On 15 April 1865, as word of President Abraham Lincoln's death spread throughout the country, three Union Army officer friends met in Philadelphia to discuss the tragic news. Rumors from Washington of a conspiracy to destroy the Federal government by assassination of its leaders prompted the three officers to form an organization that could help thwart future threats to the national government. A mass meeting of Philadelphia veterans was held on 20 April 1865 to pledge renewed allegiance to the Union and to plan for participation in the funeral arrangements for the President. The Philadelphia officers, who served as an honor guard for President Lincoln's funeral cortege, met again after the funeral was over to establish a permanent organization of officers and former officers patterned after the Society of the Cincinnati established after the Revolutionary War. The name they chose, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), first appeared in a notice calling a meeting on 31 May 1865 at Independence Hall. The New York Commandery was quickly founded after the end of the conflict, being instituted on January 17, 1866, with headquarters in New York City. The ranks quickly swelled to include famous names such as David Farragut, Alfred Pleasanton, Silas Casey, John L. Worden and a little known pre-war Illinois shop-keeper by the name of U. S. Grant.
To read more about the founding of the New York Commandery of MOLLUS and our Charter Members, please click in our archives to read the 1966 Centennial publication; “The First Century 1866-1966.”
Since its inception, the MOLLUS membership has included nearly 12,000 Civil War officers. At its zenith, MOLLUS counted practically every prominent officer among its ranks. Among them were Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman; Lt. Generals Philip H. Sheridan, George Armstrong Custer, Nelson A. Miles and John M. Schofield; Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, George B. McClellan, Rutherford B. Hayes, David McMurtie Gregg and Grenville M. Dodge; Admiral David G. Farragut; Rear Admirals Bancroft Gherardi and George W. Melville. In addition to Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes, Original Companions Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley served as Presidents of the United States.
With the eventual aging of the Original Companions, membership within the MOLLUS was changed to provide for Hereditary Companions; descendants of eligible officers. There are currently four categories of membership: Hereditary, Junior, Associate and Honorary. Many Original Companions of MOLLUS were also members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Similarly, many Hereditary Companions of MOLLUS are currently also members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the legal heir to the GAR.
Membership information may be obtained by going to our Membership page.
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States New York Commandery: