The Dead Angle

Michael Karpovage

Author, Crown of Serpents
Here's the story as it in print. I don't know the source of this story though as it was given to me from a laser print out. Am trying to dig a little deeper for more evidence that this actually happened - the Masonic connection that is. Anyone with information please contact me.


Civil War period. Summer 1864 Sherman's March to the Sea in Georgia. Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.

Wave after wave of Federals advance towards the salient in the Rebel line on Cheatham Hill. Withering gunfire kills hundreds of boys, mostly from Illinois and Ohio. Incredibly, McCook and some of his men make it to the Rebel line, only to be shot, stabbed, or captured by the Graybacks. Later both sides would refer to this area as "The Dead Angle."

Just to the north of Cheatham Hill some woods catch on fire during the attack. Wounded Union soldiers, left during the hasty retreat, scream as they burn to death in the blaze. Observing the Masonic distress signal, a colonel from Arkansas steps on top of the entrenchments with a white flag ans calls to the opposing force, "Come and get your men, for they are burning to death!" Rifleless Federals approach and begin to remove the bodies, aided by men in gray. The two forces that had been killing each other less than fifteen minutes earlier now were working together to save the lives of the fallen men. The next day the Union commanders present the Colonel with a matching pair of ivory-handled Colt .45 pistols.


What I've found out so far from the Kennesaw Mtn. Historical Association is that the blaze in fact did happen and the rescue did take place but that the Masonic connection is speculative. That the pistols were actually Navy .36 calibre pistols and were presented in an elaborate box. The Arkansas colonel's name given to me by the association was John H. Martin. Not sure if a full Colonel or Lt. Colonel. However, I found no evidence of a John H. Martin from Arkansas in the Confederate Roster. There is a Lt. Colonel William H. Martin with the 1st Infantry (Colquitt's) Co. F which combined with the 15th Arkansas Infantry. I haven't determined if this unit was on the field at Kennesaw at the time though. Nor if either of these men are confirmed Masons.

And there you have it! I haven't dug further on the internet on this yet. So, if anyone has some extra time on there hands any contributing information would be greatly appreciated.

Michael Karpovage

Author, Crown of Serpents
Details of the Dead Angle

Found out some more details on this battlefield event. But still no evidence that it was a Masonic related. Or if Lt. Colonel William H. Martin was in fact a Mason or not.

Source: Hockensmith/Hockersmith Family Association reprint of Volume 1 • Number 4 • October 1995 page 4&5

General S. G. French (Confederate) tells of the incident in his autobiography. It was in the battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Ga., fought on June 27, 1864. On that fateful day General Sherman made a front attack on General Johnston’s lines, and was repulsed with awful slaughter, leaving thousands of his dead and wounded, the entrenched Confederates suffering comparatively little loss. The brigade that made the charge, commanded by General Wagoner, was composed of the 15th, 40th, and 31st Indiana, and the 97th New York Regiments.

“During this battle,” says General French, “one of the noblest deeds of humanity that the world has ever known was performed.” The narrative states: “Col. W. H. Martin, of Little Rock, of the 1st Arkansas Regiment, of Cleburne’s Division, seeing the woods in front of him on fire and the danger threatening the wounded Federals who had taken refuge therein, tied a handkerchief to a ramrod, and amidst the danger of battle, mounted the parapet and shouted to the enemy:

‘Come and remove your wounded; they are burning to death. We won’t fire a
gun until you get them away. Be quick!’ And with his own men he leaped over the works and helped in the humane work. When this work was ended, a noble Federal colonel, John I. Smith, of the 31st Indiana Regiment, was so impressed with such magnanimity that he pulled from his belt a brace of fine pistols and presented them to Colonel Martin with the remark: ‘Accept them with my appreciation of the nobility of this deed. It deserves to be perpetuated in the deathless honor of every one of you concerned in it; and should you fight a thousand other battles and win a thousand other victories, none will be so noble as this.”

Mr. Bush, John Leech, James Shoppach, Dr. Ben Medlock, of Benton, and John R. Lofton, Sr. of Newport, all remember the incident. In front of their breastworks the Confederates had cut down trees and saplings, and had also driven rails in the ground, making it necessary for the Federals to edge their way through, and as they came in sight were shot down. When the woods caught fire, the wounded men were in double peril; and if Colonel Martin had not arranged for a truce when he did, they would have burned to death. The late Capt. Alfred HOCKERSMITH, who was in charge of the Benton company, was one of the leaders in the rescue work. •