Charles Devens was born April 4, 1820, in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1838 and received a doctor of laws degree in 1877. He was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1840 and began a career that encompassed military and legal achievements.
Devens participated in the Massachusetts Senate during 1848 and 1849, followed by service as U.S. marshal from 1849 to 1853. He acted as solicitor for the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, from 1856 to 1858 and then left government service to pursue a military career in 1861.
The Civil War provided Devens with many opportunities to display his military expertise. He fought for the Union in three major Virginia battles fought at Fredericksburg, Chancellorville, and Cold Harbor, earning the rank of major general.
In 1867, he began his judicial career and served as judge of the Massachusetts Superior Court. In 1873, he was appointed to the bench of the Massachusetts Supreme Court.
He began service to the federal government in 1877 as attorney general under President rutherford b. hayes, a post he held until 1881.
An army post, Camp Devens, in Ayer, Massachusetts, was named for Charles Devens in recognition of his military accomplishments.
Devens died January 7, 1891, in Boston.