Ch. 14 — Alexander Allca to Fredericksburg, Virginia

Next day, with all four grandparents in tow since 7:30 a.m., the kids off to school, Dianne guides the second System TV over to NNN in New York and picks up Ethan Thomas, who is waiting on the roof. He climbs aboard and takes a seat in the rec room. Knowing Alex was interesting in re-joining the group for the day, and with the Allca address in Philadelphia already in the GPS, using the satellites, she roars in on the location without a problem.

“He’s on the roof,” Ethan exclaims, and debarks from the house to the spacious roof, and again greets Allca. The two men climb into the house. The usual greetings are exchanged and Alex apears to take delight at seeing the family again.

“What did you think you would particularly like to see today, Alex?” Russell asks.

“Anywhere in history?” the philanthropist queries.

“Sure.”

“Well, I’m the kind of person who always appreciates altruism, seeing an individual doing something for others with no thought of reward to him or herself. Someone who really epitomizes this quality appeared during the American Civil War. You’ll probably remember that the war was fought between 1861 and 1865; but the incident I’m thinking of occurred on December 13, 1862, at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia. [Allca has obviously given this some thought during the intervening hours.]

“I’ll probably have to give you some background information on this incident, so that you will appreciate how altruistic, or selfless, this individual really was and how great a risk he took to help other people without regard for the safety of his own life.

“Well, it had been a cold, misty day in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on the morning after a particularly fierce battle during the Civil War. Our altruistic exemplar is Sergeant Richard Kirkland, a 19-year-old Confederate soldier who had been traumatized by the night-long screams and moans of the wounded soldiers of the Federal force left lying on the Fredericksburg, battlefield all through the cold of night.

“Kirkland was attached to Company ‘G,’ of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers of the Army of Virginia. He was fighting on the side of the Confederate States of America against the Federals of President Abraham Lincoln.”

[A monument to his memory, erected in Fredericksburg in later years, reads:

‘At the risk of his life, this American soldier of sublime compassion, brought water to his wounded foes at Fredericksburg. The fighting men on both sides of the line called him “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.”

Other locations report “Born Kershaw County, S.C., August, 1843 Sergeant at Fredericksburg, December 1962 Lieutenant at Gettysburg, July, 1863 Killed in action at Chickamauga, September, 1863.”]

[To find a lengthier and more detailed backdrop to the entire Battle of Fredericksburg, please consult the Appendix tab below Ch. 14 on the right side of your screen.]

“I don’t think I can give you any more information about this outstanding occasion in our national history; in fact, I apologize for the length of my ‘short introduction,’ but I felt you wouldn’t appreciate Kirkland’s merciful act if you didn’t have an extensive background.

“How do you go about establishing destination dates and times for travel into the past?” Alex queries.

“It’s fairly easy in most cases,” Ethan explains. “Since the early days of the War Between the States,” Ethan says, using another common name for the Civil War, “the St. Petersburg Sunshine-Herald newspaper has had a clock/calendar displayed on its building. What the folks normally do is move back until the date and time they need is displayed on the building. Then the physical travel can take place.”

“So, you mean that you would back up in time to December 13, 1862, based on the calendar at the newspaper, then fly over to Fredericksburg?”  Alex tries to clarify.

“Normally, yes, that would be the drill; but in this case, we could run into a little snag. It may be a trifle difficult to find Fredericksburg back in the 1860s. Think about it; no GPS, no Interstate highways to follow. The family usually plays ‘driver’s choice,’ so, we’ll have to wait and see who’s ‘driving’ and what method he’s going to use to get there.

“Dad, would you like to ‘drive’ today?” Russell asks Buckminster, offering his dad the remote control.

“Sure, son. Thanks.”

Buckminster starts out with a trip to the Sunshine-Herald, where the journal confirms both the calendar date and the clock time on display in his son’s basement rec room. Once more, the corporate watch is adjusted for tripartite agreement.

