Dorothea Mordan’s Good Day Neighbor Column, 12/2022.
May 1864. Lt Colonel Charles Lyon Chandler led the 57th Infantry of the Union army at the Battle of North Anna River. He and his men were over taken, and Lt Colonel Chandler was mortally wounded on the battlefield. The commanding officer of the Confederate Army had him brought to his own tent and stayed with him as he died. This show of respect was not unheard of in military history. What was unusual was that the Confederate officer then had all of Lt Colonel Chandler’s personal effects and the location of his grave sent to his mother, so that he could be reburied after the War.
Lt Colonel Chandler was my great great uncle. When I told this story to a modern-day sutler (a person who sells provisions to soldiers) in Gettysburg, one theory they suggested was that both of these men were Masons, and shared a community that cut through wartime rules of exclusion. A clue in either man’s obituary might announce the death of a “Worthy Brother”, a reference to let the community of Masons know that one of their own had passed.
I will probably never prove this theory of Masonic Brotherhood. The point is that humans are social animals and we seek community. We use community to get us into war — us against them. We cling to community when we need comfort and safe haven, even when we have created the danger by making up reasons to pit us against them.
Community comes in all shapes and sizes, and gives us support through any of the challenges we face in life.
A dear friend of mine, Sue Thomson, was a Frederick County girl, born and raised. She died this past September and at her Celebration of Life I learned a lot more about her impact on our community. Sue graduated from Walkersville High School, in Walkersville, MD, and became a nurse, specializing in IV services. Several people spoke about her and how they knew Sue through the 1980s and 90s. The single theme that came through every story was that Sue was always interested in other people, where they were from, what was important to them. In the last weeks of her life she was at a rehab facility recovering from a fall. As relayed at her Celebration of Life, the first time Sue arrived at the dining hall of the rehab center it was silent. No one was talking to each other. So many hurting and healing people and no conversation, no community.