For forty years, Charles Whilden lived a life noteworthy for failure. Then, in a remarkable chain of events, this aging, epileptic desk clerk from Charleston found himself plunged into the brutal battlefields of the Wilderness (May 57, 1864) and Spotsylvania Court House (May 820, 1864). In an astonishing act of bravery, he wrapped the flag around his body and led a charge that won critical ground for the Confederates, changing the course of one of the war's most significant battles.Gordon C. Rhea combines his deep knowledge of Civil War history with original sources, such as a treasure trove of letters written by Charles Whilden, to tell the story of this unusual life. Growing up in a prominent family that had fallen on hard times, Charles received a good education, and his letters reveal flashes of intelligence. But he failed at the practice of law in his home state and in his endeavors elsewhere, including copper speculation, real estate ventures, and farming. After the attack on Fort Sumter, Charles returned to Charleston to enlist in Confederate service, only to be turned down until the rebellion was on its last legs. Even then he saw only a few weeks of combat. But in that time, he discovered a bravery within himself that nothing in his former existence suggested he had.