It is an honor to call you fine men my brothers and my friends. The presentation today is on the “Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial” that stands on the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania, one of my favorite towns.
My name is Jeff Stike, I am currently serving as Worshipful Master at Friendship Lodge No. 663 in Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania. Our program this evening is the story of the man depicted on the ground in the “Friend to Friend Masonic Monument” . . . Lewis Addison Armistead of Virginia and his relationship with his best friend Winfield Scott Hancock of Pennsylvania. These two men are giants, two of the best men and soldiers that we as Freemasons have the honor of calling Brothers, and I am sure that these brave men’s story will continue to inspire us now and for decades to come.
My first trip to Gettysburg was in 1995. My sister, her husband and I made the trip there. We were in the tower; we toured the town, and we walked the battlefields. At that time, we really did not know a thing about it, but the one thing I did that day was stop at a gift shop where I purchased a Civil War booklet entitled “Trust in God and Fear Nothing” by Wayne E. Motts.(1) Oddly enough, it was the biography of Lewis Addison Armistead . . . This was my first introduction to Lewis Armistead . . . and years later it would be the words that Armistead said to his men while making that fateful charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 that would inspire me to write the song “Soldiers Prayer” on my “Gettysburg” album which I released in 2013, so this man and this story were an important part of my life years before I became a Freemason. I recently learned Brother Wayne E. Motts is a brother Freemason which only added to the excitement I feel when I tell this story and I thank you for this opportunity.
Ok, let us get into it . . . First the facts. The “Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial” was finished and dedicated by our Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania as a memorial to the Freemasons of the Union and the Confederacy in the National Cemetery Annex August 21, 1993. The monument depicts Confederate General Lewis A. Armistead, wounded after crossing the wall during the climax of Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863. The monument depicts Lewis Armistead being attended to by Union Captain Henry Bingham, also a Brother Freemason.(4)
Thirty-four thousand five hundred and thirty Pennsylvanians were present during the battle of Gettysburg.(5) Out of approximately 85,000 Union soldiers present at the battle (6) that means that over forty percent of the Union soldiers engaged were Pennsylvanians. In Vietnam, the United States suffered around 50,000 casualties in ten years (7) . . . at Gettysburg July 1st to the 3rd . . . these two armies would suffer over 50,000 casualties in three days.7 It was a very grave situation in which our story takes place. Those are a few facts, now let us talk about the men.
So, I purchased the book “Trust in God and Fear Nothing” by Wayne E Motts in Gettysburg that day and the first thing I remember reading and learning was that Lewis Armistead’s uncle was George Armistead. George Armistead was the commander of Fort McHenry during the British Bombardment of Fort McHenry September 13, 1814, inspiring Francis Scott Key to pen the Star-Spangled Banner. Lewis Armistead and his four uncles fought in the War of 1812 and we owe these men and their families our gratitude for fighting, for winning and defending American Independence. Lewis Armistead’s 18-year-old son was serving in the Army with his father and was his aide during the battle of
Gettysburg. Lewis Armistead’s grandson would serve in the Spanish American War and World War 1 . . . Armistead’s Great Grandson would serve on a U.S. Army Air Crew in the second World War. The blood of heroes ran through this man’s veins.
As a young cadet Lewis Armistead had one notable rough spot, you see, Lewis Armistead was attending the United States Military Academy but had to resign following an incident in which he broke a plate over the head of fellow cadet and future Confederate General Jubal Early.(3) General Jubal Early, you may recall, oversaw sending another one of our Masonic Brothers General John B. Gordon to capture York Pennsylvania and to capture and control the Wrightsville /Columbia bridge. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had planned to use the Wrightsville / Columbia Bridge to cross into Lancaster county and Capture Harrisburg Pennsylvania, which was the goal, but the citizen soldiers would burn the bridge to ashes putting a stop to General Lee’s plan days before the battle at Gettysburg (8) . . . and the battle of Gettysburg was almost decided the first day of the battle when Jubal Early’s men failed to take Culp’s hill and the “High Ground”. Hence the saying “On the first day of the battle the South came in from the North , the North came in from the South…and Early was Late!"
