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The Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, also known by its acronym 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 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 generally composed of descendants of these officers (hereditary members), and non-officer descendants who share the ideals of the Order (associate members).


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 Dirk Keyser, are considered the founders of the Order. To demonstrate their loyalty, they decided to form a "Legion" modeled on the post-Revolutionary War Society of the Cincinnati. The 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.

The society 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 members of the first class. Later, members who were hereditary members by virtue of their ancestor's service were admitted as members of the first class.
  • Members of the Second Class were elected from amongst the eldest male descendants of those eligible for the first class.
  • The Third Class comprised distinguished civilians who had rendered faithful and conspicuous service to the Union during the Civil War; no new elections to this class have been made since 1890.[1]

The order grew rapidly and had members (called "Companions") in almost every state except those of the former Confederacy. 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 future presidents: Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan, George B. McClellan, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley, among others. The Order's fame was great enough to inspire John Philip Sousa to compose the "Loyal Legion March" in its honor in 1890.

As the Civil War veterans aged and died, the Order opened hereditary membership to male descendants of the original members. Today, the Order serves more as an hereditary society (descendants of eligible officers) than as a functioning military order. There are now four categories of membership: Hereditary, Junior, Associate, and Honorary. Many Original Companions of MOLLUS were also members of the Grand Army of the Republic (the "GAR"), just as many current Hereditary Companions of MOLLUS 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 19 Commanderies and two Provisional Commanderies. Current national officers include Commander-in-Chief Jeffry Burden of Virginia; Senior Vice-Commander-in-Chief Waldron Post of New York, and Junior Vice-Commander-in-Chief James Simmons of Texas.

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, 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.

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.

Prominent Companions[]

Presidents of the United States[]

Note - Presidents Andrew Johnson and James Garfield were both Union officers during the Civil War, and were thus eligible for membership in MOLLUS, but did not join the Order.

United States Army[]

United States Navy[]

United States Marine Corps[]

  • Major General Charles Heywood (Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.)
  • Brigadier General Jacob Zeilin (Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.)
  • Colonel Jacob H. Jones
  • Colonel Charles Grymes McCawley (Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.)
  • Colonel William B. Remey

3rd Class Companions[]

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

  • Alexander D. Bache (Topographical engineer.)
  • Salmon P. Chase (Secretary of the Treasury.)
  • John Watts de Peyster (General in the New York Militia.)
  • William C. Endicott (Secretary of War.)
  • Lafayette S. Foster (United States Senator from Connecticut.)
  • Edward Everett Hale (Unitarian clergyman and abolitionist.)
  • Hannibal Hamlin (Vice President of the United States.)
  • Benito Juarez (President of Mexico.)
  • Frederick Law Olmstead (Secretary of the US Sanitary Commission and designer of Central Park.)
  • John S. Pillsbury (Founder of the Pillsbury Company and Governor of Michigan.)
  • Alexander H. Rice (Mayor of Boston, Congressman and Governor of Massachusetts.)
  • Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. (Treasurer of the Union League Club and father of President Theodore Roosevelt.)
  • William H. Seward (Secretary of State.)
  • William Sprague (Governor of Rhode Island.)
  • Edwin M. Stanton (Secretary of War.)
  • John P. Usher (Secretary of the Interior.)
  • Gideon Welles (Secretary of the Navy.)

Hereditary Companions[]

Associate Companions[]


  1. New International Encyclopedia

Further reading[]

  • Carroon, Robert G. and Dana B. Shoaf, (2001). Union Blue : The History of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Books. ISBN 1-57249-190-6. LCCN 00049955. 

External links[]

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The original article can be found at Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and the edit history here.