There had been a sharp engagement during
the day, between the American and British forces, and many valuable
lives had been lost on both sides. Much property had been left
behind by the retreating foe, in the form of camp equipage, military
wagons, chests, officers' baggage, etc., all of which was seized
upon with avidity by the suffering Americans. It was now night,
and Washington sat in his tent with no other company than his
confidential secretary. The commander in chief was looking intently
over a mass of captured documents, principally soldiers' letters,
old muster rolls, and lists of military stores, when his eye,
wearied with the useless lumber, fell upon a large parcel, strongly
sealed with wax and marked, "Secretary's papers of Military
Lodge; Package, No. 3." The address attracted his attention.
On further search, package No.1 and 2, came to light, and the
General was conversing with his secretary, concerning the circumstance
of their capture, when the servant announced one of the Colonels
without, who requested an interview. It was granted, and the officer
entered. He was courteously greeted, a seat was tendered to him,
and nodding to the secretary to retire for a moment, Washington
gave him an opportunity to make known his business. It seems that
in one of the baggage wagons, a curiously wrought chest had been
discovered, triply barred and locked, on the sides and top of
which were written, "Masonic chest of Military Lodge."
From its weight it contained the jewels and possibly the cash
funds of the Lodge. Now the Colonel who had made this discovery,
begged the commander to instruct him, as to the proper disposition
of so singular a piece of property.
After a pause, General Washington directed that the chest should be carefully guarded and preserved intact until the morrow.
Before dismissing his anxious brother Mason, he assured him that he would see the chest restored to its owners. A few weeks afterward, a flag was sent from his camp, with the property in question. Accompanying it, was a letter most fraternally worded, in the handwriting of the distinguished chief, in which he expressed his favorable sentiments toward Masonry in general, and the military Lodges in particular, and concluded with the fervent hope, that the principles of the Order might fructify to the increase of humane sentiments throughout both armies.
When the Regiment returned to England, the chest thus remarkably preserved, was exhibited at a meeting of the Grand Lodge in London, and the letter of the distinguished philanthropist was read, with general and loud applause.
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