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Now Available From the University of Alabama Press.

One of the enduring yet little examined themes in Civil War lore is the widespread belief that on the field of battle and after, members of Masonic lodges would give aid and comfort to wounded or captured enemy Masons, often at great personal sacrifice and danger. This work is a deeply researched examination of the recorded, practical effects of Freemasonry among Civil War participants on both sides. From first-person accounts culled from regimental histories, diaries, and letters, the author has constructed an overview of 19th century American freemasonry in general and Masonry in the armies of both North and South in particular, and an exploration of how Masonic fraternization worked in practice. Halleran details the response of the fraternity to the crisis of secession and war, and examines acts of assistance to putative enemies on the battlefield and in POW camps.

About the Author

Michael A. Halleran is a freelance writer and a practicing attorney in the Flint Hills of East-Central Kansas.  A lecturer at Emporia State University, he is also an active Freemason, and an officer in the Grand Lodge of Kansas A.F. & A.M. His second book, a fictional Masonic diary, was published in 2012.

Praise for Better Angels:

“Tales of Masonic brothers helping each other, even across battle lines, have long been part of Civil War lore. Michael Halleran’s wonderful study reveals the history behind these mythical stories. He discovers a surprising number of these accounts, subjects them to careful analysis, and shows how much Masonic fraternity made a difference in the experiences of Civil War soldiers.”

Steven C. Bullock, Ph.D., Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

“Michael Halleran has set a new, high standard for scholarship on Freemasonry in the Civil War. His stories are compelling, the research is impeccable, and his analysis gives fresh insights on the “mystic tie” of the fraternity.”

S. Brent Morris, Ph.D., 33° Managing Editor, Scottish Rite Journal.

“ The Better Angels of Our Nature accomplishes what few books about Freemasons are able to do: it explores the legends and long-told tall tales of the fraternity in an academic fashion, with both dispassionate analysis of the facts, and an obvious passion for the subject. Personal accounts from the Civil War have the effect of personalizing the experience, instead of being able to hold it at a polite distance, perhaps because it was the first war that had, not just commanders, but so many enlisted men educated enough to write letters and diaries. Along the way, Michael shatters several longstanding and cherished Masonic fables, but he reinforces and illuminates far more than he buries. The result is a strong affirmation of the bond between warring Masonic brethren, in the war that brought more of them together on opposing sides than any in our history.”

Christopher L. Hodapp, Editor, Journal of the Masonic Society.

“A century and a half after the Civil War’s conclusion, it hardly seems possible that fresh nooks for historical research could possibly remain. With his engrossing book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War, author Michael Halleran proves that even the war’s niches can still be explored for yet another valuable chapter in our national history. . . . Patriotic, kind-hearted men who embraced the Masonic brotherhood deserve exactly what Halleran delivers: clear-headed, well-sourced narrative of American Freemasonry in one of the country’s darkest hours.”

–Chris Lazzarino, Kansas Alumni Magazine

“Halleran explains as much about Freemasonry as is possible without violating his oath or the dignity of the lodge. The author has made every effort NOT to claim Masonic influence (or interference) unless such is supported by multiple sources. His ‘detective work’ and analysis of sources is impressive.”

—Archie P. McDonald, editor of Make Me a Map of the Valley: The Civil War Journal of Jedediah Hotchkiss, Stonewall Jackson’s Topographer

“Given the freshness of the topic, the good research, and the effective presentation, I strongly recommend this book. It covers a significant but un-studied aspect of the war.”

—Earl J. Hess, author of The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality and Myth and In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat

“Halleran strives for the best and most thorough documentation available. In general, he knows the sources thoroughly and exploits them in a masterly fashion. What he produced has certainly exceeded its predecessors and Better Angels of Our Nature is surely the best volume available on wartime freemasonry, and one I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject.”

– Mark Lause, Ph.D., University of Cincinnati, in Civil War Book Review

“Halleran amuses and informs readers with memorable and factual vignettes showing that many freemasons remained true to the fraternity’s precepts of brotherly love, relief, and truth even in the midst of combat.”

– José O. Díaz, Ph.D., The Ohio State University, in Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism


“Halleran contributes to the ongoing study of freemasonry and fraternalism as an overlooked yet significant part of nineteenth-century American life and culture.”

– Ami Pflugrad-Jackish, Ph.D., University of Michigan-Flint in Journal of Southern History