Samuel Vance Fulkerson (1822 - 1862)

Line of Descent:
Guillaume VIGNE and Adrienne CUVELIER
Dirck VOLCKERTSZEN and Christine VIGNE
Volkert DIRCKS and Annetje PHILIPS
Jacobus VOLKERTSON (Capt. James Fulkerson)
and Mary VAN HOOK
Abram FULKERSON and Margaret Laughlin VANCE
Samuel Vance FULKERSON

"... Col. S.V. Fulkerson was an officer of distinguished worth. I deeply felt his death. He rendered valuable service to his country, and had he lived, would probably have been recommended by me before this time for a brigadier generalcy. So far as my knowledge extends, he enjoyed the confidence of his regiment and all who knew him.

I am Sir your obdt. servt
T.J. Jackson"

(Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson)

  Samuel Vance Fulkerson, born in 1822, grew up in the Abingdon, Virginia region and graduated from Virginia Military Institute. He and two of his brothers volunteered for duty with the United States Army during the Mexican-American War of 1846-47. Sam served as an officer in a Tennessee regiment and wrote a memoir of his experiences (still available today on the Internet).

Portrait, 1860
In 1860: Judge
Samuel V. Fulkerson
  Sam returned from the war and became a lawyer and judge of the Circuit Court. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War he returned to military service - but this time with the Confederate Army, to defend his home against the Federal army in which he once served.

  He was officially appointed colonel of the 37th Virginia Infantry Regiment on May 28, 1861 at Richmond. During the period from April 1st to June, 13th, 1861, the Confederate armory at Richmond issued "15,000 Musket Cartridges" and Caps and "490 Cartridge Boxes and Belts" to "Colonel S.V. FULKERSON". His regiment drilled there for two weeks. Captain James H. Wood of Company D wrote later in his memoirs:

Samuel V. Fulkerson of the county of Washington, who had served in the war with Mexico, a man of ability and high standing, left the circuit bench to lead this regiment as its colonel. Robert P. Carson of the same county and Titus V. Williams of Taswell county, both educated and trained soldiers were in the order named lieutenant-colonel and major. No doubt could exist that such a body of patriots so well officered needed but proper training in systematic cooperative effort to become most efficient soldiers. This work of training...showed its worth in effectiveness on the field of battle later on.

On 24 June 1861 the 37th was assigned to Brigadier General R. S. Garnett's Northwestern Army of Virginia at Laurel Hill via the following letter from Headquarters at Richmond, VA: "GENERAL: Your letters of the 18th and 20th instant, addressed to General S. Cooper, have been received. Two companies of cavalry from Ashland, Captains Smith and Flournoy, the same selected by yourself when here, have been ordered to report to you without delay. All the equipments and ammunition which can be provided for you will be sent with the four companies of infantry belonging to Colonel Fulkerson's and Colonel Pegram's regiments on Wednesday morning next. I will endeavor also to forward by them tents and blankets. Two six-pounders, with ammunition and harness, if possible, will be sent with the same command.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
General, Commanding. "

  They marched through Staunton, Virginia and into the Allegheny Mountains to the encampment at Laurel Hill (now in West Virginia). Their first contact with the enemy occurred there on July 8, 1861. They suffered no casualties, while the Union had 2 dead and 6 wounded. The spirit of the Confederate army was none the less suffering at that point, as indicated in official correspondence by Brigadier General Henry R. Jackson, dated 22 July 1861, "I am greatly embarrassed by the sick and sick and discontented. In fact, I must say that scarcely know what disposition to make of them. From this remark, however, the regiments of Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson and Fulkerson (Thirty-seventh Virginia Volunteers) are to be excepted, and, while they are undoubtedly suffering to a very great extent, those able officers keep them up to their duty, maintaining their organization intact, and I am troubled with but few complaints from the men." Further battles followed in the West Virginia mountains in September, near Cheat Mountain and Romney.

