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More Corroboration for the Richard Kirkland Story

Discussion in 'The Eastern Theater' started by AndyHall, Dec 15, 2016.

  1. AndyHall

    AndyHall Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    18disunion-img-blog427.jpg

    The story of Richard Kirkland, the Confederate soldier who reportedly went across the wall after the battle of Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg to bring water to wounded Union soldiers, is well known. It has also been often questioned, because it relied on secondhand testimony that was not recorded until many years after the battle. Then a few years ago, a researcher named Mac Wyckoff published a series of blog posts at the Mysteries and Conundrums blog, that fleshed out substantial evidence that corroborates the basic elements of the story. For me personally, Wyckoff's posts moved the Richard Kirkland story from the "possible" column into the "probable" column. You can read the first of those posts here, with links to the second and third installments.

    Earlier today, Mysteries and Conundrums posted an update by Wyckoff, that includes additional corroboration of the story, including the identification of a second Confederate soldier, Isaac Rentz, who assisted Kirkland in bringing water to the wounded Federals who lay on the field in front of Confederate lines.

    A recently discovered article in The Bamberg Herald, a South Carolina newspaper, includes the story of a soldier who assisted Kirkland in giving water. The story is told by Confederate veteran J.B. Hunter, a childhood friend of Isaac Washington Rentz, of the 2nd South Carolina.

    Hunter summarizes the basic story and then adds additional details. After Kirkland received permission to carry water to wounded Union soldiers and went to administer the liquid, Hunter states, “Just then, Isaac Rentz, seeing it, filled several canteens and carried water to Kirkland and they gave water to every crying man and was not hurt.”

    Go read the whole thing here:
    https://npsfrsp.wordpress.com/2016/12/14/new-evidence-related-to-richard-kirkland-a-guest-post-from-mac-wyckoff/

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    Image: “I Was Thirsty,” by Nathan Greene
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2016

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  3. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    I'm happy to see this. I don't know. Seems to be an awful lot of time spent ' debunking ' the Kirklands of the war- stories which were probably quite true but no one had Facebook live feeds or Instagram. For whatever reason because Kirkland did what I think a lot of men may have wished to do- and it was questioned. Makes me a little crazy, someone does something pretty common sense, a kind gesture and it frequently becomes ugly contention.

    There are an awful lot of examples like Kirklands, men choosing the side of the angels- not blue or gray. Love those stories.
     
  4. bdtex

    bdtex Brigadier General Moderator

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    Mort Kunstler's painting makes it look like the Union wounded are closer to the stone wall.

    154_2.jpg
     
  5. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Captain Silver Patron

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    I'm going with the story that Kirkland did offer water, soldiers are no strangers to compassion.

    A British soldier offers a canteen of water to a German prisoner.

    WWI-422689.jpg
     
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  6. AndyHall

    AndyHall Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    IIRC I've seen vague references that Kirkland was not the only soldier who did this at Marye's Heights, but this is the first source I'm aware of in which another soldier has been identified by name as having assisted.

    I hope the descendants of Isaac Rentz learn of this.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2016
  7. Yankeedave

    Yankeedave 1st Lieutenant

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    Why single Kirkland out?
     
  8. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Captain Silver Patron

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    I'm thinking that perhaps he gets singled out because his story isn't just one of mercy but also of extreme bravery, he didn't step over that wall under the protection of a white flag his motivation was based on nothing more than kindness and an inability to watch men suffer and he didn't just help one man, he stayed there for an hour and a half offering water to as many men as he could reach. I reckon that's why his story stands out.
    It was one of the first tales of the Civil war that I ever heard about, its always fascinated me how someone could be so selfless under such immense risk to their own personal safety, its one of those stories that restores faith in humanity.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2016
  9. Yankeedave

    Yankeedave 1st Lieutenant

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    My point being that i doubt he was alone in his actions. The battlefield is large. I bet there were equal yet unrecorded deeds in the woods on Jackson's front.
     
  10. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Captain Silver Patron

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    I think you're right there would have been plenty of other heroic deeds but Kirkland probably stands out because of the sheer number of men that witnessed his actions, apparently there were other men that followed his example but he was the first to step out into no mans land. I don't suppose we will ever know how many other men joined him in taking water to the wounded but from the reports that I have read, Richard Kirkland spent something like an hour and a half to three hours out there on his own. I also wonder if his actions came at a point where the men on both sides were beginning to realise just how senseless the slaughter was. Perhaps he is so well remembered because his actions came at a time when they were needed most, both sides were probably questioning the futility of it all, seeing this one man step out into the middle of the wounded and dying and offering kindness was maybe the best thing to happen all day, I like to think that is why he was singled out.

    We still look for that same kind of compassion today e.g. Desmond T Doss
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2016
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  11. kepi

    kepi First Sergeant

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    Thanks for posting this. I'll dig in a little deeper when I have more time later today!
     
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  12. AndyHall

    AndyHall Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    What gets remembered by history is often a fickle and arbitrary thing. Not by design or conspiracy, but simply by chance of who happens to write something down, and what accounts happen to survive for later generations.
     
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  13. ErnieMac

    ErnieMac Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    Confederate MG Joseph B. Kershaw appears to have been the source of the most commonly given account of Kirkland's actions at Fredericksburg. His account was widely published in South Carolina newspapers in early 1880. The account as published in the February 12, 1880, edition of the Anderson (SC) Intelligencer follows:
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  14. ErnieMac

    ErnieMac Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    And the original story that prompted Kershaw's response from the February 5 edition of the Intelligencer. It's interesting to see how the facts of the story became lost after a relatively short period of time.

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  15. AndyHall

    AndyHall Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    That's correct. Mac Wyckoff has done a tremendous amount to research and confirm and expand this story.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2017
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  16. TerryB

    TerryB Major

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    It sounds to me like the writer of the Feb 5 story was simply embellishing. He didn't want the facts to get in the way of a good story.
     
  17. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    I'm not sure it matters, except the original is far more hair raising. Our Victorians were nothing if not fired with the spirit of these stories. Good for them. What an awful time our country lived through. Can you imagine what a Kirkland did for recognizing we were shooting at each other, men capable of these acts? Goodness.

    Thank you for finding these, Ernie Mac. I'm so tired of the good stories being scoffed over. No one has problems believing all the awful stories about era personalities and events- a Kirkland story shows up and it's just weird how frequently we get " Well, I'll bet that never happened ". :thumbsdown: That's head scratching.
     

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