This past week marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg.
It's been a long time since I've visited the Fredericksburg, VA Civil War battlefield, walked the Sunken Road,and paid my respects at the National Cemetery where some 15,000 soldiers are buried. One of the points I try to make time and again in my Sunday Civil War blog posts is that there is nothing glorious about war. The Battle of Fredericksburg, a Confederate vicotyr, was no exception. The City of Fredericksburg was part of the battle, and its civilian residents suffered along with the soldiers.
There is a legend that a Confederate soldier, Sergeant Richard Kirkland of South Carolina, heard the moans of the wounded and dying soldiers who fell in the battle, crying for water. The legend states that, with the OK of his superior officer, he gathered up as many canteens as he could find, filled them with water, and ran out onto the battlefield.
At first, the Union troops fired on him, or so says the legend, until they realized that he was trying to give water to the dying troops. At this point, it is said, both sides looked on in amazement as he tended to the dying of both sides.
There is a monument on the Fredericksburg battlefield that commemorates this event.
Richard Kirkland was a real person, and died at at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863.
But did he do what legend says he did? In various readings online, I conclude it is quite possible that this is only legend. A great legend. We may never know for sure.
The Fredericksburg battlefield is one of four battlefields in a relatively small area. I have visited all four and highly recommend a visit to this area. Think well, these battlefields teach us, about the horrors of war.
There is a fantastic blog post that talks more about Fredericksburg. It is long, but well worth reading.