Freemasonry, Trans-Atlantic Networking and Liverpool’s support for the Confederacy during the American Civil War
Freemasonry undoubtedly continued to assist in the networking that was crucial to the Trans-Atlantic trade as the nineteenth century progressed, especially between Liverpool and the ports of America. Crucial to the cotton industry of the north-west of England was the trade with the Southern cotton producing States, and with the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, the cotton trade experienced a period of uncertainty and instability. The outbreak of the American Civil War followed the secession from the Union by the Southern cotton producing States that depended on slavery. The growing anti-slavery position of the Northern States had made conflict with the South more apparent, the newly elected President Abraham Lincoln having firmly declared himself against the expansion of slavery, a view that was compounded in a speech he gave in New Haven, Connecticut in March 1860:
‘One of the reasons why I am opposed to Slavery is just here…I want every man to have the chance – and I believe a black man is entitled to it – in which he can better his condition – when he may look forward and hope to be a hired labourer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him! That is the true system.’
With the foundation of the Confederate States of America in February 1861, hostilities followed, and in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Lincoln resulted in slaves being freed in Confederate States occupied by the Union.
The maintaining of networking and business contacts were essential to the cotton merchants and brokers of Liverpool, and during the war, despite the neutrality of Britain, some Liverpool merchants were willing to buy cotton that could be smuggled past the Union naval blockade that had been established during the early stages of the conflict. An example of the intricate networking that developed during the Civil War in Liverpool can be seen with the activities of a Confederate naval officer and ‘secret serviceman’ who operated in the port called James Dunwoody Bulloch, a Confederate ‘banker’ named Charles Kuhn Prioleau, the Liverpool based shipping firm of Fraser and Trenholm and a number of Merseyside shipbuilding companies.
James Dunwoody Bulloch was no stranger to Freemasonry, his family home, Bulloch Hall, was built by his father Major James Stephen Bulloch, a plantation owner, a cotton producer and a Freemason. The Hall, near Roswell, in the Southern State of Georgia, was built in the Neo-Classical Greek revival style in 1840, and displayed Masonic symbolism prominently on each side of the Hall and over the main entrance. The plantation kept a number of slaves, and after being ransacked by Union troops during the war, a legend developed that it had been the prominent Masonic symbolism that ultimately saved the Hall from being destroyed. Indeed, the legend of Bulloch Hall being saved due to its Masonic links is akin to Albert Pike’s home being saved from destruction by a Union commander who was also a high ranking Freemason; Thomas H. Benton, a Union General who had been Grand Master in Iowa from 1860-1862, placed Federal troops around Pike’s home at Little Rock, Arkansas, when the city was invaded.
After establishing his base in Liverpool and cultivating his contacts, Bulloch began arranging in secret for the construction of commerce and blockade raiders, such as the CSS Alabama, which was built at the Birkenhead shipbuilders John Lairds, and the CSS Florida, which was constructed by the Liverpool shipbuilder William Cowley Miller. Bulloch also purchased ships, such as the CSS Shenandoah, the purpose of which was as a commerce raider, particularly focussing on Whaling ships – a source of revenue for the Union. The CSS Alabama became extremely successful; from the ship’s launch in July 1862 to her sinking by the USS Kearsarge in June 1864, the Alabama claimed over 60 prizes, her Captain Raphael Semmes also residing in Liverpool for a time. Along with his younger brother Irvine Bulloch, who had been the youngest officer on the Alabama, James remained in Liverpool after the Civil War, both maintaining a relationship with their nephew and future President of the USA Theodore Roosevelt, who was also a Freemason.
The society of Liverpool proved its support for the Confederacy when, in October 1864, the great Southern Bazaar was held at St. Georges’ Hall to raise money for the Confederate wounded, and as a result around £20,000 was raised. The woman behind the bazaar was none other than Mary Elizabeth Prioleau, the wife of Confederate ‘banker’ Charles Kuhn Prioleau, who originated from Charleston, South Carolina, and was a manager and partner of Fraser and Trenholm. The offices of Bulloch and Fraser and Trenholm were located close to each other at Rumford Place, near to the Liverpool Docks. Prioleau was supplying funds for the shipbuilding at Lairds, and after the war was over, Fraser and Trenholm became bankrupt and he left Liverpool to settle in London.
