homer Sprague, an 13th Connecticut Volunteer was taken prisoner. During a long march to the prison, Sprague became so exhausted that he collapsed into a ditch. A Confederate Officer allowed him to ride in the ambulance for the remainder of the journey. With some difficulty, he was able to climb into the vehicle. He there learned that the driver was also a Brother Mason.

This Brother said to Sprague,

As a Mason I will feed you to the very last crumbs of my food, but as a soldier I will fight you till the last drop of my blood.

Sprague replied,

I hardly know which to admire most, your generosity as a Mason or your spunk as a soldier.

Hunter McGuire

Hunter McGuire

In 1863 Hunter McGuire, a physician and commissioned officer in the Union Army, resigned his commission and enlisted in the Confederate Army as a Private. This was because while still serving within the Union Army and while trying to evade capture by Confederate forces, he tried to jump his horse over a fence. Both he and the horse went down and were captured. He gave the Masonic sign of distress. A Confederate officer recognized the sign and ordered a temporary cease fire while he and his horse were cared for. This event convinced him to resign his commission in the Union Army.

There was many times in which the Masons demonstrated compassion for the suffering of their Brother Masons. Union soldier John Copley with the 49th Infantry was captured by the Confederate troops and confined in a military prison camp. It was soon after his capture, that all of the Masons in the camp were gathered up and moved together into a separate barrack where, thanks to the Masons of the local area, they also had somewhat of a plentiful and better diet than did the other prisoners.

Being known as “The White Apron Men” as the Freemasons were often referred to in those days, were known to remain true to their Promises, they were allowed the liberty of roaming about the camp based solely on their word to not attempt escape. On one occasion a Mason was approached by a non-Mason who stated that he and his friend were very hungry, not having eaten in three days.

Without comment, he walked on, but in the afternoon he again spotted the man, and without saying a word to him, dropped a package at his feet. When the man opened it, he saw food and drink, plentiful enough for both he and his friend to nourish them.

After the war, one of those men wrote,

I was not a Mason during the war, but what I observed of the compassionate ways of the Masons, I was induced to join this beneficent order, and I was made a Mason in 1866.  I vowed to pattern my conduct by what I had there observed, especially of how they truly cared for each other.  Those Masons were treated with respect, and they were trusted based on their integrity of character.

He went on to say that it was just as well that he had not been a Mason at that time. Not being bound to such a promise, he was able to escape and made his way to safety.

These 3 stories are from the Heredom Series of books produced by the Scottish Rite Research Society.

officers in the civil warIn my web searches and from my private library, I also found several interesting accounts of Masonic compassion being demonstrated during that War.  One story was of an Alabama Artillery group, who were resting from a hard fought battle during the day prior that had lasted into to the late night hours, several being killed or wounded. After traveling to a field on the edge of a thicket of trees, they having assumed it to be a fairly safe place to rest and refresh them selves for the next battle.

The surviving men were exhausted and some fell into a deep sleep, while others engaged themselves in conversations, some inspecting their weapons and ammunition supplies, while yet others were attending the wounded.

A Corporal lay back against the trunk of an old pine tree, watching a flock of birds overhead while contemplating his thoughts of how he would prefer death, rather than being incarcerated in a Yankee prison camp, and at the same time admiring the Navy Colt pistol he had taken from the dead body of a Union Captain during the last battle.

He caught a glimpse of a reflection among the trees that he believed might a weapon.  Now being of the highest rank, since the Commissioned Officer had been killed in the last battle, he called out to the men, “To your guns boys, git ready.”

He silently prayed;

Thou Oh God, know our down sittings and our uprisings, and understand our thoughts from afar off, shield and defend us from the evil intent of our enemies.

He grimaced in pain as he arose from the scaly bark of that old pine tree. He had been wounded twice in previous battles, the first time by a painful flesh wound to a leg, and the other by a piece of shrapnel from an exploded shell that hit him in the chest, knocking from his feet. When he finally looked at the wound he saw a jagged gash extending from the nipple to the collar bone.

He refused a hospital stay, choosing to remain with his comrades and within his duties as a soldier.

The Corporal again patted the Colt pistol in his waist band with assurance that he would do better with it, rather than with a heavy rifle. As he arose he looked with pride at the Masonic ring his father, now his Masonic Brother, had presented to him when he was made a Master Mason.  He again called out to the troops, “Prepare for battle.”

He was suddenly confronted by a Yankee Lieutenant who from the tree line had noted what he perceived to be, a much weakened condition of the Corporal, and was apparently intent on capturing him alive if possible.  They were now bound together in a death grip, both men showing unbelievable strength.

There’s probably no greater human horror than to be locked together with a person whom you know will kill you, if you don’t kill him first. “To kill or be killed” was a simple and familiar saying; but to actually be in that situation gave it much more meaning.

