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Monday, November 13, 2023

'Dinner With A Civil War Soldier' in Gettysburg Next Sunday

by Christopher Hodapp

If you are anywhere near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania next weekend, consider attending historic Good Samaritan Lodge 336 on Sunday night for their 2nd annual Dinner With A Civil War Soldier. The lodge is located at 7 Lincoln Square (right on the town square downtown).

Photo from my visit in November 2010. 

From their Facebook page announcement:
Good Samaritan Lodge 336 will host its second annual Civil War Dinner on Sunday, November 19 at the Lodge on the Square. Presentations from our Civil War guests will begin at six o’clock. Dinner will be served at 6:30. Dessert and additional presentations will follow. 

Dinner will be prepared by our chef from a Civil War era cookbook. Choice of meat will be venison loaf or pigeon (we will substitute Cornish game hen, as the bird used historically is difficult to source), plus potatoes and vegetables, with pumpkin pie for dessert. Enjoy hot mulled cider, and try traditional hard tack, if you dare.

Come hear the stories of:
  • Elizabeth Thorne, who while six months pregnant, buried nearly 100 soldiers at the Evergreen Cemetery.
  • Pvt. Sherwood, from Co. K, 2nd Division, 5th Corps, the Pennsylvania Reserves, who returned home to fight.
  • Daniel Skelly, a teenager who witnessed the Battle of Gettysburg and the aftermath.
  • Cpl. Chester Judson, 24th New York “Orange Blossoms,” who fought at Gettysburg.
  • Cornelia Hancock, a nurse tending to the wounded at Gettysburg.
  • Nicholas, a newspaper man from New York City observing the war and reporting back.
  • Dr. Jelks, a Confederate physician with the 26th Georga, who treated the injuries of the war.
  • Cpl. J.R. Bennet, 6th New York Independent Battery, an artillery soldier killed in battle.
Seating will be limited, and the cost is $50 per person. The dinner and program are open to non-Masons, and there are still spaces left as of today. To make reservations, CLICK HERE

Good Samaritan Lodge has an interesting past, and I quite literally stumbled upon a meeting there after the Veteran's Day weekend when I came though Gettysburg in 2010. The lodge was originally chartered in 1824, was dissolved just 8 years later in 1832 during the Anti-Masonic period, and re-chartered in 1860, on the eve of the U.S. Civil War.

On July 1st, 1863, war reached Gettysburg and its population of 2,400 when some 170,000 troops converged on the town and began three days of horrific fighting and bloodshed. Almost a third of the two opposing forces became casualties: 7,058 dead, 33,264 wounded, and another 10,790 missing. As many as 18,000 of the soldiers at Gettysburg may have been Freemasons, and numerous stories of Masonic kindness extended to an “enemy” Brother on the field of battle were recorded. Shooting from afar at opposing forces is impersonal — enemy troops are simply masses of faceless, nameless soldiers. But when distances closed and the fighting became one-on-one between individual men, countless Masons remembered their duty to another Brother. This didn't mean engaging in treason, or "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" — but it did (and does) mean treating each other with honor and compassion and charity in a way people aren't much taught these days.

As you first enter the battlefield area and approach the Visitor's Center outside the cemetery, you'll find the famous "Friend To Friend" statue that was erected by the Freemasons of Pennsylvania. It depicts the famous incident when Confederate Major Lewis Armistead lay dying from a Union soldier's bullet, and the brethren of Samaritan Lodge were instrumental in having it installed there.

From their website:

Prior to the war, Major Lewis Armistead and Captain Winfred Scott Hancock served together in the 6th US Infantry in California. They were friends and Masonic Brothers. At the onset of the war, Brother Armistead would resign his commission and join the Confederacy, whereas Brother Hancock would remain with the Union. 

At Gettysburg, now a brigadier general, Armistead would lead his brigade in the famous Pickett’s Charge against the Union center on July 3rd. Hancock, now a major general and commander of the Union II Corps, was stationed right at the point of attack. Armistead would iconically place his hat on his raised sword to rally his men as they approached the Union line. Shortly after breaching the line, Brother Armistead was mortally wounded. He called out for his friend, Brother Hancock, who was nearby. Unfortunately, Hancock was simultaneously injured and removed from the field.

Captain Henry Bingham, Hancock’s chief of staff and a Mason, attended to the fallen Armistead. Armistead entrusted to Bingham his personal belongings, including his Masonic watch and the Bible he had taken his Oath and Obligation upon, to be given to Hancock in the hope the items would be given to his wife. Armistead died shortly thereafter. Hancock, upon his recovery, delivered the items to his Brother’s wife as asked.

1 comment:

  1. There has been a recent very decided increase in interest in public sculpture with opinions leading to their removal: the pulling down of Albert Pike's statue in Washington, the melting down of Richmond's Robert E. Lee, the exile of Theodore Roosevelt from New York City. One wonders if fellowship trumping belief in the Masonic Civil War depiction will raise questions not previously on the agenda.


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