The Civil War was not going well for the Union during the first two years. The Union was suffering defeat after defeat at the hands of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia and it seemingly had no answer. Backstabbing and in-fighting among the Union’s Army leadership were rampant. President Lincoln had appointed a series of commanders looking for the one who would be able to take on Lee and beat the outnumbered but resilient enemy.

By the time of the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, Lincoln had given command over to Ambrose Burnside. Burnside had the opportunity to surprise Lee but a series of failures would ultimately cause another Union debacle. In the battle of Fredericksburg Burnside’s army of 114,000 would engage Lee’s 72,500; it would be the largest battle of the Civil War.

It was during the bloody battle of Fredericksburg, that one soldier, Richard Rowland Kirkland, would display compassion for the wounded soldiers of both sides. He’d be recognized as a humanitarian of such accord that he would become known as “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.”

Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland

Background to the Battle

Burnside was given command of the Army of the Potomac on November 7. Lincoln wanted a bold plan and Burnside gave it to him. He planned on attacking the South and taking the Confederate capital of Richmond.