He was struggling to get to the Colt pistol, but being so tightly bound body to body, it was impossible.  He somehow garnered a moment of extra strength, and as he pushed on the Lieutenant’s chest, he caught sight of a Masonic emblem, and without hesitation he muttered sounds into the ear of what he now believed to be a brother Mason. On the Lieutenant’s hearing the sounds, the death grip quickly became a brotherly embrace, both men now with tears in their eyes, for what could have resulted had not the discovery been made.

Another interesting story was of two opposing Generals, John Gordon of the Confederate Army and Francis Barlow of the Union Army.  During a raging battle, General Gordon was crossing the bloodied field of battle, where he came upon General Barlow who had just received what was assumed to be a mortal wound.  Even though the fierce battle was continuing all around them, Gordon took the time to show compassion for a fallen brother.  He gave Barlow a drink of water and inquired as to what he might do for him.  Barlow asked him to write a letter to his wife, which he dictated the words of his supposed, impending death.

Upon receipt of the letter his Lady traveled to retrieve his remains, but by then he had received medical care and was recovering to fight again. Several years later these two men met in Washington, D.C., both having assumed that the other had died during the war.

They enjoyed Masonic fellowship, sharing brotherly love and affection while remembering their many experiences. Their close friendship and brotherly love continued until death.

The practice of brotherly love, friendship and morality were also demonstrated in lesser famous military actions.  In 1863, gun boats including the Albatross, were shelling a small Military port near Mandeville, Louisiana. The Captain of the Albatross was J. E. Hart who had been made a Mason in a Lodge in New York. This Brother had been suffering with pain, fever and delirium for several days, and during that ongoing battle, to ease his misery, he shot himself in the head, taking his own life.

A friend and Masonic Brother assumed command, and with much grief for the loss, he under a flag of truce, went onto land among those troops they had just been shelling, to inquire of any Masons among the troops and in the town.  He asked them to assist him in the performing of Masonic Last Rites for a fallen brother.  And whether it would have been considered proper or not, they gave him a most impressive Masonic Funeral.  His remains were ceremoniously interned to their long home.

The Masons of the area placed a marker at the head of the grave, with the Masonic Square and Compasses most prominent, in honor of this departed Brother.

There are many reasons why freemasonry, more than any other fraternal organizations, has survived and thrived throughout the ages.  Our tenants and devotions to them have made this possible.  Our rules and customs have encourages us to show kindness and compassion for others, without expectations of anything in return.

The mental structure of which our Ancient and Honorable Craft is constructed, transcends all that would most likely cause a division among non-Masons.

We must live by our Masonic teachings and our values while looking to the inner goodness of a man, rather that that of the outer appearances, or any other distinctions. We must show love and compassion, assist the needy, lift up the downtrodden and spread Masonic love toward all of God’s people, without regards for ones religious faith, political leanings or any other personal differences that are of no business of our Fraternity, then we will have become the Masons we so desire to be.

These acts of brotherly love and compassion as mentioned herein, are just a few examples of how we Freemasons have demonstrated our devotions to the teachings of our Symbolic Craft, in wars as well as in times of peace.

May we, by use of the symbolism of the Masonic trowel, continue the spreading of that cement which units us into one common band of brothers and fellows, and may it some day become common among all good people throughout the world.  Let the love and caring we share as Masonic Brothers never cease; and may it always be most predominate.  May every moral and social virtue continue to bind us as a Masonic Fraternity of  friends and brothers, with a spirit of charity imbedded in our hearts, much so as it was so well demonstrated by our Masonic Brothers, during that Civil War.

May love and compassion continue be observed by we Masons for the world to see, and hopefully it will someday be emulated by all of mankind around the world.  And may these practices of love among mankind forever be observed.

Amen and so mote it be.

This piece comes to us from Brother W. B. Paul Weathers from Arizona. Br. Weathers was initiated, past and raised in the now defunct William Whiting Lodge in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He has been a member of Oasis Lodge #52 in Tucson, AZ for many years and is affiliated with the Grand Lodge of China (Valley of Taipei, Orient of Taiwan) under the Scottish Rite. He is a two term Past Master, Cryptic Mason/York Rite, member of the Scottish Rite Research Society, Eastern Star, Sabbar Shrine, High Twelve and the Sojourners. Active with the Grand Lodge of Arizona, Br. Weathers also manages a chest of medical assist devices for the elderly and needy and organizes a quarterly outing for Masonic widows and elderly couples.


Interested in contributing a piece to the Sojourners? Read our submission guidelines here.

A Secret History of the Civil War

The origins of the Knights of the Golden Circle can be traced to Cincinnati con man George Bickley.

The origins of the Knights of the Golden Circle can be traced to Cincinnati con man George Bickley.

University of Cincinnati Civil War historian, Mark Lause, has a new book out titled A Secret Society History of the Civil War (University of Illinois Press). It’s a look at secret societies (societies similar to the Freemasons) that were active in the years leading up to and during the Civil War.


