by Duncan Howard, PGM
Reprint From The Texas Mason, Spring 1994
The recapture of Galveston by Confederate forces is little known in the annals of war. But Masons, wherever dispersed, take a special pride and share a certain feeling when the war stood still in Galveston while Worshipful Master Philip C. Tucker, Jr. opened Harmony Lodge No. 6 and conducted the Masonic burial of a Northern Brother, “appreciating the spirit and force of Masonic ties.” It is a Masonic legacy for all Masons to cherish until time shall be no more.
By way of background, the Union Navy established a blockade of Port Galveston on October 6, 1862. Later, on Christmas Day, Federal troops landed and placed the entire island under Northern control. In the meantime, Texas gained a battle-tested hero as Confederate General John Bankhead Magruder, nicknamed “Prince John” for his dramatic flair and goldbraided pomp, was transferred to command the War Department of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona on October 10, 1862.
General Magruder, a West Pointer, had been thrice promoted in the Mexican War for “gallant and meritorious conduct” and was credited with directing and winning the first land battle in the Civil War for Southern Independence. Describing the battle, the Richmond Dispatch reported that Magruder had met a flag of truce in the conflict and granted the removal of a slain Federal officer. In parting, he had shaken hands with a Union Lieutenant and said, “We part as friends, but on the field of battle we meet as enemies.” Although politicians might differ, General Magruder had expressed the feeling of most Masons and most combat soldiers of either North or South. And, it is interesting to note that Magruder had become an Entered Apprenticed Mason in San Diego Lodge No. 35 while stationed in California after the Mexican War, but his advancement was stopped due to a duel with the Lodge Treasurer.
When General Magruder arrived in Texas, he recognized that the economy of the state was held hostage by Union blockades along the Texas coast and immediately planned a land/sea attack to retake Galveston Island. In preparation, two small steamboats -the Bayou City and the Neptune – were fitted with guns and armored with bales of cotton which Magruder said gave “an appearance of protection” to the volunteers who manned them. Then, under cover of New Year’s Eve night of 1862, the cotton-clad boats with makeshift tenders cruised to rendezvous with eight Northern ships in Galveston Harbor. At the same time a land force of Texas volunteers secretly crossed Galveston Bay on the railway bridge that still connected the island to the mainland and stationed themselves in a semicircle around Kuhn’s Wharf where Union troops were garrisoned. No doubt, the Union soldiers were startled from sleep about three o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Day, 1863, when General Magruder fired the first cannon shot as a signal for the Battle of Galveston to begin. After firing the cannon, a little of “Prince John” slipped out as a jovial Magruder remarked to his closeby troops, “Now I’ve done my duty as a private and I will go now and attend my duties as a General.”
The outcome of the battle centered around the Union ship Harriet Lane, a copper-sheathed gunboat commanded by Commander Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright, Jr., the forty-one year old son of Protestant Episcopal Bishop Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright, Sr. of New York and the grandfather of Masonic General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright III of World War 11 fame. The second in command was Lieutenant Commander Edward Lea, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md., in 1855, and a family relation of Margaret Moffette Lea Houston, wife of the Masonic General Sam Houston.
Upon entering the harbor, the Bayou City and Neptune opened fire and attempted to ram the Harriet Lane. The Harriet Lane returned fire in like kind and sank the Neptune in the shallow bay. Finally, the Bayou City managed to ram the Harriet Lane in such a way that the vessels locked together. At this time the Harriet Lane was boarded and captured during hand-to-hand combat. Following the seizure of the Harriet Lane, a flag of truce was sent to the Union Commodore Renshaw whose flagship Westfield had run aground. In truce, General Magruder demanded surrender of the entire fleet and gave three hours for consideration, After demands were met, the Northern ships were brought to anchor, flying the white flags of truce. In this interim, Commodore Renshaw was killed in an explosion that he set to scuttle his flagship Westfield and the Union gunboats, Clifton and Owasco, steamed from the harbor with their white flags still flying. Seeing they were abandoned by their fleeing fleet, the Union soldiers fighting at Kuhn’s Wharf accepted unconditional surrender. The Battle of Galveston was over and the Island remained in Southern control until the end of the Confederate Nation.
