By Sculptor Terry Jones
The Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, in December of 1862, was one of the bloodier engagements of the American Civil War. On December 13th, Federal troops made repeated assaults against Confederate positions behind the stone walls along the Sunken Road at Marye's Heights. In five hours an estimated 6,300 Union soldiers lay dead or wounded on the battlefield. As darkness approached, a light snow fell and the temperatures dropped to near zero. All through the frigid gloom, injured men cried in agony" "Help," "Water," "Somebody, please help." For one Union Commander that night was forever etched in his memory. "My ears were filled with the cries and groans of the wounded, and the ghastly faces of the dead almost made a wall around me."
By the afternoon of December 14th, Sergeant Richard R. Kirkland of the 2nd South Carolina Infantry could no longer bear those mournful cries. Shortly after mid-day, Kirkland secured permission from his commander to take water to those in need. Filling as many canteens as he could carry, Kirkland hurtled the stone wall and ran to the aid of wounded Union soldiers. Shots rang out from the Federal lines. Only when the purpose of the Confederate's errand became readily apparent, did the Union commander shout down the line: "Don't shoot that man, he's too brave to die." Then, for ninety minutes the battlefield was quiet.
Both sides observed a solemn truce as the nineteen-year-old sergeant turned Good Samaritan tenderly ministered to enemy wounded soldiers in what was most assuredly a "moment of mercy."
Soldiers in blue and soldiers in gray repeated this incident many times throughout the Civil War. This Moment of Mercy sculpture pays homage to them and the uniquely American spirit of aiding those in need.
Sponsored by The John Crain Kunkel Foundation.