That secret society, the Knights of the Golden Circle, was the brainchild of a Cincinnati con man named George Bickley. He fund-raised for the group here in Cincinnati before the Civil War and envisioned it as a para-military organization. During the war, he offered the services of the Knights to the Confederacy, suggesting the organization could work as a fifth column among the North’s civilian population.

Explained Lause, UC professor of history,

The Confederates turned Bickley down, but the South did have a secret service that was active in the North during the war. The United States government was convinced the Knights of the Golden Circle were a big part of this Confederate secret service and spent resources tracking down the organization. However, it wasn’t the case, since the Knights and their numbers were greatly inflated by Bickley.

While the Knights were never actually a fifth-column force in terms of numbers, they and their ideas are thought to have influenced John Wilkes Booth, the stage actor who assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Said Lause,

John Wilkes Booth is thought to have been either a member or sympathizer with the Knights of the Golden Circle who were in Baltimore at that time. A man named George Sanders, who was a member of the Confederate secret service, was reputed to have been Booth’s contact via the group. And Sanders was a member of another secret society that advocated assassination.

Depiction of an initiation ceremony of the Knights of the Golden Circle.

Depiction of an initiation ceremony of the Knights of the Golden Circle.


On the other hand, some secret societies of the era, like the Prince Hall Masons, played a role in beginning and then sustaining the Underground Railroad.

In general, you can think of secret societies as umbrella organizations for those who want to break existing laws for what they believe are patriotic reasons,

said Lause.

On one side, there are groups like the Knights of the Golden Circle. On the other side, there are groups like the Prince Hall Masons.

The membership of the Prince Hall Masons was comprised of African-Americans, both free men and slaves. The order was founded by a black veteran of the American Revolution, and its purpose was to oppose the legal, social and cultural repression of blacks. “This group was the tap root that became the Underground Railroad, he stated.

A Secret Society History of the Civil War by by Mark A. Lause

A Secret Society History of the Civil War by by Mark A. Lause

Interestingly, the Louisville, Ky., chapter of the group held its meetings in New Albany, Ind. Said Lause:

Because slaves were members along with middle-class, free blacks, the group routinely rowed across the Ohio River in secret in order to safely hold meetings in a free state.


Founded in 1848, this U.S. secret society (NOT named for “Union” in Civil War terms) was loosely tied to other such societies in Europe. It pursued an anti-slavery agenda. In fact, members of the Brotherhood of the Union in Milwaukee, Wisc., are known to have taken civil disobedience so far as to successfully storm the local jail in order to free a runaway slave who had been captured and incarcerated under the Federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.


Price’s Lost Campaign: The 1864 Invasion of Missouri (Shades of Blue & Gray), (University of Missouri Press), another new book by Lause, tells of a border-state military campaign that both the Union and the Confederacy wanted to forget even before it was over.

The Confederate campaign referred to in the title was initially begun to capture St. Louis and Jefferson City (the capital of Missouri). It quickly degenerated, bringing little credit to either side. As such, the available historical record – participant and eyewitness accounts, military records and newspaper accounts – have been little studied until now.

In studying that record, Lause interprets why St. Louis was never actually invaded — even though the forces commanded by Confederate Gen. Sterling Price greatly outnumbered Union army forces (commanded by Cincinnati industrialist Union General William Rosencrans) in the state and even though Price came to within 30 miles of the city.

According to Lause, there are important reasons Price, in the end, did not invade St. Louis even though newspapers in the city were openly publishing information about how few Union army forces were in the city to defend it – information that Confederate informants in the city would have shared with Price.

The city’s civilians would no doubt have taken up arms and transformed the fight from a “battle” between armies into high-casualty, building-by-building , street-by-street guerrilla war.

Why? Because they absolutely had nothing to lose, said Lause. For the population in Missouri, if a Union occupation was considered bad, a Confederate occupation was considered far worse. In the two-month campaign, the forces under Price engaged in ethnic cleansing as they passed through towns and territory: Brutalizing and killing blacks, German immigrants, Catholics, prisoners of war and anyone else who might be sympathetic to the Union cause.

Price actually tried to put a stop to the ethnic cleansing, but many of his forces were originally from the region. They felt disenfranchised and were determined to settle the score. They were already killing civilians and literally leaving the bodies out for hogs to eat. The German population in St. Louis knew what they faced and would have made it extremely expensive – if not impossible – in terms of casualties for the Confederates.

Another reason the Confederates did not invade St. Louis: They had suffered grim casualties in the two battles of the campaign. In the battle of Pilot Knob, about 1,400 local blacks, local militia and some Union Army forces fought about 8,000 Confederate troops, with the Confederates suffering “ghastly losses,” according to Lause, even though the pro-Union forces, in the end, gave up ground. In the subsequent Battle of Leasburg, pro-Union forces refused a demand to surrender and were able to hold off the Confederate forces.

