William Faulkner on Pickett's Charge

Eric Wittenberg

1st Lieutenant
Keeper of the Scales
Jun 2, 2013
Columbus, OH
"For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two oclock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is stll time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago...."

William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust


Sergeant Major
Aug 4, 2011
Very stirring passage for,us,Southern boys,but, I don't think there was a rail fence running the length of the Southern position. I wish I hadn't noticed this error,by Faulkner. It is my favorite CW passage.

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Feb 14, 2012
Central Pennsylvania
I remember hearing Shelby Foote refer to this, I think it was the first time I'd ever heard of the passage. Faulkner would have been satisfied to have heard his words spoken, however briefly, by that particular story-teller, all the Old South draped like Spanish Moss over each syllable. The effect it had on me was the cold finger tracing up the backbone. Always makes you wish you could glue words together like Faulkner did- leave such a legacy, gee.

Thanks for posting this, have the chills again.


Jul 7, 2013
I first heard this as a reading in the Ken Burns Civil War series. An excellent passage. Many thanks for posting it here.