James Blair Steedman

Updated: November 25, 2010

Born on July 29, 1817, Steedman spent his youth in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a printer’s apprentice. At fifteen years of age, Steedman, now an orphan, moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where he became a printer and, in 1836, embarked with General Sam Houston to help Texans secure their independence from Mexico

During the American Civil War, Ohioan James Blair Steedman attained the rank of major general in the Union military and played a pivotal role in the Battle of Chickamauga and in the defense of Nashville, Tennessee in 1864.

Born on July 29, 1817, Steedman spent his youth in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a printer’s apprentice. At fifteen years of age, Steedman, now an orphan, moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where he became a printer and, in 1836, embarked with General Sam Houston to help Texans secure their independence from Mexico. Following the War for Texas Independence, Steedman returned to Pennsylvania, moving to Napoleon, Ohio in 1838. He became the publisher of the Northwestern Democrat, a local newspaper, and also helped to finance the Toledo, Wabash & Western Railroad. In 1849, Steedman participated in the California gold rush, returning to Ohio the following year, having failed to attain his fortune. Before departing for California, Steedman had won election to the Ohio legislature in 1847. From 1852 to 1857, he served on the Board of Public Works, including as this institution’s president for much of this time period. In 1857, President James Buchanan appointed Steedman to be the official printer of the United States government. Steedman retained this position until 1861. Between 1857 and 1861, Steedman also passed the Ohio bar exam and served as editor of the Toledo Times, a Toledo, Ohio newspaper.

Politically, Steedman strongly supported the Democratic Party, and in the Election of 1860, he endorsed Stephen Douglas for the presidency. In that same year, Steedman ran for the United States House of Representatives but lost the election to Republican James M. Ashley. With the Confederate firing on Fort Sumter, Steedman advocated the preservation of the Union at all costs and helped establish the Fourteenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) Regiment. He served as this regiment's colonel before attaining the rank of brigadier-general on July 17, 1862. Having spent several years as a major general in the Ohio militia, Steedman was a natural choice to lead the Fourteenth OVI. He participated in several prominent battles in the Western Theater, including the Battle of Perryville in 1862, the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863, and in the Atlanta Campaign of 1864. At Chickamauga, Steedman's division arrived on the battlefield just in time to save General George Thomas's command from being overrun by Confederate forces. Steedman also played an important role in Nashville's defense against John Bell Hood's Confederate army.

Upon the war's conclusion, Steedman helped oversee the reconstruction of the nation, serving as the United States Military Commander of Georgia in 1865 and 1866, before becoming the Collector of Internal Revenue for the New Orleans District in 1866. While in New Orleans, Louisiana, Steedman also served as the chief of the police of the city. In 1869, Steedman resigned these various positions, returning to Toledo, where he published the Toledo Times and the Northern Ohio Democrat. In 1877, upon Morrison Waite's resignation, Steedman became a senator in the Ohio Senate. He failed to win election to this office in 1881. Upon losing this election, Steedman became police chief of Toledo. He died on October 8, 1883, in Toledo.


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James Blair Steedman

During the American Civil War, Ohioan James Blair Steedman attained the rank of major general in the Union military and played a pivotal role in the Battle of Chickamauga and in the defense of Nashville, Tennessee in 1864.

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