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Famous Freemason - Elisha Hunt Rhodes

"Today we brushed up and marched into Washington and were reviewed by the President. As we passed the White House I had my first view of Abraham Lincoln. He looks like a good honest man, and I trust that with God’s help he can bring our country safely out of peril."

Elisha Hunt Rhodes was an American soldier who served in the Union Army of the Potomac for the entire duration of the American Civil War, rising from corporal to colonel of his regiment by war's end. Rhodes' illustrative diary of his war service was quoted prominently in Ken Burns's PBS documentary The Civil War.

Rhodes was born in Pawtuxet, Rhode Island, to Elisha H. Rhodes and Eliza A. Chase. He had several sisters and two brothers. At age 14, Rhodes attended Potter and Hammond's Business Academy in Providence.

His father drowned when his schooner, the merchant ship Worcester, was sunk by a hurricane on December 10, 1858. He was buried on Linyards Cay, Abaco in the Bahamas.

Rhodes served with the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry throughout its service during the American Civil War.

Rhodes enlisted in the war with his mother's permission. At first he believed war to be an adventure. During the war, he advanced from corporal to lieutenant colonel in command of the regiment.

He enlisted on June 5, 1861 and was appointed to the rank of corporal. He was promoted to sergeant major on March 1, 1862 and to 2nd lieutenant on July 24 of the same year.

On April 15, 1863 he was promoted to 1st lieutenant and placed in command of Company B. He became the regiment's adjutant, with the rank of 1st lieutenant, on November 6, 1863. He served in this capacity until the regiment was reorganized on June 17, 1864.

On June 21, 1864 he was promoted to captain and assigned to Company B but was also ordered to command the regiment, which he did for the remainder of the war. He received a brevet (honorary promotion) to the rank of major on December 5, 1864.

On February 6, 1865 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and placed in command of the regiment. On April 2 he received a brevet to the rank of colonel in recognition of his service in the Petersburg campaign. He was mustered out of service, along with his regiment, on July 13, 1865.

After the war, he became a successful businessman and became active in veterans' affairs. He never missed a regimental reunion of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry.

He married Caroline Pearce Hunt on June 12, 1866 and had a son, Frederick Miller Rhodes and a daughter Alice Caroline Rhodes Chace.

He was appointed as collector of U. S. Internal Revenue in Rhode Island in 1875.

From June 25, 1879 until March 21, 1892 he served as the commander of the Brigade of Rhode Island Militia with the rank of brigadier general.

During his time in office General Rhodes helped transform the militia into a more professional organization and established the state training ground at Quonset Point in North Kingstown.

In his diary Rhodes speaks of an incident at Gettysburg where he witnessed Union soldiers retrieve the body of a Rebel and provide a proper burial as they had determined that the Confederate was a brother Freemason. Rhodes states that he did not understand these actions but within a year, he joined ‘The Craft’ while on leave in Rhode Island and, such was his dedication that he rose through Masonic ranks to become Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island (1892-1893).

He served as Worshipful Master of Harmony Lodge, No. 9, in Cranston, RI.

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