More Masonic History.

kkk, history, texas, freemasonry

Freemasonry’s Connection With The Knights Of The Golden Circle

Phoenixmasonry records on its website the existence of a White Supremacist organization with Masonic influence called Knights of the Golden Circle.

The Knights of the Golden Circle was a Texas-based secret society. Their objective was to create a confederation of slave-holding states in parts of Mexico and the West Indies, extending slavery; the group’s plan thus mirrored the objectives of secession, a cause they actively supported during the Civil War. Legend has it that they hid the fabled confederate gold allegedly sent off for safe keeping as the waning days of the war. Others have linked them to the KKK.

At the link below is a fascinating history of the KGC and the historical context, it is after all subtitled “A History of Secession from 1834 to 1861.” It was written by a member of the order and published in 1861. The rituals and degree structure described in this book clearly indicate the influence of Freemasonry; whether it was founded by men who happened to be Masons is unclear, as Freemasonry is not mentioned in the text. (1)

“A History of Secession from 1834 to 1861”


Knights of Pythias

Knights of Pythias, Brownwood, 1903. Back row center, with his hat removed and held across his left shoulder, is Henry Ford—founder of the Knights of Pythias Command in Brownwood, Texas. Ford was KPs first Chancellor, the county clerk and a local bank owner with two others.

Few people know of the Knights of the Golden Circle and even fewer know about the purpose for which it existed. It is probably the greatest untold story today in the history of the United States. That is unusual because during the last century this very large, powerful, secret and subversive southern organization had such a profound influence and effect over the course of many years that they almost succeeded in changing the course of our history.

It has been said of them that they were one of the deadliest, wealthiest, most secretive and subversive spy and underground organizations in the history of the world. It is known that they operated not only in the United States, but also around the glove for 65 years (1851 to 1916). Also, that the original Ku Klux Klan was their military arm. Some of the finest and craftiest brains in the South helped organize and direct the activities of the Knights of the Golden Circle. The group was heavy on ritual, most of which was borrowed from the Masonic Lodge and later from the Knights of Pythias. Some were also members of the Rosicrucians. Their wealth was due to the huge amount of money, valuables and equipment that they had accumulated for the purpose of restarting the Civil War.

So, you might wonder then if that is true, why haven’t we read about them in our history books or heard them mentioned in our schools before? That is a hard question to answer, but maybe because they were such devout, die-hard, southern rebels, working for a southern cause that was eventually defeated and one that is not popular today. However, the fact remains that since they did exist and were a very large and powerful organization for many years, I think that their story should be known today.

But during the 1800’s, many stories and articles did appear about the Knights of the Golden Circle in many newspapers, magazines and periodicals, before, during, and after the Civil War. But somehow, these stories have been overlooked or purposely omitted from our modern-day history books. So, who were the Knights of the Golden Circle and what was their purpose?

Origins of the Knights of the Golden Circle

Actually, their beginning goes back to a long period before the Civil War when our young nation was reaching out for more territory. They were part of the overall imperialist’s movement to expand out borders westward, even though they had not officially taken on the name of the Knights of the Golden Circle. Then, when the issue of slavery began to divide the sentiments of our country, they started to support the Southern states in trying to keep slavery alive because most of them were Southerners. As the issue of slavery finally divided the Union and the Civil War began, they became ardent supporters of the southern cause. This is when the organization became secret and went underground in their efforts to aid the Confederacy. Since they were considered subversive, that is why they became a secret organization. President Lincoln once referred to their very effective efforts against the North, as a “Fifth Column.” That could have been the origin of the term.

Then, after the war was over, they refused to accept the terms of the southern surrender. They had been working diligently for many years to accomplish their goals and were not about to give them up. They had too much momentum going. Also, they were still bitter over the issue of slavery and of not establishing a Confederate nation independent from the northern states. This is when they went underground with a strongly determined and clandestine, even bizarre, plan to eventually restart the Civil War at a later time.(2)


Knights Of The Golden CircleShortly before the Civil War began, the state of Texas was the greatest source of this organization’s strength. Texas was home for at least thirty-two K.G.C. castles in twenty-seven counties, including the towns of San Antonio, Marshall, Canton, and Castroville. Evidence suggests that San Antonio may have served as the organization’s national headquarters for a time.

The South began to secede from the Union in January 1861, and in February of that year, seven seceding states ratified the Confederate Constitution and named Jefferson Davis as provisional president. The Knights of the Golden Circle became the first and most powerful ally of the newly-created Confederate States ofAmerica.

Before the Civil War officially started on April 12, 1861, when shots were fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, and before Texas had held its election on the secession referendum on February 23, 1861, Texas volunteer forces, which included 150 K.G.C. soldiers under the command of Col. Ben McCulloch, forced the surrender of the federal arsenal at San Antonio that was under the command of Bvt. Maj. Gen. David E. Twiggs on February 15, 1861. Knights of the Golden Circle who were involved in this mission included Capt. Trevanion Teel, Sgt. R. H. Williams, John Robert Baylor, and Sgt. Morgan Wolfe Merrick. Following this quick victory, volunteers who were mostly from K.G.C. companies, forced the surrender of all federal posts between San Antonio and El Paso.

