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Social Worker Karen Fuller grew up on college campuses where her parents were employed and was more aware of the anti-war movement than knowing she was from a military family with members who had served in every conflict since the pre-Revolution Colonial wars through World War II.
Then, after an uncle, Dr. John Fuller recently passed away from cancer, she had a chance to look at photo albums and military records he had stored over decades which contained family photos of many close relatives. Although he was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, he was an archivist of family history and his albums contain photos of many direct ancestors who served as soldiers in the Civil War. Another family archivist and historian, cousin Bradley Berg, has written a detailed account of the Works brothers time in the Civil War and discovered some of the original quotes below.
When Ms. Fuller got hold of these family treasure troves, she found numerous documents not only related to her forebearers on both sides of the family, but also contained actual quotes from an oral history and Warren Works’ quotes in Heavy Guns and Light, a book by Hyland Kirk describing Civil War experiences.
“No matter what additional adventures Warren Works may have had in the Civil War, what we do know tells us quite a lot. He enlisted in the Union Army as a 16 year old boy. We know he experienced heavy combat and the privations of marching with the army from Washington, DC to Petersburg. The stress he must have been under during prolonged picket duty between the lines must have been oppressive in the extreme. The adult lives of soldiers have always been profoundly influenced by their war experiences and in his case, he was orphaned at the age of two. He was working in a factory at 14 and enlisted, just a few years later, in a violent war during which he was shot in the chest. So, I’m sure he was affected for the rest of his life by such a harsh childhood.” said Ms. Fuller.
From the records of the 4th New York Volunteer Artillery:
Warren Works, enlisted at age 16 in May 22, 1863, at New York City, as private, Co. B, Eleventh Artillery; to serve three years, which became Co . K, this regiment, July 25, 1863; mustered out with company, September 26,1865, at Washington, D. C. Warren’s brother Lucien Works enlisted, at age 18 on September 10, 1861, at Ogdensburg, to serve three years ; mustered in as private, Co. B , October 30, 1861; re-enlisted as a Veteran, December 14, 1863; mustered out with company, July 17, 1865, at Alexandria, Va . A third brother, Wright Works, enlisted, at 18 September 24, 1861, at Ogdensburg, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. B, October 30, 1861; transferred to Veteran Reserve Corps, December 18, 1863. The brothers were all wounded.
Ms. Fuller said, “I learned from Mr. Berg who has been compiling a detailed family history that Warren’s brother Wright Works was shot in the face at the battle of Culp’s Hill, July 2nd, 1863, resulting in the loss of an eye. He must have been transferred to Reserve status after his stay in the military hospital. Wright said he was later on Sherman’s march to the sea which took place from Nov. 15, to December 21, 1864 so he must have rejoined his regiment as a Veteran as his three year enlistment would have expired in Sept. 1864.”
The Works brothers never had a childhood. “Their mother Susan Thornton Works, died at 36 from complications of childbirth, leaving four children under six. After their father abandoned the family, the children were farmed out to the care of relatives and the three brothers joined the Union Army as teenagers,” said Ms. Fuller.
It may be that pre-television and video era, even very young men, as these soldiers were, had extraordinary word-smithing talent. Take for example the way 19-year old Warren Works describes a deadly fight, evokes friendship, loss and tragedy so clearly, the reader can envision the sequence of actions.
“I found our line near the edge of a straggling belt of pines. A good many of the boys were ranged near Private Stephen DeRussey, an old soldier of twenty-seven battles, and as brave a man as ever lived. Loading and firing with the greatest rapidity, barely glancing to the right and left as he brought down his gun to load, he would yell out to the boys ‘Give it to em’ and take aim again. It used to be his boast that the bullet was never molded that could kill him, but poor Steve fell, shot dead in one of the battles before Petersburg. My tent mate, Albert Dresser, stepped out from cover to take a better aim, saying, as he raised his rifle. ‘See me pick off that fellow’ and before he could pull the trigger he fell, shot through the heart. He was a young man wholly insensible to fear, and my best friend. I was so incensed over his death that I took especial pains to make my shots count, and could hardly refrain from firing into some captives we took later in the day.”
A much older Civil War Veteran like Eugene C. Fuller, on Ms. Fuller’s grandfather’s side of the family, was able to describe his wartime memories in vivid detail.
In “Brief Chronology of Army Service of Eugene Corydon Fuller in the Civil War” as told to his son Eugene W. Fuller in 1910, Fuller talked about the chaos that may characterize war, describing a court martial that also reflects on the mental health of a soldier exposed to prolonged combat.
“One of the soldiers in attempting to desert had got confused and wandered back into the Union lines, thinking it was the Rebel picket line, he shouted that he was a Yank and wished to join them. He was taken in at once, court martialed and sentenced to death. The whole division was drawn up in a hollow square. The fated soldier in an old wagon was driven the length of the ranks as the drum corps played the “Rogue’s March.” He was taken out, blindfolded and placed on his coffin. A squad of 12 men (six guns and six blanks) was drawn up to aim upon him at the word of command. The unfortunate man was 22.”
Fuller also talked about joy experienced at the end of the war. “Suddenly along the line, a shout went up from the men as General Meade rode off with his hat off crying ‘Lee has surrendered.’ Monstrous rejoicing. Mingled and shared food with the rebels. Remained there a day or two and then moved off to pitch camp in Burkeville. While here came the news on Lincoln’s assassination.”