Like many of you, I have
been a longtime admirer of the story of
the 'Angel of Marye's Heights' and this
presentation forced me to further research
what is truly an extraordinary life.
It was no surprise that I
was able to retrieve some great sources
for this evening's talk. Mac Wycoff of the
National Park Service has done a wonderful
job compiling and publishing information
on Sgt. Kirkland. I was able to find a
variety of materials in the bound volumes
at Chatham, as well as in a short
biography written by a novice historian
named Les Carroll. I was also able to get
transcripts of Kirkland's personal letters
from Susan Sweet of the Orange County
Round Table out in California.
Although I had previously
published an essay on Kirkland, as well as
a chapter in my devotional titled "The
Southern Samaritan," I still believe that
I have just begun to scratch the surface
of this remarkable man's story, which has
inevitably touched me.
As a result, I am now in
the process of trying to develop a walking
tour that will feature Kirkland's story
from a Christian perspective called
Blessings.' If anyone
is interested in discussing that venture,
please feel free to contact me after this
So let's begin this
evening with a couple simple questions:
What is so special about this man and the
act of humanity that he exhibited amidst
the madness of war? And how did a young
man from South Carolina leave such an
indelible mark not only on Fredericksburg,
Virginia, but ultimately on the rest of
Well for one, Kirkland's
legacy is based first and foremost on a
true story. It is an inspirational story.
It is an uplifting story. Even in some
respects it is an unbelievable story. But
it is both amazing, and true.
Now I'll be the first to
admit that much of our Civil War history
is far too often mired in folklore and
myth. We historians are guilty at times of
romanticizing things that should not be
romanticized and idolizing people who
shouldn't be idolized.
Yet this single incident
that occurred here in Fredericksburg is
revered because it is as profound and
inspirational as it sounds. It is one of
those rare instances when reality reads
like a Hollywood script and remains
I was amazed while
browsing through the NPS archives by the
number of accounts from eyewitnesses that
repeatedly corroborate the story of the
'Angel of Marye's Heights.' Time and time
again, memoirs repeated the same story
over and over.
So it leaves little doubt
in my mind. We are NOT propagating a
legend. However, we must also acknowledge
that the telling of this tale has been
embellished and marketed over and over in
a variety of capacities through the years.
Tonight I will show both sides.
Kirkland's history I was fascinated with
the monumental efforts that were put forth
during the Civil War Centennial to
commemorate the event by everyone from the
Confederate Veteran's Association to the
U.S. House of Representatives.
I will be quoting a number
of those sources, along with excerpts from
my own book and memoirs from those who
knew the man himself.
Ultimately there is
perhaps no other single event here in
Fredericksburg that has captured the
hearts and minds of both citizens and
soldiers like this one. It is after all,
the largest marker on the field near the
stone wall and therefore the Kirkland
Monument is essentially the identifying
'universal' symbol of the battlefield.