Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Angel of Fredericksburg

December 13, 1862 saw the Union Army of the Potomac on the march.  President Lincoln, ever impatient for battle and indifferent to the cost sent the army south into Virginia.  They were about to find out the cost at Fredericksburg where they repeatedly charged entrenched Confederates.  This was the battle where General Lee was overheard to say It is well war is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it! The fighting was horrific, with men caught up in a primal hand-to-hand combat.

But as the sound of gunfire died away both sides could hear the groaning of the Federal wounded, littering the ground between the lines.  That's when the Angel appeared.  His name was Richard Kirkland, and he was a Confederate soldier.

He gathered up all the canteens he could carry and went out to tend the wounded and dieing.  And something strange happened on that battlefield - men who moments ago were struggling to tear each other's throats out regained their humanity.  For two hours Kirkland took water and comfort to the wounded, tending to every fallen man.  During those hours both sides held their fire, even though Kirkland had no flag of truce.

All he had was his decency, and that was enough.

Washington D.C. is filled with bronze statues of Union Generals on horseback.  You might say that they're a dime a dozen.  Common.

Fredericksburg has a bronze statue remembering a most uncommon man. 


Old NFO said...

And a great story too...

John said...

I must object to the statement that Lincoln was "indifferent to the cost", though he was certainly (and understandably) impatient for battle. He had suffered, and would suffer, through a series of slow and hesitant commanders. He knew there would be a cost, but he wanted some positive results for the cost.

John said...

That said, the Union assault on the Confederate center at Fredericksburg was a heart-wrenching example of courage and devotion wasted (presaging WW1)and Kirkland's is an inspiring story.

MSgt B said...

He made it from Private to Lieutenant in two years before he was KIA.