Perhaps the best documentation as to the power and influence of the Knights of the Golden Circle during the Civil War is The Private Journal and Diary of John H. Surratt, The Conspirator which was written by John Harrison Surratt and later edited by Dion Haco and published by Frederic A. Brady of New York in 1866. In this journal, Surratt goes into great detail when describing how he was introduced to the K.G.C. in the summer of 1860 by another Knight, John Wilkes Booth, and inducted into this mysterious organization on July 2, 1860, at a castle in Baltimore,Maryland. Surratt describes the elaborate and secret induction ceremony and its rituals and tells that cabinet members, congressmen, judges, actors, and other politicians were in attendance. Maybe the most significant revelation of Surratt’s diary is that the Knights of the Golden Circle began plotting to kidnap Abraham Lincoln in 1860, before Lincoln was even inaugurated in 1861, and continued throughout the Civil War, resulting in President Lincoln’s assassination by fellow Knight Booth on April 14, 1865.

After trying unsuccessfully to peacefully resolve the conflicts between North and South, the Knights of the Golden Circle threw its full support behind the newly-created Confederate States of America and added its trained military men to the Confederate States Army. Several Confederate military groups during the Civil War were composed either totally or in large part of members of the Knights of theGolden Circle. One notable example of K.G.C. military participation in the Civil War included the Confederate’s Western Expansion Movement of 1861 and 1862 led by Lt. Col. John Robert Baylor and Gen. Henry Hopkins Sibley.

In 1861 Albert Pike travelled to Indian Territory and negotiated an alliance with Cherokee Chief Stand Watie. Prior to the beginning of hostilities, Pike helped Watie to become a Thirty-second Degree Scottish Rite Mason. Watie was also in the K.G.C., and he was later commissioned a colonel in command of the First Regiment of Cherokee Mounted Rifles. In May 1864 Chief Watie was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate States Army making him the only Native American of this rank in the Confederate Army. Watie’s command was to serve under CSA officers Albert Pike, Benjamin McCulloch, Thomas Hindman, and Sterling Price. They fought in engagements in Indian Territory, Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri.

One of the most feared organizations of all Confederates, whose members were in large part Knights of the Golden Circle, was what was called Quantrill’s Guerrillas or Quantrill’s Raiders. The Missouri-based band was formed in December 1861 by William Clark Quantrill and originally consisted of only ten men who were determined to right the wrongs done to Missourians by Union occupational soldiers. Their mortal enemies were the Kansas Jayhawkers and the Red Legs who were the plague of Missouri. As the war raged on in Missouri and neighboring states, Quantrill’s band attracted hundreds more men into its ranks. Quantrill’s Guerrillas became an official arm of the Confederate Army after May 1862, when the Confederate Congress approved the Partisan Ranger Act. Other leaders of Quantrill’s Guerrillas included William C. “Bloody Bill” Anderson, David Pool, William Gregg, and George Todd. Some of the major engagements this deadly guerrilla force participated in included the Lawrence, Kansas, raid on August 21, 1863, the battle near Baxter Springs, Kansas, in October 1863, and two battles at and near Centralia in Missouri in September of 1864. The bulk of Quantrill’s band wintered in Grayson County, Texas, from 1861 through 1864. (3)

From “A History of Secession from 1834 to 1861” comes this insight into the rituals of The Knights of the Golden Circle. This entire work is rather lengthy but very revealing and is available in full on Phoenixmasonry.

I will now give you the signs, grips, password, and token of the First Degree of the K. C. G. (Of course a misprint for K. G. C.)

This Dcgree has a name, which I may now give you—it is the ” I,” (Knight of the Iron Hand.) The first great sign of the…

Order is thus made, 7, (Hands open, palms touching and resting on the top or the head, fingers pointed upwards). The answer to this is 8 (open hands touching shoulder where epaulettes are worn ; elbows close to the side).

These are battle-field signs, and are not to be used under ordinary circumstances. The common sign of recognition is 9 (right forefinger drawn across upper lip under nose, as if rubbing). The answer 10, (with forefinger and thumb of left hand take hold of’ left ear).

To gain admission to a Lorking Castle, or the room of any K. G. C., give 11 (one distinct rap) at the door, The Sentinel on duty will then raise the wicket and demand the countersign, which is 12, (SOLDIERS, always lettered except at Castle door.) You will then pass to the center of the room and give the true sign of the K. G. C.; it is 13. (left hand on heart; right hand raised) This will be recognized by a bow from the Captain, when you will at once take your seat. The sign of assent is 14, (both hands up) of dissent 15, (one hand tip) the grip is 16, (press with thumb one inch above second knuckle) the token 17, (Golden Circle encasing block bands closed on scroll : the whole to be the size of a dime)

Every member may wear the sign of his degree.

