Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms, Freemasonry, and His ''Epistle to a Brother Mason in Affliction'' >> Page 111

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription Simms, Freemasonry, and His
"Epistle to a Brother Mason in Affliction"

Paul C. Graham


In March of 1865, Simms set about the task of publishing the
tragic events surrounding the capture and destruction of the city of
Columbia, South Carolina, during its occupation by the Union army in
February, 1865. Before going to press, Simms had spent over a month
copiously collecting first-hand accounts of the horrors that transpired on
the streets of Columbia on February 17 and 18, 1865, following its formal
surrender to the Federal troops under the command of William Tecumseh
Sherman. In the April 6, 1865 edition of the Columbia Phoenix, Simms
devotes an entire section of his serial account to the losses suffered by the
Freemasons and other fraternal orders of the city. In this section he also
narrates his encounter with some Masons in Sherman's army during the
invasion:
In a conversation with one of the Western Masons,
he responded to the signs and behaved courteously,
but said: "We are told that all fraternization with your
Masonic bodies of the South, has been cut off, in conse-
quence of your Masons renouncing all connection or tie
between them and the Masons of the North." We replied
to him that the story was absurd, and evidently set afloat
in order to prevent the Northern Masons from affording
succor to a Southern brother in the hour of his distress—
that Masonry overrides the boundaries of States, allows
of no political or religious differences, and that its very
nature and constitution are averse to the idea of any such
renunciations of the paramount duties of the craft, in all
countries and under all circumstances. (A City 104)
Simms was correct. Although a recent Mason, he understood the posi-
tion adopted by the American Grand Lodges with regards to the war,
viz., that the recognition of and fraternization with other Masons could
not be based on which side of the conflict any brother Mason might take
(Roberts 55-77). One's obligation as a Freemason, in fact, is assumed
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