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  • Sue Devick

The Story of a Union Soldier from Fullersburg

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

Beneath the shade of the towering oak trees in Historic Fullersburg Cemetery in Hinsdale, Il. lies a humble grave of a Union soldier that participated in several major battles of the Civil War. This patriot whose final resting place is at this peaceful site is Morell Fuller (1829-1912), whose unique musical talents helped the country remain undivided at a critical juncture. Every Memorial Day, Morell's grave is decorated with an American flag by members of the Fuller family, and his name is read (along with the other veterans' names) at a traditional Memorial Day ceremony.

Morell was born in 1829 in Broome County, New York, the sixth of twelve surviving children born to Candace and Jacob Fuller, whose father fought in the Revolutionary War. Morell's older brother Benjamin (Ben) made the arduous horseback journey from New York to Chicago in the spring of 1834 in order to find more land for the large and growing Fuller family, and found the perfect location in Brush Hill, which was later renamed Fullersburg. Ben then convinced the entire Fuller clan to move to the area he discovered the following spring, when Morell was five or six years old. The family's first cabin was approximately 15 by 20 sq. ft., built near a former Native American "chipping station," where tools and weapons were made. Ben taught the friendly local Potawatomi (who were being forced to relocate west of the Mississippi River following the Black Hawk War) how to shoe their horses, which undoubtedly left an impression on young Morell.

The children's sleeping quarters in the first Fuller homestead were above the rough log ceiling over the main room, accessed by a ladder; a large flagstone fireplace was at one end of this small cabin. In The Fullers of Fullersburg, historian George Ruchty, a Ben Fuller descendant, includes a description of snow blowing through the cracks in the logs, which was "disposed of by shaking it through the opening in the ceiling to the ground floor below and sweeping it out the door." Shoes were expensive and hard to come by, so the children usually were barefoot. In winter when the ice appeared in nearby Salt Creek, Ruchty writes that the children would "slide on the ice in their bare feet," carrying a piece of wood to stand on when their feet became numb.

Morell witnessed the rapid growth of Fullersburg, whose citizens demonstrated a desire to improve themselves through learning by forming a debate club. The residents of this community exhibited compassion for both Native Americans and African Americans who had been forced or born into slavery. Fullersburg was a "station" on the Underground Railroad; the basement of the historic Graue Mill served as a refuge for fugitive slaves, as did secret tunnels linking the nearby Fuller Inn and the Fullersburg Tavern. In 1862, Morell joined the 105th regiment of the Illinois volunteer infantry. He subsequently fought with Union forces in the battles of Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek, and Atlanta, and he accompanied Sherman on his campaign from Atlanta to Savannah. Shoes were scarce for both Confederate and Union soldiers. Morell probably endured this aspect of military life with no complaints due to his resourceful upbringing as an Illinois pioneer.

A unique talent set Morell apart from the other soldiers as well as the citizens of Fullersburg, where he returned in 1865 after three years of service. Morell was a natural musician who played the fife and drums during the war as well as a violin, which he purchased for twenty five cents after one of the battles he fought. He married Ellen Mackinder shortly after his return home. Ellen's parents had moved to Fullersburg from England in 1851; there can be little doubt that the couple knew of each other before Morell volunteered as a Union soldier. They then became part of the tradition expressed by the local citizens that everyone was "either a Fuller or married to one." Morell demonstrated his nerves of steel every 4th of July by playing his drum without missing a beat, even when his brother, hiding in a tree above him, fired his shotgun.

Morell became a plasterer and remained in Fullersburg until he died in 1929 at the approximate age of 83. His fife and drum are appropriately displayed in the basement of the historic Graue Mill, where escaped slaves had found refuge before and during the war that Morell had fought in. The humility of this talented veteran is reflected by the small headstone at his burial site. In close proximity are the graves of over a dozen other Union soldiers from this area, and also of one Confederate soldier named John Andre. A much more elaborate headstone, donated from local sources, marks John's final resting spot. Although not particularly well known, Morell's story exemplifies the strength, grit, and moral fortitude of scores of other veterans who sacrificed for their country. Fullersburg Historic Foundation pays tribute every Memorial Day to these exceptional individuals as well as other veterans who are also buried at this special spot. The foundation's Board of Directors expresses its deep gratitude to Morell, the other veterans who are buried at this historic cemetery, and all others who have served and are actively serving in the United States of

America's armed forces.

*Quotes from George Ruchty's book The Fullers of Fullersburg. George is a descendant of Benjamin Fuller; his book can be found on this website in the "For You" section.

Sue Devick, M.A.

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