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W[illiam] L. Faulkner Papers, 28 January 1861-5 June 1864 and undated
Fifty manuscripts, 28 January 1861-5 June 1864 and undated, provide a glimpse into the war experiences of W[illiam] L. Faulkner of Craigsville, Lancaster District. Faulkner married Issa Craig, whom he sometimes called Lizzy. They had a daughter of school age, Sis, and an infant son, Buddy.
Two early letters written anonymously in 1861 are from Bradley County, Ark., and relate news about the land, price of goods, and the reaction to the presidential election-"i beleave vearly every one over the age of 18 has volinteered to defend our writs if necessary to do so" (6 March 1861). By 1862, W.H. Craig, Issa's brother, and Faulkner were in Co. I, Seventeenth Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers, the "Lancaster Tigers." Craig, a sergeant, was later captured at Clay Farms, Va. A cousin, S.J.V. Faulkner, was a corporal; he was wounded in Maryland and later captured at the Battle of the Crater. On having to leave South Carolina, he wrote-"My Dear I am sorry to say that wee hav to go to virginny...I think wee will go by Sharlot my Dear I think it is hard for us to pas so close to our wives and swet harts an cant get to stop to tell them goodby" (18 July 1862). General Evans, however, ordered regiments from that area to go by Wilmington instead, while regiments from the Pee Dee went by Charlotte.
W.L. Faulkner's letters begin in April 1863 while the regiment was stationed at Wilmington. They are filled with exhortations that his wife write more often and longer letters-"you have no idea how chilling it is to us all when the mail arives which it does every day and hear that unwelcome sound no letter" (7 April 1863). Faulkner also speaks often about various hardships-lack of clothing and food, camping without tents, and long marches, often for no apparent reason.
When the regiment returned to Charleston in late April, they camped at Secessionville, where, he wrote his wife, "thare's an observatory in our camp 90 feet high a sentinal stands there all the time and by some sign the signal flag convey the news to the City which is 4 or 5 miles I like this place prime I can stand in my street and see the yankey vessels & hear there drums and horns. They are 3 miles from here I have no desire to kill any of them but if we must fight them this is the place for me" (7 May 1863). Five days later, he described a fifty-eight-mile march in two days with "nothing to eat but some crackers." "I never was so tired in my life," he complained, "all this fatigue & suffering amounted to nothing for we did not even see a yankey they formed a line of battle to receive us but they ware two well fortified for us to advance on them." Shortly thereafter the regiment left South Carolina bound for Jackson, Miss.
Faulkner contracted the fever while in Mississippi but managed to remain with the regiment, although he eventually was placed in the Ambulance Corps because of his sickness. By the end of June Faulkner wrote-"we do not get enough to eat but have to do on it we jenerally have one meal a day when we are not marching when we are marching we get old hard crackers and a little raw bacon I could not eat the bacon raw at first but I can eat it pretty well now we are getting bad off about getting cloths washed" (25 June 1863). A letter of 8 July reflects Confederate frustrations following the surrender of Vicksburg-"Vicksburg has fallen & the yanks are in pursuit of us...I am afraid our cause is gone but I hope for better things but one thing is certain Miss. is ruined from what I see here if our state is invaded wo be unto us." On the 19th he observed-"the fighting...beats anything on record we ware under fire of the Enemy 8 days our skimishers fighting every day our Company was in it 5 nights & 2 1/2 days out of 6."
Early August found Faulkner in Savannah, Ga. The regiment camped on the Isle of Hope where, he reported, "Gen Evans sais he is determined to rest his brigade they are worn out & badly clothed" (August 1863). Faulkner wrote of the despair fellow soldiers felt in the loss of Vicksburg and noted that the majority were willing to fight in South Carolina but would desert if forced to fight elsewhere. By the end of August, Faulkner was in the military hospital at Columbia being treated for chronic diarrhea. It is not known how long Faulkner remained in Columbia, but by December 1863 he was on Sullivan's Island. On the 17th he noted-"you will see old Abe's Proclamation...I am anxious for peace but I do not want sutch a one that will enslave my beloved wife & children & generations to come." He also spoke of the hardships of standing guard at night barefooted and wearing cotton clothing. Morale was ebbing when Faulkner wrote that many believed "we are whiped will not it be pity if after so mutch loss of life & suffering that there is nothing gained but all lost. I do hope that an alwise Providence will interfere in our behalf. if not we are irretrievebly gone" (16 January 1864).
Part of the regiment's work during this time was building and fortifying batteries around Charleston. In March and April, Faulkner was near Burnet's Farm where, he reported, "we are quartered in Negro houses the owner must have had a large number of slaves there is 24 houses in the street we are now accpying besides a good many others scattered round they are all gone but two or three old grey headed ones that is worn out the rest being send of to prevent the yanks from getting them" (13 March). At another time Faulkner recorded observations after having walked around the area-"I had no idea the yanks had done as mutch mischief till I see it...Nearly all the fine dwellings mills barns and every thing of mutch value is burnt up and I am creditably informed that they drove some of the families out of there houses and then applied the torch and carried of all the Negroes except a few old ones. This is yankey rule you people there know nothing of the desolation of war nor the suffering that many are subject to" (3 April).
A month later the regiment was in North Carolina. While in Tarboro, Faulkner's brigade was detailed to escort prisoners of war to Charleston. Faulkner "asked some of the most intilegent of the prinsioners what was the opinion of the Northern Army in regard to the duration of the war they say it is the General opinion that it will wind up this year they say they are tired of it but Grant will whip Lee at Richmond and that will end it. We asked them why it was they ware fighting for the Negroes they said dam the Negroes they would not have them only by taking them out of our farms they might starve us out they said they ware glad our men killed all the Negro troops at Plymouth" (3 May). The battle at Plymouth, N.C., was on 18 April and resulted in Confederate forces retaking the town despite significant losses. Faulkner's chief complaint while in North Carolina, and at other times, was the condition of army food. The army held provisions until they rotted and then sent them to the troops, he supposed, or civilian commissary officials misappropriated them while the soldiers suffered.
Faulkner reached Virginia by late May, camping at Clay's Farm. His bowels were troubling him again, so he spent his time doing provost guard duty at the rear. On 31 May he reported-"our pickett line and that of the Enemy is quite close still if we do not shoot at them they will not at us. Sometimes they will step out of there pitts pool of there hatts and shake a noise maker at us wanting to swap...surely these times cannot last always for twenty days fighting has been going on in old Va. and still undecided." The final letter, from Faulkner to his mother, is dated 11 June. "There is a good deal of sickness in the Regt at this time, I think it is caused by exposure and hard duty this is the 23rd day for our men in the entrenchments all that time they have not had one good night sleep they are on pickett every third day the day they come of pickett they work on the fortifycations the next night they stand guard on the batteres and after all on one fourth of a pound of meat & a pound of corn meal."
A casualty list printed in the Lancaster Ledger on 22 November 1864 indicates that Faulkner died while in Virginia. It is not known whether he was with his regiment during the Battle of the Crater. Faulkner was a religious man, always putting "his trust in him who has taking care of me all my life" (undated fragment) and exhorting his wife to do the same.
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