And now, reader, yon know as much about the signs, grips, tokens, &c., of the Knights of the Golden Circle as they themselves do. We may here remark that the initiation fee for the First Degree is one dollar, for the Second five dollars, for the Third ten.

From the Second or Financial Degree we need give but little.

The following is the closing part of the initiation:

Captain. The head quarters of this organization are at 23, (Monterey) where most of the stores and munitions are deposited. The Financial Head quarters are at —; Col. N. J.Scott is at present Financial Chairman.



Captain. I shall now give you the unwritten parts of this work, and I trust you will be careful in its use. If a general war ensues, we shall dispense with the First Degree, and rely on this and the Third.

Name—18 (True Faith) sign—25 (fore finger and thumb of right hands joined, while with thc rest of the hand upon the right eye is touching with the middle finger,) answer—26 (same with left hand and left eye) password 27 (Monterey) night word of distress-32 (St Mary) response-3I and say 5 (grasp by wrist and say Rio Grande) emblem—28 (gold circle encasing Greek cross, in center of which is star) This is the 29 (key) to our 30 (secret alphabet) use of 33 (K. G. C.) 56 (Gcorge ley) guard sign 28 (gold circle encasing Greek CROSS, in center of which is a star) silence 25 (forefinger and thumb of right hand joined, while with the rest of the hand open the right, eye left is touching on middle finger) on lips; danger—right—same with and now it remains for us to give the Ritual of the Third Degree, which, as being the most importaut, we shall publish almost entire. We have not the time or space for commenting on it now.

Every citizen can judge of it for himself: The Roman Catholics and the foreign born population will see how they are proscribed by this mysterious Order ; this central and guiding power of the secession and disunion party. All will see, too, that the Order declares for a Monarchy, a Limited Monarchy,  as they call it, until all their purposes in regard to Mexico shall have been accomplished, and we need not suggest how bricf will be the period within which, if they get their Limited Monarchy, they will make it an Absolute Monarchy.


(Knights Of the Columbian Star)

INSTRUCTIONS: Officers of the Council shall be a Governor and a Secretary. Every 57 (Knight of the Columbian Star) is qualified to act in either capacity.

Qualifications for Membership.

Candidate must be familiar with the work of the two former Degrees ; must have been born in 58 (a Slave State), or if in 59 (a Free State) he must be a citizen; 60 (a Protestant) and 61 (a Slaveholder). A candidate who was horn in 58 (a Slave State) need not be 61 (a Slaveholder) provided he can give 62 (Evidences of character as a Southern man).

Object: To form a council for the 33 (K. G. C.) and to organize 63 (a government) for 2 (Mexico.) No 57 (Knight of the Columbian Star) shall admit, except to a brother 57, that he has this Degree, for reasons that will hereafter appear. Any two 57s84 RITUAL OF THE can confer the degree on others, the oldest 57 acting as Governor.

Although it is pure conjecture one has to wonder whether present day Southern Freemasonry’s objection to recognizing Prince Hall, its insistence on being a White, Christian only Fraternity as exemplified by the recent religious rulings of the Mainstream Grand Lodge of Florida, has a direct correlation in the teachings of The Knights of the Golden Circle and other White Supremacist organizations being passed down from father to son, generation after generation.

(1) Phoenixmasonry –

(2) Knights Of The Golden –

(3) Knights of the Golden Circle –

(4) “A History of Secession from 1834 to 1861”

muse, faith, hope, charity

Something To Die For

What Can Freemasonry Do For You?

A friend stopped by to visit with me the other day. He is a non Mason and a man of deep faith. Eventually the topic got around to Freemasonry and he asked me why I needed another church as he knew I was quite active in mine.  Now I have been aware for quite some time that there is always this tendency to classify Freemasonry as a religion and then critique or judge it on those grounds. Of course I protested vehemently that Freemasonry was not a religion and didn’t pretend to be one.

muse, faith, hope, charity“Just the same,” he said, “even if I grant your point that Freemasonry is not a religion, what can it do for you that your church cannot do or is not already doing?” Now I muddled through with various platitudes spiced with an equal amount of protestations but I felt that I was continually on the defensive.

In the days since I have had time for reflection on the subject and I am now ready to take the offense. What is Freemasonry doing for me?

I started by looking at the tenets of Freemasonry – Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

Practicing Freemasonry is a pursuit of knowledge in a moral context, always seeking that which was lost, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Organized religion is likewise in a similar pursuit of truth – revealed truth that will put the seeker in a right relationship with the Grand Architect of the Universe. Freemasonry incorporates religious activity in its practice and most Masons would tell you that religion incorporates Freemasonry in its practice. While Freemasonry concentrates on the here and know, organized religion concentrates more on what’s to come.  Yet they both offer a pathway to the good life. So it wasn’t here that I could find my answer.

