A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Still Wearing Gold and Purple

On 23 April 2010, during the 273rd Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, the Grand Master saw fit to give me another year to attempt to get it right by reappointing me to the position of District Deputy Grand Master for the Fourth Masonic District. For those unfamiliar with the district structure of South Carolina, the Fourth District covers the deep Lowcountry of the State – Beaufort, Hampton, and Jasper Counties. Traveling too far to the South or East in this district will cause one to get wet in either the Savannah River or the Atlantic Ocean.

At the time I was first appointed as a District Deputy Grand Master, I reflected on the honor that goes along with such an appointment. During the past year, I have learned that I was rather wrong to look at it in such a manner. Along with the honor of the position comes great responsibility. "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required..." (Luke 12:48a)

For more on the position of District Deputy Grand Master, see:

District Deputy Grand Master - Origin of the Position
District Deputy Grand Master - Revisited

Monday, April 26, 2010

Joseph Brevard Kershaw – From the Beginning to the End of the Confederacy

Joseph B. Kershaw, son of John Kershaw and Harriet DuBose, was born on 5 January 1822 in Camden, South Carolina, the site of the famous Revolutionary War battlefield where the first subject of this article, Mordecai Gist, made his fame (See: Mordacai Gist - The Rock at Camden). This, combined with the fact that he came from a military lineage, most certainly influenced Kershaw’s decisions concerning a vocation in the military.

Both of the families of Kershaws and Duboses were represented by more than one member, either in the Continentals or the State troops, during the War of the Revolution, Joseph Kershaw, the most prominent of them, and the grand father of the subject of this sketch, having lost his fortune in his efforts to maintain the patriot cause.

No analysis of the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 is complete without an inclusion of the activities of Kershaw’s Brigade on the second day of that great battle. Although Confederate General Joseph B. Kershaw saw action before and after July 1863, he is largely remembered for his pivotal role in the fighting on 2 July 1863.

Kershaw was a lawyer in civilian life and had military service prior to the War Between the States as a Lieutenant in the Palmetto Regiment, which saw service in the Mexican War. He was a member of the South Carolina State Legislature and an active participant in the Secession Convention which led to South Carolina’s dissolution of the Union. He immediately raised a regiment, soon to be known as the 2nd South Carolina Regiment, which saw service early in the war during the bombardment of Fort Sumter and at the Battle of First Manassas, or First Bull Run, on 21 July 1861.

Several battles later, and as a Brigadier General, Kershaw found himself in command of a brigade of South Carolinians in Major General Lafayette McLaw’s division at the Battle of Gettysburg in early July 1863. His brigade was involved in the awful fighting in and around the now famous Wheat Field, Peach Orchard, and Rose Farm on 2 July 1863. Kershaw’s experiences at Gettysburg are forever visible to researchers and the curious since he provided some of the greatest details of the campaign of any of the Confederate commanders in his reports. Kershaw reports,
In a few minutes after my line halted, the enemy advanced across the wheat-field in two lines of battle, with a very small interval between the lines, in such a manner as to take the Seventh South Carolina in flank. I changed the direction of the right wing of the regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel [Elbert] Bland, to meet the attack, and hurried back to General Semmes, then some 150 yards in my right rear, to bring him up to meet the attack on my right, and also to bring forward my right regiment (Fifteenth South Carolina, Colonel De Saussure), which, separated from the command by the artillery at the time of the advance, was now cut off by Semmes' brigade. Its gallant and accomplished commander had just fallen when I reached it, and it was under the command of Major [William M.] Gist. General Semmes promptly responded to my call, and put his brigade in motion toward the right, preparatory to moving to the front. I hastened back to the Seventh Regiment, and reached it just as the enemy, having arrived at a point about 200 yards from us, poured in a volley and advanced to the charge. The Seventh received him handsomely, and long kept him in check in their front. One regiment of Semmes' brigade came at a double-quick as far as the ravine in our rear, and for a time checked him in their front. There was still an interval of 100 yards between this regiment and the right of the Seventh, and into this the enemy was forcing his way, causing the Seventh to swing back more and more, still fighting at a distance not exceeding 30 paces, until the two wings were doubled on each other, or nearly so.
The observant reader will notice the names of relatives of Generals Gist and Desaussure in Kershaw’s report. Kershaw was not always the producer of detailed battle reports, however, and he incurred the wrath of General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard early on in the war. Author Larry Tagg wrote,
-- Kershaw irritated commanding general Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard by writing a self-promoting article for a South Carolina newspaper. Beauregard later referred to him as “that militia idiot.” After Beauregard was transferred away from the Virginia army, Kershaw took command of a brigade in January 1862 when its previous commander, Brig. Gen. Milledge Bonham, resigned in a huff over a seniority dispute. Two weeks later Kershaw was promoted to brigadier general.
It seems that Kershaw learned his lesson well. Kershaw would go on to command a division and achieve the rank of Major General before being captured at Saylor’s Creek, Virginia, three days before General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. Kershaw is undoubtedly one of the few Confederate Generals to see the beginning and the end of the War Between the States.