So anyway, Lewis Armistead breaks this plate over the young Jubal Early’s head and is forced to resign ( at least that shows his fighting spirit). Lewis Armistead’s influential father would manage to obtain a second Lieutenants commission for his son in the 6th U.S. Infantry at roughly the same time his sons classmates graduated.(3)
Lewis Armistead would fall in love and get married. He married Cecelia Lee Love, a distant cousin of Robert E. Lee. In April 1850, the Armistead’s lost their little girl Flora Love. Later Armistead was posted at Fort Dodge, but in the winter, he had to take his wife to Mobile Alabama where she died December 12. Two years later Armistead’s family home in Virginia burned destroying nearly everything. Lewis Armistead took leave in October 1862 to go home and help his family.(3) So Lewis Armistead knew loss, heartache and the worst kind of pain and would somehow have to go on. Losses of that magnitude can make a man appreciate what he has . . . and we know that Lewis Armistead loved his family, he loved his men, and we know he loved his best friend Winfield Scott Hancock.
When the American Civil War began Captain, Armistead was in command of a small garrison in San Diego California, Winfield Scott was his Quartermaster.(3) Having fought and won a war together, the two men were almost like brothers, and we can imagine the bonds of friendship that are born in such circumstances and here we have an example.
Now let us talk about Winfield Scott Hancock . . . Hancock the Superb! . . . Winfield Scott Hancock was born February 14,1824 just northwest of Philadelphia Pennsylvania.9 Winfield was named after Winfield Scott a prominent General in the War of 1812 . . . So what is in a name? They name the child after a famous General and what a General he became. Hancock is all about personal courage and discipline. He has a naturally commanding presence, and he will be called upon to do the heavy work under General Grant at the end of the war.
At the Sunken Road at Antietam/ Sharpsburg September 1862 during the hottest part of the battle Hancock is riding along the Sunken Road, which at this time is littered with Confederate dead and dying, with his pistol out not for the Confederates but for his own men who are pilfering the Confederate dead. Hancock tells his men at the point of a pistol “ Stop pilfering the dead ! Get back in line or I will shoot you dead! " He is all about order and discipline. Fast forward three months to December 1862 to Fredericksburg Virginia, Hancock is now a division commander, and his division has found its way right in front of Marye’s Heights. Marye’s Heights is that famous open plain so famous in Civil war battlefield history where the Irish Brigade and thousands of Union Soldiers will be mowed down attempting to capture Marye’s Heights in kind of a reverse “Pickett's Charge” and it is Hancock and his men who must get out of the cobblestone streets of Fredericksburg and somehow deploy on that open plain and take that hill. It is a death sentence; you see that's Edward P. Alexander’s cannon on that hill. E.P. Alexander will oversee the cannonade at Gettysburg six months later and today he has told General Lee that his cannons are placed in such good positions that when his guns open fire. “ A chicken will not be able to cross that field” . . . and he is correct. Under orders Hancock will attack and it will be a complete disaster for the Union forces that day to the tune of 12,600 Union casualties. In the face of an almost certain impossibility, Hancock will attack, he will follow orders and attack.(2)
The first night of the Battle of Gettysburg when George Meade, Commander of the United States Army arrives on the field; it is dark, and he cannot see the battlefield he has no idea what he is up against. In a room full of Generals, General Meade walks straight up to Hancock first, and asks his opinion. Hancock tells General Meade “ This is good ground Sir . . . “very good ground" . . . and when the battle is over General Meade will send a message to the wounded Hancock thanking him for saving his Army and his Nation! . . . That's General Hancock and that is the quality of the men we are speaking of.(2)
When the call for secession went out in 1861 Armistead resigns his commission stating like Robert E. Lee that he cannot raise the sword against his fellow Virginians. Before they parted ways, and they knew this was serious, they had a farewell party at the Hancock’s residence. As the evening went on, they gathered around the piano. Lewis Armistead will give Hancock his brand-new U.S. Army uniform. He will also give Almira Hancock his prayer book in which he writes on the inside cover “Trust in God and Fear Nothing“ ...the title of the book I bought in Gettysburg that day. As the night goes on Lewis Armistead gets emotional and as the night closes, he turns to Winfield Hancock and says, “ Goodbye my friend, you can never know what this has cost me.” He goes
on to say, “If I should ever raise a hand to you may God strike me dead” and they all part ways hoping there will be no war.(2, 9)
Twenty-Seven months later, here they stand, one mile apart, with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Hancock facing the undefeated Confederate Army with best friend Lewis Armistead at the tip of the spear preparing to attack his line . . . and these men will attack . . . all the cowards are long gone and like Robert E. Lee these men want this war over, and they are hoping this day's work will be the deciding blow as tomorrow is the 4th of July, Independence Day . . . Southern Independence Day . . . But I have bad news . . . Like Winfield Hancock, the men Armistead is facing are Pennsylvanians and like the southerners now the Pennsylvanians are fighting a defensive battle. The Confederates are about to find out what the North has been experiencing for the past twenty-seven months. It is hard to push a man off his grand-daddy's land . . . one man defending his home is worth three men attacking.
