Benjamin Fullager Papers

Benjamin Fullager
Image courtesy of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Benjamin Fullager enlisted in Company A of the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry, who served mostly in Arkansas and the Kansas Territory. The 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry organized in Janesville, Wisconsin from November 30, 1861 to January 31, 1862. In spring 1862, the Regiment was stationed at Benton Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri, before being assigned to frontier and provost duty in Kansas.1 As the regiment moved across Missouri, passing through Lexington and eventually reaching Fort Leavenworth, Fullager encountered bushwhackers and Jayhawkers. Fullager and his regiment were in constant pursuit of one of the most infamous individuals of the region, the Missouri bushwhacker, William C. Quantrill.

Quantrill had a checkered past when he joined the Confederate army in 1861. He quickly became the leader of a small group of men who acted with their own authority. Quantrill and his band of guerrilla warriors terrorized the Missouri – Kansas border throughout the war. They targeted Union supporters and abolitionists, pillaging the land and killing indiscriminately. Quantrill is most known for the raid and massacre in Lawrence, KS on August 21, 1863. Quantrill led 450 men into town, burning buildings and murdering men throughout the Union stronghold. 183 men and boys were killed by the guerrilla band, before they retreated back to Missouri.2

Quantrill and his raiders also plundered the Kansas towns of Shawnee, Spring Hill, Aubrey. With guerrilla warfare increasing along the Missouri-Kansas border many citizens left their homes and sought refuge in other parts of the country for safety. Fullager’s regiment continued to pursue Quantrill and other Rebel forces along the borderline all the way into Arkansas. The company stayed at one of these deserted properties on their campaign across Arkansas. They had comfortable quarter in a large deserted resident, which had a large grist mill. However, by time they reached the property it was beginning to be overrun with weeds, the mill had been partially burned, and the farm was in disarray since no one was there to maintain the land. Fullager and his fellow soldiers came across many farms in this condition south of the Mason-Dixon Line.3

On November 28, Fullager and Company A had a brief encounter with Confederate forces at Cane Hill, AK. General John Marmaduke occupied Cane Hill with 2,000 cavalry men and was met at dawn by General James Blunt and 3,000 Union men. The Battle raged on for nine hours, over 13 miles.4 At night fall, Marmaduke withdrew toward Van Buren, AK while Blunt and the rest of Company A continued to Ft. Smith, which was one of the last strong holds of the rebels in northern Arkansas.

In the early years of the war, the Ozarks experiences several major battles and was a heavily contested region. The massive influx of men and the numerous engagements had a disastrous impact on the land. In December 1862, Fullager walked over the Pea Ridge battlefield. He wrote to his brother, describing the how ravaged the land still looked eight months after the battle concluded. Trees bore marks of hard fighting, splintered and cut to pieces from shots fired in combat. Fullager was impressed by the strong position held by Sterling Price and further amazed that it was overtaken in combat.5

Fullager recognized the inadequacies of some of the officers in the army and how ill prepared they were for a war of this magnitude. He wrote a letter explaining the inefficiencies of the commanders and the devastating consequences that followed.

The 20th Wisconsin Suffered very severely being ordered to charge en a rebble batery they was very clumsily handled by their Lieut. Col [Henry A. Starr] who is reported to have been drunk the men found themselves huddled together twenty or thirty deep right in front of the batery which was just mowing them down by the dozen. But the brave boys rushed on and took the Batery but could not hold it, not being supported now I will give as my opinion that the greater part of our disasters is caused more by the jealousey of the commanding officers than anything else.
Benajamin Fallager Letter to his friend, Dec. 21, 1862

Fullager expressed his beliefs regarding the Union’s failure to support those who had sacrificed their lives to preserve it. His emotionally charged writing reflected the feelings of many poor-middle class men who sacrificed everything for their country. There was a strong sense of honor and duty that Fullager felt many civilians did not appreciate. It was the “Exausted class of me who think more of the honore of their country than of their political advancement or the filling of their purce. see that only which will shed honor & glory on our republic and make it the beacon star of freedom for the nations of the Earth to guide their course by.”6 He documented his disgust with men who sought to buy their way out of service. If a man had enough money, he could pay for another individual to take his place in the military. Fullager despised those who he viewed as starting the war, only to have others fight in the war. Fullager’s beliefs reflect a Marxist view of society; citing how the citizens of the lower class were in constant struggle against the upper classes.

do those who blowed for free niggers and Lincoln now come forward and offer their lives to free the one or defend the other or do they stand with a few dollars in their hands to get others to go in their places there may not be one Such in the State of N.Y. but if there is I wish I had the lungs that would forever screach in his Ear with the voice of ten thousand Cannons, the words Traiter Coward & Scoundrel
Benjamin Fallager Letter to his brother, Sep. 19, 1862

The Fullager letters span from September 1862 through January 1863. In that short time frame Fullager’s correspondence offer a candid and raw perspective into the life of a Union soldier from Wisconsin. In the spring of 1863, the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry conducted scouting missions throughout southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas. They entered Indian Territory in the fall of 1863, and in the spring and summer of 1864 conducted expeditions in Arkansas. In October 1864, Company A of the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry changed to Company K; with the entire regiment being mustered out of service at Fort Leavenworth, KS on September 29, 1865.7

Contributed by  Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

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  1. Dyer’s Compendium of the War Vol. 2 pg. 1668
  2. Albert Castel, William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999), 122-143; “New Perspectives of the West: William Clarke Quantrill”, The West Film Project, 2001,
  3. Benjamin Fullager Letter to his friend. Jul. 22, 1863. WICR 1027, Benjamin Fullager Collection, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Republic, Missouri.
  4. “The Battle of Cane Hill- Cane Hill, Arkansas”, Explore Southern History,
  5. Benjamin Fullager Letter to his brother. Dec. 1, 1862. WICR 1026, Benjamin Fullager Collection, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Republic, Missouri.
  6. Benjamin Fullager Letter to his friend. Jun. 15, 1863. WICR 1014, Benjamin Fullager Collection, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Republic, Missouri.
  7. Dyer’s Compendium of the War Vol. 2 pg. 1668