Freemasonry During the Civil War: Acts of Treason? Part Two
Submitted by Illustrious Companion Kevin A. Wheeler, District Inspector 4th District, Grand Council of Illinois
IC Kevin A. Wheeler
The first portion of this research paper deals with all the information regarding Freemasons during the Civil War Era, to include identifying many situations where the Masons impacted all aspects of the war, from the presidency to Congress to the front lines. I will do this by conducting a data analysis collected through books, and research articles, and the use of Masonic Journals via the Philalethes Society; a Masonic Research Organization. The second portion of this research paper will explore the evidence that suggests that Masons on both the Confederate and Union Armies committed treason when assisting each other throughout the Civil War. Given that they were enemies on opposing sides, the question becomes, why those treasonous acts were never prosecuted, nor ever mentioned as such by a court of law.
There is tremendous evidence from various articles collected from the Internet, as well as periodicals from the Philalethes Society, and books written by both Masons and non-Masons alike. These articles depict multiple situations throughout the Civil War that involve Freemasonry and the impact it had on the events that occurred before, during, and after the war. Such evidence suggests that treason was in fact committed many times by Masons by way of aiding a fellow brother Masons in one form or another. One example of a treasonous act involves a Mason who was a Confederate Surgeon who tended to the wounds of a Mason in the Union Army following the Battle of Bull Run, where all other Confederate Surgeons ignored him. (Howey, ND) In the same article written by Howey (ND), the suggestion of treason is more strongly presented where we are introduced to the story of L.J. Williams a Fellowcraft Mason who was a Union Soldier that was in a Confederate Prison Camp, and let out of prison to receive his Master Mason’s Degree however, he mysteriously escaped prison that very same night.
In article entitled Brotherhood in the Crucible written by Brickman (2010) the author tells of various stories about how Masons during the Civil War were treated differently than other soldiers on either side when discovering that their enemy was a Brother Mason. In addition to the story of L.J. Williams, we learn of an unconfirmed story of how Troops on either side who were Masons that became prisoners were given permission to roam the prison grounds freely. (Brickman, 2010) Brickman (2010) also tells of a story were a Union Officer gave his word as a Mason allowed the opportunity to visit his sick mother. The last case depicts a Confederate Soldier who was imprisoned and afforded to conduct his regular business so long as he promised upon his honor as a Mason to return to Johnson’s Island Prison, which he did. (Brickman, 2010)
All the information regardless of what may have been the truth, as some of the information is unconfirmed it is still overwhelming. After carefully evaluating the information contained throughout these sources I first came to the conclusion that the Government may have ignored these acts of treason, perhaps because those who committed such acts were Masons. However, considering the fact that whenever a supposed or actual act of treason was committed the identities of those who were involved were never discovered; or there was a covered-up, but in any sense it is difficult to prosecute and/or confirm some of the facts.
But to be honest, I probably should not be thinking this way because I am a Freemason who happens to be a former U.S. Marine, and I would hope that such acts of charity to a fellow brother Mason would not be considered to be treason, but rather an honorable act in the eyes of the brotherhood. Putting myself in their place during the Civil War, my feelings would have been, as long as I had not given any secrets or information that can harm my country, or cause the country to lose a battle or worse the war, could assisting a brother Mason in need still, be considered treason? In the one hand, I believe the evidence that I will provide not only suggests, but also can in most cases prove that Masons throughout the Civil War when encountering a brother Mason in a destitute state committed treason. On the other hand, I am glad that these possible acts of treason were not prosecuted. The reason I believe this, is not only because I am a Mason, but also because at the end of the day the Civil War in my opinion was less of a war and more of a fratricidal conflict. (Bennett, 1990) Regardless of what we discover regarding these supposed acts of treason committed by Masons while assisting one another during the Civil War, or if we can choose to reconsider what we view as treason, this research paper will evaluate the information without making conclusions, and attempt to give valuable information as to the explanation of why these acts should or should not be considered treason.