Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States

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The Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, (MOLLUS), or simply as the Loyal Legion is a United States patriotic order, organized April 15, 1865, by officers of the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps of the United States who "had aided in maintaining the honor, integrity, and supremacy of the national movement" during the American Civil War. They stated as their purpose the cherishing of the memories and associations of the war waged in defense of the unity and indivisibility of the Republic; the strengthening of the ties of fraternal fellowship and sympathy formed by companionship in arms; the relief of the widows and children of dead companions of the order; and the advancement of the general welfare of the soldiers and sailors of the United States. The modern organization is composed of descendants of these officers (hereditary members), and others who share the ideals of the Order (associate members), who collectively are considered "Companions".


Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, rumors spread that the act had been part of a wider conspiracy to overthrow the legally constituted government of the United States by assassinating its chief men. Many people at first gave credence to these rumors, including three of the officers assigned to the honor guard for Lincoln's body as it was transported to Springfield, Illinois, for burial; these three men, Brevet Lt. Col. Samuel Brown Wylie Mitchell, Lt. Col. Thomas Ellwood Zell, and Captain Peter Dirck Keyser, are considered the founders of the Order. To demonstrate their loyalty, they decided to form a "Legion" modeled on the Revolutionary War Society of the Cincinnati. The Loyal Legion was organized largely during the same meetings that planned Lincoln's funeral (as well as during a mass meeting of Philadelphia war veterans on April 20), culminating in a meeting on May 31, 1865, in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, at which the name was chosen.

Originally, the Order was composed of three classes of members:

  • Officers who had fought in the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps of the United States in the suppression of the Rebellion, or enlisted men who had so served and were subsequently commissioned in the regular forces of the United States, constituted the "Original Companions of the First Class." The eldest direct male lineal descendants of deceased Original Companions or deceased eligible officers could be admitted as "hereditary Companions of the First Class."
  • "Companions of the Second Class" were the eldest direct male lineal descendants of living Original Companions or of living individuals who were eligible for membership in the First Class. (The use of the Rule of Primogeniture was abolished in 1905 for both the First and Second classes of membership, opening membership to all male lineal descendants, and later changes opened membership to male lineal descendants of siblings of eligible officers. As the former officers died off, and the Order became composed entirely of descendants, the Second Class of Companions was discontinued.)
  • The Third Class comprised distinguished civilians who had rendered faithful and conspicuous service to the Union during the Civil War. By the law of the Order, no new elections to this class were made after 1890.[1]

The Loyal Legion grew rapidly in the late 19th Century and had Companions in every Northern state, and also in many of the states that had once formed the Confederacy. The Commandery in Chief was established on October 21, 1885 with authority over the 14 state commanderies then in existence. Previously, the Pennsylvania Commandery functioned as the "first among equals" of the commanderies as it was both the oldest and largest.

At its height at the very end of the 19th Century, the Order had more than 8,000 Civil War veterans as active members, including nearly all notable general and flag officers and several presidents: Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan, George B. McClellan, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley. The Order's fame was great enough to inspire John Philip Sousa to compose the "Loyal Legion March" in its honor in 1890.

Today, the Order serves as a hereditary society (male descendants of eligible officers) rather than as a functioning military order (though many Companions are either military veterans or even on active military duty). Among other activities, Companions organize and participate in commemorative events, provide awards to deserving ROTC cadets, and assist with preservation efforts. Of special note is that, each year, the Loyal Legion commemorates President Lincoln's birthday with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In 2009, the MOLLUS helped coordinate an extended tribute with the help of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission to celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of Lincoln's birthday.

There are now three basic categories of membership: Hereditary, Associate (non-hereditary), and Honorary. Just as many Original Companions of the Order were also members of the Grand Army of the Republic (the "GAR"), many current Companions of the Order are also members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the legal heir to the GAR.

Organizationally, the Loyal Legion is composed of a National Commandery-in-Chief and individual state Commanderies. There are currently 20 state Commanderies. States without their own Commandery are placed under the jurisdiction of an existing Commandery. Current national officers include Commander-in-Chief James Alan Simmons of Texas, Senior Vice-Commander-in-Chief Eric Armando Rojo of the District of Columbia, and Junior Vice-Commander-in-Chief Joseph T. Coleman of Pennsylvania. Recent past Commanders-in-Chief include Waldron Kintzing "Kinny" Post of New York, Jeffry Christian Burden of Virginia, and Keith Graham Harrison of Michigan.

The Loyal Legion is the third-oldest hereditary military society in the United States after the Society of the Cincinnati and the Aztec Club of 1847.

MOLLUS Commanders-in-Chief

Prominent Companions

Note – the ranks indicated are the highest the individual held in the armed forces of the United States and not necessarily the highest rank held during the Civil War.

Presidents of the United States

Note – Presidents Andrew Johnson and James Garfield were both generals in the Union Army during the Civil War, and were thus eligible to be veteran companions of MOLLUS, but did not join the Order.