So here stands Lewis Armistead preparing to attack . . . On the first day of the battle the Southern forces pretty much rolled up the North, on the second day of the battle the South swung hard from the right and almost captured Little Round Top and the high ground, now here it is day three. Robert E. Lee is sending in 12,000 fresh troops headed by George Pickett’s Division with Lewis Armistead at the tip of the spear…their mission…Attack the Union center, split the Army of the Potomac in half, rush in through the gap and destroy it. General Lee is pushing all his chips to the center of the table. General Lee knows this is his last chance (11) . . . And it will be the last chance he gets . . .
To weaken the Union line General Lee gives the order for E.P. Alexanders 160 cannons to cut loose. The Union responds with 100 guns of their own! These two armies are witnessing the largest artillery duel ever to take place in the western hemisphere. The cannonade was heard plainly in Harrisburg and for two hours the two armies raise Hell on Earth as each side launches everything they have at the other !
After two hours the cannonade stops as an eerie quiet comes over the smokey battlefield. Then from the Confederate line, out of woods step 15,000 men in gray in a line a mile long.(10) To reach the Union lines the Confederates will have to march almost a mile over open ground and then charge up a hill. Like Hancock at Fredericksburg six months earlier . . . it is a death sentence. Unknown to the Confederates the cannonade
was not effective. There had been so much smoke coming out of the cannons that eventually the cannoneers could no longer see their targets. General Lee’s cannons had used a large portion of their artillery shells during the cannonade and needed to cease
fire when they did... but the Union still had plenty of ammunition left, but they will keep that quiet until the Confederates are in range.(10)
The first half of the march is relatively quiet for the Confederates, but they are marching straight into an artillery hell . . . as the Union cannons cut loose some shells will explode over their heads, some will explode on impact . . . the solid shot will not stop at all.(12) As large swaths of men disappear to their left and right only courage could make you move forward . . . and the amount of courage it would take to make a charge like that is phenomenal! Lewis Armistead, seeing some of his men's courage failing, takes his sword and runs it through his hat and holding it high over his head repeatedly urges his men to "Remember what you are fighting for! Your Homes! Your families . . . your Sweethearts!” . . . And he does not turn back in the face of that hell. Lewis Armistead and 300 men do cross the wall and placing his hand on a Yankee cannon just for a second1 what must that man have thought? Any notion of success will be short lived as when he turned around and looked behind him, he would see his men in the words of one observer, “As they fell like leaves in an autumn wind”.(13)
Lewis Armistead's brigade is decimated, he himself shot three times, as he went down it was said he gave the Masonic hailing sign and words of distress(14) . . . We know he was answered by Masonic brother Henry H. Bingham. In that scene of pure hell God would send an angel . . . Henry Bingham will attend to Lewis Armistead; he will attend to his wounds and to his wishes. Lewis Armistead will give Henry H. Bingham his Bible; pocket watch and a letter he has prepared for the Hancock's. After being informed his old friend Winfield Hancock had also been wounded it was said Lewis Armistead cried out for his old friend.
