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Richard Kirkland’s historic, heroic deed reaches 151 years

Posted: December 20, 2013 5:05 p.m.
Updated: December 23, 2013 5:00 a.m.

At left, from left, Gayle Breon and Larry Graham place a wreath at Kirkland’s grave. The canteens on the grave were placed on the grave by an unknown individual who has been placing them there throughout the past 10 years as a tribute to Kirkland’s giving water to dying Federals. It is a real mystery.

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The famed "Angel of Marye’s Heights," Richard Rowland Kirkland of Camden and Kershaw County and his historic deed during the Battle of Fredericksburg in December of 1862 was 151 years ago this December and is still remembered and honored in both Camden and Fredericksburg, Va.

Sergeant Kirkland was known as the "Angel of Marye’s Heights" for his humane and compassionate acts of kindness toward wounded and dying Union soldiers during the Battle of Fredericksburg on Dec. 14, 1862.

In the Sunken Road, Kirkland gathered canteens and vaulted the wall. Too amazed at first to shoot, the Federals deliberately withheld their fire in tribute to the drama they were witnessing.

Passing from one man to another, Kirkland made the wounded as comfortable as he could. All through the winter afternoon, he did these rounds of mercy. In the midst of strife, one man at least had acknowledged the bounds of humanity.

Less than a year later, in the autumn of 1863, having served at both Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, Kirkland, then a lieutenant, was mortally wounded at Chickamauga. He is buried in Camden, near the grave of General Kershaw. At Fredericksburg, beside the stonewall, a handsome monument perpetuates the memory of the "Angel of Marye’s Heights" and his spontaneous affirmation of the brotherhood of man.

Each year, the John D. Kennedy Chapter No. 308, United Daughters of the Confederacy and Joseph B. Kershaw Camp No. 82 Sons of Confederate Veterans hold a ceremony to honor the heroic deeds of Kirkland.

On Dec. 14, the 151st service was held at Hampton Park at the Kirkland Fountain. Guest speaker Jack Marlar delivered a touching honorific speech. Following the program, a wreath was placed at Kirkland’s monument.

There is a 28 minute documentary on Kirkland that can be shown to all historical military, church and civic groups free of charge. The film, The Angel of Marye’s Heights, focuses on Kirkland’s compassionate and humane acts of kindness to his fellow man. Call Gayle Breon at 432-1368 or Joseph Matheson at 432-2222 to schedule a complimentary showing for organizations.

(Story and photos contributed by Ann Martin

and Joseph Matheson)


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