Born in New York, his family moved to Alabama before the war began. In 1860 his father was a planter and merchant, while Charles served as a clerk. He enlisted on 13 October 1861 in Baldwin County, Alabama and was appointed 1st Sergeant. He was severely wounded in the thigh on 6 April 1862 at about 4 p.m. at the Battle of Shiloh. Later in the war he was reduced in ranks to Private, for unknown reasons, and later he transferred to the Confederate Navy on 15 February 1864.