|(Courtesy of Daniel Library, The Citadel)|
Charles Courtenay Tew wielded the sword metaphor several times during his address to fellow Citadel graduates in 1846. Only 18 years old, Tew spoke eloquently of the glory and horror of war, saying the sword could be “dazzling" in its influence and the patriot soldier should use it only for “God and country.”
“There are no aspirations to imminence over the slaughtered bodies of his fellow men,” he told two dozen peers at the military academy in Charleston, S.C.
The school’s first honor graduate concluded his remarks with encouragement to fulfill one’s responsibility: “The same principle which impelled him to arms, sustains him in their unsanguined use. Strongly attached to life, he is yet willing, ready, eager to lay it down for the public.”
Sixteen years later, Tew, 34, would lay down his life for the Confederacy. He died amid the carnage on the Sunken Road, or Bloody Lane, at the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) in western Maryland.
The colonel’s sword was taken by a Federal soldier, as were other items as trophies of war. Now, 153 years later, the sword is being given by a Canadian military regiment and foundation to The Citadel in ceremonies next week. Descendants had long looked for the sword, which ended up in Ottawa.
The loss of Tew, who led the 2nd North Carolina State Troops, was felt keenly by loved ones and his home state. Before the war, he was known as an erudite academic who instilled discipline and duty in cadets on three campuses in the Carolinas. Students were grateful for his dedication, and in 1858 they presented him the sword at the Arsenal Academy in Columbia, S.C.
Great-great-granddaughter Caroline Sloan of Portland, Ore., says the graduation speech shows Tew was a “product of his time.” A soldier was trained to take up arms, when necessary.
In his 1893 “History of the South Carolina Military Academy,” John Peyre Thomas wrote:
|Tew's sword will be displayed at The Citadel library|
"Col. Tew was no ordinary man. In temper he was cool and equable. His tastes were literary and yet practical. His intellect was trained and disciplined for almost any work. With mathematical and scientific attainments, he was also conversant with the dead languages; had acquired several of the Continental Languages, as to French, he was an accomplished scholar of that tongue. The power of mental concentration he possessed in large degree and what he attempted he mastered thoroughly. As a friend he was steady and loyal; as a man direct and upright; as a husband and father, tender and devoted. Among The Citadel dead, no other graduate has done more honor to the Academy then Charles Courtenay Tew."
Tew’s father was from a French Huguenot family and his mother had Irish ancestry.
While not all that prominent or wealthy, the Tews ensured Courtenay (pronounced Courtney), as he was known, would get what they considered an ideal education for a South Carolina lad.
“He wanted to be an educator,” Sloan said.
After graduation, the professor taught and led students at the Arsenal Academy for five years, spent a year in Europe and returned to The Citadel as second officer in rank. He enlarged and expanded his department before returning to Columbia in 1857.
He then followed his own dream, moving to North Carolina with his wife, Elizabeth, and children to start a new school: The Hillsborough Military Academy.
|!937 view of Hillsborough barracks, now gone (Library of Congress)|
“It was modeled on The Citadel,” said Richard Barnes of Raleigh, N.C., who has researched the 2nd North Carolina State Troops, the unit Tew led during the Civil War. “He was a good tactician. He was an academic man. He loved to instruct young men.”
Tew didn’t get to lead the North Carolina academy for long. While apparently not a slave owner, Tew sided with the Confederacy and led troops during a number of Virginia and Maryland campaigns, ending at Antietam.
The officer won admiration for tactics from his peers, including Maj. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw and Lt. Gen. D.H. Hill, who described Tew as having “no superior as a soldier in the field.”
But Tew felt he could help the cause most by returning to North Carolina to turn young students into prospective soldiers. His resignation was forwarded to the government in Richmond, but it had not been acted upon when the battle at Sharpsburg was fought.
The academy in Hillsborough did not last long after the war’s end and Tew’s widow died in 1870, leaving the care of their three surviving children to her father-in-law.
Sloan, who will speak about Tew and the sword during a Sept. 17 event on The Citadel campus, has taught her 7-year-old son that it is best that the South did not prevail.
Still, she said, “I am proud of (Tew). The Civil War was a terrible, terrible thing. The family loved him and never got over his death.”