Early life, career as a lawman
Bassett enlisted in "Company I, 213th Regiment of Pennsylvania" on February 14, 1865. He fought for the Union Army during the American Civil War. Shortly after the war ended, Bassett migrated west, and eventually became the county sheriff in Ford County, Kansas, serving with Bat Masterson, who was his under-sheriff. He received notoriety during his pursuit of outlaw Sam Bass following the latters robbery of a Union Pacific train in Big Springs, Nebraska. A local law prevented a sheriff from serving three consecutive terms, so Bat Masterson replaced him in that position, then appointed Bassett his under-sheriff.
When Ford County was formed, Dodge City was selected as the county seat. On June 5, 1873, Charles E. Bassett was elected the first Sheriff of Ford County. When Ed Masterson, brother to Bat, was killed in a shooting in Dodge City, Kansas, in April 1878, Bassett became the new Dodge City marshal under appointment from Mayor James H. "Dog" Kelley. His reputation quickly grew. During that same year, outlaw James (Spike) Kenedy killed a woman named Dora Hand, who went by the stage name of Fannie Keenan. Bassett pursued and captured Kenedy. Following that incident, he apprehended Frank Loving for the killing of Levi Richardson, during a gunfight that Richardson started. During that time both Wyatt Earp and Wyatt's older brother James worked as deputies for Bassett.
In November 1879, Bassett resigned and moved southwest to New Mexico, where he worked as a guard for Adams Express Company. He was replaced in Dodge City by another of Bat Masterson's brothers, James Masterson, who had worked as a deputy for him. In 1880 Bassett mined for gold in and around Montana, eventually returning to Kansas. In 1883, he returned to Dodge City with several notable gunfighter friends, including Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, M. F. McClain, Neil Brown, and W. F. Petillion, to support their friend, gunfighter and saloon owner, Luke Short, in a dispute with a local politician. This became known as the Dodge City War.
Bassett worked in and owned several saloons in his later years, until his death by natural causes in Hot Springs, Kansas.