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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