The foundation stone for the Neo-Classical St. Georges’ Hall had been laid in 1838 with a Masonic ceremony, led by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire, with a number of local lodges attending, such as the Lodge of Harmony. Many of the local Liverpool lodges also raised money for the ‘distressed operatives’ of the cotton mills throughout Lancashire and Cheshire during the American Civil War period, with lodges such as Lodge of Harmony and the Merchants Lodge, which contributed twenty guineas in 1862, taking the lead. There are no records yet discovered of the Bulloch’s and Prioleau being Freemasons in Liverpool, but they certainly mixed in the same social circles, the men enjoying access to Liverpool high society, and Prioleau knew the value of symbolism, decorating his house at 19 Abercromby Square in Liverpool with an elaborate mixture of classical and Confederate symbolism, some of which, such as the fresco on the entrance porch ceiling which displays the palmetto tree, being the State symbol for South Carolina, would be instantly recognisable to Confederate supporters.
The Lancashire Cotton Famine was as much a result of overproduction in the years prior to the American Civil War as the supply of raw cotton being cut off due to the Union blockade. The cotton workers of mill towns such as Manchester became unemployed as a result, and a rioting took place in Stalybridge in 1863, spreading to Ashton, Hyde and Dukinfield. Despite this hardship, cotton workers had met at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and had given support to Lincoln and the Union in the fight against slavery. However, support was divided in certain Lancashire cotton producing towns, and some mills actually hoisted the Confederate flag on the day the Prince of Wales marries Princess Alexandra in 1863.
William Ewart Gladstone, despite his liberalism, had shocked his fellow politicians on his views on the American Civil War and the issue of slavery. Gladstone, whose elder brother Robertson was a high ranking Freemason and politician in Liverpool, and whose father had kept slaves on his West Indies plantation, gave a speech in Newcastle in October 1862, were he had effectively recognised the Confederacy:
‘We may have our own opinions about slavery; we may be for or against the South; but there is no doubt that Jefferson Davies and other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made, what is more than either, they have made a nation…’
Gladstone’s reference to the Confederacy ‘making a navy’ was certainly uncanny regarding that his home town of Liverpool was central to the ship building activities of Confederate agent James Dunwoody Bulloch at this time. Gladstone’s Newcastle speech certainly stirred feelings across the British political spectrum, leading the Liberal spokesman John Bright to comment ‘he has no word of sympathy for the four million bondsmen of the South’. Though he was against slavery, Gladstone ultimately disapproved of the Civil War to bring about its end.
Albert Pike, a Freemason who had joined the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite in the USA, was an advocate of slavery and a Confederate Officer during the Civil War, who, having built up relationships with various Native American tribes while working as a lawyer, was given a command in the Indian Territory and trained Confederate regiments of Indian Cavalry. Pike fell foul of his superiors and faced an accusation that some of his troops had scalped Union soldiers, so, facing arrest, Pike resigned from the Confederate Army. After the war, Pike continued his Masonic career, re-shaping the Scottish Rite (he had been elected Grand Commander for the Southern Jurisdiction in 1859), and writing the detailed work Morals and Dogma. Pike and his work was held in high regard by many Masons in Britain, such as Dr. William Wynn Westcott who founded the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1888.
Freemasonry in the Confederate States was undoubtedly affected by the Civil War, with many lodges suffering due to the conflict. One such lodge was the Atlanta Lodge No. 59, which had a number of its brethren actively take part in the conflict, such as General George ‘Tige’ Anderson who fought in a number of campaigns, including Gettysburg in July 1863. Other brethren who served in the Confederate army included Dr. W.E. Parkhurst who served as Lieutenant in the Fifth (5th) Georgia Cavalry, and Dr. Daniel Cornelius O’Keefe, who was born in Limerick, Ireland, and served as Surgeon with the rank of Major. After the war he campaigned to established public schools in Atlanta. The lodge certainly suffered during the war and from 1861 to the end of the conflict in 1865, Methodist Minister Lewis Lawshe served as Worshipful Master, holding the lodge together. Lawshe also entered the ranks of the Confederate Army as Chaplain.
The war torn Confederate States underwent an economic and social upheaval which obviously affected the membership of Freemasonry in the area. As with the members of the Atlanta Lodge, many Confederate Freemasons were involved in the war, and Freemasonry in the old Confederate States suffered stagnation in the following years. After the war, the lodges in the Northern states however, reveal a different story, and whereas the Confederate lodges were static for many years, the lodges in the Northern States appear to have flourished and enjoyed a period of prosperity – the golden age of fraternalism not applying in the Confederate States.
There were of course Freemasons on both sides of the American Civil War, and many prominent officers in the Union army were practising Freemasons. One such officer and Freemason who fought the Confederates was the Muscogee Creek Indian Chief Opothleyahola, who, in leading Creeks and Seminole Indians who were loyal to the Union from his plantation in Oklahoma to seek promised refuge in Kansas, fought a number of battles against pursuing Confederates. Suffering great losses through battle, disease and hardship, the remaining followers finally made it to a refuge camp in Kansas, where Opothleyahola died from illness in 1863. Opothleyahola had kept slaves on his plantation, but during the outbreak of the Civil War, he refused pressure to join the Confederacy, his plantation becoming a gathering place for runaway slaves, free blacks and Indian tribes in the early stages of the war.
