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December 1, 2013

Richard Kirkland, Angel of Fredericksburg

"No longer able to withstand the wrenching moans of the suffering wounded and dying Union soldiers, 19 year old Confederate Sergeant Richard Kirkland of the 2nd South Carolina approached Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw, CSA, seeking permission to go to their aid. Initially hesitant, the General acquiesced, refusing however to allow the white flag that would ensure his safety. Despite the danger, Kirkland sprang forward over the stone wall with canteens full and ventured out between the hostile lines. At first, Federals fired upon the young man but ceased as they soon discovered his merciful intent. Then cheers rang out from both sides as the man to become known as the 'Angel of Marye's Heights' offered water to one adversary after another. After helping those that he could, he crossed back to the safety of his lines, and resumed his duties as a Confederate soldier defending those lines." This photo is of the Confederate line on top of the hill, where Kirkland was stationed.
- from

This was in December 1862 at the Battle of Fredericksburg, where my gr-great grandfather experienced his first sight of bloody war. I wonder if he participated in the cheering. A fellow-soldier, William McCarter who was wounded not 50 paces from the rock wall writes in his book, "A burning thirst was now coming fast upon me - that most terrible of all thirsts known to and experienced only by the wounded on a battlefield where water was not to be had. Oh, how I craved a cup of cold water. I would have given $1000 for it had I had it. I could not rise from the earth and dare not do so. Had I been able to duck the flying bullets and look for water, I knew not where to find any closer than the Rappahannock River . . . I called to them [a group of soldiers standing behind a small brick house for safety], 'For God's sake, throw me a canteen of water.' A brave, sympathetic fellow edged out from among the crowd with canteen in hand. He crawled on hands and knees, evidently intending to get near enough to throw the water to me. This soldier was struck by a bullet, causing him to beat a hasty retreat back to safer quarters, leaving me minus the relief he so nobly tried to render at the risk of his own life. Darkness was now coming on, yet the conflict raged. But before eleven p.m. that night, the Army of the Potomac was a defeated, dejected and demoralized mob."

"In September of 1863, Sergeant Kirkland would find himself fighting in the western theater as a detachment from Lieutenant General Longstreet's Corps moved west to support General Braxton Bragg's efforts to stop Union Major General William Starke Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland. They would do just that during the Battle of Chickamauga which would produce both a Southern victory and 34,600 casualties. Sadly, the valiant Sergeant ranked among those killed during this colossal battle. Mortally wounded in a failed charge, Kirkland exhorted his comrades to, 'Save yourselves,' adding 'Tell Pa, I died right.'" - from

True acts of bravery are often motivated by an all-consuming love. No greater example and picture is seen than that of the Lord Jesus Christ suffering the weight of God's wrath for sins he did not commit. "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46. "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

August 27, 2013

I don't remember birthday #1 - My older siblings and parents may have, but my personal memories date from a much later year as trauma and fears started writing on my brain with their indelible pen.

Oak Park memories include a few non-mentionable items, but mostly innocent fragments like getting chased by dad between the picket-fenced yards, seeing our dead fair-toss-game-won duck in the backyard, riding a bike off the corner cliff and crashing, kissing Lukey Stokke, and other assorted glimpses of growing up around zillions of neighbor kids.

I'm really thankful for the vintage photos that captured a childhood that my memory has forgotten.


January 26, 2013

President Lincoln Reviews the Troops- 1863

My great-great grandfather, William James Burk, was a captain in the 116th PA Volunteers Regiment (of the Irish Brigade). Here is his commanding officer's story of President Lincoln's visit to the troops.


From the book, The Story of the 116th Regiment by St. Clair A. Mulholland:

In the latter part of April, the President visited and reviewed the army. The One Hundred and Sixteenth Battalion never looked better than on this occasion. The great review took place on the plains, back of Spofford Heights, and occupied two whole days. Corps after corps filed past, one hundred and twenty thousand men . . . But though a joyous occasion, Mr. Lincoln wore that air of thoughtful sadness that every one recalls so well.

While at Army Headquarters in the morning, surrounded by Generals and brilliant company, he seemed cheerful and full of life and gayety [sic], but, as hour after hour he rode along the line of troops, he appeared like a man overshadowed by some deep sorrow. No doubt he thought of the coming campaign, of the great battle in the near future, and of the many who would fall.

On the second day of the review he seemed more overcome than usual, and his strong, rugged face bore visible traces of his inmost thoughts. During the afternoon he became unusually silent, and rode for an hour without exchanging a word with the brilliant staff that galloped behind him. At one time his gait became very slow, and finally he reigned up his horse in front of a Pennsylvania regiment, and looking into the faces of the young soldiers who stood silently in line at a "present arm," he let fall the lines on the horse's neck, and reaching out his arms towards the ranks, exclaimed, "My God, men, if I could save this country by giving up my own life and saving yours, how gladly I would do it!" As he spoke, the tears stole down his furrowed cheeks, and his great heart seemed bursting. Then he slowly passed on --- but who can forget the scene!

It was an episode called forth by the circumstances, the occasion and the man. Abraham Lincoln had a heart overflowing with kindness and love for all mankind. No human being was too lowly to an object of his tender thought and solicitude.

January 19, 2013

Ozone Fall Kayaked For First Time

I've been to Ozone Fall in Eastern Tennessee one time with my step-brother, Craig Woodling. It's situated close to the highway, so within easy trek time. You can walk right up to the water precipice and feel the gut-wrenching churn in your bowels as you peer over the 100' drop to the water and rocks below. In the fall and winter, with very little water flowing over, the pool below isn't very large and it would be certain death to attempt any type of yahooing into it. You can see my photos here: Ozone Falls

To think that someone would descend this death trap in a kayak is amazing. Amazing because it would be like shooting Niagara Falls in a barrel, in my humble opinion. But people do 'amazing' things. Or rather 'stupid' things. Or 'inane' things.

This is a situation where faith must trump reason. Faith in the 10% chance that you won't be killed. Faith in the fact that you will be on YouTube, whether you lived or died.

The Bible says God sends the "rain on the just and the unjust," and "the goodness of God leads us to repentance." If all sin and stupidity were justly rewarded on the spot, none of us would be alive.

God is so patient, forbearing, kind and merciful to his creatures - yet we continue to ignore Him, laugh at Him, tempt Him, and hide from Him.

Lord, open our eyes to see your Goodness so we might give you the glory that's due to your name.