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reproach their commander with requiring of them a desperate service.
The call was made for volunteers. Would it be responded to? If not, it would scarcely then be practicable to resort to compulsion. The crossing of the river must be abandoned, while at the same time a reproach was put upon the courage of the army, and their failure in the crisis must have a demoralizing influence. Nor was this the only evil to be anticipated. This was the first engagement of the army of the Potomac under the command of Burnside. How many there were at hand to say, "Ah! this proves that he cannot command the enthusiasm of the army! The change of generals has ruined the Federal cause. This results as we expected." How important to prove, in that hour, that the Federal army was composed of patriotic hearts, who understood and prized principles more than men, and were too devoted to their country's cause, too enlarged and intelligent, to identify their cause with any general, even if he enjoyed the popularity, inexplicable on the score of success, which partisan clamor asserted on behalf of a past commander.
Chaplain Fuller was the man to appreciate these considerations, and to feel the momentous issue of that hour through every pulse and fibre of his enthusiastic nature. And he was upon the spot, watching with anxious concern the events of the day. He had, indeed, been discharged from all official obligations to the army; but not from the higher duty which had called him to his army mission. On leaving Washington to resign his chaplaincy, he had said that he should return in a few days, unless he learned there was to
be a battle. In that event he should be present at the conflict. To minister to the wounded and dying, on such an occasion, and to inspirit the soldiers by his sympathy and uncompulsory presence amid their dangers, required no army commission. He could do this as one of the self-commissioned, devoted lovers of God and man, who attended, like good angels, upon the army in its contests, receiving their compensation in no earthly coinage.
The view which he took of his duty in the emergency which now presented itself, and the considerations which rapidly passed through his mind and induced him to make one of the volunteers, we are left to infer from knowledge of his character and circumstances; for our inquiries in all quarters have not obtained information of any conversation which he had previous to the act. Indeed, it is scarcely probable that in his decision he made any oral statement of his motives. It was a time for action, and not words. Yet those who knew him, and we trust those who have read these pages, need no verbal exposition from the Chaplain to understand his motives.
Should one in his position respond to this call for volunteers, it would indicate no common devotion. It was a duty which could not be required of him. And for one of his profession to consistently engage in this enterprise would prove his strong conviction that it was a work so holy, so acceptable to God, that even those set apart for sanctuary service might feel called to have a hand in it. His prowess was nothing; yet it was not his unpractised right arm, but his heart, which he devoted to the service, and which would tell
on the result, not merely of that special enterprise nor of that battle only, but, by affording a powerful proof of love of country outweighing considerations of safety and life, would have the influence which a living example, and only a living example, can have.
It is easy now to say that it was unnecessary for the Chaplain to volunteer; there would have been enough without him. Such an excuse would have availed every volunteer. The chaplain did not belong to that large class who wait for others, and refrain from selfsacrifice in a good cause, under the pretext that there are enough others to sustain it. The first impulse of such a movement must be improved. Waiting for others quenches its spirit and makes it abortive. His immunity only rendered his volunteering more striking, and more influential in the contagion of example.
The sudden emergency in which the Chaplain decided in a moment how to act, was wholly unexpected by him. He was arrayed in the uniform of a staff officer, which made him a special mark for the sharpshooters. He had been cautioned, early in the day, against exposing himself, and reminded that as he had his discharge on his person, he would not be exchanged if taken prisoner, and if he were killed his family would not be entitled to a pension.* He had also valuables with him. And there was no time to place them in security or to change his costume. That the Chaplain loved home dearly, has fully appeared from evidence furnished in these pages. That, though he was a stranger to fear, he was careful not to throw
* An army officer informs us that he made these suggestions to the Chaplain.
away his life, even in the cause he loved dearest, that of his country, his correspondence proves. We are led to the conviction that he deemed the issue of the hour, and the influence he might have upon it, of more importance than the life which he staked. He volunteered, musket in hand, and crossed the river in safety; but fell soon after entering Fredericksburg, pierced with two bullets, the one entering his chest through his arm upraised to discharge the musket, the other piercing his hip. A third bullet struck his breast laterally, tearing his coat and vest, but inflicting no wound.
Sergeant Hill of the Sixteenth Massachusetts Regiment informs us that he was the Chaplain's guest at his last dinner, on the day of his death. "He asked all," says the Sergeant, "to partake with him, — teamsters, sergeants, and myself. I told him I feared he had none too much for himself. O yes!' he said, he had plenty. And, whatever he had, he always wished to share with those around him."
The following letter from Captain Dunn to the Chaplain's brother gives an account of the Chaplain's last moments:
"In answer to your inquiries, I would say, that, although I had previously intended, at the suggestion of a mutual friend, to make the acquaintance of Chaplain Fuller, I saw him for the first time, in the streets of Fredericksburg, on the 11th December ultimo, at about half past three P. M., where I was in command of twenty-five men deployed as skirmishers. We came over in the boats, and were in advance of the others who had crossed. Pursuant to orders, we marched up the street leading from the river, till we came to the third
street traversing it, parallel with the river, and called Carolina Street, I think. We had been here but a few minutes when Chaplain Fuller accosted me with the usual military salute. He had a musket in his hand; and he said: 'Captain, I must do something for my country. What shall I do?' I replied, that there never was a better time than the present; and he could take his place on my left. I thought he could render valuable aid, because he was perfectly cool and collected. Had he appeared at all excited, I should have rejected his services; for coolness is of the first importance with skirmishers, and one excited man has an unfavorable influence upon the others. I have seldom seen a person on the field so calm and mild in his demeanor, evidently not acting from impulse or martial rage.
"His position was directly in front of a grocery store. He fell in five minutes after he took it, having fired once or twice. He was killed instantly, and did not move after he fell. I saw the flash of the rifle which did the deed.
"I think the Chaplain fell from the ball which entered the hip. He might not have been aware of the wound from the ball entering his arm, as sometimes soldiers are not conscious of wounds in battle, or he may have been simultaneously hit by another rifle. We were in a very exposed position. Shortly before the Chaplain came up, one of General Burnside's aids accosted me, expressing surprise, and saying, 'What are you doing here, Captain?' I replied that I had orders. He said that I must retire, if the rebels pressed us too hard. In about half an hour I had definite orders to retire, and accordingly fell back, leaving the Chaplain and another man dead, and also a wounded man, who was unwilling to be moved. It is not usual, under such pressing circumstances, to attempt to remove the dead. In about an hour afterward, my regiment advanced in line with the Twentieth Massachusetts. They occupied the place where