The next action is to head off north in the direction of Virginia. The Web site providing detail about the monument to the ‘Angel of Marye’s Heights’ gives a GPS location for the National Battlefield Visitor Center, but back in 1862, those coordinates don’t cut the mustard, as GPS with its multiple satellites in geostationary orbit is still well over 100 years in the future.

“Dad, go to the address for the National Park Service offices in Fredericksburg and then we’ll back up in time for about four and one-half seconds. That should bring us to the rough area of where we need to go in the stream of time. You can follow Deej’s watch for the rest of the way.”

Buck does the necessary to move the group over to the NPS address in Fredericksburg, then moves to a height of about 50 meters and presses the time-shift button for forward motion while his wife, Ladybird, counts off four and one-half seconds. Buckminster releases the pressure on the key pad.

Outside the System appears the now-rustic town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. However, there is tremendous damage to the terrain between the hills overlooking the community and the river, which indicates that the major battle for the town has already taken place, so Buck moves at moderate speed in a rearward direction. He calls out for all to keep an eye out for action taking place in the town.

Quickly there appear men by the hundreds moving into the area. Strangely, all are walking backward and in some cases accompanying cannons being pushed by horses, which are likewise walking in reverse gear.

There comes a period of nighttime, following which thousands of men are now seen scattered across what is obviously Marye’s Heights. Even the ‘Sunken Road’ can be clearly distinguished with its stone wall.

With a strange mechanical precision, the reverse marchers come to a halt with themselves and their cannons in what appear to be reasonable battle positions for the military strategies in use one hundred and fifty-some years in the past.

“Shouldn’t be long now.” ET breathes.

Buck continues the reverse course, still traveling at a fair clip, until bodies by the hundreds appear scattered all over the hillside beneath Marye’s Heights and the cart- tracks of ‘Sunken Road.’

“Buck, can you back up just a little more?” Alex asks. “We need to go backward to the day of the big battle and then forward until we get to about noon of that same day.”

Buckminster complies, continuing to reverse until a scene of absolute carnage shows on the slope between the river and the stone wall. Cannon are blasting from the hills; shells exploding; and shot falling with astounding effect upon the hundreds of Federal troops trying in desperation to reach the heights. Their commander is undisputedly sending each one in a quest for his own death in a vain attempt to achieve a victory over the forces of his deadly enemy, Robert E. Lee.

“This is the battle we’ve been looking for, Buckminster. Thanks,” Alex says. “This must be December 13. Now we need to go forward to about 12:00 noon tomorrow and we should begin to get a sense of what Sergeant Kirkland experienced back in 1862.”

With the timepiece verifying what Allca is saying, the baby-boomer has to slowly run clockwise until the Fredericksburg scenery darkens once more and the firing lines come near to silence as the human waves of Federal troops cease to advance. Even Ambrose Burnside can see no reason to squander the lives of his men. It is all thanks to the lack of daylight.

As the cannon and rifle fire sputtered out for the night, the moonlight increased and illuminated the battlefield. U.S. troops had taken such a beating that it was necessary to hold off on any nighttime action and do a little re-grouping and, especially, re-thinking of the strategy.

Now Buck is able to lower the System down to near ground level. As the portal closes in on the blood-soaked field, slowly the group begins to hear the awful, heart-rending sounds of human suffering that will drive young Richard Kirkland to his great acts of selflessness that have been inspirational to so many in the intervening century and a half. Fed or Confederate; it matters not. Anyone can prove to be an exemplar. DJ’s watch says it is December 13, 1863.

After a few seconds of moans, groans and cries from the wounded lying on the ground; it became abundantly obvious that what appear to be heaps of dead bodies are indeed heaps of bodies, but in many instances, not all are dead. “Mama!” can be heard from more than a few directions.

The wounded are desperate; perhaps because it is beginning to dawn on them that there is no way that help can be coming for them until the fighting is over. The daylight of that hoped-for day will arrive, and the battleground will be searched for the living; but that might not be for several days; if the fighting is prolonged, dooming many to a long, lingering, and painful death.

