Charles Courtenay Tew was born in Charleston, South Carolina October 17th 1827, the son of Henry Shade and Caroline (Courtenay) Tew. He was part of the first class of the South Carolina Military Academy which has become known at the Citadel. Tew graduated in 1846 at the top of his class. Following his graduation he taught at the school until 1852 when he spent a year in Europe studying military tactics. Tew would return to the Citadel where he would be the Commandant of Cadets until 1857, when he became the superintendent of the Arsenal Academy in Columbia, South Carolina.
Tew was appointed June 20th 1861, the Colonel of the 2nd North Carolina Infantry by Confederate North Carolina Governor John Willis Ellis when that state seceded. The 2nd was attached to the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in Brigadier General George Burgwyn Anderson’s brigade. When Anderson was killed at the Battle of Sharpsburg, Tew took over command of the brigade. In the afternoon of September 17th 1862, the brigade were located along the Sunken Road near the center of the Confederate line. Tew and Colonel John Brown Gordon were placing men in line when both men were hit. Gordon would say of this spot, "The first volley from the Union lines in my front sent a ball through the brain of the chivalric Colonel Tew, of North Carolina, to whom I was talking, and another ball through the calf of my right leg. On the right and the left my men were falling under the death-dealing crossfire."
When the Confederates left the area of the Sunken Road, Tew’s body was left behind. He was never identified. After war was over a former Union Captain, J W Bean sent a silver cup to Tew’s father in October 1874, claiming he had taken the cup off Tew’s body before his burial.