A Masonic Oration on the death of Brother William S. Bush, Lieutenant of Marines, who was killed on board the Frigate Constitution, during her engagement with the British Frigate Guerriere, on the 19th of August, 1812, as delivered on the 26th of November following, before the officers of the R. W. Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, the officers and members of several respectable lodges, and the officers and members of Lodge No. 51, of which the deceased was a member.
Lieutenant William Sharp Bush commanded USS Constitution‘s Marine Guard in the opening months of the War of 1812. During Constitution‘s engagement with the British frigate HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812, the two ships collided, allowing for the possibility of Constitution’s Marines to board the enemy ship and engage in hand-to-hand combat. Bush, at the head of his Marines, turned to Captain Isaac Hull and called “Sir, shall I board her?” Before he could receive a reply, a British musket ball struck Bush in the left cheek, killing him instantly. Bush was the first United States Marine Corps officer to be killed in combat.
This Masonic Oration, a eulogy for a fallen brother, was delivered on November 26, 1812, “before the officers of the R[ight] W[orshipful] Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania,” as well as the members of Lodge no. 51, to which Bush belonged. The oration provides a short biography and description of Bush’s character, a detailed narrative of his encounter with HMS Guerriere, and information concerning his involvement with the Masonic Order. The pamphlet was published in Philadelphia by Bradford and Inskeep.