A documentary by Clint Ross
The Angel of Marye's Heights
The life and legacy of Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland

In late July a dramatic, half-hour documentary on the life and legacy of Sgt. Richard Kirkland was partially filmed in the Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania area. Two members of the NCWLF board, John Cummings and Michael Aubrecht, appeared in the film as local historians. (Aubrecht also acted as co-producer and consultant for the project.) Through interviews filmed on location at Prospect Hill and the Civil War Life Museum both men shared their unique insights on the experiences of the Confederate soldier and "The Angel of Marye's Heights." Kirkland's image has become an important part of the NCWLF's branding and represents the foundation's vision to preserve and present ALL sides of Civil War history. A special commercial was also filmed on site for the NCWLF. The video will be posted online and submitted to local television programming. Other interviewees included Civil War artist Mort Kunstler, award-winning audio book writer Megan Hicks, National Park Service Ranger Donald Phanz, as well as Camden S.C. historian and author of "The Long Role" Joseph Matheson. The film's music is being composed by Canadian Bluegrass musician Will White who wrote a song about Kirkland called "Fredericksburg 1862." The movie is slated for a December 12 release on the anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. An opening event is being sponsored through the NCWLF with plans to install the film as a permanent show at the museum.

Online at The Free Lance-Star

Filmmakers shoot Fredericksburg scenes for documentary on South Carolinian who won his enemies' gratitude for risky act of charity
Date published: 8/1/2009. By Clint Schemmer

Richard Rowland Kirkland is arguably the most famous enlisted man of the Civil War.

His compassionate deeds on the Fredericksburg battlefield earned him acclaim from friend and foe alike, and a nickname--"the Angel of Marye's Heights"--that has endured down through the decades.

Yet Kirkland's story hasn't been the stuff of film, our most compelling medium. Now, a South Carolina filmmaker and a Fredericksburg historian aim to change that.

"Of all the facets of the Civil War, this is one that people can connect with," director Clint Ross said during shooting this week at Marye's Heights. "Everyone understands Kirkland's principles. His act of mercy itself, you can't dispute that."

Ross has spent this week in the area with a three-man crew--cinematographer Zach Graber, first assistant cameraman Naza Loun and set designer Clayton de Wet--shooting scenes for their documentary on Kirkland's life. All four are graduate students at the Savannah School of Art and Design.

Spotsylvania County resident Michael Aubrecht, author of several books on Civil War history, has arranged interviews, done research and guided Ross and his team to evocative sites for shooting.

What the South Carolina sergeant did--leaping the Confederate defenses, under fire, to carry water to wounded and dying Union soldiers--profoundly impresses both men.

Ross, who wrote a screenplay for a different, earlier treatment of Kirkland's story, said he wants to give the film's battle scenes a nitty-gritty, you-are-there feeling reminiscent of "Saving Private Ryan" or HBO's "Band of Brothers."

"That a man would risk his life to aid his enemy, the very men that he and his comrades had been busy killing only hours before, is just amazing," Aubrecht said. "But it's true."

Kirkland, 19, was a combat veteran of First Manassas, Savage Station, Maryland Heights and Antietam. At Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862, he and his comrades in the 2nd South Carolina Regiment assembled behind the stone wall below Marye's Heights and helped slaughter the Union attackers.

But that freezing night and the next morning, the cries of Union wounded left on the killing field haunted many who heard them, including Kirkland.

On the 14th, he got permission to cross the wall, under fire, and brought water and warming blankets to the Yankees. Union riflemen ceased firing as he moved from soldier to soldier for nearly two hours.

Kirkland, who went on to fight at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, was killed in the Battle of Chickamauga on Sept. 20, 1863.

Today, the bronze-and-granite memorial to him here is the largest monument on any of the area battlefields. To many visitors, it may be as recognizable a feature of Fredericksburg as the Sunken Road or stone wall.

Sculpted by Felix de Weldon, the artist who crafted the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, the monument was unveiled in 1965 during the Civil War Centennial.

"Kirkland is almost a brand for Fredericksburg. This monument is essentially the identifying, universal symbol of the battlefield," Aubrecht said, standing near de Weldon's statue.

Scenes were shot at Marye's Heights, the Sunken Road and the Innis House on the Fredericksburg battlefield, Prospect Hill and the National Civil War Life Museum in Spotsylvania County, and Chatham in Stafford County.

Since the National Park Service generally bars live-fire re-enactments at its sites, Spotsylvania landowner Marie Johnson made her property available for filming of a dramatic re-creation of Kirkland's actions at Fredericksburg, Aubrecht said.

