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Ii The Bravery Of Richard Kirtland

from Good Stories For Great Holidays - MEMORIAL DAY





Richard Kirtland was a sergeant in the Second Regiment of South Carolina
Volunteers. The day after the great battle of Fredericksburg, Kershaw's
brigade occupied the road at the foot of Marye's Hill.

One hundred and fifty yards in front of the road, on the other side of
a stone wall, lay Sykes's division of the United States Army. Between
these troops and Kershaw's command a skirmish fight was continued
through the entire day. The ground between the lines was literally
covered with dead and dying Federal soldiers.

All day long the wounded were calling, "Water! water! water!"

In the afternoon, Sergeant Kirtland, a Confederate soldier, went to the
headquarters of General Kershaw, and said with deep emotion: "General,
all through last night and to-day; I have been hearing those poor
wounded Federal soldiers out there cry for water. Let me go and give
them some."

"Don't you know," replied the general, "that you would get a bullet
through you the moment you stepped over the wall?"

"Yes, sir," said the sergeant; "but if you will let me go I am willing
to try it."

The general reflected a minute, then answered: "Kirtland, I ought not to
allow you to take this risk, but the spirit that moves you is so noble I
cannot refuse. Go, and may God protect you!"

In the face of almost certain death the sergeant climbed the wall,
watched with anxiety by the soldiers of his army. Under the curious gaze
of his foes, and exposed to their fire, he dropped to the ground and
hastened on his errand of mercy. Unharmed, untouched, he reached the
nearest sufferer. He knelt beside him, tenderly raised his drooping
head, rested it gently on his breast, and poured the cooling life-giving
water down the parched throat. This done he laid him carefully down,
placed the soldier's knapsack under his head, straightened his broken
limbs, spread his coat over him, replaced the empty canteen with a full
one, then turned to another sufferer.

By this time his conduct was understood by friend and foe alike and the
firing ceased on both sides.

For an hour and a half did he pursue his noble mission, until he had
relieved the wounded on all parts of the battlefield. Then he returned
to his post uninjured.

Surely such a noble deed is worthy of the admiration of men and angels.





Next: The Young Sentinel

Previous: Two Hero-stories Of The Civil War



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