With Veteran’s Day on Monday, we wanted to take a special look at the men who joined Hiram Lodge No. 7 in 1861 under dispensation. In May 1861, the Grand Master of Masons in Tennessee dispensed with the standard period of instruction to allow men enlisting as soldiers to quickly become Freemasons. James McCullum, Tennessee Grand Master in 1861, stressed that even in war, even across the field of battle the special bond of fraternal Brotherhood remained. It was his hope that being a mason would offer these soldiers protection and comfort through this Brotherhood. While staying true to his patriotic compass, there was still room for a mason to show mercy and grace to his Brothers. This idea was echoed by Grand Lodges in states remaining in the United States of America. The Grand Master of New York declared in May 1861, “While each is true to his sense of public and patriotic duty, on whichever side he may be arrayed, we earnestly urge that he shall also be true to those high and holy teachings inculcated by our order” (John Paul Silva, A History of Hiram Lodge No. 7 (2009), 121).
Freemasonry served important, practical functions for soldiers. Not least was the comfort its rituals offered amidst the turmoil and uncertainty of military life and death. Not surprisingly, traveling lodges sprang up in Confederate and Federal military camps. In his book House Undivided, author Allen E. Roberts identifies 244 traveling military lodges–94 Federal, 150 Confederate–in the Civil War. Soldiers from Texas, Indiana, and Virginia were particularly recognized for their commitment to Freemasonry. (Allen E. Robert, House Undivided: The Story of Freemasonry and the Civil War, 3rd ed. (Richmond: Macoy Pub & Masonic Supply Co., 1996), 106).
Becoming a freemason improved a soldier’s chance for survival in the Civil War, particularly if he was wounded or became a prisoner. William Candice Thompson of the 6th Mississippi Infantry provides an insight into this world. Thompson was wounded in Loring’s advance during the Battle of Franklin. At the hospital in Franklin, he found his brother Arthur, who had been wounded three times and suffered an amputated leg. When the Federal Army retook Franklin in December 1864, William Thompson was sent as a prisoner to Nashville and placed in a hospital, but his brother Arthur remained in Franklin. When he arrived at the Nashville hospital, William was wearing a masonic badge, which immediately caught the eye of one of the hospital members, Phillip H. Grove. Grove too was a mason and immediately took Thompson under his wing. He watched out for Thompson, smuggling him crackers and cheese when he found out he was only getting beef water for sustenance. Grove managed to get Arthur Thompson transferred to Nashville and placed in the same room near William and smuggled him whiskey. When the building caught on fire, Grove assured the Thompsons he would drag both of them to safety if the fire was not extinguished. Ultimately, William Thompson was sent to Louisville. As he left, Grove returned to him his belongings, including $4,000 in Confederate money and a pocket knife, and covered him with a heavy blanket to protect him from the sleet and snow (Rick Warwick, ed., “From the Journal of William Candice Thompson, Sixth Mississippi Loring’s Division Army of Tennessee, Transcribed by Dr. Alfred Crabb in 1954,” in Williamson County Historical Society Journal, No. 37 (Nashville: Panacea Press, 2006), 57-59).
Freemasonry also provided soldiers closure and a cathartic outlet for grief through ritual mourning. Fraternal compassion across lines suggests that Freemason soldiers actively engaged in what historian Drew Gilpin Faust calls “the good death.” According to Faust, the “mystic ties” of Freemasonry linked messmate and unknown enemy. (Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Random House LLC (2008), xiv). The death and burial of Lieutenant John E. Hart epitomizes this idea. Lieutenant Hart of the USS Albatross died on June 11, 1863, while his ship bombarded the Louisiana town of St. Francisville, on the Mississippi River. Hart was a member of St. George’s Lodge No. 6 in Schenectady, NY, and his men knew that he wanted a masonic burial. Two days after his death, the crew of the USS Albatross contacted the Confederates in St. Francisville requesting a masonic burial in the town for John Hart. The Confederates, led in sentiment by officer William Walter Leake, agreed to the request. Two days later, Feliciana Lodge No. 31, which had suspended meetings since the year before, gathered and gave John Hart a masonic burial in Grace Episcopal Church’s burial ground. 136 years later, the lodge still commemorates this burial with a reenactment. (Bill Buell, “Burial of Local Union Naval Officer by Confederate Masons Re-enacted Each Year in Louisiana Town,” From https://dailygazette.com/article/2013/06/01/bur, Accessed 8 Nov. 2019).
