150 years ago today, the Army of the Potamac and the Army of Northern Virginia were locked in a bloody slaughter near Fredericksburg, Virginia. On the third day of the five day engagement, a Union assault on Confederate positions at Marye's Heights was repulsed, leaving thousands of dead and wounded Union troops in the no-man's land that formed between the two armies after that fight.
Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland, CSA, could not help but feel compassion for his wounded enemies, crying out helplessly for water. With difficulty, he acquired permission to take water out to the Union wounded:
Securing some dozen canteens or more, Kirkland soon amazed thousans of men on both sides, as he climbed the wall and began carrying out his errand of mercy. At first the Union forces believed that he was attempting "to rob the dead and wounded," and thus began shooting at the "Good Samaritan" soldier. Soon, however, his true motives were discovered and his actions were admired and cheered by the enemy and his fellow Confederates. For more than an hour and a half, Kirkland brought relief to the prostrate foe. The "Angel of Marye's Heights" soon became a legend in both armies, and today a bronze statue stands in front of the stone wall at Fredericksburg, Virginia, depicting him lifting the head of a wounded Union soldier, to give him a drink of refreshing water.