The Second Mass and Its Fighting Californians
A Reference site of images, articles, artifacts of the Second Massachusetts Cavalry including the Cal 100 and the Cal Battalion.
I have read in the Fairfax Herald of the 19th instant
Charles Binns' reply to my letter which had an extract from the War
Records which proved that Binns left Fairfax in July, 1863 with a party to
join the Confederate Army; and there were quotations from reports of
Colonel Lowell in which he speaks of Binns as a Deserter; of the valuable
information which Binns brought with him; of the services Binns was
rendering him against his former comrades, and of the pay he was giving
Binns for his treachery.
It seems that on February 22, Colonel Mosby addressed a
letter to the Herald in reference to the death of one of his best men and
best friends, Joe Richards, and incidentally spoke of Joe's prowess in an
affair with the California cavalry battalion near Dranesville in which Joe
showed great eagerness to capture Binns, who deserted form Mosby's
Battalion and was then employed as a guide by the enemy.
He also stated that when the fight began Binns took to
his heels and never stopped running until he crossed the Potomac. Bins
contents himself with charging me with misquoting the records. He does not
specify in what particular. His word is not sufficient evidence of the
fact. Why didn't he correct the quotations and show that the record had
been garbled to his prejudice? There are about 130 volumes of the War
Records; I doubt if Binns ever: saw them. Binns' name is mentioned four
times; in July, November, and December, 1863.
Extracts were made to show that Binns' denial of being a
Confederate deserter is contradicted by the records. Dates were given so
that it is very easy to verify quotations. It is true that only extracts
from reports were made but they were perfectly fair and there was no
misrepresentation. The truth there is tbere were two references of him
omitted for the sake of brevity which prove as much against him as those
that were quoted.
Colonel Lowell's report of November 26th, 1863 twice
speaks of Binns as a deserter. I
quoted only one such reference to Binns. I can now give Binns the benefit
of both. Lowell says:
“Capt. Rumery took as guides Yankee Davis and the deserter Binns.”
AND “Capt. Rumery managed his part of the expedition with great
judgment. The deserter Binns proved of great assistance.”
So much the worse for Binns.
I quoted only one reference in Lowell's report of
December 27th, 1863. Here are both: Lowell says: “The party of 10
mounted and 40 dismounted men of the Thirteenth New York cavalry under
Major Coles with Binns as guide sent out the night before last, scouted
the country as far as Leesburg and carefully this side of Broad Run.
They searched the houses and brought in 8 prisoners, amongst them
were Pettingall (a notorious scout), Joe White, Bridges (one of Mosby's
men) and Beavers, with other suspicious citizens pointed out by Binns.”
I referred to a number if Fairfax men who belonged to
Mosby's battalion as witnesses to prove that Binns was one of their
command, dressed in Confederate uniform, went with them on raids, and then
deserted. George Tuberville, of Fairfax, known as the 'Little Rooster', is
one. I have just received a letter from him. He says he was well
acquainted with Binns and endorses all I said about him.
Binns speaks of being stabbed in the dark.
Col. Mosby’s letter of February 22nd charging Binns with
desertion had his signature in full. My letter simply produces evidence
from the records to support Col. Moss's charge. Binns can ask the editor
who I am.
P.S. way doesn't Binns give some account of himself and
tell where he was and what he was doing from July 2, 1863 when Captain
McCleary at Falls Church reported that Binns left with a party 'to join
the Rebel Army', and asked for cavalry to be sent in pursuit of them, to
November 12th when Cot Lowell reported the return of 'the man Binns', and
that he would send out a scouting party to the Blue Ridge the next day
with Binns as guide. During
all this time - nearly five months - had Binns been in a Rip van Winkle
sleep, and did he wake up and find himself a Union man? His home is now in
Fairfax, near the Potomac. How did he get so familiar with the roads and
byroads in Faquier County, and with the haunts of .Mosby's men, if he
wasn't one of them? (l)
Letter from Charles Binns
Mr. Editor: It is difficult for a man of my advanced age
to try and conduct a controversy with so many people at once, and I must
content myself saying I have no acquaintance with Confederate and Homer at
all, and that I never knew Mr. George R.L. Turberville until some-time
after the Civil War had closed; The combined efforts made to brand me as a
deserter cannot be substantiated by a documentary proof, since I never
enlisted in Col. Mosby's command, and consequently never deserted.
I was born in Leesburg, Loudoun County, where I remained until 13
years of age, having little else to do than ride my pony, so that I could
hardly avoid to learn all the roads and ways of that section. I next went
to Middleburg, where I stayed until I reached the age of 21; and here
also, leading a life of leisure, I became familiar with every road and
path, all of which fitted me for the duties of a scout or guide. I knew
the country long before I ever heard of Col. Mosby.
From the following letters my friends will see that I can well
stand the aspirations cast upon my character - I have lived in Fairfax
County 55 years, and mean to end my days in Vienna, Virginia there in full
enjoyment of the respect and good will of my neighbors - Charles Binns.
Headquarters 16dt New York
Whom It May Concern:
I take pleasure in recommending to your favorable
consideration Mr. Chas. Binns of Virginia. He has for the past five months
served the United States most zealously as a guide and has rendered
invaluable service in this manner to the troops of this command and to
this Cavalry Brigade. He is a gentleman and in my estimation one who can
be depended upon for the good and faithful performance of such duty as he
may be employed in. His arduous and dangerous service always at the peril
of life demonstrated this. He leaves this region of the country as Mosby
the Guerilla has offered $5,000 for his life or person and a commission in
his (Mosby's) command.
1379 Commonwealth Ave.
My dear Binns: I have just received your letter of the 15th instant, with enclosures, and am much surprised at the statement that you were accused of treachery in leading the California Battalion into a trap, on the Leesburg Pike on the occasion of their defeat by Col. Mosby, Feb. 22, 1864.
So far as I know you were never treated ungratefully, or
accused of treachery, or imprisoned anywhere, or on any occasion. On the
contrary, I know that you were always trusted, and the most perfect
confidence was placed in your statements as a loyal man. Your services
were faithful, and your duties at all times zealously performed.
Colonel Mosby has most certainly been misinformed.
Very sincerely your friend,