At the time the Confederates boarded the Harriet Lane both Wainwright and Lea refused to surrender and both fought valiantly to save their ship. Commander Wainwright sustained injuries to his head and left thigh before he was killed by a shot to the head from the Mason, Commodore Leon Smith, Commander of the Bayou City and a brother of Past Grand Master of Indiana Caleb B. Smith who served as Secretary of the Interior in Lincoln’s first cabinet. Mortally wounded, Lieutenant Commander Edward Lea lay dying on the ship deck. When the Confederate Major Albert Miller Lea boarded the ship, he recognized his son Edward, whom he had not seen since the war began, and rushed to comfort him. As he knelt by his son, Edward, barely conscious, whispered to a shipmate, “My father is here.” Then, he died.
Masonic prisoners from the Harriet Lane vouched to Confederate Masons that Wainwright was a Mason in good standing. Although they asked nothing for themselves, they requested a Masonic burial for their late Commander and Masonic Brother. When this information reached Philip C. Tucker, Jr., a Major on Magruder’s staff and Worshipful Master of Harmony Lodge No. 6 in Galveston, plans were made to open the Lodge for Masonic burial.
As soon as Brother Tucker reported to the Confederate headquarters located in the Roman Catholic Bishop’s palace, General Magruder accosted him with: “Major Tucker, I hear you intend to bury the remains of Commander Wainwright tomorrow with Masonic honors. Is this true?” Major Tucker saluted and answered, “Yes, Sir. And I hope General Magruder will give it military honors.” The reply was, “Who in H–l ever heard of burying a dead enemy with Masonic and military honors?” The response was, “General Magruder, when Lieutenant Colonel Rogers of the Second Texas fell, the Federal authorities gave the body Masonic and military burial (unconfirmed), and it is said that you are never to be outdone in courtesy to a friend or enemy.” The rebuttal was, “Not by a d—d sight. Colonel DeBray (a Mason and former Secretary of Austin Lodge No. 12), turn out your regiment for escort duty tomorrow at the Masonic burial of Lieutenant Commander Wainwright of the Harriet Lane.”
On January 2, 1863, Harmony Lodge opened and resolved, “that the members of this Lodge, appreciating the spirit and force of Masonic ties, will not allow their feelings and prejudice and love of righteous cause to obliterate from their hearts and minds the merciful teachings of the Order; that it does not conflict with their duties as patriotic citizens to respond to calls of mercy by a prostrate political foe, or to administer the last rite of the Order to the remains of a Mason of moral worth, although yesterday they met as an armed enemy in mortal combat in which the deceased parted with his life-. . . . “
The Lodge minutes continue, “Whereupon the Lodge was called upon to bury the dead. A public procession formed in which appeared both friends and foes wearing the insignia of the Order, and accompanied with a proper military escort under the command of Col. and Brother H. B. Debray, among which was the Major General Commanding J. Bankhead Magruder. The body of Bro. Wainwright was borne to its grave in the Episcopal Cemetery where it was deposited with rites of Masons and military. Lodge called from burying the dead and closed in due form.”
Although the preceding quotes do not include reference to Lieutenant Commander Lea, his body was borne to the cemetery and buried in a single grave with Commander Wainwright. In his official report of the Battle of Galveston to President Jefferson Davis, the Entered Apprentice Mason General Magruder wrote, “Captain Wainwright and Lieutenant Lea of the Federal Navy were buried with Masonic and military honors in the same grave; Major Lea, of the Confederate Army, father of Lieutenant Lea, performing the funeral service.” In addition, the book History of DeBray’s Regiment includes the statement, “the bodies of Lieutenant Commander Wainwright, killed in action, and of Lieutenant Lea were buried in the Galveston Cemetery with military and Masonic honors, the Confederate father reading over his Federal son’s grave the solemn funeral service of the Episcopal Church. The witnesses of that heart-rending scene can never forget it.”
After graduation from West Point, Albert Miller Lea was assigned to frontier duty at Fort Des Moines on topographical duty. Later, his published notes gave the state of Iowa its name. Although the Grand Lodge of Iowa has no record of Masonic membership for Albert Miller Lea, it supplied an article of the Iowa Historical Society written by Lea just before his death. The article confirms his service in the Battle of Galveston and states, “I met in battle my oldest son, and said the Grand Service of the Church over his Captain, Wainwright, son of the late Bishop of New York, and himself, buried in one grave.”
