1861: Samuel Vance Fulkerson to Catherine Elizabeth Fulkerson

This letter was written by Samuel (“Sam”) Vance Fulkerson (1822-1862), the son of Abram Fulkerson, Sr. (1789-1859) and Margaret Laughlin Vance (1794-1864) of Abingdon, Washington county, Virginia. He wrote the December 1861 letter to his 29 year-old sister, Catherine (“Kate”) Elizabeth Fulkerson (1832-1903).

Col. Samuel Vance Fulkerson, 37th Virginia

Samuel was born on his father’s farm in the southern part of Washington County, Virginia, but he was principally raised in Grainger county, Tennessee. He enlisted as a private in Colonel McClelland’s regiment during the Mexican war, and served throughout the war. He studied law and began a law practice in Estillville (Gate City) and Jonesville in the southwestern Virginia counties of Scott and Lee. In 1846, Samuel was elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1850, and then elected judge in 1856. He served as judge until the spring of 1861, when he was elected and commissioned colonel of the 37th Virginia Regiment of Infantry, and commanded that regiment until June 27, 1862, when he was mortally wounded while leading the 3rd Brigade in a charge against a strong Northern position on the Chickahominy. He died the following day, and was interred in the Sinking Spring Cemetery, Abingdon, Virginia.

This early-war letter is significant for revealing the emerging conflict between Major General “Stonewall” Jackson, commanding the newly created Valley District headquartered in Winchester, and General William (“Old Billy’) Loring, in charge of a Division under Jackson’s command. The quarrel was initiated when Jackson accused Loring of not moving his troops quickly enough to Winchester in order to launch an expedition to wrestle Romney away from Union troops garrisoned there. Jackson was not tolerant of Loring’s excuses for the delays in moving his troops despite the winter weather. The quarrel intensified after Romney was captured and occupied, with Loring complaining that Jackson had abused his men and was continuing to do so. The fact that Loring’s men were forced to weather the cold and wet conditions at Romney while Jackson’s men quartered in better conditions in Winchester almost resulted in a mutiny. [See Loring-Jackson Incident]

Taking the lead among Loring’s command to complain of his men’s treatment under Jackson was Col. Fulkerson of the 37th Virginia who wrote letters to former political associates of his, including Confederate Congressmen. Perhaps Fulkerson felt emboldened to criticize Jackson due to the previous encounter in December at Monterey that is mentioned in the third paragraph of the following letter. Of course Sam Fulkerson and Stonewall Jackson barely knew each other at this stage of the war. Most likely as the war progressed and the fighting qualities of each man became better known to each other, a mutual respect evolved. Once Colonel Fulkerson gained recognition for his bravery in leading his regiment and the 23rd Virginia in a desperate, but costly, attack on the Pritchard’s Hill at Kernstown in March 1862, and again in the Battle of Gaines’s Mill where he was killed, Stonewall Jackson wrote of him: “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”

John Paul Strain’s depiction of Stonewall Jackson leading his men on the January 1862 Expedition through the West Virginia high country to capture Romney. The expedition is romanticized today but proved a hard lesson to Jackson in command. This letter was written in the days just before the expedition against Romney was launched.


Addressed to Miss Kate E. Fulkerson, Abingdon, Virginia

Winchester, [Virginia]
9 December 1861

Dear Kate,

I arrived at this place night before last having left Staunton three days before. I come down on my horse and had a pleasant ride of it, the weather being dry and fine.

The Valley is one of the best and most beautiful portions of Virginia. The road is macadamized and dotted all along with pretty towns and villages. I enjoyed the leisure of the trip very much though I did not find the public houses very well kept. I could not get to houses in the country where I would have preferred stopping, but had to stop in the towns.

I was kept at Monterey about a week when General [William Wing] Loring ordered me to go to Staunton and to report to him there personally. He kept me there about a week. He and General [Thomas J. (Stonewall)] Jackson did not agree about my case. General Loring taking my side and General Jackson the other. General Loring referred the matter to the authorities at Richmond and kept me waiting for a decision. After a week’s delay and hearing nothing from Richmond, General Loring released me from arrest and ordered me to join my regiment. Whether anything further will be done with the case, I do not know but I am of the opinion that it will not be noticed again.

I found the regiment in very good health and sprits having suffered less from the march than I expected. For several days they had snow and rain and very cold, but the balance of the time the weather was good. They marched some one hundred and fifty miles and being on a stone road a part of the way, their feet became very sore. My regiment has the name of the “Foot Cavalry.” We have marched over six hundred miles, having crossed the Alleghany Mountains six times, the distance across being eighteen miles. Besides all this we have made divers little marches of from ten to twenty miles.

We are in camp about two miles from Winchester on the Romney Road. Col. [Arthur C.] Cummings [of the 33rd Virginia] is also near Winchester. His wife is in town but I have not seen her. She was in camp a time or two before I got here. I do not know how long we will remain here, nor what will be our destination when we leave. The weather is not near so cold here as it was in the mountains. Capt. Vance is very well and also Will [H.] Ropp.

I sent a check to Col. Gibson for some money to be placed to my credit in Bank and also for $100 to be placed to your credit. Ask him if he got the check and write to me about it. I hope that you will be able to get supplies. When you write, tell me what you have procured and what prospect there is of getting all you will need. You must try and get at least one hundred and fifty bushels of corn and hope that you can get 1500 or 2000 pounds of pork, and also beef enough to do.

When Lee is not otherwise employed, I want him to cut wood. Tell him to see to it that the young apple trees in the orchard are not destroyed by the cattle.

I had a letter from Mary the other day. Where are Abe and Ike? I am interrupted so often that I can’t write more now.

Write immediately and tell Mother to write. Your brother, — Samuel V. Fulkerson

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