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Friday, February 23, 2018

Walking the Sunken Road.

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Hurry, hurry!

The visitor’s center was closing at 5pm, and we needed some information and a walking map before lock-up time.

We almost didn’t make it, the 4 of us stopping in our tracks on the curve of the drive, hands over hearts as we watched the park service representative carefully and respectfully lower the flag from the pole in front of us, a reminder of what this place is, and was in the past.  A battlefield of horrific carnage, Union against Confederate in the war between the states that changed the direction of this country forever.

The gentleman behind the counter, beginning his close down and lock up process was happy to stop his activities, answer some questions and send us on our way out the back door for some exploring.

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Stopping to read the placards along the trail.

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It’s a harrowing thought.

My mind was trying as hard as it could to comprehend the magnitude of what happened here. I just can’t. Especially when a good portion of lives lost – on both sides – were little more than teenagers.

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Map showing the location of major battles.

In the center of the map toward the yellow area you will see the battle of Salem Church.  Salem Church is where our Tuesday workshop was held.  I shared some of the history of that location in that post.

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The Innis House.

Throughout December 13, 1862, nearly 30,000 Union Soldiers marched towards Marye’s Heights in the direction of the Innis House. 

More than 10,000 Confederate Soldiers lined the road and the heights above. Confederates utilized the Stone Wall along the road for cover.

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Innis house and remaining original stone wall.

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Innis House, possibly 1865

Located along the Confederate line of battle, the small structure was marred by soldier graffiti and perforated by bullets and shell fragments. 

Confederate General Lafayette McLaws wrote that the house "had no space as large as two hands on it that had not been pierced."

The Innis House was lived in until 1970 when the National Park Service purchased the property for $36,600. After the house was sold to the park, restoration work returned the house to its 1862 appearance. Work crews removed modern layers of wood and wall paper revealing 52 bullet and shell holes, with some bullets still lodged in the structure. [source]

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We peered in the windows.  The wall with the bullet holes was there, and the terror of what went on here felt very real.  We walked reverently, nearly silently, listening to the birds, feeling the almost-80-degree-sunshine sink lower in the sky as we took this all in.


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The heartfelt act of compassion.

On December 13, 1862, Kirkland's unit had formed at the stone wall at the base of "Marye's Heights" near Fredericksburg, Virginia. 

In the action that followed, he and his unit inflicted heavy casualties on the Union attackers. On the night of December 13, walking wounded made their way to the field hospital while those who were disabled were forced to remain on the battlefield. 

The morning of December 14 revealed that over 8,000 Union soldiers had been shot in front of the stone wall at Marye's Heights. Many of those remaining on the battlefield were still alive, but suffering terribly from their wounds and a lack of water.

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Soldiers from both sides were forced to listen to the painful cries of the wounded for hours, with neither side daring to venture out for fear of being shot by the enemy. At some point during the day, Kirkland allegedly approached Confederate Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw, also from Kershaw County, South Carolina, and informed him that he wished to help the wounded Union soldiers. 

By Kershaw's own account, at first he denied the request, but later he relented. However, when Kirkland asked if he could show a white handkerchief, General Kershaw stated he could not do that. Kirkland responded "All right, sir, I'll take my chances."

Kirkland gathered all the canteens he could carry, filled them with water, then ventured out onto the battlefield. He ventured back and forth several times, giving the wounded Union soldiers water, warm clothing, and blankets. 

Soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies watched as he performed his task, but no one fired a shot. General Kershaw later stated that he observed Kirkland for more than an hour and a half. At first, it was thought that the Union would open fire, which would result in the Confederacy returning fire, resulting in Kirkland being caught in a crossfire. 

However, within a very short time, it became obvious to both sides as to what Kirkland was doing, and according to Kershaw cries for water erupted all over the battlefield from wounded soldiers. Kirkland did not stop until he had helped every wounded soldier (Confederate and Federal) on the Confederate end of the battlefield. 

Sergeant Kirkland's actions remain a legend in Fredericksburg to this day. [source]

He was 19 years old at this event.

Little more than a boy.

He lost his life in battle September 20th, 1863 at the age of 20.

I’ve not let this story go out of my mind since we read about it at the monument dedicated to his heroism and selflessness.  Compassion knows no sides.

I’m not a religious person, at least I don’t think of myself that way, but the words “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren – ye have done it unto me…” keep coming back to me.  

There is no enemy or foe. There is just compassion.


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Walking the national cemetery (Union soldiers)

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reading plaques and names of the fallen.

Click to play:



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So many lives.

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The second photo and inscription just breaks my heart.

Multiple bodies per grave, unknown.

Never returning home.

No closure for those families.

Just “presumed dead.”

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The more modern street below, sun setting.