  By October the Army of Northwestern Virginia was a shambles, according to another letter by Henry Jackson: "...this command is mainly composed of the wrecks of General Garnett's, and the annals of warfare might be searched in vain to find a more pitiable picture of suffering, destitution, and demoralization than they presented at the close of their memorable retreat. It has required the untiring efforts of the most energetic officers and all the encouragement which could be brought to bear upon them to restore the troops to anything like the efficiency of which they were originally capable." Sam's regiment was ordered to report to Stonewall Jackson at Winchester, assigned to the 3rd Brigade of Jackson's division in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. This brigade was composed of the 37th and 23rd Virginia, First Georgia and Third Arkansas regiments. Jackson had earned the nickname "Stonewall" on July 21, 1861 at the first Battle of Bull Run on the outskirts of Washington, DC, where he and his brigade - positioned on Henry House Hill - stood "like a stone wall" against the Union advances and helped turn a potential defeat into victory for the Confederates. Jackson was also a veteran of the Mexican-American War, and was actually two years younger than Sam, whom he placed in command of his 3rd Brigade. Stonewall Jackson


FIRST KERNSTOWN, 23 March 1862

  This battle [fought just south of Winchester, Virginia] was the opening conflict of the famous Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862 CLICK FOR MAP. Mary Johnston, in her history of the Civil War, "The Long Roll" [Houghton Mifflin, 1911] tells us a bit about the battlefield and how Sam led his men:
Fulkerson on the left, facing Tyler, had two regiments, the 23d and 37th Virginia. He deployed his men under cover, but now they were out in a great and ragged field, all up and down, with boggy hollows, scarred too by rail fences and blurred by low-growing briar patches. Diagonally across it, many yards away, ran one of the stone fences of the region, a long dike of loosely piled and rounded rock. Beyond it the ground kept the same nature, but gradually lifted to a fringe of tall trees. Emerging from this wood came now a Federal line of battle. It came with pomp and circumstance. The sun shone on a thousand bayonets; bright colours tossed in the breeze, drums rolled and bugles blew. Kimball, commanding in Shields's absence, had divined the Confederate intention. He knew that the man they called Stonewall Jackson meant to turn his right, and he began to mass his regiments, and he sent for Sullivan from the left.

The 23d and 37th Virginia eyed the on-coming line and eyed the stone fence. "That's good cover!" quoth a hunter from the hills. "We'd a long sight better have it than those fellows!—Sh! the colonel's speaking."

Fulkerson's speech was a shout, for there had arisen a deafening noise of artillery. "Run for your lives, men—toward the enemy! Forward, and take the stone fence!"

The two regiments ran, the Federal line of battle ran, the stone cover the prize. As they ran the grey threw forward their muskets and fired. That volley was at close range, and it was discharged by born marksmen. The grey fired again; yet closer. Many a blue soldier fell; the colour-bearer pitched forward, the line wavered, gave back. The charging grey reached and took the wall. It was good cover. They knelt behind it, laid their musket barrels along the stones, and fired. The blue line withstood that volley, even continued its advance, but a second fusillade poured in their very faces gave them check at last. In disorder, colours left upon the field, they surged back to the wood and to the cover of a fence at right angles with that held by the Confederates. Now began upon the left the fight of the stone wall—hours of raging battle, of high quarrel for this barrier. The regiments composing the grey centre found time to cheer for Fulkerson; the rumour of the fight reached the right where Ashby's squadron held the pike. Jackson himself came on Little Sorrel, looked at the wall and the line of men, powder grimed about the lips, plying the ramrods, shouldering the muskets, keeping back Tyler's regiments, and said "Good! good!"

 ...After the battle, President Lincoln was disturbed by Jackson's potential threat to Washington and redirected more than 35,000 men to defend approaches from the Valley. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's army was deprived of these reinforcements, which might have enabled him to take Richmond, the Confederate capital. Because of this redeployment of Federal troops, First Kernstown is considered one of the decisive engagements of 1862.

Visit the Kernstown Battlefield Association web site and the U.S. Department of the Interior's First Kernstown page.

NEW - Read Sam's personal account of this battle, in a letter to his sister, April 3, 1862 - or visit a web site that describes this event from the Union persective - or read a letter from a young Confederate officer who describes his encounter with Sam during the chaos of retreat, and then tells of his own effort to defeat the Union's army with blunt sword and broken pistol.

