The Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), or simply the Loyal Legion is a United States patriotic order, organized April 15, 1865, by three veteran officers of the Army. The original membership was composed of members of the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps of the United States, who had served during the American Civil War as commissioned officers in Federal service, or who had served and thereafter been commissioned, and who thereby "had aided in maintaining the honor, integrity, and supremacy of the national movement" during the Civil War.
The Loyal Legion was formed by in response to rumors from Washington of a conspiracy to destroy the Federal government by assassination of its leaders, in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The founding members stated their purpose as 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. As the original officers died off, the veterans organization became an hereditary society. The modern organization is composed of men who are direct descendants, nephews or first cousins of these officers (hereditary members), and also other men who share the ideals of the Order (Associate members), who collectively are considered "Companions". A female auxiliary, Dames of the Loyal Legion of the United States (DOLLUS), was formed in 1899 and accepted as an affiliate in 1915.
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 WarSociety 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.
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.
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. Current national officers include Commander-in-Chief Col. Robert D. Pollock (Ret.) of Ohio, Senior Vice-Commander-in-Chief Michael Timothy Bates, Esq. of New Jersey, Junior Vice-Commander-in-Chief Paul Davis of Michigan, Treasurer-in-Chief Lee Alan Tryon, CPA of Connecticut, Recorder-in-Chief Gary L. Grove, PhD. of Pennsylvania, Registrar-in-Chief Jefferson D. Lilly II, MPA of Indiana, Judge Advocate-in-Chief Gerald F. Fisher, Esq. of New York, Surgeon-in-Chief Daniel H. Heller, M.D. of Arizona, and Chaplain-in-Chief Rev. Robert G. Carroon, PhD. of Connecticut. Recent past Commanders-in-Chief include Joseph T. Coleman, Ed.D. of Pennsylvania, Col. Eric A. Rojo (Ret.) of the District of Columbia, Capt. James Alan Simmons (Ret.) of Texas, Waldron Kintzing "Kinny" Post of New York, and Jeffry C. Burden, Esq. of Virginia.
A membership medal as given to an "Original Companion" (here, Capt. Edward Taylor of the 95th Ohio Infantry). The basic design of the medal remains unchanged.
A membership medal worn by Brevet Col. Perrin V. Fox of the 1st Michigan Engineers. His son later wore this medal as a descendant member. Descendant members wore a ribbon with a blue stripe in the center until well into the twentieth century, when all members resumed using the red-center ribbon.
Enrollment certificate for Col Charles Anderson.
Major General George Cadwalader – First MOLLUS Commander-in-Chief, 1865–79. (Died in office.)
Dwight Eisenhower (General of the Army, U.S. Army) – Honorary Companion (elected in 1953).
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 President Hannibal Hamlin, who had served under President Lincoln from 1861 to 1865, was elected as a MOLLUS Companion of the 3rd Class. While he was vice president, he served as a corporal with Company A of the Maine State Guard (a.k.a. Maine Coast Guards) at Fort McClary in Kittery, Maine from July to September 1864.
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. Vice President Dawes served as a brigadier general with the U.S. Army during World War I and also received the Nobel Peace Prize.
In addition to the above, President Andrew Johnson, who was vice president prior to the death of President Lincoln and the founding of MOLLUS, was eligible to become a First Class Companion of MOLLUS but did not join the Order. President Chester A. Arthur, who was vice president prior to the death of President Garfield, was elected in 1882 as a 3rd Class Companion, while he was serving as president.
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.
Brigadier General Charles P. Eagan – U.S. Army Commissary General court-martialed during the "embalmed beef" scandal during the Spanish–American War. Expelled from MOLLUS after making disparaging remarks about General Nelson Miles before a Congressional committee investigating the scandal.
Brigadier General Lucius Fairchild – MOLLUS Commander in Chief, 1893–95; GAR Commander-in-Chief, 1886–87; Governor of Wisconsin and Minister to Spain.
Brigadier General Samuel W. Fountain – MOLLUS Commander in Chief, 1930.
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, and brothers of fallen officers were allowed to join as hereditary companions if there was no surviving issue. These practices 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 hereditary Companions of the MOLLUS; and as of October 2021, a first-cousin relationship to an officer (i.e., the officer was the child of the aunt or uncle of the applicant) qualifies the applicant for hereditary membership.
Major General David D. Porter, USMC, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, was eligible to for membership in MOLLUS by right of his descent from his grandfather, Admiral David Dixon Porter.
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles were eligible for membership in MOLLUS by right of their descent from their maternal grandfather Colonel John W. Foster, who served as Secretary of State in the administration of President Benjamin Harrison.
Vice-President of the United States Richard (Dick) Cheney, by right of descent from Captain Samuel Fletcher Cheney of the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
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 the family of the Orleanist pretenders 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 descendant of Philippe d'Orleans. His nephew is Peter, Hereditary Prince of Yugoslavia (b. 1980).