George Mason was the only Commander-in-Chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion not born in the United States; he was born on March 1, 1840, in Paisley, Scotland. His father, Carlisle Mason brought him to America, at the age of four when the family settled in Chicago in 1845. In 1857 George enrolled at the University of Michigan and remained there until his senior year when, in 1861, he enlisted in the Union Army.
George initially enlisted as a private in Company "C" of the 12th Illinois Infantry, United States Volunteers in September 1861. He was promoted to Sergeant in February 1862. On May 24, 1862, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and assigned as an adjutant on the staff of Generals Oglesby, McArthur (General John McArthur was his mother's brother), Chietlain and Sweeny - always with the command known originally as the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Army of the Tennessee.
Lt. Mason served with the Army of the Tennessee at the Battles of Fort Donelson, Pittsburgh Landing (Shiloh), Corinth, Iuka, Middle Tennessee and part of the Atlanta Campaign. Writing about his experience at Shiloh (published in by Military Essays and Recollections of the Illinois Commandery Vol. 1, Pg. 93-104) he wrote that having arrived on the battlefield he asked the question of all whom he met, "Do you think it will last long enough for us to get in?" After telling of the severe fighting on April6, turned to the events of April 7, writing, "…the morning of the 7th found us ready to take the aggressive. A new line had been formed, and a new army was ready to take the lead in an effort to recover the ground lost the day before. The main battle began about nine o'clock in the morning , and ended about four o'clock in the afternoon. On this field was to be seen the most splendid fighting ever seen on this continent. Our artillery was admirably worked and the infantry ably supported the artillery. The manuvering was splendid. The enemy were driven inch by inch. They seldom regained anything they had lost; still they fought desperately at times, until by four o'clock they were in full retreat and the victory was ours. It was my good fortune to serve immediately on the left of the Eighteenth United States Regulars, and their perfect discipline and regular movements lifted a load from our breasts, and filled us with a confidence we had well nigh lost the day before. Every advance was stubbornly resisted; every charge was met bay acounter-charge; and though the lines shifted forward and back, yet every returning charge carried us farther along toward the camps we had lost, then through them and beyond, until McCook's division, that had marched twenty-two miles the day before and stood in the streets of Savannah all night of the 6th, was at nightfall beyond our farthest camp of Saturday night."
He served with distinction until July 28, 1864, when he was honorably discharged from the Union Army. On March 13,1865 he was commissioned Captain and Bvt Major in recognition of his service with the Union forces and "for meritorious service April 6 and 7, at Pittsburgh, Tennessee."
On leaving the Army Major Mason returned to Chicago and, with T.K. Holden, established a general foundry business. In 1866 Mr. Holden retired and George Mason became the sole owner. The next year he merged his business with his father, Carlisle Mason, and a new firm known as Carlisle Mason and Company. The company manufactured boilers, engines, and general machinery.
In 1877 the firm name was changed to the Excelsior Iron Works, and Major Mason remained until 1905, serving successively as secretary, vice president, and for ten years as president. In 1905 the stock was sold to the Miehle Printing Press and Manufacturing Company, and later Major Mason went with them as Vice President, holding that position until September 10, 1910, when he became connected with the Wisconsin Granite Company and the Superior Construction Company.
George Mason was also involved in many civic activities during his lifetime. From 1874 to 1880 he served as a director of the Chicago Public Library. In 1880 he was elected director and a member of the Executive Committee of the Inter-State Industrial Exposition, serving until 1892 when the Exposition was transformed into the Chicago World's Fair. On March 6, 1886, Governor Oglesby appointed him a member of the Board of West Chicago Park Commissioners, where he served until April 18932, part of the time as president.
In 1897 Governor Tanner made him a member of the Shiloh Battlefield Commission, of which he was secretary until the work of the body was completed. He was a member of the State Commission, representing Illinois at the Paris Exposition and in 1901 he was appointed a member of the Board of Inspectors for the House of Corrections at Chicago; he was chair of this board for ten years.
On October 8, 1879, George Mason was made a Companion of the First Class of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States through the Commandery of the State of Illinois and assigned Insignia No. 1935. He was became Commander-in-Chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion on the death of Brigadier Samuel Warren Fountain on November 15, 1930. George Mason's son, Carlisle Mason II was elected an hereditary companion with Insignia No. 9394 and was a member of the Illinois and then the California Commandery
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