Places like these always stop me in my tracks and make me think, ponder, pray, appreciate and whisper “thank you” to those who gave so much so that we may enjoy all we do.  They had no idea what the world would be like in our time, but their efforts have not been in vain.

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Thanks for walking this road with me, ladies!

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Winding my way to Quilt Villa last evening!

I made it to the cabin by dark.  I’ve got a few days of recuperation with huge amounts of sewing machine time ahead. 

It was a bit foggy this morning on Hunter’s Ridge!  Click to play:



The plan is to ease into this day – much time has already passed in just pulling this post together from thoughts, feelings, photos and experiences.  Two projects on the design wall, and one on the ironing board – which comes first??

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Quiltville Quote of the Day!

Can you feel it? That wonderful thing is about to happen!

Quilt top made with vintage feed sacks shared during my visit with the Virginia star Quilters in Fredericksburg.

Happy Friday, Friends!



18 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this Bonnie. My husband and I took a road trip last fall and visited multiple Civil War battlefields including the sunken road. Very moving. We also visited Cold Harbor VA battle field where my ancestor, Solon Carter, lost his leg.

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    1. Mary, it must have been an amazing moment for you. Sobering. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Thanks for sharing the story of that compassionate young soldier, Bonnie. We could use more of that today! I couldn't help getting a little teary eyed as I read!

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  3. Bonnie, thank you so much. The way you write about historic events and places and the way you seem to connect with the souls who lived it is inspiring and amazing. Kirkland's story has me in tears.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos. What an amazing young man!

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  5. Bonnie...like you, walking in the steps on hallowed ground makes me so appreciate what the soldiers were... men defending their beliefs and cointries... so sad.
    Years back when we were visiting the battlefiels and towns in that area, a national park person said when, even now, they dung new roads there would be the remains of the fallen buried as they fell. I agine....
    Thank you for bring this to folks sho sill never get to see it... hugs
    JukieinTN

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  6. I love quilts, even more I love our history of this great country. I would love to roam through the historic battlefields and other historic places. But somehow I have a problem with heights. I know, it's a crazy thing to have a fear of. So I will enjoy your blog posts of these great places. We must remember always our history so we dare not repeat our mistakes. The good and the bad. Now I'm think I will quilt a while.

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  7. WOW, History that you share today is heart wenching. I have young grandsons and I pray every day they never see WAR. I was alive during the Vietnam war. Many Young men lost thier lives then too. Thanks for sharing your walk down the Sunken road.

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  8. Thanks for sharing, Bonnie. I hope to visit this area someday. The history of the Civil War has always intrigued me. Such a sad time for our country.

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  9. Thank you.

    Having these sites set aside is essential to our national identity. So sad that sites like Gettysburg are facing “development”. That these plans are considered for a moment is scandalous:

    http://lancasteronline.com/news/pennsylvania/big-box-development-plans-stir-ill-will-around-gettysburg-battlefield/article_3a1e50a8-1eb2-11e6-9a15-27ebb86164a1.html

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    1. Oh, no! This plan to "develop" the resting places of those brave souls that fell at Gettysburg must be abandoned. To not do so would be an act of incredible disrespect.

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  10. Thanks for sharing. After visiting northern France last spring including the beaches, trenches & tunnels, and Canadian Vimy memorial, I must say being there hits you hard. Absolutely love the quilt used for today's Quote of the Day! Do you take pattern requests???

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  11. Bonnie, I enjoy reading your blog daily, thank you so much for sharing your adventures!

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  12. Looking forward to your next quilt-cam. Any idea when??

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  13. A very moving post and still quite recent history really. Thank you for sharing.

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  14. As I look at all the pictures of events of yester year that puts our heritage in front of us, my skin crawls at all the ruckus of those of today that want to tear down, and have already taken away monuments to our past. Where they should have receive honor "just because it truly happened" & we need to be reminded, they have been demoralized & shamed for just their existence. It is so sad. Thank you Bonnie for sharing your adventure with us to remind us of all that has been given so that we can have what we have today. Also loved the quilt used for today's post.

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  15. Back in ‘96, We took our kids from California to Manasses Antietam and Gettysburg. We walked the sunken Road in silence and when we got to the end wide eyed, we all agreed that we had heard voices, whispering, shouts from the “ghosts” in what was the cornfield back then. Mind you, this was a 13-year-old and a nine-year-old child along with my husband and I. We have never forgotten that half hour and it chills, amazes and humbles us to this day.

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  16. My husband and I visited this battleground a couple of years ago as part of our 25th anniversary trip. We are not strangers to civil war historic sites, but this one affected us both deeply. We ended up buying a painting of Kirkland's heroism in the field. Such an incredible story! And even the story of the monument was amazing!

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