Under cover of darkness, Union medical personnel begin to identify the living from the dead and do what they can to ease their pain and fears. But, the casualties are so many; estimated by some to number over nine thousand wounded. Far too many to be handled during a single night.

“OK. We know what motivated Sergeant Kirkland,” Allca said, “but that’s enough for me. I sure couldn’t sit around and listen to that racket. Let’s move forward a little until morning and we see our man moving around among the wounded.”

On the morning of the fourteenth, traumatized by the cries and moans of his enemies, Union soldiers, Kirkland seeks permission from his commander, Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw to supply water to the enemy wounded.

Kershaw agrees, provided Kirkland is willing to perform his merciful act without a flag of truce. The general knows he is part of a massive victory and to put up a flag of truce would detract from that victory.

Hence, without a cease-fire and no white flag to offer him protection, Kirkland goes about his work. He gathers as many water canteens as he is able to carry and begins the task of calming the fears of his wounded foes.

After watching the sergeant for several minutes, the System lifts away from the heroic man, ascending to about twenty meters and drifts up toward the bullet-pocked stone wall beside Telegraph Road. The extensive structure has proven more valuable than a flak jacket for the thousands of Confederate sharpshooters.

With startling suddenness, shots ring out on the river side of the battlefield; the enormous spouts of smoke from the black-powder rifles of the shooters show not only the origin of the firing, but also the intended destination. Unerringly, they point a long finger in the direction of fire.

Buckminster hauls up an added 50 meters above the grassy field and takes off toward the riverbank.

“Be careful, Dad,” Russell warns, “Don’t forget what happened to our sofa!”

Allca, who been briefed by ET on the whacking occasioned to the badly damaged piece of furniture, ignores the remark but he is getting a sense of foreboding. ‘Can those guys’ bullets get in here?’ he asks himself.

ET asks, “Buckminster, could you drop down lower to where those shots are coming from; except that you might perhaps approach them from the rear, rather than having them shoot right through our front window.”

There is a collective breath-holding exercise as Buck steers the portal out over the Rappahannock River, turns about and ‘coasts’ in behind a group of Federal soldiers reloading its rifles. There is joking and cursing in the crowd as they take fresh aim at the shadowy figure barely visible yet perceptibly moving among the bodies below the wall that marked ‘Sunken Road.’

Buckminster, our chauffeur, leans closer to the portal, and calls out to the shooters in a clear, authoritative tone, sufficiently loud for all in the army group to hear:  “Hold your fire, men!  Stop shooting at that guy. He’s a Johnny Reb alright, but he’s giving water to our wounded.”

Firing ceases immediately. Sharpshooters on both sides watch in disbelief as the sergeant carries on his merciful deed.

“Buck, what a great idea; they bought it,” ET congratulates.

The cessation of fire allows the young Confederate sergeant to continue to give succor to those injured boys on that slope close to where the Fredericksburg Battlefield Center stands today in the year 2015.

Later that same day, December 14, Burnside finally asks General Robert E. Lee for a cease-fire agreement to permit his medical teams to assist the thousands of wounded Federal infantrymen below Marye’s Heights. Lee agrees, and finally, on the following day, the fifteenth, the Federal forces withdraw across the Rappahannock River. The battle is over.

“Do you folks have recordings of any other adventures that Ethan didn’t show the other night?” Allca asks.

“We do. Ever since our first expedition to Iwo Jima, we have made a DVD of each entire operation,” Russell answers.

“My wife, Claudia, is the real fan of altruism. Actually, to be truthful, it was Claudia who identified Sgt. Kirkland to me as a selfless hero. What would be the possibilities of getting a copy of this trip so that I can show it to her?”

“Shouldn’t be any trouble at all,” Russell replies. “We can drop one off with you later today.”

“I would like to bring Claudia along tomorrow and see if she would like to visit with anyone in our past, if that would be OK.”

“That would be our pleasure.”

####

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