Ruffians in the Masonic Lodge Call Traitor and Demand a Trial
Ruffians in the Masonic Lodge Call Traitor and Demand a Trial

Ruffians in the Masonic Lodge Call Traitor and Demand a Trial

By Paul R. Swanson, 32°

Brother Benton, fresh back from nearly having his leg amputated due to injuries at Gettysburg, painfully dragged his leg as he entered and saluted the WM of Truth Lodge. He had not been seen in his home lodge for 3 years and was greeted with lots of friendly appreciation when recognized.

Brother Benton was surprised at the positive reception. The WM asked for the story behind his injury. When he related how he was injured during the battle he was asked how the Confederates had lost because the word was that the Yankees were caught by surprise. It’s 1864 and the war is not yet over.

To shorten a story too long to relate every detail here, many things will be compressed or omitted.

Benton related how several had been injured or passed who the audience knew. Then he related how Masons had helped him in the hospital.

 “You must have been taken Prisoner,” the Truth Lodge Junior Warden interrupted, “if you ended up in a Yankee hospital. That must have been a horrible experience.”

Before Brother Benton could explain the WM asked for his review of the battle since it was still fresh and reports were still trickling in. Benton explained, with a strong emphasis on the bravery of several masons on both sides who were injured but ended up in the hospital.

“I would like to ask you a question, Alvin,” spoke David Williams, the Junior Warden. “I have heard a Masonic Lodge held a meeting one night during the fighting at Gettysburg. I was told that Yankees and Confederates met together. I don’t believe any Southern Mason would meet on friendly terms with any of those yellow dogs who are invading our homeland. Do you know whether or not such a meeting took place?”

Benton reluctantly answered, “Yes. Such a meeting did take place in a Confederate Military Lodge! Generals from both sides attended and both were members of a Military Lodge in Utah Territory before the war started. They were among over 100 Masons ranging from generals to privates present.”

No records were kept.

Among those who didn’t applaud at this last bit was the Junior Warden. “I stand by what I said! Yankees are yellow dogs- and worse! And come to think of it, Benton, there is something strange about the way you’ve been acting and talking here. Which side are you on?”

Benton responded, “I want to say, first, that I was surprised and pleased with the reception I received here tonight. But it soon became apparent that none of you knew where I went when I left over three years ago. To answer your question, Brother Williams, I am on no side. I never have been, although I wore the uniform of the 5th New Hampshire until I was discharged last month.”

The roar of “traitor” and other derogatory remarks was interrupted by the gavel of the Master.

The Master relates that he was fully aware of where Brother Benton had been the last three years and the Junior Warden then asks that the WM be prevented from supervising the trial. The trial is set for one week from that day.

The charges leveled against Benton for un-masonic conduct were:

  1. That the said Alvin Benton did knowingly and willingly leave this town, this State, and his country in time of ward to reside in the jurisdiction of the enemy.
  2. That said Alvin Benton did immediately upon assuming residence in the enemy territory, knowingly and willingly volunteer to serve as an officer in the enemy army.
  3. That the accused did actively serve the enemy and did murder citizens of the Confederate States of America.
  4. That the accused is a traitor to his country and unworthy of being a member of the Masonic Fraternity. Signed, David Williams, Junior Warden.

Brother McCook, the Junior Deacon appointed to defend Benton points out that none of these charges constitute any fraction of “un-masonic” conduct. The trial continues, with lots of emotional outbursts by the prosecutor and the calm rationale of the defense counselor balancing the other anger.

Brother Benton’s father, also a Mason is called by the prosecution and relates how disappointed he is in his son, a traitor!

The entire Virginia town is divided over this issue, the tension is running high.

Testimony continues and we learn Brother Benton argued with his father that he didn’t want to fight against the fine people of either side.

Then evidence reflects that Brother Benton applied for non-combatant duty in the Army of Virginia and it was dated April 18, 1861, the day after Virginia seceded. It was rejected with the note that “only fighting men were needed.”

“One of the first things we learn in Masonry is that a free man is free to think for himself.”

The crowd watching the trial realized and reacted to the notion that Brother Benton didn’t fight for the Yankees and applauded.

Further evidence shows that Benton served in the 5th New Hampshire Regiment as a Lieutenant in the ambulance corps with the understanding that he would not have to bear arms of any description.

Furthermore, for outstanding heroism in saving the lives of the wounded (Confederate as well as Union) during the Battle of Gettysburg, even though severely wounded he was awarded a battlefield promotion to the rank of Major. He was discharged for his injuries on October 1, 1864.

Brother John Breckinridge’s experience and results.

There were rumors that a good southerner was expelled from his home lodge in Kentucky as well as being fired as the Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Iowa near the Grand Lodge of Kentucky. The prosecutor loudly exclaimed that this proved his point about Benson’s treason. The JW felt entitled to his anger against Brother Benton still and wanted a conviction!

Further evidence showed that the Proceedings from a Yankee Grand Lodge, that of Indiana read the final results. Proceedings for 1863 reflected that the Grand Master, John B. Fravel, reported that he had refused to permit a lodge to expel one of its members who had joined the Confederate Army. The report went to a committee. They voted to expel the brother, with a vengeance. The Grand Lodge rebuked the biased committee and sided overwhelmingly with the Grand Master. The expelled brother remained a mason!

After quieting the crowd’s outbursts of joy for Brother Benton, a vote was taken to make it official. A unanimous vote for not guilty of un-masonic conduct was rendered.

If a Yankee lodge could do the right thing, they could too.

Some might recall that I mentioned the case of Breckenridge in an earlier masonic education piece I delivered last year, but not this much of it in context.

There are many masonic lessons here involving many of the issues from the Blue Lodge teachings we have all experienced, particularly the portions of the 7 arts and sciences involving reasoning and emotional maturity.

Hopefully, everyone has a better viewpoint of our country and the divisions seen under wartime conditions which are easily transparent in the divisions we have seen our country politically over the last few years. The parallels are beyond easy to see unfortunately in the way most ruffians conduct themselves.


The Mystic Tie,

by Allen E. Roberts

Paul R. Swanson, Valley of Tallahassee, January 31, 2023