Edward M.L. Ehlers

Co. E, 12th New York State Militia

Co. F, 52nd New York

Veteran Reserve Corps

Brevet Colonel, US Volunteers

Edward Ehlers was born in Denmark on January 31, 1840.  He immigrated to the US with his parents in 1844.  He enlisted as a Private in Co. E, 12th NY State Militia and mustered out on August 5, 1861.  He joined the German Rangers in September 1861 as a Second Lieutenant, but was discharged on October 29, 1861 with a number of surplus officers upon the formation of the 52nd NY.

            He re-joined the 52nd New York a few months later, enlisting and mustering in as the First Lieutenant of Co. F on March 15, 1862.  He was wounded by a shell at Antietam on September 17, 1862 and then wounded again at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.  Though wounded by gunshots to the right leg, right arm and breast, Colonel Paul Frank wrote in his official report of the battle that he showed himself in the most gallant manner and that the case against him for absence without leave should be dropped. 

            Though promoted to Captain on March 1, 1863, the wounds probably made active field service tough, and he was discharged from the 52nd to accept a commission in the Veteran Reserve Corps.  He was made a First Lieutenant in the 1st Regiment, VRC on October 29, 1863, then a Captain in the 24th Regiment on December 10, 1863.  He transferred to the 145th Co., 2nd Battalion, VRC in March 1864, then to the 17th Regiment.  After the war he was sent to Georgia to work for the Freedmans Bureau.  He mustered out of the army on January 1, 1868.  He was said to have been with the VRC soldiers in New York City when President Lincolnís body passed through on its way to Illinois, as well as on the staff of General Hancock in 1865.  On March 13, 1865, he was brevetted a Colonel of US Volunteers for gallant and meritorious services during the 52nds battles in 1862.

            After the war, Ehlers started a lifelong dedication to the Freemasons and became an important member.  He joined the Freemasons on June 6, 1865 in Continental Lodge No. 287 in New York City, and was elected the Master of his lodge in 1870 and 1874-1876.  He became more involved with the Grand Lodge of New York and was elected the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of New York in 1882.  He served as such until his death in 1917.  As Grand Secretary, he was involved in many ceremonies, including the laying of the cornerstones of the pedestal of the Egyptian Obelisk in Central Park and the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, as well as the initiation of future President Teddy Roosevelt in the Freemasons.  In recognition of his service, he was made an Honorary Past Grand Master in 1901.  Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Stone Mountain and Mount Rushmore, sculpted a marble bust of him.  He was also involved in veteran organizations as a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and MOLLUS, and gave an address at the dedication of the 5th Corps monument at Fredericksburg in 1901.

After his death on May 28, 1917, a new Freemason Lodge was named in his honor.  Two recordings of Ehlers discussing the Freemasons and Masonic principles exist on the internet on a website for the Library of Congress, probably making them the only recorded voice of a member of the 52nd New York.

This is a postwar engraving of Edward M.L Ehlers in civilian clothes, dating from his time in the Freemasons.

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