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Richard Rowland Kirkland

His name was not a household one in his time and still isn’t today. Unless you’re a hardcore civil war buff, his name is as anonymous as most of the millions of soldiers who took part in the most uncivil of civil wars. Where the legacies and legends of Lee, Longstreet, Jackson or Grant, Mead and Lincoln, have survived and even grown in recent years, the common soldiers will forever rest in obscurity. Some, like Richard Kirkland, deserve more. His story is universal. In extraordinary times, there are those who stand against the overwhelming winds of darkness and choking smoke, with feet firmly planted and the moral fortitude to withstand the tornadoes of darkness. They stand apart from the many more who crumble and become tainted by the heavy burdens and trials brought on by a vicious war.

On December 13, 1863, in the historic town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, where George Washington grew into a man, a terrible battle was fought. Men from states like New York, Maine, and Massachusetts charged into a butchering fire from those born of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The results were catastrophic. When night finally brought mercy to the field of ravenous blood, nearly 9,000 casualties lay between the battle lines. Many of these were still alive and would spend the night suffering in the December cold with no relief in sight. Richard Kirkland was witness to and took part in the slaughter. This did not make him any different from the thousands caught up in it. But his actions the next morning were far from ordinary. If you visit the battlefield today, the largest statue is not dedicated to a general or regiment, division or commander. It’s of Richard Kirkland and the remarkable, selfless deed he performed on the day following the great battle (constructed by Felix DeWeldon, who created the famous Iwo Jima flag-raising memorial). From a small, backcountry area of South Carolina to forever recognized in Virginia and beyond, his story lives on. This book is his tale.