There is a town of legend in Virginia. Its name is Abingdon and it is saturated with American history and heritage. From the American Indians, the famous Daniel Boone Cave where he killed a wolf, the Muster Grounds of Revolutionary War fame, Martha Washington Inn, Penn House to the world-famous Barter Theatre, one is given a keen sense of history and of those ancestors who left their legacy. Within the city limits is a beautiful renowned cemetery known as Sinking Spring. Therein the sacred soil of the cemetery lies many souls. A special dedication was held to pay tribute to one who now rests in the land that he loved. His name is Samuel Vance Fulkerson.
On Saturday, July 27, 2019, the Saltville Home Guard Camp # 2098 hosted the dedication of the Southern Cross of Honor in remembrance of Colonel Samuel V. Fulkerson, commander of the 37th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Commander Terry Hunt welcomed the large turnout and asked Chaplain Ralph Rife of the Vincent A. Witcher Camp #1863 to give the invocation. The colors were called forth and posted by the color and honor guard. Adjutant John Winebarger lead the recitation of the pledge of Allegiance, salute to the flag of Virginia and to the Confederate flag. Commander Chester Stiltner, of the Vincent A. Witcher Camp #1863, recited the charge given by Stephen D. Lee on April 25, 1906. Virginia’s Division 6th Brigade Commander Bill Dennison shared a biographical sketch of Colonel Fulkerson. The marker was unveiled by Miss Autumn Winebarger and wreaths were placed beside it. A twenty-one-gun salute was offered and the colors were retired. All went away with the realization that it falls upon each generation to recognize, remember and respect the past.
Colonel Fulkerson’s large marble monument has the following inscription. “Fell at Cold Harbor, gallantly leading the 37th Regiment on June 27, 1862”. He was 39 years 2 months and 28 days old at his passing. A picture of him hangs in the courthouse located in that beautiful southern town. The following poem was composed in honor of this brave man.
The Charge of the Port Republic
General Jack gave the order
For me to take the bridge.
“Give them bluecoats no quarter;
Chase’em past that ridge!”
I saw the cannon yawning
On Port Republic Bridge.
Its smoke was like the dawning
Of mist upon a ridge.
I lead and my men followed,
Thirty-seventh brave and bold.
Our charge soon became hallowed;
Forever more retold.
The bridge remained in our hands,
That battle, I prevailed.
Nineteen days on different land;
First Cold Harbor, I fell.
Commander Dennison shared an outstanding biographical sketch of Samuel’s life. The following is an excerpt from his presentation...
“Samuel Vance Fulkerson was born to Colonel Abram Fulkerson, Sr. and Margaret L. (Vance) Fulkerson on October 31,1822 on his father’s farm in the southern part of Washington County, Virginia. He was principally raised in Grainger County, Tennessee.
As a young man he undertook the study of law, and in late 1846, he obtained his license and opened a practice in Estillville (Gate City) and Jonesville in the southwestern Virginia counties of Scott and Lee.
He and two brothers, Francis Marion Fulkerson and Isaac Fulkerson, volunteered for duty with the US Army during the Mexican American War of 1846-47. He attempted to enlist in a Virginia Regiment but all quotas were full. He then returned to Tennessee and enlisted as a private in the 5th Regiment of Tennessee Volunteers commanded by Colonel George R. McClellan. He was soon promoted to 1st Lieutenant and ultimately to Adjutant of the regiment. He served with distinction throughout the war and was mustered out at Memphis on 20 July 1848.
After the Mexican War, he returned home, ultimately to become a lawyer and judge of the Circuit Court. In 1855, he relocated to his native Washington county with a view of making it his permanent home. He purchased a handsome property near Abingdon, known as “Retirement”, which is located at what is now known as the Muster Grounds. He was elected to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1850, and then elected judge of the 13th judicial district and held this position until the beginning of the War Between the States. He was a member of the Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors from 1852-1854 and again from 1857-1858. He served as judge until the spring of 1861, when he was elected and commissioned colonel of the 37th Virginia Volunteer Regiment of Infantry on May 28, 1861 at Richmond, Virginia, returning to military service on the Confederate side, to defend his Commonwealth of Virginia against the invading army in which he had once served. His regiment drilled there for two weeks before being sent off to the front.
Col. Fulkerson’s first lead the 37th Virginia in combat under Gen. Lee’s abortive Western Virginia Campaign of 1861. In a futile attempt to drive the Federal Army out of the western mountain counties of what is now West Virginia, the 37th was actively engaged at Corrick’s Ford on July 13, the disaster at Cheat Mountain on 12-15 September and the battle at Greenbrier River on October 3. After the failure of the Western Virginia Campaign, the 37th was transferred to General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Army of the Valley.
