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Compassion for the enemy?

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by CSA Today, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. CSA Today

    CSA Today Major

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    I’ve read somewhere that the story of Sgt. Richard Kirkland risking his life to give water to the wounded enemy at Fredericksburg is false so the one about Lee comforting a wounded Yankee at Gettysburg is probably untrue as well. They are nice thoughts though whether true or not.
     

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  3. wilber6150

    wilber6150 Brigadier General Moderator

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    I know Lee had kind words to a wounded soldier who cheered for the Union as he was passing, but don't think he actually comforted him though..
     
  4. johan_steele

    johan_steele Lt. Colonel Retired Moderator

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    The Kirkland story being fiction is probably true, sad but that is the way of it. IIRC the discussion started up on the AC several years back and those who believed it false used the fact that no contemporary account of the event could be found whether from the CS or US side. Such an incident would have been remarked upon by any witness.

    IIRC the Lee account, while more often discounted was considered more likely to be true.

    All of that said compassion between the lines was more common than some would think. Below are a variety of stories I recall from memory and their complet accuracy should be taken w/ a grain of salt... or six, I'm well into my Lauder's.

    One of the youngest killed in combat was disembowled by a stray cannon shot as his Regiment withdrew. He was a popular young man and a Corporal volunteered to go back and check the fate of the boy. When he found the mortally wounded boy leaning against a stump; the young man handed him an empty CS canteen and asked the Corporal to return it to his angel. The angel was a dead CS soldier on the other side of the stump. One dieing man offering comfort to another regardless of the flag.

    A group of CS Cav POWs were being escorted rearward by a detail in north GA. One of the guards noted a prisoner staring longingly at a farm near the road while they were at rest. The guard asked what was up. Prisoner told the guard that was his parents place. Guard took a look around and told him to go home. The man did and came back as the other POWs were forming back up. Guard again told the man to go home... the man did. 5-6 years after the war that POW managed to look up the guard. Turns out the guard was killed during the war leaving 3-4 kids and a widow. When he found them they were in dire straights. That former POW was not and paid back the kindness of that guard by helping the widow.

    During Shermans March on Savannah a US patrol/skirmishers came across a brutal attack upon a young lady by some US troops. They put a stop to it, applied the rope in a rather prejudicial manner and a couple of the men (after emptying the pockets of the dead and giving it to the young lady) volunteered to take the lady out of the path of the army towards the CS lines. They found a detachment of the Texas Cav, they parlayed the young lady to safety. Several weeks later one of those Texans was shot from his horse during a withdrawel... one of those men who had made the parlay lifted him onto his back and carried him to a US hospital to the rear. On the way to the hospital a stary bullet caught the US soldier in the back. Both would be carried back to the hospital, the US soldier insisted on the CS man being operated on first. The CS soldier refused and the surgeon operate on the US solider who died on the table. The CS soldier died shortly after.
     
  5. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Albert Sidney Johnston sent his physician to care for Union wounded and may have caused his death because his physician was not around when he was wounded.
     
  6. AndyHall

    AndyHall Major

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    Back in 2010, Mac Wyckoff did a series of three posts at Mysteries and Conundrums laying out the evidence for the Kirkland story:

    http://npsfrsp.wordpress.com/2010/0...d-the-angel-of-maryes-heights-part-1-origins/
    http://npsfrsp.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/from-mac-wyckoff-richard-kirkland-part-2-other-evidence/
    http://npsfrsp.wordpress.com/2010/0...bandwagon-evidence-memory-and-public-history/


    This is, I think, the most thorough analysis of the evidence available, and well worth anyone's time.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2013
  7. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Sergeant Major

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    I seem to recall in various memoirs acts of kindness towards the opposing sides at least by common soldiers. That seems to be somewhat true in most conflicts. I will speculate that winners could afford to be more magnam-- (sp?) then the losers. Also if there was a certain past history i.e. a USCT unit fighting after the Ft.Pillow incident kindness might be in short supply.
    Leftyhunter
     
  8. Lee

    Lee 1st Lieutenant

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    I read all the links and apparently there are enough stories from both sides that some as in more than one Confederate soldier made their way to the wounded Federals and rendered water and aid. there was also a claim by a wounded Federal soldier that some of the Confederates were a tad rough in tone AND the one who gave him water couldn't have been Kirkland as Kirkland was 19 years old and the Federal soldier described a much older soldier. but I have to believe Confederate soldiers did provide water and aid to some of the wounded Federal soldiers in the field. Identifying Kirkland is interesting as I had only read his name for years and he likely was one of the Confederates who rendered aid. However we know some Confederate soldiers made their way among the fallen Federals to relieve them of items a dead man no longer had any use for. It seems lots of effort and energy has been expended trying to confirm or disprove the story of the Sergeant Kirkland. The inconsistencies and conflicting accounts must drive these dedicated historians nuts and in the end they can only speculate or produce an educated guess or doubt. Great post and great thread.
     
