Ii The Bravery Of Richard Kirtland

: Good Stories For Great Holidays

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

rough 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.