James Blair Steedman

James Blair Steedman was born in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, on July 29, 1817. A giant of a man, Steedman was a civilian general who inspired the instant confidence of the raw farm boys whom he took into a score of bloody actions. He had almost no formal education but learned the trade of printer, and in 1857 was designated public printer of the United States government. Meantime he had occupied himself with service in the Texas army during the Mexican War, in the Ohio legislature, as a forty-niner in the California gold rush, and as owner of the Toledo Times. He was an avowed Douglas Democrat and in 1860 was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in Charleston as well as an unsuccessful candidate for Congress. Steedman became colonel of the 14th Ohio on April 27, 1861, a ninety-day regiment which was reenlisted for three years upon the expiration of its original term of service. With this regiment he took part in the battle of Philippi in West Virginia and then was sent to the western theater. He was advanced to brigadier general as of July 17, 1862, rendered most distinguished service in command of a brigade of Gilbert's corps at the battle of Perry-ville and at Murfreesboro. During the Tullahoma campaign which maneuvered Braxton Bragg's Confederates out of Tennessee, Steedman had charge of a division of Granger's reserve corps. At the Union reverse at Chickamauga, "General Steedman [performed] the most conspicuous act of personal courage recorded of any general officer on the Federal side. ..." His heroism was virtually the salvation of the Union forces left on the field, but his Democratic leanings postponed his promotion to major general until April 20, 1864. During the Atlanta campaign he performed duty in the rear echelons, but after G. H. Thomas was detached from W. T. Sherman's forces to oppose John B. Hood's advance into Tennessee, he commanded a "provisional detachment" of about eleven regiments of mixed troops (numbering some fifty-two hundred for duty) at the battle of Nashville. He resigned from the army on August 18, 1866, to become collector of internal revenue at New Orleans. In later years he edited a paper in Toledo, served in the state senate, and became chief of police of Toledo in May, 1883. On October 18, 1883, General Steedman died in Toledo and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.