Freemasonry During The War of 1812

By Aimee E. Newell, PhD -

From The Northern Light Newsletter via The STTM No 47 Aug 2012

Editors Note; The War of 1812 was a 32 month military conflict between the United States and the British Empire. This was between The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Unlike the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, there seem to have been no military lodges created during the War of 1812. Some Masonic scholars have suggested that this was due to the nature of the conflict as primarily a naval war, rather than a ground war. Yet, there were Freemasons who fought in the conflict. More than half a million American troops participated in the War of 1812. This included: 57,000 regulars; 10,000 volunteers; 3,000 rangers; 20,000 navy and marines, and 458,000 militia.

While stories of Brothers from opposing sides aiding each other are far less common during the War of 1812, as compared to the Civil War, at least one Grand Lodge took steps to do what it could for captured British Masons. In December 1814, just as the war was drawing to a close, a committee from Essex Lodge in Salem, MA, explained that the town of Salem “continues to be a depot for prisoners of war, among whom are many Brethren of the craft who merit and require the charitable notice of the fraternity.”

The committee then petitioned the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to consider “afford[ing] such relief as in their wisdom and ability may be deemed expedient.”

After considering the petition for a couple of weeks, the Grand Lodge’s appointed committee recommended that $500 be appropriated to the relief of “distressed prisoners of the Masonic family who in the course of calamitous war, in which our country is engaged, may be brought among us.”

A prisoners fund was set up and a circular sent out to all Massachusetts lodges asking for contributions. In the end, word of peace would reach the United States a few weeks later, in February 1815. The fund was subsequently disbanded, but prior to this, $131.68 was disbursed to approximately 15 British prisoners being held in Salem, to ease their living conditions.