Courage Boys features stories to inspire and leave you feeling hopeful. Making a difference is not only possible, but something we’re all capable of accomplishing. These are the stories of ordinary people making the decision to be extraordinary with bravery, resilience and principle. This is Courage Boys.
General Kershaw sat in Mrs. Stevens' upper room. He puffed a cigar and sipped black coffee. There was a knock at the door and a young soldier entered.
“Sir,” came a young man's voice, followed by a hairless face to match.
The general was satisfied with yesterday's one-sided victory and had patience for a visit.
“What is it, Kirkland?”
“I can't do it, General,” he said, entering the room.
The general gazed out the window at the bodies laying in no-man's-land, between the lines of the Union and Confederate armies. There were over 8,000 enemy soldiers strewn across the ground. They were mostly dead, but many wounded, unable to get off the battlefield for enemy fire. 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: “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 are men, sir.”
“What are you proposing, Private?” he said, his patience growing short now.
“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. And you'll be shot the minute you clear the wall."
Private Kirkland had already considered this, and now the general was adding to his one hesitancy.
“I'm willing to take that chance,” Kirkland said quietly, as if hearing himself say it out loud for the first time.
The general 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 then they stopped halfway. That's when the general smiled and laughed to himself.
He must have come to his senses, thought the general.
Private Kirkland came back up the stairs and opened the door.
“Would you mind, sir, if I just waved this white handkerchief?”
“Private, you do not have authorization to do any such thing. There will be no truce flag waved on this battlefield,” he ordered.
“Yes, sir.” Private Kirkland left the house and marched back to his unit, perched up on the hill, where 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. Waiting.
“Please help,” a voice called out.
Kirkland approached a downed soldier who was crying out for water. He lifted the soldier's head and gave him water. Then he covered him with a blanket and propped his head up. No shots fired.
In fact, as Kirkland went from soldier to soldier, cheers from both sides rang out. It was a sight to behold: One red coat in the sea of blue.
The Battle of Fredericksburg was a victory for the South. You see, Kirkland fought for the Confederacy, the side opposite Lincoln. But even though the Union lost that day, the Angel of Mary's Heights, that's what they started calling Kirkland, made it a victory for America and a victory for all mankind.
And so, courage, boys. Look for the good men on both sides of a fight, then you'll be able to see the future.