How difficult is it to imagine two enemy combatants coming face to face on a smoke swept battle field, deep animosity boiling within towards one another, such that minutes before both exchanged volleys of gunfire at one another in the hopes of ending the others life with prejudice.
And then, as if struck by a lightening bolt from the heavens, the bitterness and drive that had sought to make one the survivor and the other a casualty of the brutal warring between them dissolves; amidst the strum and drang around them they find themselves able to meet on a level that transcends the uniforms they are covered with and sides they hold allegiance to. The lightening strike that they are struck by comes as if from a divine power, an instant transcendence from their brutal human nature such that this divine bolt strikes and with such a force brings them both to a level that neither can truly fathom from the brutality that they are surrounded by. The two men are transcended from the barbaric engines fueled by the nature to win into the better angels of their nature.
From the bolt that struck them, they realize that they are family. More specifically, that they’re Brothers.
Michael Halleran (better known around here as aude vide tace) explores just this transcendence of our nature in his forth coming book Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War. Br. Halleran’s approach in this book is not another reexamination of fraternal lore, instead he explores the evidence, providing a critical examination of Masonry in the armies of both North and South, illuminating how Masonic fraternization worked in practice on both sides of the line.
And, by his own admission, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War, is the first academic study of Masonry’s role in the War Between the States.
Why this is important makes for an interesting story. Several months back I had the opportunity to sit in a presentation given by Brother Halleran on the subject and was enthralled at the stories that he described of two enemy combatants who, upon realizing they were brothers, did what they could to exercise their mystical tie.
From the evidence in the book, the tales that take shape include the
extraordinary funeral of Lt. Commander John E. Hart to the oft-told legend of the death of Confederate General Lewis A. Armistead at Gettysburg. Throughout Better Angels examines primary source material to determine and construct what actually occurred. Other areas that Brother Halleran examines are Masonry in regimental lodges, among prisoners of war, and Masonry in battle.
At its heart, Better Angels details the response of the fraternity to America’s greatest calamity, documenting in many instances the war was not only one of brother against brother, but of Brother against Brother.
Having had the opportunity to see Br. Halleran’s presentation and witness first hand his evidence consisting of images of soldiers, their masonic ephemera, and the degree to which these soldiers held Masonry to the heart, it became apparent to me that truly the better angels of their natures prevailed.
In the months leading up to his extraordinary book being released, you can find a sneak peek on his publishers website at Alabama University Press and on Br. Michael’s own website at http://michaelhalleran.com.
Look for it to hit the shelves mid March of 2010.