Moment of Mercy

While it wasn’t snowing 160 years ago today in the wake of the battle of Fredericksburg (nor is it snowing today), it was on this date that Sgt. Richard Kirkland of the 2nd South Carolina Infantry supposedly left his protected position in the Sunken Road along Marye’s Heights, jumped the Stone Wall, and gave water to wounded Union soldiers. His act of mercy earned him the nickname “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.”

Visitors to the Fredericksburg battlefield are familiar with the statue to Kirkland that sits near the east end of the Stone Wall. Less familiar is a statue depicting the same event that sits in front of the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA, shown above. Sculpted by Terry Jones, the Harrisburg monument is called Moment of Mercy.

Richard Kirkland

2 Responses to Moment of Mercy

  1. Kirkland “supposedly” risked his life to provide water to dying soldiers of both sides. Yet, like John Birchers of the 1960’s, some civil war historians see the Lost Cause under every rock. Some contemporary historians only doubt the Kirkland story because it was published in the “Southern Historical Society Papers,” a journal controlled by former Confederates. In any court of law, that would be evidence of nothing. To argue they “all” perpetrated lies and half-truths is not evidence that in this one instance, “they” evinced false history. Unless some controverting evidence arises, there is no rational reason to question the Kirkland story.

  2. What really leaves me utterly speechless is the fact that no one shot Kirkland. I find that almost supernatural. He might have been the Angel of Marye’s Heights, but there almost certainly must have been a higher power looking over him and the other soldiers of both sides at that moment. They all recognized the work of God taking place by one brave Confederate soldier and he wasn’t harmed.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!