From Notes of Sergt. G. W. D. Porter, of Company B.
John S. Fulton was born at Fayetteville, Lincoln County, Tenn., on the 31st of March, 1828. He was the son of James Fulton, Esq., eminent in his profession, of high rank as a citizen, and of great personal popularity. The subject of this sketch was one of five brothers, all of whom took eminent position as well as responsibility in the late war between the States. Alfred was Colonel of the Eighth Tennessee (Confederate) the first twelve months of the war, and was distinguished for gallantry and ability to command. Robert was in Company C, of the Forty-first Tennessee. Charles was in Freeman's Battery. James was Pay Director in the United States Navy, receiving the appointment from civil life before the war.
Col. John S. adopted the profession of law, studied under his father, began the practice in early life, and continued, with success, until December, 1861. He volunteered and joined Capt. Dump Smith's Company F, of the Forty-fourth Regiment of Tennessee Volunteer Infantry at Bowling Green, Ky. As a private he was faithful and prompt in the performance of duty, careful to observe all the nice courtesies of the private soldier to superiors in authority, much his inferiors in education and qualifications for official responsibility; cheerfully sharing the privations and hardships incidental to soldier life, with fidelity to duty and respect to authority and discipline as much as the humblest man in ranks, caused him to be loved by comrades and respected by officers.
Fulton's first service was upon the sanguinary field of Shiloh, as a volunteer sharp-shooter. It was here opportunity brought into play his great mental powers to command or lead men where there was danger, and hold them steady in great emergencies. Many times on that hotly contested field, when his comrades were shattered and driven back, it was Fulton who rallied and led them to charge again. In fact, his gallant bearing on that bloody field may be considered the beginning of his brilliant career; for it was observed by both men and officers, and of frequent remark, that he was the coming man of the regiment.
Soon after the retreat to Corinth the army was reorganized, and Fulton elected Captain of a consolidated company, but was soon made Colonel by demand of the regiment. He won his first laurels as Colonel at the battle of Perryville, Ky., leading his regiment in the charge across the field and meadow, near the burning barn. The line of his charge was well marked for weeks after the battle by blood of the dead and wounded, and the graves of the dead, buried where they fell. In that charge we turned the Federal right, doubling their lines upon themselves in such a way that Cheatham, with his position on their left, caused the Federals to lose half the men they had engaged. The Federal lines thus thrown between Cheatham's and Buckner's commands, they were crushed before they could escape. Considering the time and numbers engaged, it was certainly the most fearful loss of life and limb of any battle in the late war; at least it was thought to be by all who were engaged in this department.
At Murfreesboro, on December 31st, Fulton led his regiment with such vigor and gallantry that no Federal force could withstand its terrible, death-dealing blows. Early in the action he received a severe wound in the left hand, rendering him unable to manage his horse. Dismounting, he put his horse in charge of a groom, ordering that he be taken to the rear; but he became unmanageable, made his escape from the groom, and ran into the Federal lines, where he was captured and remounted. In a few hours be came back with terrible speed, riderless but superbly caparisoned; dashed up to the regiment, and finding the Colonel, stopped and stood trembling as though he was frightened almost to death. The Colonel rode him the remainder of the day.
Soon after the Colonels horse made his escape to the enemy the Confederates in their advance came upon a line of infantry strongly posted behind a rail-fence, and they were playing upon the Forty-fourth with fearful effect at long range. It was evident to a man of Fulton's sagacity that he must retreat or dislodge them. To retreat endangered the whole Confederate line. To leave the little skirt of timber they, were in left them with no protection, and there was an open space of one hundred and fifty yards or more which must be passed to reach the enemy, and could not be passed without great loss of life. But something must be done, and Fulton was not the man to hesitate when be decided on his line of duty. The order to advance was given, and as soon as the Confederates passed from the timber the Federals opened a terrific fire upon them, with fearful effect. He pushed his column on until within fifty yards of the enemy, but their fire was so terrible and fatal that his line wavered. At this crisis the gallant Fulton rushed between the wavering lines, brandished his flashing sword in fiery circles above his head, and shouted in inspiring tones, "Forward, my men, forward!" This evoked the familiar rebel yell of " On to victory or death!" and with a rush they fell upon the enemy's lines, driving them in confusion and dismay.
He commanded the regiment at Dug Hollow and Hoover's Gap, where he displayed great skill and gallantry in holding Rosecrans's advance in check, and protecting the rear and right flank of Gen. Bragg's army. On the 15th of Sept., 1863, he was placed at the bead of Johnson's old brigade, as well as the Forty-fourth (Johnson being raised to a division command), which he held, faithfully discharging his responsible duties until his lamented death.
