The Military and Freemasonry


THE MILITARY AND FREEMASONRY
by
James M. Pollard, JW
Cherrydale Lodge No. 42
from
VIRGINIA MASONIC HERALD
April 1989
     Freemasonry came to the new world in large part with
the military Lodges attached to various British regiments.
Thus, it is that almost from the very beginning to this
country Freemasonry and the military have gone hand in hand
through our history.  Unfortunately, the written history of
our Fraternity in the early years is almost non-existent.
     The Warrant or Charter of the early military Lodges was
usually given to the Regimental Commander and all of a
Lodge's furniture, ornaments, lights, jewels, etc., as well
as the Warrant itself, was usually limited in size to that
which could be carried in one small military chest.
Membership in these Lodges was usually limited to officers
of the regiment; normally, civilians were not admitted
although in some few cases this rule seems to have been
overlooked.
     The first Warrant for a military  Lodge was issued by
the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1732 to the First British Foot
Regiment.  Within a few years the Grand Lodge of Scotland
and both the Grand Lodge of England, Modern and Antient were
issuing Warrants to military Lodges.  By 1755, twenty-nine
Warrants had been issued by theses for Grand Lodges
combined.  The naval service was not very active in the
formation of military Lodges, with only three such lodges
known to have existed, all being warranted by the Modern
Grand Lodge of England.
     There were also military Lodges formed on the continent
of Europe but these did not follow the form of the English
Lodged.  The continental Lodges were all stationary in
nature rather that traveling Lodges.  This, I think, was
mostly due to the empire building of the British, as opposed
to the continental power staying mostly land locked to
Europe.
     The first record of a military Lodge Warrant being
issued in the new world happened during the French and
Indian Wars.  It was issued by the then Provincial Grand
Master at Boston to the 28th British Foot in an expedition
against the French at Crown Point.  Several other such
Lodges followed and during the American Revolution one was
issued to a Lodge named the "Movable Lodge."
     During the American Revolution there were 10 Lodges
working in the American army.  One of these Lodges was the
American Union Lodge and that Lodge exists to this day under
the Grand Lodge of Ohio as American Union Lodge No. 1.
     There were at least two instances during the war in
which some of a British Lodge's furniture, Warrant and
jewels were captured by the Americans.  In both known cases
there is also a record of these items being restored to
their owners by an honor guard under a flag of truce.
     One item of interest to the Marines is that the same
Tun Tavern of Marine Corps fame was also the early home of
the Masons of Philadelphia.
     The War of 1812 found no military Lodges being formed,
I suspect in large part because most of the fighting was of
a naval nature and what ground fighting there was more of
the naval raid nature than that of an extended land
campaign.
     During the Mexican War there were at least 12 traveling
military Lodges formed and at least two of them accompanied
our army to Mexico, although nothing is known of their work.
One of these Lodges was from Virginia, Virginia Military
Lodge 1 being attached to the Virginia Regiment of
Volunteers.  All of these Lodges worked under dispensation
and none of them were ever chartered.
     During the War of Northern Aggression, or War Between
The States, there were, depending on the source, between 77
and almost 200 military Lodges.  Virginia is reported to
have had from 7 to 28 Lodges with the southern armies.
Indiana led the list with 37 Lodges in the north and Texas
is estimated to have had some 50 military Lodges, although
firm records do not exist to support that figure.
     Several Grand Lodges issued no dispensations, feeling
either that the military Lodges were making Masons who could
not have gained admission back home, or that such Lodges
were an infringement on the Grand Lodge where the troops
were stationed.
     Of local interest in this respect is the action of the
Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia following the union
occupation of Alexandria, Virginia early in the war.  This
happened in 1862 when several residents of Alexandria
petitioned the Grand Lodge of D.C. for a dispensation to
form a Lodge to be known as "Union Lodge."  It was stated
that there was no Lodge working in the city, that the
Charter of Alexandria-Washington Lodge had been ransacked
and forced to disband.  The Grand Lodge of D.C. granted this
dispensation and this act was to cause strained relations
between the two Grand Lodges for some years.  Not until
after the war was this problem resolved by the merger of
these two Lodges.
     Many Grand Lodges, and also Grand Master, came to
regret what later was regarded as their too liberal issue of
dispensation and never again would anything like the number
issued during this period of our history be repeated.  This
was due in part to the lack of any reports or returns to the
Grand Lodges by most of the military Lodges.
     The Spanish-American War found only two military
Lodges, one from Kentucky and one from North Dakota,
although California granted three dispensations for
formation of Lodges in the Philippines, which later led to
the formation of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines.
     World War 1 saw only a few military Lodges granted
dispensations.  Only three were granted for work within the
United States.  Nine more were granted for work in France
and Germany during the occupation.  There were also four
dispensations issued but never used.  By this time there
were only 17 Grand Lodges which favored military Lodges,
Virginia being one of them, while there was an equal number
which were opposed to such Lodges with 15 additional Grand
Lodges whose attitude was unknown.
     With the return of the Charter of Lahneck Military
Lodge Number 1186 to the Grand Lodge of Texas in July of
1922, the last military Lodge in the United States ceased to
exist.  Although there were several requested for
dispensations during World War II, none were granted.  To
find military Lodges today we must look to those chartered
under the Grand Lodge of England and there are still some of
these in existence.