Kershaw was a Master Mason in what is now known as Kershaw Lodge No. 29, Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, and served as the Grand Master of Masons in South Carolina in 1873 - 1874. After the War; Kershaw returned to the legal profession, became a Circuit Judge, was a member of the South Carolina State Senate, and was the Postmaster in his native town of Camden. He died on 13 April 1894.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

North Bound

The 273rd Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons will take place on 22 and 23 April 2010. At o'dark thirty in the morning, I will be north bound for the Communication in the capital of the Palmetto State.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dues vs. Fundraisers

See: http://www.scgrandlodgeafm.org/Essays/gm201004.htm

A Grand Master addresses the subject...

My Brethren,

While visiting a Lodge I heard the Worshipful Master ask for ideas concerning fundraisers for their Lodge. I was very tempted to blurt out, “Raise your dues!” We need to get away from fundraisers to pay our Lodge expenses. Instead, we need to know how much our dues need raising in order to cover the Lodge expenses and then have some extra on hand. Fundraising should always be for special events such as assisting a member in distress or someone in the community. Fundraising can also be to purchase needed equipment or furnishings around the Lodge. However, it should never be to pay the Lodge’s routine expenses. Our paychecks are what we use to pay our personal expenses and in like manner, our dues, which are the Lodge’s paychecks, need to pay our Lodge's expenses.

I have heard the naysayers and pundits shout, “But if we raise the dues we will lose a lot of members.” Let’s look at that situation a moment. Assume your Lodge has one hundred members and your dues are $50. Assuming all members pay their dues, your Lodge today is receiving $5000 for the year. Not much, is it? Moreover, you have not yet subtracted out Grand Lodge dues. Now, suppose your Lodge conducts a thorough study and determines it needs to raise the dues to $100 a member to cover all expenses plus give it some breathing room. This now gives your lodge $10,000 to work with for a whole year. However, several members now say they will have to drop their membership because their dues are too high. We will say twenty members out of the one hundred, to give us round figures. If indeed you were to lose one fifth of your membership, your income is still $3000 more than it was before the increase. Brethren, I do not believe you would lose that many members, if you were to raise your dues to cover expenses and give your Lodge some extra money with which to work. If a Brother wants to remain a member, he will do what it takes to stay. Those who claim they cannot pay should go through a thorough investigation and placed on Masonic Relief, if indeed, they do qualify and need it. Yet, after a proper investigation has been conducted, I sincerely believe the number would be fewer than expected.

In 1950, if your Lodge dues were $10, the equivalent of that in 2008, according to the Consumer Price Index, is $89.41. Your Lodge today needs more than $90 per member for the same purchasing power it had 60 years ago. That is why we must raise our Lodge dues. Our dues cannot be lingering in the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s or even in the ‘90s. They need to be equal to present day prices.

Let’s stop cheapening our Fraternity. Each Lodge within our Grand Jurisdiction needs to take a hardline look at its dues. “Our Focus is on Quality” and if we want to do more than merely survive, if we want to attract quality men and do more than wear down a very select few of our dedicated hard working Brethren until there is nothing left of them, then we need to stop fundraisers to pay our expenses and raise our dues.

As you strive to raise your Lodge dues to a proper level, you will most likely meet with resistance. After all, your Lodge dues have not kept pace with the economy for a long time and it is going to sting and hurt a bit, but we know that going through a tough situation makes us stronger on the other side. It may even take several tries to raise your dues so always keep in mind, along with prayer “that time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things.”