On the 18th of September he defeated and drove the enemy from Ringgold, Ga., and on the 19th and 20th at Chickamauga he won for himself and command imperishable and unfading laurels. On the extreme left and front of the Confederate lines was an eminence-almost a hill-an open vale intervening between the opposing lines. On Saturday night the Federals made this elevation doubly strong by breastworks erected out of logs and rails. Behind lay two lines of battle, and at regular intervals along its brow some twenty or thirty brass field pieces were in position, their frowning front seeming almost impregnable. Brigade after brigade had assailed these works, only to be driven back dismembered and bleeding. Late in the day on Sunday, the 20th, Fulton moved by left flank to the left of Gregg's brigade, and formed his right on Gregg's left. Thus formed, his command covered the entire Federal flank and front except the right slope, which was covered by two or three companies of the Forty-first Tennessee, of Gregg's brigade. Thus in position, the order was given to forward. The brigade crossed the ravine, emerging in the open field at a double-quick, through a perfect storm of shell and canister, while scores of brave men went down at every step. The towering form of Fulton in the front, urging his brave men to follow, was observed by the entire line. On they rushed like a tornado, dislodging and sweeping tile Federals from their guns with bayonets and clubbed muskets, defeating and demoralizing the Federal right.
Fulton and his command were with Gen. Longstreet, in East Tennessee; supported McLaws in the attack upon Fort Sanders; a few days later he and Gracie's brigade of Alabamians met Gen. Shackelford at Bean's Station-ten thousand strong-defeated and drove them back to Knoxville. In December, while in winter-quarters between Morristown and Dandridge, all the general officers being absent, the Federals made a sally upon the Confederate camps. Fulton, being the highest officer in command at camps, saw the perilous situation, and was equal to the occasion. He at once threw his troops in position for defense, and engaged the enemy fiercely for forty minutes with such destruction that they were demoralized; and he drove them pell-mell to Dandridge, through the town, and across the French Broad, before they felt safe. The next engagement was at Cartersville, on the Watauga River. From thence he was sent to Virginia, and engaged in the defenses at Drury's Bluff, Petersburg, and Walthall's Junction. On the 9th of May, 1864, he repulsed an attack from a fleet of gun-boats at Fort Clifton. He was daily engaging the enemy between Drury's Bluff and Petersburg, and ever present, directing the defense and encouraging his men to deeds of valor. On the 16th of May he led his command in the charge upon the Federal works at Drury's Bluff, taking the works and driving the enemy at great sacrifice. It was in this charge that the brave and gallant John L. McEwen, Lieutenant-colonel of the Forty-fourth, fell mortally wounded. Maj. McCarver of the same regiment was killed; also Col. Matt Floyd, of the Seventeenth. Three braver and better men never fell upon any field.
On June 16th, Fulton's, Gracie's, and Wise's commands, and a few militia, met and defeated Butler in front of Petersburg, at the head of six Federal army corps - two of the James River army, and four of the Potomac, commanded as follows: Gilmore's, Tenth Corps; Smith's, Eighteenth Corps; Hancock's, Second Corps; Warren's, Fifth Corps; Wright's, Sixth Corps; Burnside's, Ninth Corps. Fulton's command captured almost all of Wilcox's command, six stands of colors, seven hundred prisoners and their arms. For the details of this battle see the October number of Annals of Tennessee, by Dr. Drake. The disaster the following day-the 17th-was not attributable to Fulton, but the result of weakness, not having men enough to close the gap; for he anticipated the move of the enemy, and called on Johnston for men, which he could not furnish. To avoid the disaster and conceal his weakness, Fulton then proposed a sortie upon the enemy on tile night of the 16th, believing they could be dislodged; but Gen. Johnston would not allow it, fearing t enemy would discover it and take advantage of the weakened lines. The order had been given to Lieut. Kelsoe to execute, but Gen. Johnston countermanded. It was a fierce conflict from day to day up to the 30th. On that day, after seven hours hard fighting, the command was ordered in rear to have a few hours much needed rest. Here, while sitting beneath the shade of a tree, Col. Fulton received a mortal wound. The vindictive shell was seen to burst high in the air above. A fragment came whistling directly to where he sat. He saw it, and, fully realizing his danger, rose to avoid it, but was too late to escape. It struck his head above the eye, breaking his skull, and striking him down to rise no more. He lingered a few days in excruciating pain. Although unconscious, the contortions of muscles and body, and troubled groans, were evidence of the pain. Thus he lingered until the 4th of July, 1864 - his great soul celebrating our national Sabbath by abandoning that once perfect and manly body, now maimed and wounded, for one of higher order and better service. Uncle Joe, his faithful colored man, was with him to the last, doing all that love and fidelity could dictate.