In commemoration of Memorial Day this year, Fredericksburg National Cemetery reached out to other cemeteries in the National Cemetery system to join in. Additionally, the Park Service reached out to twelve communities across the country—communities that were directly affected by events of the Overland Campaign—to participate in the program: Litchfield, Connecticut; Camp Nelson, Kentucky; Bangor, Maine; Dearborn, Michigan; Natchez, Mississippi; Wilmington, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and the Stockbridge-Munsee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin.
I had the privilege last night to do some of the interpretation in Fredericksburg, where I told the stories of some of the men who were killed at Spotsylvania’s Bloody Angle on May 12, 1864.
One of them was Paul Kuhl, a sergeant with the 15th New Jersey. Shot through the leg, he improvised a tourniquet with his bayonet and handkerchief. Because the fighting was so fierce, though, he was unable to crawl to safety—and so he was shot again. And again. And again. And again. By the time his comrades found his body the next day, they hardly recognized him. He was so riddled with bulletholes that they likened his corpse a sieve. He was buried that day, May 13, in a shallow grave on the field. Next to him was buried Lt. George Justice, also killed during the battle. Today, the two men lay buried at opposite ends of the same section of the cemetery.
While there were 18,000 casualties, North and South, during those 22 hours of combat, that statistic can be coldly impersonal. Putting human stories to that statistic has always been my mission as a storyteller, and it was an honor to do so again last night.