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, and marine corps of the United States who "had aided in maintaining the honor, integrity, and supremacy of the national movement." 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 Lincoln in 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. The three officers, Brevet Lt. Col. Samuel Brown Wylie Mitchell, Lt. Col. Thoms Elwood Zell, and Capt. Peter Dirk Keyser, are considered to be 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, culminating in a meeting on May 31
, in Philadelphia
's Independence Hall
at which the name was chosen, and a mass meeting of Philadelphia war veterans on April 20
The society was composed of three classes:
- Officers who had fought in the army, navy, or marine corps of the United States in the suppression of the Rebellion or of enlisted men who had so served and were subsequently commissioned to the regular forces of the United States.
- Members of the second class were elected from among the eldest male descendants of those eligible for the first class.
- The third class consisted of distinguished civilians who rendered faithful and conspicuous service to the Union during the Civil War. No new elections to this class have taken place since 1890.
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 over 8,000 Civil War veterans as 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 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.
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.
Each year, the Loyal Legion commemorates President Lincoln's birthday with an annual wreath laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In 2009, MOLLUS will help coordinate an extended tribute with the help of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission to celebrate Lincoln's 200th birthday.
Prominent original companions