Kershaw made clear this event, which was reported on earlier, was absolutely true. In fact, he wanted to make sure the most accurate record of the account was made. An event that could not have been acknowledged during the war could now be readily praised years later.

     Kirkland, who was 19 at the time, became known as, "The Angel of Marye's Heights".  Fredericksburg erected a statue in 1965 depicting the well known incident.  In 2001, a statue commemorating Kirkland’s actions was placed at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  

     Liberty, may you find hope and inspiration in your fellow man from this real-life Good Samaritan story of compassion.  But don't just look for God's angels in life. Open your heart to him so he can use you to be one too.

     That’s my 2 cents.



December 14, 2016

Dear Liberty,

     Some stories just cannot be improved upon.  The following letter was written by General J.B. Kershaw and published in the Charleston News and Courier on January 2, 1880.  It recounts an event from December 14, 1862.



        Richard Kirkland was the son of John Kirkland, an estimable citizen of Kershaw county, a plain, substantial farmer of the olden time. In 1861 he entered as a private Captain J.D. Kennedy's company (E) of the Second South Carolina volunteers, in which company he was a sergeant in December, 1869. (sic)

        The day after the sanguinary battle of Fredericksburg, Kershaw's brigade occupied the road at the foot of Marye's hill and the ground about Marye's house, the scene of their desperate defence of the day before. One hundred and fifty yards in front of the road, the stone facing of which constituted the famous stone wall, lay Syke's division of regulars, U.S.A., between whom and our troops a murderous skirmish occupied the whole day, fatal to many who heedlessly exposed themselves, even for a moment. The ground between the lines was bridged with the wounded' dead and dying Federals, victims of the many desperate and gallant assaults of that column of 30,000 brave men hurled vainly against that impregnable position.

        All that day those wounded men rent the air with their groans and their agonizing cries of "Water! water!" In the afternoon the General sat in the north room, up stairs, of Mrs. Stevens' house, in front of the road, surveying the field, when Kirkland came up. With an expression of indignant remonstrance pervading his person, his manner and the tone of his voice, he said:

        "General! I can't stand this."

        "What is the matter, Sergeant?" asked the General.

        He replied, "All night and all day I have heard those poor people crying for water, and I can stand it no longer. I come to ask permission to go and give them water."

        The General regarded him for a moment with feelings of profound admiration, and said: "Kirkland, don't you know that you would get a bullet through your head the moment you stepped over the wall?"

        "Yes, sir," he said, "I know that; but if you will let me, I am willing to try it."

        After a pause, the General said, "Kirkland, I ought not to allow you to run a risk, but the sentiment which actuates you is so noble that I will not refuse your request, trusting that God may protect you. You may go."

        The Sergeant's eye lighted up with pleasure. He said, "Thank you, sir," and ran rapidly down stairs. The General heard him pause for a moment, and then return, bounding two steps at a time. He thought the Sergeant's heart had failed him. He was mistaken. The Sergeant stopped at the door and said: "General, can I show a white handkerchief?" The General slowly shook his head, saying emphatically, "No, Kirkland, you can't do that." "All right," he said, "I'll take the chances," and ran down with a bright smile on his handsome countenance.

        With profound anxiety he was watched as he stepped over the wall on his errand of mercy -- Christ- like mercy. Unharmed he reached the nearest sufferer. He knelt beside him, tenderly raised the drooping head, rested it gently upon his own noble breast, and poured the precious life- giving fluid down the fever scorched throat. This done, he laid him tenderly down, placed his knapsack under his head, straightened out his broken limb, spread his overcoat over him, replaced his empty canteen with a full one, and turned to another sufferer. By this time his purpose was well understood on both sides, and all danger was over. From all parts of the field arose fresh cries of "Water, water; for God's sake, water!" More piteous still the mute appeal of some who could only feebly lift a hand to say, here, too, is life and suffering.

        For an hour and a half did this ministering angel pursue his labor of mercy, nor ceased to go and return until he relieved all the wounded on that part of the field. He returned to his post wholly unhurt. Who shall say how sweet his rest that winter's night beneath the cold stars!

        Little remains to be told. Sergeant Kirkland distinguished himself in battle at Gettysburg, and was promoted lieutenant.  (see The Unforgettable Address)  At Chickamauga he fell on the field of battle, in the hour of victory. He was but a youth when called away, and had never formed those ties from which might have resulted in a posterity to enjoy his fame and bless his country; but he has bequeathed to the American youth -- yea, to the world -- an example which dignifies our common humanity.

To the Editor of the News and Courier:

        Your Columbia correspondent referred to the incident narrated here, telling the story as 'twas told to him, and inviting corrections. As such a deed should be recorded in the rigid simplicity of actual truth, I take the liberty of sending you for publication an accurate account of a transaction every feature of which is indelibly impressed upon my memory.

Yours very truly,

J. B. Kershaw.

     Liberty, Christ not only gave the ultimate sacrifice for humankind, he also instructed us to love our neighbors as he loves us.  Kirkland's actions stripped away the blue and the grey, if just for a moment, to tend to those in need.  He didn't do it for recognition or fame.  In fact, he did it knowing it may very well cost him his life.  We, as Christians, must have the same attitude and motivation.  We should never give and be charitable expecting something in return.  That being said, if someone is rewarded for their actions, that is not sinful.  It should just never be our motivation.

     Many soldiers have received commendations for their heroism and bravery, including your great-grandfathers.  However, their focus was always on their fellow man, not a medal.  In fact, after your great-grandfather R shot a German attacking his post in WWI, he went to the wounded soldier to try to help him.  (See A Hero's Story). We will do many things on this earth that we will never be recognized for, and that's just fine.  As long as it is the Holy Spirit working through us and not our sinful desires, our reward will be received in Heaven.

     Kirkland's story is an incredible example of compassion and humanity for fellow human beings.  It's so incredible some have even questioned its validity.  Historian Michael Schaffner examined war reports and other correspondence, founding little evidence of this event outside of a soldier's letter to home.  But in Schaffner's assessment, he forgot to account for wartime mentality.  The South would not have logged Kirkland's actions because it would have convicted him and Kershaw of aiding and abetting the enemy.  The North would not have recorded the incident as the idea of the enemy showing compassion to them would have been dangerous, and humiliating, for their cause.  They reported that the heartless Confederates had stolen clothes from their dead over the night.  How could they also include that one of those devils had given their men water and care?

     When Kershaw sent his letter to the paper, he included the following note: