The American Civil War 150th Anniversary: A little mercy

Fredericksburg: Early in the morning on December 14, 1862, after having spent the night listening to the cries of the tens of thousands of wounded US troops out on the field beyond his station at the wall on Marye’s Heights, Sgt. Richard R. Kirland, CSA, requested and got permission from General Kershaw to go out and give some of the wounded water, so long as he did not show a flag of surrender.

Kirkland gathered up as many canteens as he could, filled them all and slipped over the wall. At first he came under fire from Federal sharpshooters, who thought he was robbing the dead, but this stopped after they realized what Kershaw was actually doing.

For an hour and half, the 19-year-old soldier went from one wounded enemy soldier to another, offering water and when possible filling the man’s own canteen before leaving him.

Not everybody believes this actually happened, but enough do for a memorial to have been built on the battlefield to commemorate “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.”

(National Park Service)

(National Park Service)

Categories: American Civil War

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