Perhaps one of the most moving examples of Masonic brotherhood during the Civil War was written by American Masonic historian Joseph Fort Newton, who related the story of how his father; a Freemason and soldier in the Union army, had been taken prisoner, and while at a prisoner of war camp, he became seriously ill. He made himself known as a Mason to a Confederate officer in the camp, and the officer subsequently took him to his home and nursed him back to health. At the end of the war, the same Confederate officer gave Joseph Fort Newton’s father money and a pistol for his journey home. Another incident that revealed how Freemasonry bridged the bitter political divide created by the Civil War was during the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, when the Confederate officer and Freemason Lewis Addison Armistead, who was mortally wounded in the field of battle, gave the Masonic sign for distress. He was attended to by fellow Freemason Henry H. Bingham, who recognised the sign. Bingham however, was a Union officer, but the brotherhood of Freemasonry transcended above the political differences and personal beliefs. Armistead gave Bingham his personal effects to pass onto his old friend and fellow Mason Winfield Scott Hancock, who was also a Union officer.
Freemasons had certainly played a part in slavery and the slave trade, and Freemasons had also played a part in bringing an end to it. Freemasonry allowed intimate business relationships to develop and to become established, so mariners and merchants from the United States could be welcomed by other Freemasons who were merchants from Liverpool, maintaining friendships and business links at various ports, cultivating trades such as slavery. Certainly when a mariner stepped off his ship in the old Liverpool docks, he could make his way to a lodge meeting and be among friends, finding a meal and lodgings during his stay. He could then perhaps discuss business, make connections, and perhaps extend an invite to his lodge in America or the West Indies. Of the many trades that took place in Liverpool, the slave trade was one that contributed immensely to the development of the port and certainly increased the wealth of the merchants there.
 Abraham Lincoln, ‘From a Speech at New Haven, Connecticut, March 6th, 1860’, in Mario M. Cuomo and Harold Holzer, (ed.), Lincoln on Democracy; His own words, with essays by America’s foremost Civil War historians, (New York: Fordham University Press, 2004), p.176-177.
 Bulloch Hall is currently in possession of a ‘letter of protection’ signed by a Federal General, which ensured the Hall was spared destruction by Union troops. See John Hussey, Cruisers, Cotton and Confederates, (Merseyside: Countyvise, 2008), p.91.
 See Michael Halleran, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War, (Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 2010).
 John Hussey, Cruisers, Cotton and Confederates, Liverpool Waterfront in the days of the Confederacy, (Birkenhead: Countrywise, 2009), pp.17-19.
 See the Fraser and Trenholm Archive, The Liverpool Maritime Museum. The archive includes original letters from Prioleau to key figures in the Confederacy, discussing loans and blockade running vessels.
 Anon. The History of The Lodge of Harmony No. 220, (Liverpool, 1948), p.9.
 Ibid., p.13.
 John Macnab, History of The Merchants Lodge, No. 241, Liverpool, 1780-2004, Second Edition, (Liverpool, 2004), p.57.
 Peter J. Parish, ‘Gladstone and America’ in Peter J. Jagger (ed.,), Gladstone, (Hambledon Continuum, 1998), pp.85-105, on p.97.
 Ibid., p.99. See also Philip Magnus, Gladstone A Biography, (New York, E.P Dutton & Co., 1954), p.154.
 Peter J. Parish, ‘Gladstone and America’ in Peter J. Jagger (ed.,), Gladstone, (Hambledon Continuum, 1998), pp.85-105, on p.99
 John Belton and David Harrison, ‘Two Centuries of Masonic Membership Exposed and some light on Post Civil War Fraternalism’, a paper presented at the ICHF, Edinburgh, 26th of May, 2007.
 See Angie Debo, The Road to Disappearance, A History of the Creek Indians, (Oklahoma: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1941).
 See Allen E. Roberts, House Undivided: The Story of Freemasonry and the Civil War, (Missouri, USA: Missouri Lodge of Research, 1961). Also see Joseph Fort Newton, The Builders, (London: Unwin Brothers Limited, 1924).
 Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead, originally from North Carolina, was a member of Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge No. 22, and before the Civil War he had served with his friend and fellow Mason Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, who was a member of Charity Lodge No. 190. Captain Henry H. Bingham, serving under Hancock at Gettysburg, was a member of Chartiers Lodge No. 297. See Halleran, The Better Angels of Our Nature.