Vice Presidents

Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, who had served under President Lincoln from 1861 to 1865, was elected as a MOLLUS Companion of the 3rd Class.

Vice President Henry Wilson, who served under President Grant from 1873 until his death in 1875, was colonel of the 22nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and was a MOLLUS Companion of the First Class.

Vice President Charles G. Dawes, who served under President Coolidge from 1925 to 1929, became a First Class Companion in succession to his father, Brevet Brigadier General Rufus Dawes.

Honorary Companions

A limited number of individuals may be elected as Honorary Companions of MOLLUS. They are usually individuals who have had distinguished careers either in public service or the military.

United States Army

Note – The rank indicated is the highest held either in the Regular Army or the Volunteers.

United States Navy

United States Marine Corps

3rd Class Companions

From 1865 to 1890 a limited number of civilians who contributed outstanding service to the Union during the Civil War were elected into the Order as 3rd Class Companions.

Hereditary Companions

Originally, the MOLLUS had Companions of the Second Class, who were the eldest sons of Companions of the First Class (i.e., veterans of the Civil War who also held a commission at some point). A Second Class Companion became a First Class Companion upon the death of his father. This practice was discontinued in 1905, when the MOLLUS Constitution was changed to allow any direct male descendant of a Union officer to become a MOLLUS Companion. The nomenclature of First Class and Second Class Companions was discarded, leaving only the qualifiers of "Original" and "Hereditary" Companions. Later, the eligibility rules were changed to allow nephews of Union officers to become a MOLLUS Companions. Furthermore, brothers of fallen officers were allowed to join as hereditary companions if there was no surviving issue.

Military and naval officers

Public officials


Associate companions

MOLLUS allows state commanderies, at their own discretion, to elect up to one third of their membership as Associate Companions.

Eligible veteran officers who did not join MOLLUS

A number of noteworthy Union officers, although eligible, did not become MOLLUS companions. These included the following:

Brigadier General and President Andrew Johnson, Major General and President James Garfield, Major General and United States Senator Francis Preston Blair, Jr., Brevet Brigadier General Kit Carson, Rear Admiral Samuel Dupont, Major General John C. Fremont, Captain Charles Vernon Gridley USN, Brevet Major General William S. Harney, Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, Major General George Meade (elected posthumously in 2015), Major General and Governor Edwin D. Morgan, Major General Edward Ord, Major General John G. Foster, Brevet Brigadier General Thomas J. Rodman, Brevet Brigadier General Sylvanus Thayer, Captain Augustin Thompson, Rear Admiral John Ancrum Winslow, Major General John E. Wool.

Noteworthy persons eligible for hereditary companionship in MOLLUS

William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor was, and his male descendants are, eligible for hereditary membership in MOLLUS by right of his father's service in the Union Army. All other male descendants of William Backhouse Astor Sr. are eligible for membership in MOLLUS by collateral descent.

All male descendants of 19th Century railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt are eligible to join MOLLUS as collateral descendants of Vanderbilt's youngest son, Captain George Washington Vanderbilt, who graduated West Point in 1860 and died on January 1, 1864 in Nice, France without issue. These descendants include the current Duke of Marlborough and CNN reporter Anderson Cooper. Anderson Cooper is also eligible for hereditary membership in MOLLUS by right of his descent from Major General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick.

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles were eligible for membership in MOLLUS by right of their decent from their maternal grandfather Colonel John W. Foster, who served as Secretary of State in the administration of President Benjamin Harrison.

Eligible royalty

Several Europeans of royal descent at eligible for membership in MOLLUS by right of their descent from Captain Philippe d'Orleans, the grandson of King Louis Philippe I of France.

King Felipe VI of Spain and his father, former King of Spain Juan Carlos, are eligible for hereditary companionship in MOLLUS, as are their male descendants, The same is true for Henri d'Orléans, Count of Paris (b. 1933), the current Orleanist pretender to the throne of France.

King Manuel II of Portugal (1889–1932) was eligible to become a hereditary companion of MOLLUS as his mother was a daughter of Philippe d'Orleans. He had no offspring.

Prince Pedro Carlos of Orléans-Braganza (b. 1945), is a claimant to the Brazilian throne and a decendnant of Philippe d'Orleans. His grandson is Peter, Hereditary Prince of Yugoslavia (b. 1980).

Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta (b. 1943), head of the House of Savoy and claimant to the throne of Italy, is eligible for Hereditary MOLLUS membership but was elected as an honorary member instead.

A number of other individuals of royal descent can join MOLLUS by right of their descent from Prince Robert, Duke of Chartres – the brother of Prince Philippe, who also served with the Union Army. These descendants include Henri, Count of Paris (1908–1999), longtime pretender to the French throne, Count Aage of Rosenborg, who served as an officer in the French Foreign Legion, and Prince Axel of Denmark.

See also


Further reading

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External links