Since Lea makes no mention of the Masonic burial of his son, perhaps it is more correct to put on record that Harmony Lodge extended the courtesy of escorting both Wainwright and Lea to the cemetery, conducted the Masonic burial of Wainwright, and attended the Episcopal Church service that committed both Federal officers to rest in a single grave. Following the war, the body of Wainwright was moved to New York and interred near his father, Bishop Wainwright, in the cemetery of Trinity Church. No mention is discovered whether the honor of Masonic burial was conducted during this second burial.
July 9, 1994, marks the hundredth year since Philip C. Tucker, Jr. walked among Masonic Brothers. Yet, his Masonic labors live on and his achievements continue to strengthen Freemasonry in general, and in Texas, in particular.
Brother Tucker was born on February 14, 1826, in Vergennes, Vermont. There he spent his early life and was educated as an attorney by reading law in his father’s office and beginning practice under his father’s guidance. Upon attaining the age of twenty-one, Philip was raised a Mason in Dorchester Lodge in 1847. During the next five years, he worked three years as assistant Grand Secretary, served twice as Worshipful Master of Dorchester Lodge, and was District Deputy Grand Master for three terms. In addition, he joined York Rite Freemasonry and served as Thrice Illustrious Master of his Council.
In 1852, just as he turned twenty-six years old, Brother Tucker moved to Galveston, Texas, where he established a successful law practice, became active in the Trinity Episcopal Church, was a community leader and affiliated with Harmony Lodge and the York Rite Bodies in Galveston. Later, he affiliated with Tucker Lodge No. 297 that was named in his honor. He was Worshipful Master of Harmony for six years, Commander of San Felipe Commandery for fourteen years, and served as High Priest of San Felipe Chapter.
In Grand Bodies, he became Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Texas in 1864, Grand High Priest of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Texas in 1865, and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1869.
His continued enthusiasm for Masonry prompted Brother Tucker to accept an invitation from Grand Commander Albert Pike of the Supreme Council, 33°, of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry to become involved in introducing the Scottish Rite System of Freemasonry into Texas. On February 4-5, 1867, Brother Tucker traveled to New Orleans where the Scottish Rite degrees were communicated to him by dispensation from Grand Commander Pike. At the same time, he was commissioned as Deputy Grand Inspector General in Texas. Later, on May 17, 1867, Deputy Grand Inspector General Tucker granted Letters Temporary for the organization of San Felipe de Austin Lodge of Perfection in Galveston, Texas.
Grand Inspector General Tucker was an active and productive member of the Supreme Council in Washington, D.C., and on July 28, 1893, he was elected as Grand Commander. At the age of sixty-seven, he moved to Washington to perform the duties of Grand Commander. But, unfortunately, his tenure was suddenly terminated by death on July 9, 1894. His body was returned home to Galveston and buried with Masonic honors not far from the grave in which he placed Lieutenant Commanders Wainwright and Lea and where Lieutenant Lea still rests.
Brother Tucker was essential to the fulfillment of the Masonic legacy when the war stood still in Galveston. Apparently, under his leadership in the years of the Civil War for Southern Independence, Harmony Lodge is the only Lodge, North or South, to conduct the Masonic burial service for a Mason killed in mortal combat as an enemy.
What pride and respect we hold for the masons of yesteryear who held Masonry firm and stable, “appreciating the spirit and force of Masonic ties,” while states separated, churches divided and families split over political differences.
As word of the planned Masonic burial spread over town, most citizens and some Masons denounced it as “Treason to the Confederacy.” And certainly, discussion of Tucker’s birth up North added fuel to the beginning fire which was quickly quenched when Magruder added support to Tucker and the Lodge by taking military honors to the burial service. No one could accuse General Magruder with “Treason to the Confederacy” and, suddenly, the Masonic burial with military honors seemed the thing to do.
General Magruder had a sad life following the war. Instead of surrendering
, he went to Mexico and served as a general in the army of Maximilian. After the defeat of Maximilian, he returned to Houston. There, almost in poverty, he died in 1871 and was buried in the cemetery lot of a friend. Later, spirited citizens of Galveston wanted Magruder buried on the Island he saved. They had his body moved to Galveston where it waited for several years in a funeral vault for enough money to be contributed for final interment.
(webmaster’s note: Magruder is buried in the same cemetery as Edward Lea and Philip Tucker, the men he is associated with in this article. Wainwright’s grave was moved in the 1930’s when a Wainwright descendant was serving at the Dept. of the Navy).