Berkeley County, West Virginia Biography of James FAULKNER


         James FAULKNER was the son of George and Rebecca Faulkner, who lived at Arnaugh, Ireland, near Newry, and was born there April 2, 1776. The name is of English origin and records show the family ancestors had migrated to Ireland during the reign of William and Mary. At the age of 10, James Faulkner was left an orphan. Richard McSherry, a friend of the family, had previously gone to the island of Jamaica where he had a sugar plantation. He had also purchased a farm in the vicinity of Leetown, then in Berkeley County. Since Mr. McSherry could not take possession of the farm immediately, he decided to visit his old home in Ireland, where he persuaded a young James Faulkner to accompany him to America.

         James Faulkner was brought to Martinsburg and placed under the charge of Michael McKewan, an Irishman who kept a retail store. He remained there until he was 21 when he withdrew from the services of McKewan and purchased the property at the southeast corner of Queen and Burke streets, later owned the People’s Trust Company Bank, and began business for himself.

         On December 15, 1803, he married Sarah Mackey, the only daughter of Captain William Mackey. They had a son, Charles James Faulkner.

         James Faulkner wanted to be a soldier. He spent much of his time in correspondence with the Hon. James Stephens and the Hon. John Morrow, the representatives in Congress from the Berkeley County district, and with Secretary of War Henry Dearborn and President Jefferson, relative to procuring a commission in the army. At that time, the army was small and advancement was slow, and James Faulkner was unsuccessful in obtaining a position. Trouble was brewing, however; the Chesapeake had been fired on and an intense war spirit was felt throughout the land.

         Anticipating trouble with Great Britain, James Faulkner raised a volunteer artillery company in Berkeley County, of which he was elected Captain. Members included Robert Wilson, First Lieutenant; William Long, Second Lieutenant; enlistees John A. Cooke, Edward Colston, John Alburtus, Alexander Stephens, William Campbell, James Newkirk, Tillotson Fryatt, Nicholas Orrick, James Shearer, Charles Pendleton, Jacob Poisal, Jacob Snyder, John Matthews, Adam Young, and others.

         War was declared against Great Britain, June 18, 1812. In that year and in the Spring of 1813, military operations were in progress on the U.S. northwestern boundary and in Canada, but it was believed that a formidable array of armies and fleets of the enemy were to be gathered for an attack on the coast of Virginia, somewhere in the vicinity of Chesapeake Bay. Accordingly the State issued orders for all the military companies to be gathered at Richmond, and Wilson’s Berkeley Artillery Company — by which name it was known, for Captain Faulkner had been promoted to the rank of Major of Artillery — was ordered to Richmond, and Major Faulkner was placed in command of all the companies stationed there.

         Early in June, Admiral Warren, with a large British naval and land force, arrived in Chesapeake Bay. It was soon determined that he intended to attack Portsmouth and Norfolk first. Craney Island lay about 4 miles west of Norfolk and commanded the entrance to that harbor and also of Portsmouth. Major General Taylor, Commander-in-Chief, on the 13th of June, issued the following orders: “Major Faulkner of the regiment of artillery will tomorrow take command of all the artillery and fortifications of Craney Island. The Commander of Artillery will direct Captain Wilson’s Company of Artillery to some place near the entrenchment in the rear of Fort Norfolk.” On the 22nd of June, the battle of Craney Island was fought and won by the artillery; the force of 3,000 British was repulsed and the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth were saved. The results of the battle were hailed with delight throughout the country.

         On July 8th, Major Faulkner was placed in command of Forts Barbour and Tar and a mile of breastworks extending between the two forts with headquarters at Norfolk.

         James Faulkner was not a man of robust physique and the low land climate of the coast, together with the strenuous military life, broke his system down and he continued an invalid until the end of the war and until his death, which occurred on April 11, 1817 at the age of 41. He was buried with military honors in the Norborne Cemetery at Martinsburg. He left one son, an orphan, who was destined to become one of the most illustrious sons Berkeley County has ever produced — Charles James Faulkner Sr.


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

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