The Confederate Deserter

Charles Binns

Charles Binns and his son, also named Charles, served as Clerk of the Loudoun County Court for the first 80 years of the county’s existence. They were, as the saying goes, “pillars of the Loudoun community.” It is all the more of a mystery, then, why another Charles Binns, this one the grandson of the second county clerk, rode for a time with Mosby’s Rangers but then deserted and became a scout for the Union cavalry. Mosby’s men never said why Binns deserted beyond the fact that “he committed some act of rascality” and fled to escape Mosby’s punishment. Binns family tradition has it that he killed one of Mosby’s men in a barroom brawl. If this is true, the man he killed was almost certainly John Underwood, one of Mosby’s first recruits and favorite scouts, who was “killed by a deserter from the Confederate army near Oatlands” only a few days before Binns showed up in Vienna to volunteer his services to the Union.

Despite the Rangers’ best efforts to capture or kill him, Binns led Col. Charles Russell Lowell’s XXII Corps Cavalry Brigade on a number of successful raids into Loudoun County between November 1863 and February 1864. On February 22, 1864, he was wounded and almost captured by Mosby’s men in the Anker’s Shop (Second Dranesville) fight and never again led a Union raid. He survived the war and died in his son’s home in Georgetown in 1921.