Finally, someone has written a full-length book on Richard Kirkland. With all the Civil War books out there, it seems it would not have taken so long. However, well-known though Kirkland is because of his one great act that transcended all of the horror of the fighting that was our Civil War, there is really very little that is known about his life. It took a Northerner, appropriately, to piece together every bit of information that is known about the elusive Angel and to flesh out the story in novel form, albeit as close to the real man as we are likely to get.
One reason there has been so little written on Richard Kirkland is that he was not a general (he was a sergeant at Fredericksburg). He hailed from a farming family who lived in the sticks in northern South Carolina. He could read and write and had some surveying training, and, when his state led the South out of the Union, Richard did what so many patriotic Southerners would do--he joined a local military unit (actually joined one and later transferred to a different unit to be with his closest friends). We cannot know what Richard Kirkland’s true personality was like, nor do we know much about most of his friends, but author Anthony Ziebol presents a Kirkland who is serious about his duty and love of country, as well as having an introspective side. As was likely the case considering his actions at Fredericksburg, Ziebol’s Kirkland does show more concern for others than many of us do. But he’s not a goody-goody. Watching the South Carolina soldier try to balance his loyalty to his cause and desire to defeat the foe while maintaining his humanity is part of the interest of this story. Kirkland is shown as spiritual (he quickly prays for soldiers who are dying or have died) and mystical (has some dreams and sightings that indicate a soul trying to search out the mysteries in his life). Ziebol does a good job of developing the other characters, especially Alex and Joe, Kirkland’s best friends who serve with him, a new friend named Davis but who is called Smith because he is a blacksmith, and the darker forces in the army in the person of a Neanderthal named Ratcliff. Anyone who has read about Richard Kirkland knows how the story ends, and it’s sad, but Kirkland’s decency and courage in going to the aid of helpless enemy wounded lives long beyond his short life. Mr. Ziebol does a very nice job of tying the Civil War story to present day.
The book is well-written and easy to follow. Mr. Ziebol employs a vast array of descriptions (maybe a tad too many at the beginning, but it quickly levels out). It does not take long to get hooked and want to keep reading until finished. All in all, this is probably the best anyone can do for Richard Kirkland. The Angel of Marye’s Heights is recommended for anyone interested in the Battle of Fredericksburg, the life of the common Confederate soldier, humanity in a vicious war, or who just wants a good read.
Title: The Angel Of Marye’s Heights: The True Story of Richard Kirkland
Author: Anthony Ziebol
Publisher: Wind Publishing
Cost $22 Softcover