Brigadier-General Joseph Scott Fullerton was born in Chillicothe, Ohio. At the age of sixteen he entered the Freshman class at Miami University, and graduated in 1855. He entered the Cincinnati Law School, graduating there in 1858. Soon after leaving the Law School he removed from Chillicothe to St. Louis, Missouri. There, while preparing to practice his profession, he took an active part with the Union men of Missouri in their struggle against secession. In the fall of 1861 he was appointed secretary of a committee, being the Honorable Joseph Holt, Judge David Davis, and Honorable Hugh Campbell, appointed by the President to examine into the military affairs of the Department of the West. Though anxious for field service, he was being unwillingly detained in the rear by the work of this commission till the fall of 1862. He was offered by Governor Gamble, of Missouri, a commission as major of infantry, but declined this because of his want of military knowledge.
At once, being relieved from the commission, he entered the service as a private. October 14, 1862, soon after enlisting, he was appointed lieutenant in the Second Missouri Infantry, and at the request of Major General Gordon Granger was detailed for duty with him as aide-de-camp. In such capacity he served in the Kentucky campaign till the spring of 1863. In April, 1863, he was appointed major and assistant adjutant-general, and assigned to duty as General Granger's chief of staff. Soon after the battle of Chickamauga he was appointed assistant adjutant-general, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and assigned to duty as assistant adjutant-general of the Fourth Army Corps. He was ordered to duty as assistant adjutant-general of the Army of the Tennessee by the War Department when General Sherman was about to move with that army from Atlanta to the sea; but General Thomas objecting to the transfer, he was retained with the Army of the Cumberland.
General Fullerton participated in the first battle at Franklin, Tennessee; Shelbyville, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Buzzard Roost Gap, Dalton, Resaca, New Hope Church, Pine-Top Mountain, Kenesaw Mountain, Peach-Tree Creek, Atlanta, Jonesborough, Lovejoy Station, Columbia, Spring Hill, Franklin, Nashville, etc. He was brevetted colonel for "distinguished services and gallantry in the Atlanta campaign," and brigadier-general "for most valuable services and distinguished personal gallantry at the battles of Franklin and Nashville." In May, 1865, he was assigned to duty to assist General Howard in organizing the Freedmen's Bureau. From this duty he asked to be relieved. In October, 1865, he was sent by President Johnson to adjust the difficulties existing in Louisiana between State officers, citizens, officers of the military service, and officers of the Freedmen's Bureau. Having succeeded in this work, he returned to Washington and offered his resignation from the military service. Such was not accepted, and he was assigned to duty with the President as acting military secretary.
In April, 1866, he was sent South with General J. B. Stedman, by the President, to inspect the social and political condition of the people, and the conduct of the Freedmen's Bureau. The reports made by these officers caused expressions of great bitterness from radical politicians then engaged in the work of reconstruction in the Southern States. But concerning their reports the leading Republican paper of the day, the New York Tribune, said, " The two commissioners have performed an important public service.... Generals Stedman and Fullerton have pricked some pretty bubbles. They have exposed the hollowness of much maudlin sympathy for the negro," etc. Having performed this duty, General Fullerton again, for the third time, tendered his resignation from the military service, and urging this it was accepted, and he was mustered out in September, 1866.
He was offered the commission of colonel of one of the new regiments of the regular army, but not caring for military life in the time of peace declined the same, and returned to civil life. After leaving the service he was appointed postmaster of St. Louis, which office he held for two years, and then retired to take up the practice of law. For twenty-five years he has been treasurer of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, next to the G. A. R. the largest military society.
In the fall of 1890 he gave up the practice of law in St. Louis, and since then has been actively engaged as chairman of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Commission.
From Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who served in the Civil War