"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Monday, August 26, 2019

Washington Battle Over Pike Statue Part XXXIII...

The saga of Washington DC's Albert Pike statue continues apace. As reported last month, the District's non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives, Eleanor Holmes Norton, introduced a bill in Congress to remove Pike's statue from Federal land. Her justification? That Pike briefly served as a general in the Confederate Army. In her statement, she made absolutely false accusations against Pike:
Pike was a Confederate general who served dishonorably and was forced to resign in disgrace. It was found that soldiers under his command mutilated the bodies of Union soldiers, and Pike was ultimately imprisoned after his fellow officers reported that he misappropriated funds. Adding to the dishonor of taking up arms against the United States, Pike dishonored even his Confederate military service. He certainly has no claim to be memorialized in the nation’s capital. Even those who do not want Confederate statues removed will have to justify awarding Pike any honor, considering his history...

Nowhere does anyone ever bother to note why the statue is standing where it is today - to mark the former location of the Scottish Rite's original House of the Temple in Judiciary Square where Albert Pike actually lived and died. Few bother to note that the statue HAD to be placed on federal land, since the District itself is all federal territory. And few rarely note that the statue does not depict Pike as a soldier, confederate or otherwise. No one ever notes that more than 750,000 Southern men served in the Confederate Army, regardless of their level of enthusiasm (or lack of it) for the Cause itself. All that matters is that Pike served for less than six months in the CSA, and must therefore be scraped from public view in the current fad of hiding the past. 

Earlier this month, reporter Claire Savage of the Washington DC's NBC affiliate forwarded Norton's statement to the Scottish Rite SJ's Arturo De Hoyos for comment, and he responded at length with a detailed refutation of the allegations against Pike and his actual military record. The subsequent news report can be read at: Confederate Statue Downtown Needs to Be Removed, Norton Says.


News sources being what they are, much was omitted from Art's actual responses to Ms. Savage. The result is an incredibly misleading article that might have actually informed the public had it not been so deliberately skewed and selective in cherrypicking his sentences.

Today, Art has posted both of his replies to Ms. Savage on his Facebook pages, along with images of the original document written by Albert Pike and the military's own reference to the matter. He has made the post publicly shareable. So in the ongoing interest of laying this non-issue to sleep (which of course it will never do) I post it all below in its entirety.


*** Taking More Shots at Albert Pike **

Ten days ago Claire Savage of NBC4 Washington contacted me regarding the Pike statue here in DC, and forwarded Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's anti-Pike remarks. I explained that they were neither accurate nor fair, and provided historical proof to the contrary.

Unfortunately, Claire Savage's article omits some of the strong evidence which exonerates Pike.



"Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes NortonOn the Introduction of a Bill to Remove the Statue of Confederate General Albert PikeJuly 30, 2019
Madam Speaker.
I rise to introduce a bill to require the removal of a statue of Confederate General Albert Pike from federal land near Judiciary Square in the District of Columbia. This statue was authorized, not by the District, but by Congress in 1898, when the District had no home rule. The statue was constructed using both federal and private funds. The Freemasons, of which Pike was a member, donated the majority of the money needed to build and install the statue in 1901. I oppose tearing down Confederate statues, because I believe they should be moved to more appropriate settings, like museums, to avoid erasing an important part of history from which Americans must continue to learn.

Pike was a Confederate general who served dishonorably and was forced to resign in disgrace. It was found that soldiers under his command mutilated the bodies of Union soldiers, and Pike was ultimately imprisoned after his fellow officers reported that he misappropriated funds. Adding to the dishonor of taking up arms against the United States, Pike dishonored even his Confederate military service. He certainly has no claim to be memorialized in the nation’s capital. Even those who do not want Confederate statues removed will have to justify awarding Pike any honor, considering his history.

After meeting with the Freemasons, I believe that the best course of action is to remove the statue and find a more appropriate place for it. The Freemasons themselves support the statue’s removal, given its divisive nature. The D.C. Mayor and the Council also support the removal of the statue.
My bill clarifies that no federal funds may be used to remove the Pike statue. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation."


Following below are my comments:

"Hello Claire,

I just read your email and Congresswoman Norton’s statement.

It’s important to note that Pike’s statue is not that of a Confederate, but rather of a private citizen. He’s not in uniform, nor does he carry a firearm or sword. Albert Pike was a man of his times who, like many others, served in the military and became a quiet and peaceable citizen following the war.

Unfortunately, Congresswoman Norton’s statement includes misstatements. Soldiers under Pike’s command did not mutilate the bodies of Union soldiers. Rather, at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, some of the Native American troops, under Pike’s command, dismounted and acted on their own. When Pike learned that a Union soldier had been scalped after his death he was “angry and disgusted,” and filed a report in which he said it caused him the “utmost pain and regret.” I do not recall that Pike misappropriated funds, but rather that General Van Dorn took $160,000, leaving Pike’s department quartermaster and commissary completely without funds. In response, Pike advanced the quartermaster $20,000 from his own pocket. If I recall correctly, Major General Hindman declared martial law in Arkansas, and ordered Pike to turn over weapons and Native American Indian treaty funds. Pike thought the action was illegal and refused. Hindman ordered Pike’s arrest, and he fled to Texas, where he was arrested and briefly held in jail. Pike resigned his commission, which was accepted and he was permitted to return to Arkansas.

