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Confederate veterans honor one of their own

ROME TOWNSHIP — Tucked away in a corner of Rome Township near the Ohio River is a tiny cemetery, maybe no more than a few feet wide and even less as long.

Surrounding it is a iron railing, burnished golden from the years, guarding limestone markers dating back to the early 1800s.

There are heroes buried there, all linked in some way to the Fuller clan of the eastern end of Lawrence County. There is one who served in the Revolutionary War buried there, with his wife by his side.

But the Fuller that has drawn recent attention played his role in history by serving the Confederacy. He was Emelious Wood Fuller, or E.W. for short, who as a veteran gunboat commander was in charge of the Confederate gunboat, Queen of the West.

It was at the Battle of Irish Bend where the Queen of the West met her doom when she was wiped out by the combined forces of Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks and Admiral David G. Farragut.

As was the tragedy in the War between the States, it was not only the country that was divided. Families were also, as the Fullers knew all too well.

E.W. went with the South while his brother, Achilles Fuller, chose the Union blue.

But almost a century and a half has passed since the ground of this nation turned bloody from five years of battles. And today those who remember the Civil War want to honor the heroes of each side.

That’s why a newly formed camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is in the process of getting a Veterans Administration marker for E.W.’s grave.

“This is one of our primary goals to mark every Confederate grave,” according to Dale Dickerson, 1st Lt. Commander of the Pvt. Tapley P. Mays Camp 2170 of Ironton. “And I am doing paperwork now on a Union grave. Whether it’s Desert Storm or World War II, every veteran deserves to have a grave marked.”

In about six months from now, the Mays Camp members expect to place a flat military marble marker bearing Fuller’s name, rank, unit and the Southern Cross of Honor by the grave of the soldier, called the John Paul Jones of the South.

It was on April 14, 1863, that Fuller and his crew members were captured by the Union at Grand Lake, La. As the men were being taken by boat to the union prison at Fort Delaware, they commandeered the boat.

According to archives from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, the men escaped, all but Fuller, because of the gravity of his wounds. He was transferred to the union prison at Johnson Island on July 20, 1863, and died four days later. The cause of death was listed as gastritis.

Johnson Island, located on Lake Erie, was the site of a Union prisoners of war camp that opened in 1862.

Before the war’s end in 1865, 15,000 Confederate officers, enlisted men and northern deserters had been confined at the camp. A nearby cemetery is the final resting place for 206 prisoners and for a while one of those graves belonged to Fuller.

However after the war, his wife had his body brought back to the cemetery off County Road 107, near his Rome Township home.

Bud Strausbaugh, an associate from another camp, who had identified and located the Fuller family cemetery, had notified the Ironton camp about Fuller.

“They didn’t have discharge papers during the Civil War and there is a whole lot of research that has to go into this, finding enlist dates and discharge dates,” Dickerson said. “North or South, neither one kept really good records and some have been lost to courthouse fires.”

The Mays Camp opened in March and now has 10 members, many of whom had been associated with a camp in Morehead, Ky. They meet once a month at the Briggs Lawrence Library in Ironton, where they also do educational events like living histories.

“Primarily we locate and mark graves,” Dickerson said.