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James Blair Steedman

Biographical sketch of James Blair Steedman,
taken from Clark Waggoner's
History of the City of Toledo and Lucas County, pp 254-255.



It is deemed proper in this connection to give a few personal sketches of Union Soldiers, and incidents of the War of more or less prominent interest, the only regret being that lack of space forbids such extension of the chapter as would admit a much larger number of such.

JAMES BLAIR STEEDMAN was born in Chillisquaque Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, July 29, 1817, and died at Toledo, October 8, 1883. He was of Scotch parentage, his parents dying while he was yet a boy, leaving him the eldest of three children. At the age of 15 he became an apprentice in the office of the Lewisburg (Penn.) Democrat. Two years later he went to Louisville, Kentucky, where he worked at printing for a time, but soon joined General Sam. Houston's expedition for the independence of Texas. Returning to Pennsylvania, he was employed on the Public Works there. In 1838 he came to Northwestern Ohio, first stopping at Napoleon, where he soon became publisher of the Northwestern Democrat, and was married with Miss Miranda Stiles, then recently from New Jersey. Not long thereafter lie was a contractor on the Wabash and Eric Canal. In 1847-8 he served two terms in the Ohio House of Representatives. In 1849, with a party from this State, he made the overland trip to California in search for gold, but returned the year following, and in 1852 was elected as member of the Board of Public Works, and in 1855 was reelected to that position, serving most of the time as President of the Board. In December, 1857, he was chosen as Congressional Printer. He was elected Major-General of the Fifth Division, Ohio Militia, in 1857, holding that office until the breaking out of the Rebellion. Between 1857 and 1861,he was for some time the Editor of the Toledo Times, meantime being admitted to the Bar as an Attorney-at-Law. As a member of the Democratic National Convention, at Charleston, S. C., in 1860, he acted with the friends of Stephen A. Douglas, with whom he continued to co-operate, taking part in the independent nomination of that gentleman for President at a subsequent Convention, held at Baltimore. The same year lie was the Democratic candidate for Congress in the Toledo District, running against James M. Ashley (Republican), who was elected. Upon the opening of War at Fort Sumter, General Steed-man identified himself with the support of the Government, and co-operated in raising and organizing the Fourteenth Ohio Regiment, of which he was chosen Colonel. Only the briefest mention can here he made of his record in the Union Army. The Fourteenth Regiment at once took a leading place among the troops in West Virginia during its service of three months, of which mention is elsewhere made, as also of the same command re-enlisted and veteranized. Colonel Steedman remained with the Fourteenth Regiment until promoted and made Brigadier-General, July 16, 1862. He led his Brigade at Perryville, Kentucky, in the battle at that point, October 9,1862, receiving special recognition from General Buell. At Stone River he took an active part, and in the Tullahoma campaign commanded a Division, where he was complimented by Gen. Thomas. In July, 1863, he was assigned to the command of the First Division of the Reserve Corps, under Major-General Gordon Granger, which moved to Chattanooga soon thereafter, where it was put in charge of Red House Bridge, whence, on the second day of the battle of Chickamauga (September 20th), under command of General Granger, the Division made its timely and successful march to the support of General Thomas. In that movement, so creditable to the sagacious judgment and prompt action of General Granger, General Steedman bore a conspicuous and effective part. Throughout the desperate contest in which his Division was engaged, his activity and courage contributed largely to the effectiveness of his command's heroic service, for which distinguished action, he was promoted to the rank of Major-General. He took a prominent part in the Atlanta campaign, and was assigned as commander of the District of Etowah, when General Sherman entered upon his "March to time Sea." At time battle of Nashville, General Steedman bore a prominent part. After the close of the war, he was assigned as Military Commander of the State of Georgia, and resigned July 19, 1866. Personal and military relations with President Johnson, arising largely in associations occurring in Kentucky and Tennessee during the War, placed General Steedman on specially favorable terms with the then existing Administration, and but for the inability of the President to vacate the office (then held by Edwin M. Stanton), General Steedman would probably have become Secretary of War. He was appointed Collector of Internal Revenue for the New Orleans District, resigning the office in January, 1869. Returning to Toledo, he soon resumed his connection with the Press, acting as Editor of the Northern Ohio Democrat, which relation he held for most of the time until his death. In 1874, he was elected as a member of the State Constitutional Convention, vice M. H. Waite, then appointed Chief Justice of the United States; was Senator from the Toledo District in 1877; was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1880; and a candidate for State Senator in 1881, though not then elected. His last public position was that of Chief of Toledo Police. He was prominently connected with the Grand Army of the Republic, of which he was at one time the Commander for Ohio. Few citizens of the State have been more prominent in public life, than was General Steedman for the most of a period of 40 years. His military career constitutes the feature of his record which most strongly commands the consideration of his fellow-citizens. He possessed exceptional qualities as a leader in whatever he took part. He was three times married, and left a widow and children and grand-children. His funeral was attended by the most general demonstration known in Toledo on a like occasion, in which the Grand Army of the Republic and the City authorities bore conspicuous parts. The Woodlawn Cemetery Company having set apart grounds for that purpose, he was buried there. Mr. William J. Finlay, of Toledo, for many years an intimate friend of General Steedman, having proposed to erect a monument to the memory of the latter at St. Clair Place (junction of Summit and St. Clair Streets), the Toledo City Council set apart that ground for such purpose, and changed its name to Finlay Place. The monument proper is in four parts, as follows: 1. Base. 2. Die. 3. Shaft. 4. Statue. The base is of Vermont marble, 9 feet square and sets directly in the center of the terrace. The die, on its four sides bears these inscriptions: 1. Fronting Cherry Street-"JAMES B. STEEDMAN, Major-General, U. S. V." 2. On Summit Street side, " Born, 1817-Died' 1883." 3. On St. Chair Street side, "Erected by W. J. Finlay." Near the top of the shaft, and between two mouldings, are these inscriptions: 1. Fronting Cherry Street, "Chickamauga." 2. Fronting Summit Street, "Carrick's Ford." 3. Fronting St. Chair Street, "Perryville." 4. In rear, "Nashville.'' As indicated, the latter inscriptions refer to four battles during the War of the Rebellion, in which General Steedman took part. Surmounting this shaft, is a cap, on which stands the bronze statue. It is somewhat larger than life-size, and represents the General as just dismounted, with field-glass in hand. The total height of the monument is 26 feet. The pedestal was placed in August, 1886, and the statue in March, 1887. The triangle, both inside and outside the terrace, is covered with 6-inch sawed Berea flagging. Surrounding time triangle is an iron railing, formed by two bars supported by limestone posts. The public ceremonies of unveiling the monument took place May 26, 1887.


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