Sacred Ground 30

I would be indigent if I didn’t recount the story of Sgt. Richard Rowland Kirkland.

I have read about him many times. One article referred to him as the Angel of Marye’s Heights.

Sgt. Kirkland was in the 2nd South Carolina Infantry, a regiment in Brigadier Joseph B. Kershaw’s Brigade of McLaw’s Division of Longstreet’s Corps.

On December 13, 1862, the Confederates bestowed about 8000 Union casualties from behind a stone wall on Marye’s Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg. The cries of the wounded for water and help during the night had really gotten to Sgt. Kirkland. The next morning, supposedly after continuously asking General Kershaw if he could help the wounded, he was finally allowed to try.

Sgt. Kirkland gathered all the canteens he could and crawled over the wall. The Yanks that were sheltered from Confederate musketry behind some of the small hills must have been so surprised by his actions that they didn’t shoot him immediately.

Sgt. Kirkland gave water to the wounded Union soldiers and the few Confederate soldiers that had fallen over the wall into no man’s land.

Neither side fired a shot while he was helping the wounded from both armies.

Sgt. Richard Kirkland, 2d SC Infantry, statue, Moment of Mercy, tends to wounded

Apparently, when he went back over the wall to get fresh supplies of water and blankets, the firing resumed. When he climbed back over the wall, all firing stopped. It is a wonder that he wasn’t accidently shot each time he crawled over the wall to perform his humanitarian aid.

He kept this up for about an hour and a half. Neither side fired a shot at each other whenever he was tending to the wounded. It is said that he helped all those wounded that were still alive.

I guess war brings out the best and worst in mankind. It touches the heart when you hear about this type of heroism.

Sgt. Kirkland rose to the rank of Lieutenant and was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga.

About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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