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The Angel of Mercy

Updated: Oct 3, 2018

The following pathetic story of our late war is told by a Christian writer:

“At the close of the first bloody day of the battle of Fredericksburg, hundreds of the Union wounded were left lying on the ground, and the road ascending Mary’s Heights. All night and most of the next day, the open space was swept by artillery shot from both the opposing lines, and no one could venture to the sufferers’ relief.

All that time their agonized cries went up for "Water! Water!" But there was no one to help them, and the roar of the guns mocked their distress. At length, however, one brave fellow, behind the stone ramparts where the Southern forces lay, gave way to his sympathy, and rose superior to his love for life. He was a sergeant in a South Carolina regiment, and his name was Richard Kirkland.

In the afternoon he hurried to General Kershaw’s headquarters, and finding the commanding officer, said to him excitedly: “General, I can’t stand this any longer. Those poor souls out there have been praying and crying all night and all day, and it’s more than I can bear. I ask your permission to go and give them water?"

"But, do you know,"’ said the general, admiring the soldier’s noble spirit, "do you know that as soon as you show yourself to the enemy you will be shot?"

“Yes, sir; I know it; but to carry a little comfort to those poor dying men, I’m willing to run the risk."

“The general hesitated for a moment, but finally said, with emotion: "Kirkland, it’s sending you to your death, but I cannot oppose such a motive as yours. For the sake of it I hope God will protect you. Go."

Furnished with a supply of water, the brave sergeant immediately stepped over the wall, and applied himself to his work of Christ-like mercy. Wondering eyes looked on as he knelt by the nearest sufferer, and, tenderly raising his head, held the cooling cup to his parched lips. Before his first service of love was finished, every one in the Union lines understood the mission of the noble soldier in gray, and not a man fired a shot.

He staid there on that terrible field an hour and a half, giving drink to the thirsty and dying, straightening their cramped and mangled limbs, pillowing their heads on their knapsacks, and spreading their army coats and blankets over them, as mother would cover her child; and all the while he was so engaged, until his gentle ministry was finished, the fusilade of death was hushed.”

So it is on life’s battlefield. The cannonade of sin and wickedness is hushed and powerless before the fearless Christian soldier who dares to do right, even though his life hangs in the balance.

- N.W. Christian Advocate

Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer - 1893

"Marye's Heights: The Story of Richard Kirkland"

Wikipedia - Richard R. Kirkland

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