The Strange Acts of Grace at the Battle of Fredricksburg; The Story of The Angel of Marye’s Heights.

Sgt. Richard Rwoland Kirkland, the Angel of Marye's Heights.
Sgt. Richard Rwoland Kirkland, the Angel of Marye's Heights.

Richard Rowland Kirkland, Company G, 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, Army of the Confederacy.

Kirkland was a Sergeant who had seen Battle, including Second Manassas and Shiloh. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, masses of Union soldiers under General Burnside made frontal assaults on the Confederates entrenchments along the Rappahannock River on December 13th, 1862. It was a foolish and wasteful assault that cost 6,000 dead on the first day alone and thousands more wounded; it also cost Burnside his job.

During the Civil War, battles ended when the sun went down. So as combatants headed to their own lines, all one could hear were the frightful cries from wounded soldiers for help. All through the night, Kirkland, stationed at a stonewall near a sunken road, was jolted by the lugubrious mournful cries of Union soldiers.

The next morning, Kirkland asked his commander’s permission to gather canteens and blankets to help the wounded. General Kershaw allowed the gesture and in broad daylight the General watched as he gathered water and wool cover and carried it to the soldiers.

During the hour and a half while he helped wounded soldiers on the battlefield, in this small area no one from either side fired. They waited until Kirkland was done ministering.

(On September 20th 1863, Kirkland was killed at the battle of Chickamauga. He has since been feted with song and story and statues.)

Often bands would play during the evenings even when the sides were so close they could hear each other. After the second day of Fredericksburg, the Union forces had brought their band along with them and they played that evening. One night, a Confederate yelled, “Now play one of ours!” the Union band immediately struck up “Dixie”.

In a similar incident during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, a fire swept through the dry grassy hills between the Union and Confederate lines. Many wounded soldiers actually burned alive in this fire. At one juncture, a Confederate officer hollered “We won’t fire a gun until you get them away.”


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