After our FABULOUS dining experience at The Bavarian Chef, we decided to check out Fredericksburg a little. The downtown is adorable. Bricked sidewalks add to the charm of the boutique and antique filled strip. Fun little bistros and ice cream parlors would have to wait until our next visit. There was just no room! Since our lunch was late, our exploring was limited. Many of the shops closed at 5 or 6 o’clock.
With things closing up for the day, we opted for some historical exploration.
After all, no vacation is complete without a visit to a Civil War battlefield. (At least that is how I was raised!)
I have asked Chip, my hubby, to write this next portion of this post. Chip is the brains behind the Thideology blog. Zip over there and check it out.
Chip is also a bit of a history buff, particularly Civil War history. Here is his guest blog post…
A VISIT TO THE FREDERICKSBURG BATTLEFIELD
The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought December 11-15, 1862 in and around the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Union Army of the Potomac, under the command of Major General Ambrose Burnside, tried to cross the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in hopes of marching to Richmond.
It didn’t work.
The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of General Robert E. Lee (God bless him), fired on the Union soldiers while they tried to build a pontoon bridge across the river. When the Yankees finally did complete the bridge, they were fired upon by snipers as they occupied the town of Fredericksburg. The Confederates finally withdrew from the town to take up a position along a ridge west of town known as Marye’s Heights. The Confederates had the high ground. Not only that, they also had the advantage of taking cover behind a long rock wall that faced a wide expanse of open ground between the town and Marye’s Heights.
If the Yankees insisted on attacking they would have to do so without cover and under fire. An intelligent commanding officer would probably not consider such an attack. Unfortunately for the Yankees Burnside was not known for his intelligence.
He ordered the attack.
The Yankees suffered huge losses before retreating back across the Rappahannock. Legend has it that during the fiercest part of the battle a Union regiment of Irishmen attacked a portion of the rock wall that was being defended by a Confederate regiment of Irishmen.
SIDE NOTE: I don’t know if you knew this or not, but Irishmen are not noted for their love of England. Most Irishmen resent English rule. Well, the Confederate Irishmen viewed the American War Between the States as a similar situation. In their view, Abraham Lincoln’s federal government was trying to rule over the Southern states without the consent of the Southern states. This was the sort of thing they came to America to avoid. And it frustrated the Confederate Irishmen to no end that their fellow Irishmen were now standing across from them in support of tyranny. That is what prompted the next portion of our story…
One of the Confederate Irishmen, heartbroken at shooting other Irishmen, apparently yelled out to the Union Irishmen, “Fools! Have you learned nothing at the hands of the English?”
After the battle, the field in front of Marye’s Heights was covered with the dead and dying. Neither side would venture out to give aid for fear of being shot by the enemy. Both sides endured the cries of wounded men for hours.
The groans became too much for one Confederate solder — a young sergeant named Richard Kirkland. He asked permission to aid the wounded. He was denied. He asked again. His commanding officer told him it was too dangerous. To which Kirkland replied, “I’ll take my chances.”
Kirkland gathered as many canteens as he could and went over the wall. Yankee soldiers covering their army’s retreat were about to fire on him when they realized he was giving water to the wounded and making them more comfortable. Kirkland ventured back and forth several times with water, warm clothes and blankets, and reportedly did not stop until he had given aid to every single soldier on the Confederate side of the battlefield — Confederate and Union.
I have many heroes from the Civil War. Men who exhibited admirable characteristics that I would do well to emulate. Robert E. Lee (God bless him) was the living definition of honor. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson had a faith in God that few people ever reach. But Richard Kirkland…
Richard Kirkland loved his enemies and even risked his life for them. He was just another gray uniform in Lee’s army before the Battle of Fredericksburg. But after the battle his name has a place in history — not because of the way he fought against his enemies, but because of the compassion he had for them.