But he, desirous of justifying himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
Richard Rowland Kirkland is a name that should be cherished by every American. On December 14, 1862 he was a sergeant in Company G, 2nd South Carolina. It was approaching noon and his unit was stationed at the stone wall at the base of Marye’s Heights overlooking Fredericksburg. His unit had helped smash Union attack after Union attack the day before, and now he looked over fields strewn with wounded and dead Union soldiers. He could hear the wounded Union soldiers crying out desperately for water.
Unable to bear the cries any longer, he approached Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw and informed him of what he wanted to do. Kershaw gave him his permission, but told him he was unable to authorize a flag of truce. Kirkland said that was fine and he would simply have to take his chances. Gathering up all the canteens and blankets he could carry, Kirkland slipped over the wall, realizing that without a flag of truce it was quite possible he would be fired upon by Union troops.
Kirkland began to give drinks to Union wounded and blankets to protect them from the cold. Union troops, recognizing what he was doing, did not fire at him. For an hour and a half Kirkland went back and forth tending to the enemy wounded. He did not stop until he had assisted all Union wounded in the Confederate portion of the battlefield. The last Union soldier he assisted he gave his own overcoat. He was repeatedly cheered by both Union and Confederate soldiers.