McDOWELL, May 8, 1862

  The Battle of McDowell, Virginia, was one of the continuing series fought by Stonewall Jackson to harass the Union Army in the Shenandoah region. The Confederates lost about 100 killed and 200 wounded. Union casualties were not quite so heavy, 28 killed and 225 wounded, perhaps because they held a more defensive position and ultimately yielded to the Confederate attacks by day's end.

  Portions of Sam's report of the battle follow - the complete report is on his letters page.

 ... the enemy were endeavoring to turn our right flank by passing over a brushy and thickly wooded ridge ... the 31st Va Vols were there to prevent the flank movement & [Brig. Genl. Taliaferro] ordered me to support the 31st. I at once filed into the woods, but not knowing the position of either the 31st or of the enemy, for they were not at that time firing, I got in between the two, but nearer the enemy.

  On halting to put my men in line, I found that I had with me only my two front companies ... As soon as I formed the two companies I ordered them to give a shout which they did with a hearty good will, and we charged down the hill directly at the enemy, and when we got within forty or fifty yards of him he broke and fled, when we instantly opened fire upon them as they ran. He did not stop running till he got entirely out of the woods around the hill.

  When the remainder of the Regt. reached the line of battle in the field they joined in the fight there ... [Before long,] the woods were clear of the enemy, and I marched all back to the main fight in the field.

  When I got on our line it was nearly dark and we could only see the outline of the enemy on the hill side below us, & that soon disappeared, when we could only direct our fire by the flash of the enemy's guns. The fight was kept up till 9 at night when the enemy withdrew, leaving us in full possession of the field. During the fight some of my men were out of ammunition, but I had them to supply themselves from the boxes of the dead and wounded.

  I have to report the loss of some good officers and brave men. Capt. Terry, a gallant man and model officer, was severely wounded in the leg. Lieuts. Wilhelm, May, Dye, and Fletcher were badly wounded, and the two latter have since died. These Lieuts were young officers, but they nobly did their duty. All of my officers and men who went upon the field acted in the most gallant manner, and it would be unjust to discriminate by name, except in the case of the wounded. The loss of my Regt. is thirty nine killed and wounded and one missing ...

Saml. V. Fulkerson
Col. 37 Va. Vols

WINCHESTER, 24 May 1862

  Jackson's Division left the Shenandoah to attack Union forces the mountains of western Virginia in April 1862, then returned in May to confront General Banks again. At this battle of Winchester (a town that was recaptured by both sides more than 70 times during the War), Jackson succeeded in driving Banks out of the Shenandoah Valley and all the way back to the Potomac River. The Confederate losses in this battle are not known, but the Union forces - consisting of the 27th Indiana, 2nd Massachusetts, 29th Pennsylvania and 3rd Wisconsin - lost nearly 200 killed and wounded, and more than 700 prisoners and missing, plus much of their supplies.

One of the legends about Stonewall Jackson arose during the march to this battle, and it involved Sam:

"Most of all Jackson wanted to seize a commanding hill southwest of Winchester to prevent the Federals from occupying it in force and with artillery. He drove his soldiers onward deep into the night. At about 1 A.M. on May 25, the chief of the Third Brigade of Jackson’s division, Col. Samuel V. Fulkerson, suggested that the men be allowed to rest for an hour or two.

“Colonel,” Jackson replied, “I yield to no man in sympathy for the gallant men under my command; but I am obliged to sweat them tonight that I may save their blood tomorrow.” The army, he said, had to be in position below the Winchester hills by daylight. “You shall, however,” Jackson added, “have two hours’ rest.”

The column halted. Thousands of Rebel soldiers slumped in their tracks and fell asleep in the road.

At 4 A.M. on Sunday, May 25, Jackson, who’d kept watch as his men slept, passed the word down the column for the men to arise. They quickly got under arms and were on their way."

