Richard Rowland Kirkland was born in August of 1843 in the rural county of Kershaw in South Carolina. He was a typical farm boy whose family had strong ties to the community and a long lineage of military service. It is said that at least 10 of his ancestors had fought in the Revolutionary War. His great-grandfather, Daniel Kirkland, had served as a supply officer in the army and had fought in the Battle of Camden, S.C. in 1780.

It seems the very soil that his family farmed was hallowed by the service of his forefathers. To quote a UDC study titled A Rebel Against Injustice: Richard Kirkland, Young Humanitarian of Kershaw County, South Carolina:

"The Kirklands were not rice bird-planters from Charleston. They came overland from Farquhar County, VA and settled in the Catawba Wateree Valley where the streams, the falls, the steep hills and giant boulders reminded them of Scotland. They were bred with the individualistic tendency of the self-reliant pioneers - the determination to do what they thought right - yet ready to take the consequences."

Richard was the son of John and Mary Kirkland whose relatives had long established a comfortable life farming in the fertile fields of the agricultural South. He was the youngest of 7 children (6 boys and 1 girl). Unfortunately Richard's mother passed away when he was just 2, although it has been written that this tragedy brought the family together. Sadly, there would be more tragedies for the Kirkland family to come.

The Kirkland's owned slaves, although I have been unable to validate exactly how many. One source I found stated there were 20, yet another tallied over 100. My guess is it's probably somewhere in between. Their plantation boasted large tracts of tobacco in White Oak, Gum Swamp, and the Flat Rock Regions of the county. I did read that many of their slaves escaped following "Sherman's March" into South Carolina that left the property devastated for years to come.

The family was indeed Christians and the children attended the Flat Rock Community Church and school. They were a close knit bunch and the relationships that they forged would carry into their adulthood. (On a side note, as I read about the Kirklands, I couldn't help but picture Jimmy Stewart's family in the film "Shenandoah," except of course the Kirkland's were all for the Southern Cause.)

Richard showed an aptitude for surveying and assisted with mapping out a 288-acre farmland near his family's homestead at the age of 16. Although the skill appeared to be a future for the lad, farming remained in his blood. He continued earning money through surveying jobs, but he used the profits to invest in farming tools.

Hard work was a way of life in the Kirkland house. So was the duty to one's country. At the onset of the Civil War, most of the males answered the "call to arms" and enlisted in the Confederate Army as volunteers. It was agreed among the brothers that one must stay home to protect the women and children and to control the slaves, as an uprising was feared. Lots were drawn and the duty of staying home was drawn by James, the eldest brother, much to his sorrow, but he abided by the agreement.

Although the rest of the Kirkland brothers did not all serve together in the same units, they did run into each other off and on during the war. Brother Jesse served with the 7th South Carolina. Dan and Billy deployed with the Kirkwood Rangers. Sam joined up with the 22nd S.C. Militia and later he would move on to the 7th South Carolina Cavalry following the death of his younger brother. He too would perish after being taken prisoner and contracting a disease at Point Lookout prison camp in Maryland. James, who had stayed behind, was tragically shot and killed on the plantation.

By the time of the South's surrender, the family patriarch, John Kirkland will have lost his fortune, property, possessions, reputation, and three sons to the 'Great Divide.' Sadly, he died a broken man in 1870.


Following secession, Richard enlisted with the rebel forces before the age of 18. He had signed up as a private in the Camden Volunteers, who were later formed as the 2nd Regiment, South Carolina Volunteer Infantry. His neighbor, Captain John Kennedy was his immediate superior and the regimental commander was Colonel (and later General) Joseph B. Kershaw, a prominent attorney and officer.

He is the gentleman pictured here beside Kirkland. Kershaw would also go on to become one of Kirkland's biggest promoters so to speak following the War Between the States. I'll share one of his tributes a little later on. Kirkland was later promoted to Sergeant a little over a year into the war.

Richard is said to have also helped recruit additional members into the S.C. Vols. This unit went right into the conflict arriving in Charleston during the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Although they would not fight in the war's first engagement, there would be few that they would not fight in throughout the war. Just look at this resume...


At a first glance you can't help but ask were there any battles that they didn't participate in. Very few it seems. I have highlighted the two most noteworthy fights in relation to our discussion tonight, the battles of Fredericksburg and Chickamauga. The 'beginning' and the 'end' so to speak.