In December 1862 after a clash between the Union and Confederate troops at the Battle of Fredricksburg, Virginia, Sergeant Richard  K. Kirkland of the South Carolina Infantry crossed enemy lines to deliver water to the injured and dying Union soldiers. When the Union commanders realized he was a Good Samaritan from the other side they held their fire and the battlefield was still for this moment of mercy. The statue sits outside the National Civil War Museum in the State Capital.

The statue, by Terry Jones, was installed in 2001. The plaque at the base of the statue states:

The Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, in December of 1862, was one of the bloodier engagements of the American Civil War. On December 13th, Federal troops made repeated assaults against Confederate positions behind the stone walls along the Sunken Road at Marye’s Heights. In five hours an estimated 6,300 Union soldiers lay dead or wounded on the battlefield. As darkness approached, a light snow fell and the temperatures dropped to near zero. All through the frigid gloom, injured men cried in agony” “Help,” “Water,” “Somebody, please help.” For one Union Commander that night was forever etched in his memory. “My ears were filled with the cries and groans of the wounded, and the ghastly faces of the dead almost made a wall around me.”

By the afternoon of December 14th, Sergeant Richard R. Kirkland of the 2nd South Carolina Infantry could no longer bear those mournful cries. Shortly after mid-day, Kirkland secured permission from his commander to take water to those in need. Filling as many canteens as he could carry, Kirkland hurtled the stone wall and ran to the aid of wounded Union soldiers. Shots rang out from the Federal lines. Only when the purpose of the Confederate’s errand became readily apparent, did the Union commander shout down the line: “Don’t shoot that man, he’s too brave to die.” Then, for ninety minutes the battlefield was quiet.

Both sides observed a solemn truce as the nineteen-year-old sergeant turned Good Samaritan tenderly ministered to enemy wounded soldiers in what was most assuredly a “moment of mercy.”

Soldiers in blue and soldiers in gray repeated this incident many times throughout the Civil War. This Moment of Mercy sculpture pays homage to them and the uniquely American spirit of aiding those in need.

Sponsored by The John Crain Kunkel Foundation. 2001

This statue is based on a 1965 statue on the Fredericksburg, Virginia battlefield. Kirkland fought in several battles until he fell at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863, at the age of 20. His body was returned home and he is buried at the Quaker Cemetery in Camden, South Carolina. The Fredericksburg statue is generally referred to as “The Angel of St. Marye’s Heights.”

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