Freemasonry preaches charity to all mankind without expecting anything in return.  So does organized religion. The missions of my church in relieving pain and suffering and abject poverty are well documented. My answer was not to be found here either.

Freemasonry celebrates the tight bonding that comes from practiced camaraderie and my church offers a similar fellowship in the faith. It seems as if I had struck out.  But upon further reflection the camaraderie/fellowship thing just didn’t seem to be interchangeable.

In my entire life outside of Freemasonry and excluding my family, I have met one person, one friend who I am so close to that I would die for and he would willingly give up his life for me. Actually to classify that kind of a relationship as friendship is not doing justice to the bond that has been formed. Soul-mates might be a better word but it is most often used in a committed male-female relationship. But in this relationship that you would die for, you are close to being one person.  You know what each other is thinking, you know what the other wants often before it is asked and you never hesitate to rise to the other’s needs. It’s a oneness that brings with it much joy and much sharing of life’s ups and downs.

Within Freemasonry I have six additional friends I would die for and a couple of dozen more, if the association could be more often, would develop into such. But nowhere else has any other organization, society, group, institution or association spawned a kind of closeness that seems to be a vital part of what that organization offers, as Freemasonry has.

Fellowship in church is a shared activity centering on a relationship with God. Personal connections within that faith observance can be strong bonds – but of appreciation of mutual commitment rather than two humans merging or melting into one. There is a difference in being close to someone in the flesh and being close to someone in faith. They are two different experiences. Only the relationship with God transcends either.

But the stronger human to human relationship is that which is found in Freemasonry. As my mother used to say, “The proof is in the pudding.”  You will find in the great Masonic book, House Undivided, by Allen Roberts that during the Civil War, the most difficult time in the history of our nation, this ugly conflict sometimes split families into two warring camps; that it split churches into two warring camps but it didn’t divide Freemasonry. A Confederate Freemason and a Union Freemason still held that strong bond of camaraderie and love for each other even on the battlefield.

Therefore I conclude that Freemasonry offers to me the most deep rooted relationships, outside that bonding with God and family, which I can obtain nowhere else. And that is something not only to die for but to live life at its fullest for.

When the better angels of our nature prevail

How difficult is it to imagine two enemy combatants coming face to face on a smoke swept battle field, deep animosity boiling within towards one another, such that minutes before both exchanged volleys of gunfire at one another in the hopes of ending the others life with prejudice.

And then, as if struck by a lightening bolt from the heavens, the bitterness and drive that had sought to make one the survivor and the other a casualty of the brutal warring between them dissolves; amidst the strum and drang around them they find themselves able to meet on a level that transcends the uniforms they are covered with and sides they hold allegiance to.  The lightening strike that they are struck by comes as if from a divine power, an instant transcendence from their brutal human nature such that this divine bolt strikes and with such a force brings them both to a level that neither can truly fathom from the brutality that they are surrounded by.  The two men are transcended from the barbaric engines fueled by the nature to win into the better angels of their nature.

From the bolt that struck them, they realize that they are family.  More specifically, that they’re Brothers.

better_angels_of_our_natureMichael Halleran (better known around here as aude vide tace) explores just this transcendence of our nature in his forth coming book Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War.  Br. Halleran’s approach in this book is not another reexamination of fraternal lore, instead he explores the evidence, providing a critical examination of Masonry in the armies of both North and South, illuminating how Masonic fraterniza­tion worked in practice on both sides of the line.

And, by his own admission, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War, is the first academic study of Masonry’s role in the War Between the States.

Why this is important makes for an interesting story.  Several months back I had the opportunity to sit in a presentation given by Brother Halleran on the subject and was enthralled at the stories that he described of two enemy combatants who, upon realizing they were brothers, did what they could to exercise their mystical tie.

From the evidence in the book, the tales that take shape include the

Confederate GeneralL Lewis A. Armistead

Confederate GeneralL Lewis A. Armistead

extraordinary funeral of Lt. Commander John E. Hart to the oft-told legend of the death of Confederate General Lewis A. Armistead at Gettysburg.  Throughout Better Angels examines primary source material to determine and construct what actually occurred.  Other areas that Brother Halleran examines are Masonry in regimental lodges, among prisoners of war, and Masonry in battle.

At its heart, Better Angels details the response of the fraternity to America’s greatest calamity, documenting in many instances the war was not only one of brother against brother, but of Brother against Brother.

Having had the opportunity to see Br. Halleran’s presentation and witness first hand his evidence consisting of images of soldiers, their masonic ephemera, and the degree to which these soldiers held Masonry to the heart, it became apparent to me that truly the better angels of their natures prevailed.


In the months leading up to his extraordinary book being released, you can find a sneak peek on his publishers website at Alabama University Press and on Br. Michael’s own website at

Look for it to hit the shelves mid March of 2010.