Brethren, when you receive this issue of the Masonic Light, our 273rd Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina will almost be upon us. I look forward to you joining the Grand Lodge officers and being a part of the deliberations of your Grand Lodge. See you in Columbia.

May God continue to bless America and our great Fraternity and may the blessings of Heaven rest upon you and your families.


Barry A. Rickman
Grand Master

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Judging Freemasonry by Her Enemies

Freemasons are well aware that there are people on this planet that dislike the world’s oldest Fraternity. By examining those that dislike Freemasonry, one can come to a rather safe judgment about the organization. The enemies of Freemasonry – yes, Freemasons have enemies – can be divided into two distinct groups. The first group frowns upon the Fraternity out of ignorance or misinformation. The second dislikes Freemasonry because it knows something about the Fraternity. The first group tends to cause inconvenience or minor irritation for Masons. The second group can be dangerous to those in the Brotherhood. Both categories of Masonophobes always run up against two ideas that Masons hold dear – truth and liberty.

Those that dislike Freemasonry due to ignorance or misinformation are most often the people that base their feelings on supposed religious grounds. The most heard argument from these people goes like this: “Freemasonry is a religion that teaches a false path to salvation.” To back up their false claim – they point to such things as the use of prayer in Masonic lodges, the use of words like “Worshipful” when Masons address the Master of a lodge, and many outlandish activities that just do not exist within the Freemasonic fraternity. This group often publishes their unfounded opinions on the Internet, where others sometimes read and believe the misinformation.

Yes – Freemasonry requires its members to have a belief in a Supreme Being, but that is about the extent of the Fraternity’s involvement in a man’s spiritual life. A man’s faith, as far as Freemasonry is concerned, is left between that man and the Almighty. His church, synagogue, or other place of worship is the place for him to pursue his relationship with his Maker. The lodge is not the place for that. Freemasons do offer up prayers at their meetings – guilty as charged. Just prior to the next race at Daytona International Speedway and the next session of the Supreme Court of the United States, prayers will also be offered up. It would be rather silly to assume that NASCAR and the Supreme Court are religions. As for the word “Worshipful,” these types of detractors do not understand the historical application of the word. It is simply a term of respect.
Worshipful - British. a formal title of honor used in announcing or mentioning certain highly regarded or respected persons or groups. Source: Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/worshipful (accessed: September 27, 2009).
Freemasonry is not a religion and it never has been. Seekers of truth or knowledge – as Freemasons are – know this fact. However, there is a much more sinister group than the folks that dislike Freemasonry simply out of ignorance. The second group consists of the dictators, tyrants, and extremists of the world. Here one finds the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Franco, and Ahmadinejad.

The Nazis of Germany rounded up Freemasons in a similar manner as they did people of the Jewish faith. Lodge temples were confiscated and – after supporting props were added – turned into tourist attractions designed to show the “evils” of Freemasonry. The Communists of the former Soviet Union were no less brutal in their treatment of Freemasons. There, Freemasonry was outlawed and many a Freemason met the same fate as their German Brethren. The fascist government of Franco in Spain spent years confiscating the property of individual Freemasons as well as imprisoning and executing many of them. In Franco’s Spain, sometimes just being accused of being a Freemason was a death sentence. To this day, tyrants and radical Islamic governments declare Freemasonry to be illegal. Masonic membership in those types of places – if discovered – can be very dangerous. The Grand Lodge of Iran, for example, exists only because it is in exile in California.

Now why do the likes of Hitler, Franco, Stalin, and Iran’s Ahmadinejad dislike Freemasonry so much? It is because they fear it. They know enough about Freemasonry to understand that Freemasons value truth and liberty – and have always been promoters of those lofty ideas. Truth and liberty are not compatible with tyranny and injustice.

Viewed by examining her enemies – whether they are the ignorant or the ruthless – Freemasonry sure comes out looking pretty good.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Recommended - Crown of Serpents

I do not normally read anything that can be described as Masonic fiction and am one of the two Masons in the world that have not read Dan Brown's books. Michael Karpovage’s Crown of Serpents was sent to me, however, for a possible book review and I really enjoyed it. The book review that resulted has been submitted for consideration for publication by a well-known Masonic research society.

In the meantime, I recommend this book. See: http://www.crownofserpents.com/ for more information.