  9. johan_steele

    johan_steele Lt. Colonel Retired Moderator

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    It is interesting to note that in my reading units and men who had been on the sharp end and or on hard campaign were more likely to show comapssion towards their foe than those who had never been on the sharp end. One letter described it as "sharing the same mud and blood." Men who knew what the other side was going through and could better appreciate it than a unit in the rear who might only have ever seen the parade ground.
     
  10. Lee

    Lee 1st Lieutenant

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    That certainly makes sense to me Johan. Actually I have read many cases of kindness by ACW soldiers directed at wounded especially mortally wounded enemy soldiers. Those veterans knew that mortally wounded enemy soldier but for the grace of God could might or maybe one day even would be them. Of course there were exceptions but I honestly believe most of the surviving combat veterans didn't really hate each other as they had more in common than not after years of war.
     
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  11. Barrycdog

    Barrycdog Captain

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    There was a story Bell Irvin Wiley about a fire threatening soldiers and the battle was stopped for a time to rescue those soldiers. I can't remember if the Union or Confederate soldiers in danger. I will find that excerpt somewhere. I thought it was odd to stop a battle for soldiers endangered by fire and then start up again to shoot soldiers with bullets.
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Sergeant Major

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    I think Lee makes a good point; perhaps too much attention is given to whether the good Samaritan at Fredericksburg was actually Kirkland. Some of these stories are probably wishful thinking, but even that derives from the knowledge that there were many cases of genuine compassion.

    Speaking of Lees, I've always like the Robert E. Gettysburg story. It's certainly in keeping with his character.
     
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  13. Mark F. Jenkins

    Mark F. Jenkins Major Forum Host

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    I don't know enough to pass judgment on either the Kirkland or Lee events, but I think it's a safe bet that it happened a lot more times than has been reported.

    (Not that it makes it a kinder, gentler war. I've no doubt a number of atrocities have gone unreported as well.)
     
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  14. Lee

    Lee 1st Lieutenant

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    Well said Mark. I agree with you on both points.
     
  15. bankerpapaw

    bankerpapaw First Sergeant

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    There are probably thousands of instances like the stories already posted.
     
  16. Karen Lips

    Karen Lips Sergeant Major

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    It is more compassionate to kill with bullets as opposed to letting somebody burn alive, or so it seems to me.
     
  17. gary

    gary 1st Lieutenant

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    It happened at the Wilderness.
     
  18. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Sergeant Major

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    I will speculate based on what I have read that there would be less compassion among soldiers or insurgents vs counter insurgents. Quite a bit of the CW was an insurgency conflict on both sides since there were plenty of Union guerrillas has well has CSA irregulars . From what I can gather it was mostly a fight to the death.

    In Professor Williams book "The South Bitterly divided " there was no compassion needed between the USCT and CSA because black pow death rates were very high in captivity higher then whites if the black soldiers were not killed on the spot. After Ft.Pillow CSA soldiers would be very lucky for USCT soldiers to turn them in alive to the Provost Marshall.
    Leftyhunter
     
  19. FZ11

    FZ11 First Sergeant

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    Random acts of kindness happen,everyday.
     
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  20. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    I'd have to think they were extremely prevalent- it's just that atrocities make better points to get folks all screaming about.

    The incident in WWI, the Christmas cease fire, where Germans and Americans became so friendly with each other that when it was lifted, they were forced to transfer all the trops because no one would open fire again on men who they now knew so well. Sounds to me like a dandy way to prevent a lot of wars.
     
  21. johan_steele

    johan_steele Lt. Colonel Retired Moderator

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    That was actually German & British troops. Neither Hogh command was very amused at that. And it all started with a German soldier singing Silent Night...
     
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