On Dec. 13, 1862, the Army of the Potomac under General Ambrose Burnside attacked my great-great-great-grandfather Lawrence Marye's home, (Brompton) at Marye's Heights, during the battle of Fredericksburg.
Marye's Heights became the focal point of the battle. The Union forces were decimated by the Confederate sharpshooters who held the higher ground.
The Union soldiers were unable to rescue the thousands of wounded soldiers from their ranks. Agonizing cries for water came from the wounded, some under the command of Joshua Chamberlain of Gettysburg fame.
Sgt. Richard Kirkland from right above Camden was part of the Second South Carolina Regiment under the command of General Kershaw. The men of the regiment were instrumental in the defense of Marye's Heights and the victory at the battle of Fredericksburg.
Kirkland heard the desperate cries of the wounded Union forces. To him the wounded were his enemies, but they were also brave Americans. He finally got permission from General Kershaw to take water to the thirsty wounded enemy.
Many of Richard Kirkland's friends donated their canteens and he took as many as he could carry. Exposing himself to enemy fire, he filled the canteens with water. With little worry for his own safety, he took the water to the wounded. A few shots were fired at him, but the Union soldiers quickly recognized his mission of mercy.
When the canteens ran out of water, he went back several times and reached as many thirsty men as was possible. Cheers from both armies' raised his spirits. The next day Burnside and his army retreated back across the Rappahannock River and left Fredericksburg and Marye's Heights in the hands of the army of Robert E. Lee.
Sgt. Kirkland, who had been willing to die to bring the enemy some relief, became known as the "Angel of Marye's Heights." He fought preceding battles and gave up his life Chickamauga. As his unit needed to retreat, Kirkland decided to hold off the enemy so that his fellow soldiers could get away. He was mortally shot in the chest and was 20 years old at the time of his death.
The Confederate Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously to Kirkland on August 17, 1977. There is a beautiful monument to Kirkland at Fredericksburg, Va., and a portrait of him titled "The Angel of Marye's Heights" hangs in the state capitol in Columbia.
Sgt. Richard Kirkland is buried in Quaker Cemetery in Camden, South Carolina. Several Marye's including my mother and father Mr. and Mrs. Robert Marye are buried close by in the same cemetery.
Finally, there is a wonderful book available named The Angel of Marye's Heights by Les Carrol.
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