In Franklin, the masons of Hiram Lodge No. 7 played their own part in ritual mourning during the Civil War. Lieutenant Thomas J. Bostick of Company I, 10th South Carolina Infantry, died on December 10, 1864 from wounds gained at the Battle of Franklin. In June 1866, Bostick’s body was reburied in the new McGavock Confederate Cemetery. At the request of his masonic lodge in South Carolina, the masons of Hiram Lodge No. 7 conducted a masonic funeral for Thomas Bostick, processing from the Masonic Hall to McGavock Confederate Cemetery. Members of Hiram Lodge No. 7 included die-hard Confederates, undaunted Unionists, and some men who just wanted to stay out of the fray. On June 30, 1866, however, they were more than that–they were Brothers giving another Brother a proper farewell (Franklin Western Weekly Review, 30 June 1866, Williamson County Archives).
We want to share with you the following list of the thirty-three men who joined Hiram Lodge No. 7 under dispensation in 1861. This list comes from Hiram Lodge No. 7’s membership ledger. All thirty-three men joined Confederate units, however, many Williamson County men joined Federal regiments as well, particularly the U.S. Colored Troops.
W.J. Briggs – 55th TN Infantry, Co. A, Quartermaster Sergeant
Burke Bond – 11th TN Cavalry, Co. C, Private
James W. Baber – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D, “Williamson Grays,” Private; Killed in action Nov. 30, 1864 Battle of Franklin
Thomas T. Carl – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D, “Williamson Grays,” Sergeant, promoted to Second Lieutenant; Wounded Oct. 8, 1862 Battle of Perryville
Moscow B. Carter – 20th TN Infantry, Co. H, Captain, promoted to Lieutenant Colonel
Peter W. Crouch – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D, “Williamson Grays,” Private; 7th KY Cavalry, Co. B.; wounded escaping capture, resulting in amputated arm
Sam J. Cook – 47th TN Infantry, Co. B, Private
James R. Hughes – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D., “Williamson Grays,” Private, promoted to Sergeant; wounded in thigh Oct. 8, 1862 Battle of Perryville; shot in face and blinded Nov. 25, 1863 Battle of Missionary Ridge
John O. Merrill – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D., “Williamson Grays,” Private; 11th TN Cavalry; 3rd Battalion, KY Cavalry, Co. E
Robert H. North – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D., “Williamson Grays,” Private
Young Scruggs – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D., “Williamson Grays,” Private; purchased a substitute (Michael O’Neil) May 15, 1863
Carey A. Harris, Jr. – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D., “Williamson Grays,” Brevet Lieutenant, promoted to Second Lieutenant
Mansfield House – 1st Battalion, TN Cavalry (McNairy’s), Co. C, Ordnance Sergeant, promoted to First Lieutenant
Isaac S. House – Surgeon, attached to Col. Pickett’s Regiment of 21st TN Infantry, then 1st Battalion TN Cavalry (McNairy’s)
James A. North – 1st TN Cavalry (McNairy’s), Co. C, Private
Richard Spivey – 1st Battalion, TN Cavalry (McNairy’s), Co. C, Private
James L. Tulloss
William F. Bingham – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D., “Williamson Grays,” Private; deserted Dec. 1863
William R. Hughes – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D., “Williamson Grays,” Private, promoted to Fifth Sergeant; Died Oct. 8, 1862 Battle of Perryville
William G. Marshall – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D., “Williamson Grays,” Second Lieutenant
David A. Boyd – 1st Battalion, TN Cavalry (McNairy’s), Co. C, Private
William G. Clouston – 1st Battalion, TN Cavalry (McNairy’s), Co. C, Corporal
Jesse T. Cox – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D., “Williamson Grays,” Private
Theo Carter – 20th TN Infantry, Co. H, Private, promoted to Captain/Acting Quartermaster; Died shortly after Nov. 30, 1864 Battle of Franklin
Frank C. Eelbeck – 4th TN Cavalry (McLemore’s), Co. G, Private
Claib Y. Giles – 20th TN Infantry, Co. H, Sergeant
George R. Hill – 4th TN Cavalry (McLemore’s), Co. F, Private
William F. Hanner – 1st TN Infantry, Co. D., “Williamson Grays,” Fifth Lieutenant; Died of disease Lewisburg WV Nov. 1861
John Marshall, Jr. – 20th TN Infantry, Co. H, Ordnance Sergeant, promoted to Assistant Quartermaster
James L. McGann – 22nd TN Cavalry, Co. B, Private
Felix E. Parrish – 23rd TN Infantry, Co. B, Private
John C. Smith – 1st TN Cavalry (McNairy’s), Captain
James C. Wells – did not enlist
G.H.K. McConnico – 45th TN Infantry, Co. A, Sergeant, demoted to Private