Lost Victories: The Military Genius of Stonewall Jackson (p. 68); Bevin Alexander, Henry Holt & Co, 1992)
  Lieutenant James W. Orr of Company E, 37th Virginia, later recalled that,
While we were chasing the enemy through the town of Winchester, and stopped for a few moments, I dashed into a suttler's store and swiped two splendid pairs of boots. About the time I came out with them, Col. Fulkerson rode up and asked what I was doing with so many boots, and wondered if a pair of them would not fit him, and I handed him a pair of cavalry boots, and as soon as he could shed his old ones he jerked them on and they fit him to a 'T'; and as soon as I could shed my old shoes, I pulled on the other pair and they fit me all right, so we were both well shod.
NEW - Read Sam's official report of the battle.

PORT REPUBLIC, 9 June 1862

Port Republic was the final, climactic battle of Major General Stonewall Jackson's 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign...

On June 8...Jackson's army [of 6,000 men] was camped on a bluff overlooking the North River [and the town of Port Republic]. Suddenly a small Union cavalry force...charged through the main streets of town, firing their revolvers. Jackson and his staff were staying at the home of Dr. George Kemper and were nearly captured in the sudden assault. Jackson eluded capture, however, and galloped to his camp across the river.

Meanwhile, Union cavalrymen unlimbered a gun in town and began shelling the Confederate position. Jackson engaged the hostile guns with batteries of his own, then sent Colonel Samuel Fulkerson's Virginia regiment charging across the bridge [over the North River and into the town].

The sheer danger involved in making this assault were best described by Sam himself, in a letter to his sister:
  My Regt. was just in the act of forming for inspection, and we got the start of the others. We passed through a wheat field with the enemy's gun from the other side of the river playing upon us. When we got to the top of the hill near the bridge the gun at the other end opened with grape upon us. My men returned the fire, when Genl. Jackson ordered me to charge through the bridge and take the gun. I led off and my men followed. We rushed through the bridge, captured the gun, and pursued the enemy through the town and until he crossed the south branch...

  Charging in at one end of a bridge with a cannon yawning in at the other is no very pleasant past time. But my men went in so well, that it elicited the praise of the Genl. and all who witnessed it. When we got to the cannon, the smoke of the last fire was still issuing from its mouth. We charged them so quickly and so vigorously that my loss was little.

Captain Wood's memoir adds some details:

  Before inspection had been finished two or three artillery shots in the direction of the village of Port Republic were heard. At this time, Capt. Henry Clinton Wood, who had gone to the village on a business errand, came in breathless haste and stated to our Colonel, Fulkerson, that the enemy were in possession of the bridge. This was a wooden structure spanning the main branch of the Shenandoah River from our side to the village.

  Without hesitation the regiment was formed and proceeded at double quick time through an intervening wheat field to the bridge. On reaching the top of the ridge we saw a cavalry force with two pieces of artillery in possession of the Port Republic end of the bridge. They used their artillery on us with damaging effect, killing two and wounding others. We soon reached the road leading to the bridge, and when within about a hundred yards of it met Jackson riding rapidly from the direction of the bridge.

  I was with my colonel at the head of the regiment and saw and heard what occurred and what was said. Jackson turned his horse and in his characteristic way, said, "Charge right through colonel, charge right through." As he spoke he seized and swung his cap about his head, uttering a low cheer, adding, "Colonel, hold this place at all hazards."

  We rushed on, and when near the mouth of the bridge the enemy fired one or both of his pieces that were planted at the other end, but the charges took effect in the sides of the bridge and did no injury to us. We captured the pieces and a number of prisoners and horses. No other troops than "The Regiment," and no other commander than our colonel had any part in the capture of this bridge, artillery and prisoners.

The battle resumed on June 9th. After four hours of desperate fighting, "...the Union line lost all cohesion, and its men broke to the rear. The Confederates pursued for five miles."

[Additional source: The Conservation Fund, The Civil War Battlefield Guide]

GAINES' MILL, 27 June 1862

  The Battle of Gaines' Mill was fought on June 27, 1862, the second of a series of conflicts that became known as the Battle of the Seven Days. In this week of combat, 33,000 men on both sides were killed, wounded or captured.

  This particular fight was on the north bank of the Chickahominy River, southwest of Richmond, Virginia. During the preceding three months, the Union's General McClellan had made a sustained effort to try to capture Richmond, the South's capital. Spring rains now swelled the Chickahominy and separated Union General Porter's 30,000 men from the rest of McClellan's forces.