Masonic Research and the Pig-Stealing Deserter

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last five years researching both Masonry and the American Civil War, as well as the intersection of those two subjects, and that is why my blog posts have been less frequent of late. Currently, I am in the middle of the final edit for my book on that subject which will be published in early 2010 by the University of Alabama Press and it’s time-consuming work. I had been thinking about Civil War Masonry since I was raised, but it wasn’t until I began looking for Civil War ancestors here at home that the work really started to take shape. In fact, it was over dinner one night some years back that my wife shared an interesting tidbit that got the whole thing rolling. Her great great grandfather, she announced, died in 1863 in “Chimichanga, Georgia,” which made me pause with my fork in mid-air.


“That could have been it,” she said blandly, eating her peas.

halleran-cummingsMy wife has no interest what-so-ever in history, but historically minded folks will recognize the homophone as a reference to the Battle of Chickamauga that occurred in north Georgia on September 19-20, 1863. To suggest to a Civil War geek like me, that someone died within 20 miles of that place in 1863 is the same as saying – yeah, my grandfather worked in a schoolbook warehouse in Dallas in 1963.  So I told her that there were a lot of people who died in Chickamauga, Georgia in 1863 and most of them died from lead poisoning.

I hurriedly finished my peas, and got out the family papers. Sure enough, we found the reference to Chickamauga, and that led to a record’s request to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and some correspondence with the Indiana Historical Society, among others. I think my frau would have been content to just let her great great grandfather rest in peace with his burrito, but by that point I was committed.

Men and women seem to go about genealogy differently. From what I can tell there are two main areas of interest for chick-genealogy. The first going something like this; “What diseases did my grandmothers die of and do I carry the gene for female baldness?” Every genealogy I’ve ever looked at that was compiled by a female described the diseases, maladies, and medical complaints of the ancestor more thoroughly than a coroner’s report. And hers was no exception; that thing was filled with more tumors, lesions, goiters and leprosy than a field dressing station along the Burma Railway in 1942– it’s enough to make you retch.The only thing missing was a tissue sample.

The other interest females invariably have is kind of a scrapbook thingy where they can read old newspaper clippings about what kind of dress the bride wore and paste it all pretty-like in a photo album. So when you’re poring over these things, you’ll come across pressed flowers and scraps of material and old social notices from the Mudburgh, Iowa News Advertiser about the soiree over at Lorraine Hudson née Klingenhoffer’s where the band played until the wee hours of the morning.

This is, of course, vastly different from what guys are interested in – namely, “Did my great-grandfather save the Union by shooting Braxton Bragg in the left nut?” And of course that inquiry carries with it some risk, because although you are unlikely to discover that your Grandfather was awarded three Medals of Honor (you’d already know that), you could find some cool stuff like maybe he was in Pickett’s Charge or something, but you might also just find the eerie line in the official record “Shot for Cowardice” written by some clerk in a spidery hand at regimental headquarters, or “Stole a pig: deserted.”

Probably the best possible outcome is to find out that he was wounded in battle somewhere – accidental shootings don’t count and just leave the impression that the whole family is a collection of idiots. Killed in action is morbidly acceptable, because at least that means he was in the thick of things and aiming at Braxton Bragg’s family jewels, before a crafty sharpshooter cut short the life of a hero. If they survived the war and didn’t come away with a cool eye patch or a wooden leg or something, it’s still OK, but it’s better if they wrote a lot of letters and described desperate bayonet fights among the harried rear guard, or catching a spy or something. Outlawry is acceptable too, but only during wartime and only against the enemy.

You can also check and see if they were Masons. The Grand Lodges maintain detailed records of membership, and they are always a great place to start. You’ll need their full name and the approximate year of birth to determine when they would have been eligible to join. Back then, barring something odd, a man had to be twenty-one to be initiated. Dates of death are also very useful and many families noted those down, so even if you don’t know where the grave-site is, you can often determine the year, if not the exact date of death.

Obituaries, which often survive among the scraps of material and pressed flowers are a big help in this, and also in determining Masonic affiliation because they will generally note if Masonic funeral rites were performed. The better ones will list the lodge name and number. Even if you confirm your ancestor’s Masonic pedigree, you might not find a lot from Grand Lodge unless the Mason was active in lodge. But in genealogy, something is always better than nothing.

If this spurs you on to finding the paladin, or the pig-stealing deserter, in your own family, a few things might help.

For starters, I’d look for letters or death certificates that place them in a particular location on a concrete date. If you can determine that the guy was in, for example, Georgia in 1863 and if he was military age, you’ve got a damn good chance of having either a potential Hero of the Union (or Confederacy, as they case may be) or the bane of swineherds everywhere. Birth and death records are hard to find if the family copies are lost, but they are the baseline – if you find them, you have your ancestor right where you want him — pinned down to time and place and then you can expand your search to government, Masonic and church records. When you finally nail down that the guy was a soldier, NARA will search their enormous collection and find the enlistment records for you for free. You’ll even get a physical description, wooden leg and all.

If you find his apron – let me know.

Originally published under audevidetace