Col. Fulkerson’s regiment saw its first action in the Valley at 1st Kearnstown on March 23, 1862, where Col. Fulkerson commanded a small brigade consisting of his own 37th Virginia, the 23rd Virginia Infantry and Wooding’s Battery of the Danville (Virginia) Artillery.
The 37th was in action again at McDowell on 8 May where it was part of Brigadier General William Booth Taliaferro’s brigade, and then on to Front Royal on May 23, 1st Winchester on May 25, and Port Republic on June 9 where, he again commanded Jackson’s 3rd Brigade.
At the conclusion of the successful Valley Campaign, General Lee, now in command of Confederate troops on the Peninsula (following Gen. Joseph Johnston’s wounding at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862), summoned Jackson’s Valley Army to the Peninsula to help drive George McClellan back from the gates of Richmond. Jackson arrived too late to be of any help at the fight at Mechanicsville, but his troops joined in the assault on McClellan’s heavily fortified position on the heights above the Chickahominy River near the crossroads hamlet of Old Cold Harbor.
Col. Fulkerson was mortally wounded at the Battle of 1st Cold Harbor (Gaine’s Mill) on June 27, 1862 while leading the 3rd Brigade, now consisting of the 10th Virginia Infantry under Col. Edward T. H. Warren, the 23rd Virginia Infantry under Capt. A. V. Scott, his own 3th Virginia Infantry under Maj. Titus V. Williams and Capt. George W. Wooding’s Battery of the Danville Artillery in a charge against the left of V Corps’ commander Brig. General Fitz John Porter’s strong Federal position on the heights above Boatswain’s Creek. It was General Lee’s first major victory, however, in one day his army of 56,000 men suffered nearly 9,000 casualties. The Union Army lost more than 6,800 men. Col. Fulkerson’s 3rd Brigade had 15 wounded, 1 missing and only two deaths, but one of them was the brigade commander, Colonel Samuel Vance Fulkerson. He died of his wounds the next day.
On September 2, 1862, General Jackson wrote Mr. F. M. Fulkerson the following: “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’
Col. Fulkerson never married, so there are no lineal descendants with us to honor this gallant soldier’s valor and sacrifice, but many here today, myself included, had ancestors who served under the valiant Colonel’s command, and it is fitting and proper that we, here assembled, pay homage to his memory and his service, by our dedication of this Southern Cross of Honor. He is, like his immortal general, resting across the river, under the shade of the trees. God rest his gallant soul.” Virginia Division 6th Brigade Commander Bill Dennison
The following are extracts from a letter written to his sister Kate, dated June 8 & 10, 1862, discussing the charge of the 37th Infantry on the Port Republic Bridge and the routing of Federal Troops (VMI Archives).
“We were camped about three quarters of a mile from town on the north side of the river. The enemy (Genl Shields force) had come up the river on the south side from Elk Run. In a very short time we were ordered to double quick to the bridge. 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 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. I could have captured the other cannon in town, but I did not know of but one ford. We rushed to that, but found the enemy crossing higher up. We opened fire on them, killing some horses and two or three men and taking six or eight prisoners.
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 is 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. Yancey Smith (brother of the captain) of Russell was killed, and Sergt. E. Johnson and Walter James of Capt. Terry’s company each had a thigh badly broken. I fear that Johnson is mortally wounded. We had put some of our artillery in position, which soon silenced the enemy’s guns on the opposite side of the river, and drove them back, and they did not again advance on that day.”
Excerpts regarding the battle through June 10, 1862
“Our force and Shield’s soon became hotly engaged, and the fight became a very hard one. Our men were being severely pressed and suffering a great loss, when Genl Jackson galloped back and ordered me to move forward my Regt at double quick, which I did. He also had the other two Regt of the Brigade ordered forward.
When I got upon the field, and was putting my men in position for action, the enemy gave way and we rushed forward, passing his battery which he abandoned, having first killed the horses.
In coming up we received a sharp fire. The enemy rallied and partially formed, but we kept on and they gave way again, and commenced a general run, and scatterment. My Regt happened to get in advance, and hounds never pursued a fox with more eagerness than they pursued the flying Yankees. Some kept the road, and some took the bushes, all intent on capturing a Yankee. We captured about 400 prisoners most of whom were taken by my men, among them a number of officers from Col down. We also captured two Regimental flags, all of the enemies artillery (seven or eight guns), all of his ambulances & c., and a number of small arms.” Eighteen days later he was killed in action.