Charles S. Burns was born in Manchester, Maryland, in 1846, one of several children born to Lydia Burns (b. April 23, 1806). His father, about whom little is known, died before Burns was four years old. Though the family's chief occupation was farming, Burns and several other siblings left the farm in pursuit of different careers. Before coming of age, Burns lived in the household of Michael Ritter, a farmer, who maintained a close relationship with Burns until Ritter's death ca. 1879. Burns lost his first wife, Mary Ann, on November 23, 1870. Their son, Robert (d. June 11, 1916), affectionately referred to as "Robbie" by all the family, was nine months old in 1870. Burns later remarried (ca. 1877), but his second wife's name is unknown. His letters from siblings reveal a closely-knit family.
Charles S. Burns held a variety of jobs. He began teaching school in Montgomery County, Maryland, circa 1866 at school #7, "Frog Pond," which was another name for the Burtonsville School. He also taught in Sandy Spring in 1870 and was still teaching as late as 1888, chiefly at both the YMCA in Baltimore and the Baltimore Business College. In 1888, Burns also worked in the Baltimore Customs House. Work took him to many areas around central Maryland: Laurel, Burtonsville, Annapolis Junction, and Baltimore. Socially, Charles enjoyed a wide correspondence and was a member of Druid Lodge No. 29, Order of the Golden Chain, a Masonic organization.
Charles S. Burns died on March 24, 1937, at the age of ninety-one. He was survived by his daughter from his second marriage, Mrs. W. E. Beall of Laurel, Maryland.