You’ve probably never heard this incredible story before

On radio, Glenn shared one of the stories that he wanted to include in Miracles and Massacres but just didn’t have the space for. You’ve probably never heard this story before – an incredible act of bravery during the civil war that didn’t involve a gun or cannon, but just some water.

“I want to tell you a story that we left out of the book Miracles and Massacres because we just didn’t have enough room for all of the great stories. But this one took place in the upper room of Mrs. Stevens’ house. The general was sitting in there. It was during the Civil War. It was General Kershaw, and he was puffing on his cigar and sipping his black coffee and there was a knock on the door and he bellowed, “Come on in.”

And the door, on its squeaky hinges, slowly opened and the young soldier entered. A young voice, followed by a hairless face to match, said, “Sir.” The general was sitting there. He was pretty satisfied by the one-sided victory that he had had, and he had patience for a visit today. Usually he wouldn’t. He said, “What is it, Kirkland?” The young man entered the room. He said, “I can’t do it, General. Please, I just, I can’t do it.” The general gazed out the window and he bodies laying in what was now no man’s land between the lines of the Union and Confederate armies. 8,000 enemy soldiers strewn across the ground. They were mostly dead, but many were wounded and unable to get off the battlefield.

The only gunfire that day was the occasional pop when a man tried to get up and limp off the field. Men on both sides of the conflict were scared to be seen in the daylight hours. Private Kirkland continued: “The men, sir, the men, I’ve listened to them cry out all night. I know they hate us, sir, and I know we hate them, but they’re men, sir.” The general’s patience was now starting to grow a little shorter. “What is it you’re proposing, Private?” “Just that I’d like to bring water to the men, sir.” “To the enemy?” “Yes, sir. All of our men have been gathered.” “I can’t authorize that, Private. You’ll be shot the moment you clear the wall.”

Private Kirkland had already considered this and now the general was adding to his only hesitancy. “I know, sir, but I’m willing to take that chance.” Kirkland said this quietly as if hearing himself say it for the first time. The general just took a long look at him. “I don’t get it, son, but go ahead.” “Thank you, sir.”

The private turned and left. General Kershaw listened to his boots thump down the stairs of the house and he heard them stop halfway. He laughed to himself, “Must have come to his senses,” thought the general. But once again, the door quietly squeaked open and Private Kirkland came back into the room. “Sir?” “Yes, private.” “Would you mind, sir, if I waved this white handkerchief?” “Private, you do not have the authorization to do any such thing. There will be no truce flag waved on this battlefield.” “Yes, sir.”

Private Kirkland left the house, marched back to his unit perched up on a hill. Whether he gathered as many canteens and blankets as he could carry. Then without any cover, he climbed over the fence, soldiers on both sides tensed their weapons, waiting. Kirkland approached a downed soldier who was crying out for water, a soldier from the other side. He lifted the soldier’s head and gave him water. Covered him with a blanket and propped his head up. One down, so many to go, no shots fired.

In fact, as Kirkland went from soldier to soldier, cheers, cheers rang out from both sides. What a sight to behold. One gray coat in a sea of blue. It was the Battle of Fredericksburg, a victory for the South. You see, Kirkland fought for the Confederacy, you know, the villains, the side opposite of Lincoln. But even though the Union lost that day, the Angel of Mary’s Heights is what they started to call Kirkland, made it a victory for all of America, a victory for all mankind.”

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  • Anonymous

    For another beautiful and haunting Civil War story, please read, “The Widow of the South” about the battle at Franklin, Tennessee and the Carnton Plantation, which still stands, the cemetery, and The Book of the Dead.

    • Yeah Buddy

      I’ve visited Franklin, Carnton Plantation, and the cemetery several times. Beautiful place with a haunting story.

  • snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

    From what I understand Kirkland made at least four or five round trips to get water and to comfort the wounded as best he could. Both sides respected the informal truce for the sake of humanitarian reasons.

    One person can make a difference.

  • Johnathan Read

    And a VICTORY for Humanity !!

