Thursday, January 25, 2018

Famous Freemason: Winfield Hancock's Close Call

Union General Winfield Hancock
Shortly after one o'clock on the afternoon of July 3rd, 1863, a single cannon fired. It was the signal that unleashed the largest cannonade if the Civil War, and began one of the bloodiest days in American history.

General Lee was convinced the center of the Union line at Gettysburg, a place referred to as "the angle" was weak. He was convinced the Confederate Army could punch through. Seconds after that first shot was fired, the center of the Union line seemed to explode, and for an hour and forty-five minutes the incoming shells fell on the soldiers looking for cover at the center of the Union line. There was nothing to do but hunker down and wait for the shelling to stop.

Union General Winfield Hancock, moments before the signal shot was fired was sitting with several other generals and members of his staff eating a hastily thrown together lunch on an improvised table made out of a cracker box. They'd just finished and were lighting cigars as the departed the picnic area when the signal shot went off and the shells began to rain down--one destroying the table where they had just finished eating their lunch.

General Pleasonton, one of the generals, glanced back, and described what he saw when the shell hit as "an indiscriminate mass of sandwiches, cheese, crackers and stragglers all mixed up together."

CSA General Lewis Armistead
Hancock was fortunate to have survived that first cannonade. He wouldn't soon forget it. He said, "It was the most terrific cannonade I ever witnessed, and the most prolonged." His luck that day would change however. Later, a Confederate bullet struck the pommel of his saddle wounding his leg badly and taking him out of the fight at Gettysburg. But Hancock would survive the war a great hero, and in 1880 ran for President of the United States against James A. Garfield.

General Lee threw 12,000 men at the angle at Gettysburg that day--it was known as Pickett's Charge. Less than 200 made it, and managed to cross the Union line, led by Confederate General Lewis Armistead. Armistead and Hancock had been friends before the war. Armistead had only moments to enjoy the victory before Union soldiers on three sides of the small group cut them down. Union Captain Bingham reached Armistead after he was shot down. He was clinging to life. His last thoughts were of his old friend, Winfield Hancock.

General Winfield Hancock was a Freemason--Charity Lodge No. 190, Norristown Pennsylvania.

CSA General Lewis Armistead was a Freemason--Washington Lodge No. 22, Alexandria, Virginia.

Captain Henry Bingham was a Freemason--Chartiers Lodge No. 297, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

And leading the ill-fated charge. CSA General George Pickett was a Freemason--Dove Lodge No. 51, Virginia.

As were many more who fought, and who died that fateful day.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

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