"Poetry has been written about Kirkland. He was mentioned in many soldiers' memoirs. He's been the subject of many artists, including Mort Künstler," he said. "I don't know of any other enlisted man who was so celebrated."

Ross aims to complete the documentary by Nov. 30 and release it on Dec. 12 for the anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. He intends to enter it in film festivals, and it will be screened here.

The documentary may also be shown to visitors at the National Civil War Life Museum in Spotsylvania, a private institution that's supporting the venture.

SIDEBAR: Among those being interviewed for Clint Ross' film are Donald Pfanz, staff historian at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park; award-winning Fredericksburg storyteller Megan Hicks; Spotsylvania historian John Cummings; Spotsylvania author Michael Aubrecht; artist Mort Künstler; retired National Park Service historian Mac Wyckoff; South Carolina historian Joe Matheson; and a Roanoke boy, 10-year-old Richard Warren, who will portray the young Kirkland back on his family's farm near Camden, SC.

Online at The Roanoke Times

Salem boy portrays soldier in Civil War documentary

Richard Warren, a 10-year-old from Salem, recently turned actor for a part in a Civil War documentary. Warren portrayed the young Richard Kirkland, a South Carolina soldier who earned the nickname "The Angel of Marye's Heights" when he volunteered to cross enemy lines to take water to wounded Union soldiers during the fighting around Fredericksburg. A Georgia-based filmmaker recently came to Salem to shoot the scenes involving Richard.

Here's what Kathleen tells us:

"About a year and a half ago, my son, Richard had a chance to do a living history presentation for a school project. He enjoys studying Civil War history (both sides) and decided on Richard Kirkland, someone that is not very well known in some circles. Remarkably, he did a great job for a 9 year much so that Michael Aubrecht, a Fredericksburg author and historian put the video I did on his blog. He has since had the opportunity to give his portrayal for two 4th of July celebrations, a New Year's party, in front of the Stonewall Jackson Shrine and on the Sunken Road in Fredericksburg. (You can see this on youtube if you type in Richard Kirkland.)"

Later, a Savannah filmmaker decided to do a documentary on Kirkland. Filmmaker Clint Ross contacted Aubrect, the Fredericksburg author, and through that connection, a film crew recently came to Salem to shoot the scenes involving Richard Warren as the 10-year-old Kirkland.

Here's what the filmmaker has to say about the project:

"Basically, close to a year ago I contacted Civil War Author Michael Aubrecht after I had seen a piece he had written regarding Richard Kirkland "The Angel of Marye's Heights". I spoke with him regarding the idea of shooting a short screenplay about the event that launched Kirkland to national acclaim. I thought the story was captivating and left my mind and heart troubled by the complexity of the situation. "What would I have done?" was my question. It made me question war and the nature of men. In the words of Megan Hicks from her audio book What Was Civil About That War... "I do not understand the nobility of men... I must say, I am truly mystified." Michael and I hit it off from the beginning, we just naturally were propelled to tell this story. I went to the Film and Television's dean at my school, Chris Auer, and asked him if I could film this story for my Thesis. BTW, my school is Savannah College of Art & Design - Along with him and the overseer of my Thesis, Michael Nolin, I was granted permission to first do a documentary about Kirkland.

It was here that Michael became my co-producer and we adventured along to tell this story. We decided to showcase the event that occured at Fredericksburg and the memory of Kirkland. We looked into the ways Kirkland has been commemorated since th event in 1862. I phone interviewed Civil War artist, Mort Kunstler, award-winning audio book writer Megan Hicks, National Park Service Ranger Donald Phanz, historian and author of "The Long Role" Joseph Matheson, Civil War Historian John Cummings, and Civil War Author Michael Aubrecht. All these people brought a unique element to the Richard Kirkland story. I am including original music composed by Canadian Bluegrass musician Will White who wrote a song about Kirkland called Fredericksburg 1862. I have also included several dramatic scenes to capture Kirkland at his childhood, the night he contemplated leaping the wall, and his actual running across the battlefield. All in all, I am hoping this will turn out to be a quality film that is worthy of the story it is telling.

Those involved in the film were myself - Clint Ross (Director/Co-Producer), Michael Aubrecht (Co-Producer), Zach Graber (Cinematographer), Nazar Loun (1st AC or Camera Operator), and Clayton de Wet (Sound Mixer). We filmed in Camden, SC - Kirkland's hometown - Fredericksburg, VA - Where the battle took place and where Kirkland's act occured, and Salem, Va - Scene from Kirkland's childhood, which includes Richard Warren age 10, your son.

I am expecting to have this film completed by Dec.12th - the night before the Battle of Fredericksburg."

More to come




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