Greetings from the Grand Master. It is a great honor to be surrounded by veterans this evening. Freemasonry and the military have gone hand in hand through our history. Many of our Founding Fathers and military heroes were Freemasons. Freemasonry came to the new world in large part with the military Lodges attached to British regiments.
Two British Government Regiments of Infantry, warranted as Irish Field Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons were stationed in America from 1732 – 1737.
Within a few years the Grand Lodge of Scotland and Grand Lodge of England were issuing Warrants to military Lodges. By 1755, twenty-nine Warrants had been issued. The Grand Lodges of Germany, Ireland and Scotland had Lodges in Maryland.
The first record of a military Lodge Warrant being issued WITHIN the new world happened during the French and Indian War. The Provincial Grand Master at Boston issued it to the 28th British Foot Soldiers in an expedition against the French at Crown Point.
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, Warrant, etc., had to fit within one small military chest.
Tun Tavern was a tavern and brewery in Philadelphia. It is traditionally regarded as the birthplace of the Marine Corps., they held their initial recruitment drives there in 1775. It was also a major Masonic Meeting location. An interesting fact – the Tavern proved a great recruitment place for the Marines. Hum.
During the American Revolution there were 10 Lodges working within the American Army.
There were at least two instances during the Revolutionary War, in which, the Americans captured some of a British Lodge’s Furniture, Warrant and Jewels. In both cases, there is a record of these items being restored to their owners by an honor guard under a flag of truce.
During the Mexican War there were 12 traveling military Lodges formed and at least two of them accompanied our Army to Mexico. All of these Lodges worked under dispensation and none of them were ever chartered.
During the Civil War, there were upwards of 200 military Lodges. Depending on the source. Virginia had around 28 Lodges with the southern armies. Indiana led the list with 37 Lodges the north and Texas is estimated to have had some 50 military Lodges.
The Spanish-American War had 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 had only three military Lodges granted within the United States. Nine more were granted for work in France and Germany during the occupation.
World War I saw a huge outpouring of patriotism with Freemasons at the forefront. Grand Lodges wanted to help our military personnel, both at home and overseas. However, the federal government would not deal with 49 Grand Lodges. They demanded communication with only one organization. So, in 1919, the Masonic Service Association of the United States was formed, which formed The Masonic Information Center in 1993.
Although there were several requests for dispensations during World War II, none were granted.
The Grand Lodge of Nebraska developed a a “Lodge in a box” program similar to the 18th Century British, to enable Masonry to be practiced in Iraq/Afghanistan. Interesting concept, but it received a vast amount of criticism by many Grand Lodges and the program was shelved. Grand Lodges of Canada and Germany did issue dispensations for Lodges in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Masons have a time-honored tradition of supporting our military troops: Those who have served, those that are serving and when these brave men/women return home from military service and integrate back into society. The program we heard about this evening is a shining example of one that honors our Masonic heritage.