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Military Lodges

R. F. Gould's Military Lodges, published in 1899, was the first full size book on the subject of Lodges warranted expressly for the uses of soldiers and for men in the navy. It was not an interesting book to read, for on many pages it was little more than a directory of names and dates, but it opened up afield for Masonic students. (See p. 667). Unfortunately not many have passed through that opening, except to write a few articles and essays, and the "great history" of Freemasonry among soldiers is yet to be written; and until it is written a long chapter will remain missing out of the general history of the Craft, because Military Lodges have had a larger place in the development and diffusion of the Fraternity than could have been believed in Gould's day; in America they were one of the principal means by which Lodges were introduced into the Colonies, and they left a long and deeply-felt influence on Lodge practice.

It is when it is read in this context of facts that Freemasonry in the Royal Scots by T. R. Henderson (Gale & Polden; London; 1934) becomes so valuable and so illuminating, and in spite of its author's having narrowed himself to one regiment, and in a book of only 100 pages. It is one of the finest Masonic books ever written; manly, sane, straightforward, friendly, has a living and moving style, and written with courage --courage, because he had to say hard things here and there against the officer caste to which he himself belonged, and age one or two Grand Lodges.

Bro. Henderson gives a number of interesting "firsts" in his opening chapter. The Lodge of Edinburgh was admitting both Operatives and Speculatives as early as 1599, and it is impossible to guess how much earlier (there are some reasons to believe that in Scotland Lodges had always admitted a small number of non Operatives); doubtless among the Sixteenth Century members at Edinburgh there were military men, because at least one branch of the army always had been in contact with Masonry, the military engineers, and to a iesser extent men specializing in artillery. But the first recorded instance is that of David Ramsey, made a Mason in August, 1637; the second was Alexander Hamilton, who was admitted "Fellow and Master of the Craft," May 20, 1640. It may be that either or both of these Brothers belonged to the Royal Scots, then called The Royal Regiment.

From 1713 to 1748 "the civil government feared and disliked the Army.... The soldier generally was enlisted for life, and was often impressed against his will. More often than not he had to serve along with thieves, pirates and other criminals brought in by press gangs. . ." Colonial service usually "ended in the majority of cases in a miserable death from disease." In contrast Freemasonry "offered the soldier a sphere of action where he could regain his self- respect .... It is not surprising that ... the Craft spread rapidly among the military forces of the Crown."

The first military (or ambulatory) Warrant ever issued was No. 11, granted in 1732 by the Grand Lodge of Ireland, to the regiment which is now the Royal Scots.

By 1734 four others were at work. There were eight before Scotland issued its first military Warrant 29 or more before any were issued by either of the two Grand Lodges in England. By 1813, and not counting "remote pentacles under Provincial Grand Lodges in foreign parts" (as in the West Indies) there are known to have been 190 under Grand Lodge of Ireland; 116 under Ancient Grand Lodge of England; 25 under Modern Grand Lodge of England; 21 under Grand Lodge of Scotland; a total of 352. This was the total number of Warrants from 1732 to 1813; mortality is high among military Lodges, but 219 were still working after 1813. Since 1813, the year of the Union of the Ancient and Modern Grand Lodges, England has issued 25 Warrants; Ireland, 40; Scotland, 2; a grand total of 419 British military Lodges. Of this total 224 were in Infantry; 68 in Militia; 49 in Cavalry; 28 in Artillery; 7 in Royal Marines; 3 in the Royal Engineers; and one in the Foot-Guards.

The majority of Military Lodges on both sides in the Revolutionary War were chartered by Ireland, England, and Scotland. How many may have been chartered by American Provincial Grand Lodges is not known. Masonry in the Formation of Our Government: 1761-1799, by Bro. Philip A. Roth; Milwaukee, Wis.; 1927, lists ten: St. John's Regimental Lodge, July 24, 1775; American Union, February 15, 1776, Washington No. 10, October 6, 1779; these were constituted by Massachusetts. Pennsylvania (Philadelphia was then the National Capital) chartered: Lodge No. 19, May 18, 1779; Lodge No. 20, in 1779; Lodge No. 27, April 4, 1780; No. 28, in 1780; No. 29, on July 27, 1780; No. 31, March 26, 1781; No. 36, September 2, 1782. No. 20 was for the North Carolina line; No. 27 for Maryland; Nos. 31 and 36 for New Jersey.

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