Civil War

“Hancock, goodbye; you can never know what this has cost me”
– Gen. Lewis A. Armistead 

The spirit of masonic brotherhood reigned throughout the Civil War. A memorial sculpture pays eternal homage to that spirit, “Friend to Friend: A Brotherhood Undivided,” by artist and Brother Ron Tunison, erected at Gettysburg National Park.

Under three years of Northern occupation, the municipal government of Baton Rouge was inoperative, starting in 1862. Even with the city was shut down, the masonic spirit in Baton Rouge persisted, and St. James Lodge continued to conduct regular business. While there is no official record of meetings between July and December 1862, suggesting a period of inactivity, we do find announcements of the scheduled meetings published regularly in The Weekly Gazette. 

The visitor book of the Civil War period reveals that St. James Lodge was visited both Confederate and Union Masons from following states:

  • Texas
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • Ohio
  • Connecticut
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Kentucky
  • Wisconsin
  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Hampshire
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • and from some military lodges

Masonic Experiences in the Civil War

Minutes of 1866 shows correspondence from the Grand Master of Michigan wishing to find out the identity and address of the person, if still living, from whose residence in Baton Rouge a Lieutenant serving in the Federal Volunteers had taken some trophies of war: two volumes of Mitchell’s Masonic History Digest” and two large cut glass vases. The Lodge found that the items belonged to Col. Thompson J. Bird, Sheriff of East Baton Rouge, whose son and grandson (Charles Cecil Bird and Charles Cecil Bird, Jr.) were Masters of our Lodge and whose father-in-law was Judge Charles Tessier, first Worshipful Master of L’Etoile Flamboyante Lodge No. 10. The items were received from Michigan. In May 1872, the Lodge received several officers jewels from the Grand Lodge of Iowa with the request that the lodge return them to their rightful owners.

On June 24, 1864, Bro. Smeele of Temple Lodge, Lexington, Kentucky, addressed the members of St. James Lodge on behalf of the federal officers and men sojourning within this jurisdiction. He thanked the brethren of the Lodge, for their uniform courtesy and kindness to visiting brethren and referred feelingly to the harmony existing in the order uniting all quarters of the earth and all nations of men in the sacred bonds of friendship.

The Seat of Artillery

The lodge experienced an interesting incident in 1882, when the State of Louisiana informed the Lodge that the chair being used by the Worshipful Master was the property of the state. The chair was made from artillery pieces captured in the Battle of Contreras, Mexico, by Gen. Smith, and presented by him to the state in 1852. Probably this chair of historical significance, was brought to Baton Rouge by the federal troops occupying the city. The Lodge voted to return the chair to the state. According to the minutes of July 7, 1882, the Lodge received a voucher of $30.00 from the House of Representatives for the purchase of a chair in place of the one given back to the state.