Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Angel Of Marye's Height's

Richard Kirkland
  I had the opportunity to visit several battlefields in Virginia when my son Rob Segroves was stationed at Norfolk. His guided missile cruiser, the U.S.S. Wainwright, was dry docked there for a year in 1991. He went into dry dock on Aug 1, and Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait the next day. Fortunate timing. This was a dream come true for me. I spent one whole day by myself driving and walking over battlefields like Fredricksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. Union soldiers were mowed down by the thousands in the battle of Fredricksburg which took place on December 13, 1862. This battle occurred just two weeks before the Battle of Stones River. I have since found out that December 13, 1862 is also an important date in my own family's history because my great, great, grandfather Isaac Mayfield, a Union soldier from Kentucky, died in a military hospital in Louisville at the age of 42. He left ten children without a father, including my great grandmother Mattie Mayfield, along with her twin sister Elizabeth, was only one year old when he died. 

  One of the most interesting stories about the Battle of Fredricksburg is that of Sgt Richard Kirkland, the "Angel of Marye's Height's". He was a Confederate soldier who was a member of Kershaw's South Carolina Brigade posted behind the stone wall on Marye's Height's. Kirkland was born in South Carolina in 1843 and survived many of the war's fiercest battles, 1st Bull Run, Savage Station, Antietam, Fredricksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. The Union Army attacked the stone wall on Marye's Height's time after time in fruitless attacks. The Confederates were well protected. On the morning of the 14th over 8,000 dead and wounded Union soldiers lay in front of the stone wall. The Confederates had listened to the cries of the wounded all night. Sgt Kirkland could not take it anymore and asked permission from General Kershaw to go over the wall in order to aid the wounded. Kershaw agreed but ordered Kirkland not to carry a white flag because he didn't want the Union Army to mistake it for a surrender flag. 

  Kirkland gathered as many canteens as he could carry and at great risk to his on life he jumped over the wall and began giving water, aid and comfort to the wounded and dying soldiers. After awhile the Union Army realized what he was doing and did not fire at him. He made several trips over the wall with water and blankets giving aid to both Union and Confederate soldiers at great risk to himself. Kirkland's action's earned him the nickname of "the Angel of Marye's Height's and he became a legend in Fredricksburg. Kirkland would eventually become a Lieutenant but unfortunately he was mortally wounded by a bullet in the chest at Chickamauga on September 20, 1863 attacking Snodgrass Hill. His last words were "I'm done for...save yourselves and please tell my Pa I died right".
Monument to Sgt Kirkland

Colorized picture of Confederate dead behind the wall at Maryes Heights

The Angel of Marye's Heights
Snodgrass Hill

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