Pike served as the head of “Scottish Rite” Masonry from 1859 to his death in 1891. During that time he devoted himself to promoting friendship and moral philosophy. After forming a friendship with Thornton A. Jackson, the head of the Scottish Rite Prince Hall Affiliation (Black/African American Freemasonry), Pike shared his own rituals and with that group, and corresponded using fraternal terms.

Certainly, we have no desire that the Pike statue (which belongs to the Parks Service), should be the cause of division or strife. Although our belief is that it has been misrepresented and misunderstood, we support whatever view the Park Service recommends, whether that means it should stay or be moved to a new location."


In a follow-up email I wrote:

"I might add that Pike’s order, which expressed his “utmost pain and regret” was also reprinted in the New York Times:


It’s noteworthy that contrary to being the uncaring criminal portrayed by Congresswoman Norton, Pike’s order actually shows that he wanted to Court-martial a Confederate soldier for the “atrocious act for barbarous and wanton cruelty” of killing a defenseless Union soldier, who was wounded on the battlefield."


In this handwritten statement by Albert Pike he expressed his anger
and disgust when he learned that Native Americans had
scalped a deceased Union soldier.


  1. Some of my thoughts on the role of sculpture in Washington are in the journal Sculpture Review at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0747528419851733

    When all is said and done, the Civil War was about slavery -- not states' rights or the industrial North and agricultural South. Someone who was a Confederate general, not withstanding briefly or along with many other aspects to his life, supported an indefensible cause. There should be no ambiguity about the gross immorality of slavery. It is important that our fellow Americans who happen to be of color know that we reject the flags, statues and other memorabilia of that shame.

    1. Paul, there is no ambiguity going on here. Pike's statue is in no way "memorabilia" of slavery, the South, or anything remotely related. His brief association with the CSA is a footnote to his life and career. Treating it as such, with appropriate documentation and placing him in historical context, is not an apologia. And for a reporter to shoehorn a mention of "Charlottesville®" into her first paragraph just to be sure everybody catches her coquettish knowing wink is frankly appalling.

    2. That is a horribly skewed and simplistic view of history. It is that manner of historical analysis that causes errors. There were very many people who fought in the Civil War on both sides who had zero stake or interest in slavery.
      It is clear the secession was about slavery, but the southern states seceded legally and peacefully.
      The war was about Lincoln wishing to preserve the union at all costs.
      Most people who fought in the war weren't personally involved in slavery and in many cases, the poor dirt farmer who was conscripted into service would have viewed slavery as against his own interests.
      I hope that some day, people read history with the complexity and depth and consideration for the experiences of the individuals who lived it rather than making wild generalizations and simplifications cause by failure to view things from the perspective of the times and individuals.
      It helps a lot, for instance, to read the journals and writings of participants in history to see what motivated them. It might surprise.

    3. There is an ambiguity. Part of the discussion hinges on the ambiguity of Pike's views of African-Americans. is it just a footnote on his life. He acknowledged the legitimacy of Prince Hall, but at the same time said he would leave the Craft if it initiated blacks and that Negro freemasonry was a "leprosy". For an interesting article with footnotes that illustrate this ambiguity see https://www.newdawnmagazine.com/articles/the-mystery-of-albert-pike-satanist-racist-or-great-man

      Is it relevant that some white sharecroppers were conscripted into Confederate battalions -- isn't the question about weighing the importance of Pike being a Confederate general alongside his other distinctions. The statue is not to a simple private but to someone who accepted a general's epaulets. Pike was a Confederate general.

  2. Brother Rich makes a good point, but we can probably find several instances where men of great influence said harmful things in public or private which did not always align with their actions.

    This is not an excuse or justification for what was said or for the harm it may have caused and once realized, amends should be made. But if the person who may have caused any pain or misunderstanding is gone,then it is up to future generations of today to rectify,clarify, and make the proper amends.

    I feel the Scottish Rite SJ has been trying to accomplish the above for the present and future generations. Pike was a great Mason and that is what Mason's should probably focus on and inform the non-Masonic public about him. Pike is no longer here. So his legacy now belongs to us to shape for today as we deem necessary and proper. And one day future generations will treat OUR legacy the same way.

    Warts and all, the life of any man is complex, affected by time and circumstance. In the end, WE choose how a man is to be remembered and decide if he lefted anything behind which can be useful to future generations.

    In the case of Albert Pike, the answer is probably yes.

  3. As a Scottish Rite Freemason, I do NOT support any relocation of Pike’s statue. All this nonsense needs to stop!

  4. Aaron,
    There is no provision in the Constitution for secession. Firing on federal troops in Fort Sumter is not peaceful, it is treason.


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