Lewis Armistead will die in a field hospital at the Spangler Farm two days later.(14) 'Pickett’s charge' will be a complete disaster. General Lee will ride out onto the field himself as the few surviving stragglers make their way back to confederate lines . . . General Lee would say “I’m sorry boys it’s all my fault . . . it’s all my fault”. The South would lose the war and we would all lose an incredibly brave man in Lewis Addison Armistead, friend to friend.
If time permitted, I would love to speak more about these two great warriors, but I will wrap this up with a question. If Lewis Armistead and Winfield Scott Hancock were here and could see our Country and world today . . . What would they think? . . . What would they say about the individual battles we all endure? . . . What would they say about the seeming impossibilities we all face? I bet Winfield Hancock would simply say “Do your duty.” I believe Lewis Armistead, being a man of great faith, would tell you to “Remember what you are fighting for" and that You have been armed with strength for the battle . . . I believe he would tell you "That no weapon formed against you shall prosper”(15) and that the enemy does not have the final say, God has the final say”.
As we start this new year and march off to face our own battles . . . let us remember the example of our brave brothers . . . let us keep believing, let us keep being our best, lets continue being good to one another and we will enter a new season of victory.
"This story epitomizes some of the most time-honored virtues of Freemasonry and highlights the unique bonds of friendship which enabled these men to remain Brothers Undivided even as they fought in a divided nation."(4)
My friends I leave you with these fine words from our brother Lewis Addison Armistead . . . ”Trust in God and Fear Nothing”.
1. Trust in God and Fear Nothing Gen. Lewis A. Armistead, CSA by Wayne E. Motts Published 1994
2. Winfield Scott Hancock on July 3- Gettysburg Battle Walk with Ranger Matt Atkinson www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxuGLXCsOo&t=247s
3. Lewis Armistead from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/lewis_Armistead
4. Friend to Friend Monument https://www.gettysburgfreemasons.org/friend-to-friend-monument/
5. Pennsylvania State Memorial, Gettysburg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania_State_Memorial,_Gettysburg
6. Google Search “How many Pennsylvanians fought the Battle of Gettysburg www.google.com
7. Department of Veterans Affairs Americas Wars https://www.va.gov/opapublications/factsheet/fs_americas_wars.pdf
8. East of Gettysburg A Gray Shadow Crosses York County Pa. James McClure 2003 York Daily Record York County Heritage trust
9. Winfield Scott Hancock from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winfield_Scott_Hancock
10. The Civil War Gettysburg The Confederate High Tide 1985 Time Life Books Inc.
11. Captain Steven Knott Instructor U.S. Army War College
12. Battle of Gettysburg History Channel Documentary www.youtube.com
13. Civil War Biography Lewis Armistead American Battlefield Trust
14. Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial from Wikipedia
15. Holy Bible Isaiah 54:17
Afterword from "The Two Way Street"
There are very few people who can tell a story like Jeff Stike. Jeff’s songs take the listener back in time with a musical style and talent unique to himself. Jeff released the album "Gettysburg . . .in words in music“ in 2013 . . . A self-composed collection of 8 songs and 9 narrations that vividly recount the battle of Gettysburg using the words of the soldiers that fought there. In 2015 he released “Color Bearer” The memoirs of John A. Stikeleather, Color Bearer for the 4th North Carolina Infantry 1861-1865, his direct ancestor. This rare eyewitness account of his ancestor's service in the American Civil War found its way into his hands and changed his life forever. Using his years of experience gained working as a studio musician Stike plays every instrument and narrates his ancestor's memoir set to music he created himself. There are few people I know who have such a unique love and ability to retain and express the intimate facts of history like he does. His interest piqued during his numerous visits to actual battlefields as he traced his ancestor's regiments participation in battles such as Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, The Wilderness, The “Mule Shoe” at Spotsylvania Courthouse and more. Jeff Stike became a Master Mason in 2014 and is currently Worshipful Master of Friendship Lodge No. 663 in Fawn Grove Pa