, ,

      18 years after the incident at Fredericksburg a reporter asked General Kershaw if he could confirm the story of a Confederate soldier bringing water to the Wounded Yankees that day and could the General identify who the soldier was. The General agreed and identified the soldier as Sergeant Richard Kirkland from South Carolina. The following was Kershaw’s account of what happened as shared with the reporter and published in the Charleston News and Courier, 1880:                                                                                             “All that day those wounded men rent the air with their groans and their agonizing cries of “Water! water!” In the afternoon the General sat in the North room, up stairs, of Mrs. Stevens’ house, in front of the road,surveying the field, when Kirkland came up. With an expression of indignant remonstrance pervading his person, his manner and tone of his voice, he said, “General! I can’t stand this.” “What is the matter, Sergeant?” asked the General. He replied, “All night and all day I have heard those poor people crying out for water, and I can stand it no longer, I come to ask permission to go and give them water.” The General regarded him for a moment with feelings of profound admiration, and said; “Kirkland, don’t you know that you would get a bullet through your head the moment you stepped over the wall?” “Yes sir,” he said, “I know that; but if you will let me, I am willing to try it” After a pause, the General said, “Kirkland, I ought not to allow you to run the risk, but the sentiment which actuates you is so noble that I will not refuse your request, trusting that God may protect you. You may go.” The sergeant’s eye lighted up with pleasure. He said, “Thank you, sir.” and ran rapidly down the stairs. The General heard him pause for a moment, and then return, bounding two steps at a time. He thought the Sergeant’s heart had failed him. He was mistaken. The Sergeant stopped at the door and said; “General, can I show a white handkerchief?” The General slowly shook his head, saying empathetically, “No, Kirkland, you can’t do that.” “All right.” he said, “I’ll take the chances.” and ran down with a bright smile on his handsome countenance. With profound anxiety he was watched as he stepped over the wall on his errand of mercy—Christ like mercy. Unharmed he reached the first sufferer. He knelt beside him, tenderly raised the drooping head, rested it gently upon his noble breast, and poured the precious life-giving fluid down the fever-scorched throat. This done, he laid him tenderly down, placed his knapsack under his head, straightened out his broken limb, spread his overcoat over him, replaced his empty canteen with a full one, and turned to another sufferer. By this time his purpose was well understood on both sides, and all danger was over. From all parts of the field arose fresh cries of “Water,  water; for God’s sake, water!” More piteous still the mute appeal of some who could only feebly lift a hand to say, here too, is life and suffering. For an hour and a half did this ministering angel pursue his labor of mercy, nor ceased to go and return until he relieved all the wounded on that part of the field. He returned to his post wholly unhurt.”
Finished Kirkland painting in the studio

The finished painting of Sgt. Richard Kirkland in the studio, 42″x 54″ Oil on Linen