Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

More Corroboration for the Richard Kirkland Story

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 14, 2016

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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.
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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.”

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Go read the whole thing.
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Image: “I Was Thirsty,” by Nathan Greene

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4 Responses

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  1. James F. Epperson said, on December 22, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    As an old friend from Vulcan might say, “Fascinating!”

    • Andy Hall said, on December 22, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      I started out with a healthy skepticism. The evidence for the Kirkland story, though, now seems solid enough.

  2. E W Childers said, on March 15, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    It is even more amazing that Kirkland had the love for humanity, even his enemies, when you consider the fact that many of the Union soldiers had been pillaging, burning, and destroying all they could in the South for almost 2 years with impunity! Not all federals did these things, of course, but enough of them did to earn the implacable hatred of many Southerners! But Kirkland didn’t see “blue or gray”–only suffering men of his own generation….God bless hm and his memory!

    • Andy Hall said, on March 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

      Kirkland’s actions were laudable, and it’s right that he’s remembered for them. But they were not unique, on either side.


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