  General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate forces, decided to seize the opportunity. It would not be easy, as Porter's army had withdrawn to a partially wooded plateau overlooking a marshy creek. There they formed a double defensive line two miles long. The Confederates would have to emerge from a forest, cross several hundred yards of cultivated fields and run down a slope before reaching the swampy ground in front of the Union lines.

  The Confederate attack began at 2:30 p.m. The shelling from the Union artillery turned the open fields into "one living sheet of flame." The afternoon continued with heavy losses, hand-to-hand fighting, and the capturing and recapturing of Union positions. At 6:30 p.m. both sides withdrew to their lines and regrouped. The Union received 5,000 reinforcements from the rear.

  Stonewall Jackson's Division was led down the wrong road by a civilian guide and did not arrive until 5 p.m. to support Lee with his four brigades. At 7 p.m. the battle resumed. Confederate soldiers who lie wounded and dying in the midst of the battlefield grasped out at their comrades to try to prevent another suicidal charge at the Union positions.

  But on the Confederates went, with orders not to fire their rifles until they reached the Union lines. At several places they broke through the first line and sent Union soldiers scrambling back to the second line, which then could not fire without hitting its own troops. This forced back the second line and led to a general retreat along the entire Union front.

  It was Robert E. Lee's first major victory. But in one day his army of 56,000 men had suffered nearly 9,000 casualties. The Union suffered more than 6,800 casualties. Fulkerson's 3rd Brigade had 15 wounded, 1 missing and only two deaths, but one of them was the brigade commander, Colonel Samuel V. Fulkerson.

  Captain Wood later wrote that,

  Our lines were halted and adjusted near the summit of the ridge and here night put an end to further pursuit. When quiet came to our ranks I accompanied my colonel (Fulkerson) to our front to view the ground. We reached the top of the ridge, but were unable to see, because of the darkness in the low grounds beyond; but the sky being our background made us conspicuous targets for the retreating Federals, hence frequent shots were fired and the balls passed in close proximity to us. We thought them stray shots, however, until convinced by their continuance that we were the targets. I had stepped half a dozen paces from the colonel to a splendid battery of artillery the enemy had been compelled to abandon, and was speaking to him of the valuable prize.

  Meanwhile minnie balls continued to pass in the same close proximity to us. My attention was attracted to the colonel. He had been struck and was slowly turning and sinking. I quickly put my arm about him and assisted him to the ground. I saw he was seriously hurt and had him borne from the field. He requested me to say to the regiment that he had every confidence that it would do its duty, that he did not want it to be affected because of his condition. At the field hospital, despite every effort of our able surgeons, Henkle and Butler, he died of his wounds the following day. Thus passed a good soldier and valuable man to his country. His death cast a gloom, not only over his regiment, but over all who knew him.

  • Footnote: One of the many sad ironies of the Civil War is that Private Smith FULKERSON served in Company K of the 1st New York Cavalry, one of the Union forces at the battle of Gaines' Mill.

      Two of Sam's brothers also served as officers in the Confederate Army.  Isaac FULKERSON rode with "Terry's Texas Rangers," officially known as the 8th Texas Cavalry. "Ike" was wounded at Cassville, Georgia, on May 12, 1863. He was elected Lieutenant in August 1863, and by War's end had been promoted to Captain.   Colonel Abram FULKERSON commanded the 63rd Tennessee, until he was wounded and captured.  Abram became an attorney and legislator in Bristol, Virginia after the war, and organized the S.V. FULKERSON Camp of Confederate Veterans in honor of his brother Samuel Vance FULKERSON.  Sam's sister had a unique experience during the war, also chronicled in this website.

      Feel welcome to read the Samuel V. Fulkerson Letters on this site. The page includes war time letters from Sam V. Fulkerson, and two condolence letters Stonewall Jackson wrote to his family.
      Captain Wood's memoirs were published in
    "The War - Stonewall Jackson - His Campaigns and Battles -
    The Regiment - As I Saw Them"

    By JAMES H. WOOD, Captain, Co. D, 37th Va. Infty. Regiment
    The Eddy Press Corporation, Cumberland, Md.- Publishers