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.”