Berkeley County, West Virginia Biography of Charles James FAULKNER Jr.


         Charles James FAULKNER was the son of Charles James Faulkner, Sr., who played a prominent part in the welfare of Virginia and West Virginia. When the younger Faulkner was 15, he left the village schools and entered the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, Virginia, where he served with the Cadets at the Battle of New Market. He attended schools at Switzerland and in Paris, having accompanied his father when he was Minister to France. They returned to America in August 1861 and he was with his father at the time of his arrest in Washington, D.C., the story of which has become a matter of national history (see Charles James Faulkner Sr. biography)

         Charles J. Faulkner served as an aide on the staff of General J.C. Breckonridge until that gentleman was made Secretary of War. Afterward, Faulkner was appointed aide to General Henry A. Wise, surrendered with him at Appomattox, returned home and began the study of law, graduated from the University of Virginia in June 1868, and was admitted to the bar the September following. He was elected Judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit, 1880, at the age of 33, making him one of the youngest judges of the state. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1887; during his tenure he secured financing for the U.S. court house and post office at Martinsburg.

         Also, while he was a senator, he was appointed by President McKinley to the Anglo-American Commission, a group designed to promote a closer relationship between the governments of the U.S., Great Britain and Canada. He was appointed by Governor Howard M. Gore of West Virginia to represent Berkeley County in the State Historical Society.

         Charles J. Faulkner received his rank of Lieutenant while on the staff of General Breckonridge in the Civil War, as follows: At the Battle of New Market, May 15, 1864, the Confederates, sorely pressed for men, called to the colors the entire force of the Virginia Military Institution at Lexington, Virginia, to defend that section against Federal forces. They were boys, ranging in ages from 14 to 19; young Faulkner was one of those cadets. During the advancement, Cadet Faulkner found himself somewhat in advance of his comrades and suddenly in the presence of a small force of Union soldiers. Knowing he would be captured if he hesitated a moment, he decided to try a ruse which worked. He called upon them to surrender: “It’s no use, boys. You may as well surrender, as the rest of us are just over the hill back there.” All 22 men threw down their arms and surrendered on the spot. Faulkner was marching them all to the rear of his own army when he met General Breckonridge. “Where did you get those?” asked the General. “I captured them just over the hill, sir,” answered Faulkner. “How?” demanded the astonished General. “I don’t know, sir,” said Faulkner, “I just surrounded them.” “How could you surround them? Were you alone?” “Yes sir,” answered Faulkner, “I just surrounded them and took them.” The General asked him his name and when told, he asked, “Are you a son of Charles James Faulkner?” and when Cadet Faulkner said he was, the General told him to take the men back to the prison camp and report to his headquarters at 6 o’clock. The interesting part of this story is that Cadet Faulkner had been carrying a musket that had been put out of commission just before the incident occurred; the barrel, having been hit by shrapnel, was bent so that the ramrod would not go into it to ram the load home, thus rendering the gun useless, and he had no time to get another one. When he appeared in the General’s office, the General appointed him a member of his Staff immediately, a position he served until he was transferred to the Staff of General Henry A. Wise.

         In the Senate, Charles J. Faulkner served on many committees: Claims, Pensions, Appropriation, District of Columbia, Emigration, Pacific Railroad, Territories and Judiciary. At the 1888-1889 session of Congress, he framed and secured the passage of a bill to prevent the adulteration of foods and drugs – being father of the “Pure Food Law”; and he framed and secured the passage of a bill regulating the railroad systems. He was appointed by the Senate in 1898 as a member of the joint commission of the two houses to investigate the receipts and expenditures of the Post Office Department.

         In 1889, Charles Faulkner held the chair of the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge (Masons) of West Virginia; in 1888 and 1892, was the chairman of the Democratic State Convention of West Virginia; chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, 1894 and 1896; member of the American Bar Association; member of the Bar Association of Berkeley County and president of same; member of the Society of International Law; one of the organizers and an original member of the American Law Institute; member of the National Geographical Society; member of a Commission of 100 of the American Association to Advance Science; trustee of the Alumni Endowment Fund of the Association of the University of Virginia; member of the Berkeley County Historical Society; and vice president of the West Virginia Historical Society.


    Submitted by Marilyn Gouge and extracted from History of Berkeley County, West Virginia, 1928

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