Several anxious visitors have been grilling me ever since I hinted below about that reclusive documentary film project that I am involved with. I’ve kept it quiet for several months now, but as the local paper is now covering it, I guess I can finally spill the beans.
A few months back I was contacted by a film director from Savannah Georgia about contributing to a documentary project. The film dealt with the life and legacy of Sgt. Richard Kirkland and was to be shot in high-definition, on location at Fredericksburg VA and Camden SC.
The director's name was Clint Ross and he had contacted me as I had lectured on Kirkland at the University of Mary Washington as part of the FCW Roundtable’s “Great Lives That Touched The Civil War” series.
I was immediately attracted to the project as Clint is a fellow Christian and his vision of the movie was to not only examine the courageous act of humanitarianism that Kirkland bestowed upon the enemy, but additionally HOW and WHY the event has become a leading ‘brand’ of Civil War commemoration.
The image of this young Confederate soldier holding a canteen to the lips of a fallen foe has been memorialized in Felix DeWeldon’s sculpture on the Fredericksburg field and in the courtyard of the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. It has been captured on canvas by Mort Kunstler in his painting “The Angle of Marye’s Heights” and in countless souvenirs at battlefield gift stores. It has been written about in poems such as the one penned by Walter Clark in 1908 and in song by Canadian musicians Will White, Juanita Brandt & Dale Ulan. It has been celebrated for decades by the Camden United Daughters of the Confederacy and recently portrayed by a 9 year-old boy named Richard Warren from Salem VA.
In essence, the memory of Richard Kirkland is even larger than the selfless act he performed. This moment of mercy has become a major symbol. My own theory is that this rare act of kindness has remained through the years as a bright spot worthy of our praise. In a devastating conflict that has been far too romanticized Kirkland reminds us that we were all "brothers" in the American Civil War. He gives us a reason to celebrate. Perhaps that is the reason for my own attraction to his story.
After taking Clint and his lovely wife on a private tour of the Fredericksburg Battlefield, I humbly accepted an offer to appear in and co-produce the film by acting as a liaison between him and my network of connections here in Fredericksburg. In addition to shooting both interior and exterior scenes at Chatham Manor, the Sunken Road, and of course the Kirkland Monument the crew is also planning on filming in Camden at Kirkland’s home (ruins), at his grave site in a Quaker cemetery, and at a memorial fountain that commemorates him in town.
I will be offering an introductory spot on the theme of the film and “ghost-interviewing” Don Pfanz from the National Park Service and hopefully Eric Mink. They will provide an overview of the Battle of Fredericksburg and paint the scene for Kirkland’s actions. The addition of interviews with the living names I listed above along with SC historians, as well as the inclusion of period photos (ala Ken Burns) with an overlaying narrative (hopefully provided by a familiar star), this film will be both enlightening and informative. The crew arrives in town on July 27th and they will be shooting here until Aug. 1st.