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Charlie Binns
Union Man & Scout

Contributed by Tom Evans

     Upon the death of former Mosby Ranger Dulaney Richards in January 1909, Colonel John Singleton Mosby wrote a letter that was printed in the February 22nd issue of The Fairfax (VA) Herald praising Richards' dedicated service to the Confederacy, and making some pointed remarks about Richards' stepfather, Charles Binns, who had served as a guide for the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry stationed in Vienna. Binns replied to Colonel Mosby's letter, and a person identified only as “Confederate" then took up the cause accusing Binns of being a deserter from Colonel Mosby's command. Following are the final letters from both parties that appeared in The Fairfax Herald about this episode.

Charley Binns 
postwar image courtesy of the Thomas Balch Library.

     Letter From "CONFEDERATE" 

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. 

Enclosure 1: 

Headquarters 16dt New York Cavalry
Vienna, Virginia May 6, 1864 

 To 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. 

Very respectfully,
H. M. Lazelle, Col. 16th N.Y. Cav. 

Enclosure 2: 

1379 Commonwealth Ave.
Allston, Mass. .March 20, 1909 

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,
H. M. Lazelle, Brigadier General, U.S. Army (2)


Mosby Vignettes, Vol. V, pp 62-64, 1996, Evans & J\1Ioyer
(2) Mosby Vignettes, Vol. I, pp 80, 1993, Evans & Moyer