  • Stacey Sokolis Law

    I have a great picture of the memorial for Kirkland’s effort at the Fredericksburg Mary’s Heights Battlefield that I tried to share here but my file is too big. When I learned the story & took the picture April ’13 I thought to myself ‘this is a story Glenn would like to do’.

  • Sam Fisher

    You should of squeezed that in some where.

  • Anonymous

    I thought I knew history, but didn’t know this one. My eyes sometimes dampen at a story, but seldom actually cry. I cried this time, along with the other involuntary reactions of emotion.

    Years ago I saw a long lost sculpture by Joe Brown, a former pro boxer and a teacher of sculpture at Princeton – a non-credit course I took. In his archives there is one by the same name, but it is not the same sculpture. The name is Pieta, and the lost one is of a boxer helping up his downed opponent (the current one is a “cornerman” picking up the downed boxer).

    Kirkland is the ultimate Pieta, risking his life to comfort both his own side and his opponents. I am saddened, on hearing this story, to hear of the cheers from both sides and yet no men coming forward to help. One man can make a difference, but he couldn’t possible reach all the wounded and dying.

    Private Kirkland took a humanitarian initiative, it would have been right and proper had a Captain or Lieutenant on the other side joined him in his mission. I am reminded of the temporary Christmas truce in the trenches of WWI when the caroling of both sides led to a meeting of the men. One man must have had the guts to stick his head out and call to the other side. “and a little child shall lead ye”.

  • landofaahs

    The Massacres always preclude the Lord’s purpose. The slaughter of the innocents precluded Jesus Christ birth.
    A witness is about to appear. Let us pray he has another who will announce the truth.

  • Liberalism is Nonsense

    Know liberty. Sow liberty. Reap the rewards. It is up to you:

  • Joseph Upton

    The Civil War ended slavery and that is a good thing. But that was about the only good thing to come out of it (politically speaking).

  • Anonymous

    This man already has a place in our museum in Savanna Illinois among others in the Gallery of Civil War Soldiers, aprox. 100 authentically uniformed and armed soldiers representing some of the most famous units and individuals.
    Savanna Historical Society — Savanna Museum and Cultural Center

  • Tommy may

    Slavery was only a part>>there was a wide expanse of territory and state ideas that separated Americans from North and South colonies. The War brought them together as Americans with strong principles and loyalty to a UNION OF A UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, to show the World ,the right way to live in Freedom.

  • Patti Goettler

    I’m from Fredericksburg, VA – the Angel Of Mary’s Heights is well known here….(and it is pronounced, Marie’s Heights around here…)

  • Michael Weinstein

    It’s a good story. Mercy is a commendable trait even and especially during the savagery of war!

  • Yeah Buddy

    Sounds like a Paul Harvey story.
    Good to remember we all are all mostly the same.

  • George Allegro

    Know liberty. Sow liberty’s seeds. Reap the rewards:

  • robineggblue82

    I am REALLY surprised Glenn Beck acknowledged that ANY Confederate could be a good person seeing he has such a hero-worship for Lincoln and thinks that the Confederacy was all about slavery – I mean, today you can’t really be a good old-fashioned American patriot unless you deify Washington and Lincoln, right? I like Glenn Beck, and I used to like Lincoln as well – until I found out how racist, progressive and big gov’t he was. So, yes, I find myself doubting Glenn’s judgment a little when he starts praising Lincoln or the North.

    • robineggblue82

      …but I’m glad he chose to acknowledge that a Confederate could be a good person. Confederate soldiers fought for a myriad of reasons, and its wrong to stereotype all of them as villains. So, thumbs up.

  • Anonymous

    ON THE PAGE:’ve-probably-never-heard-this-incredible-story-before/

    THERE IS AN ERROR: Whether he gathered as many canteens and blankets as he could carry.

    WHICH SHOULD BE: Where he gathered as many canteens and blankets as he could carry.

  • Anonymous

    He later got killed during the Battle of Chickamauga. In Georgia

  • Anonymous

    What a ridiculously obvious myth. People will believe anything.

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