(1839 - 1921)
Home State: North Carolina
Branch of Service: Infantry
In 1860 he was 21 years old and lived on his father's farm at Bethany in Iredell County, NC. In 1861 he was a student in Lenoir, Caldwell County, and he left school to enlist as a Private in Company C, 4th North Carolina Infantry on 7 June 1861 at Statesville. He was detailed to extra duty as a Musician on 4 September 1861.
On the Campaign
He was with the regimental band in Maryland in September 1862 and served in field hospitals during and after the action at Fox's Gap on South Mountain on 14 September and at Sharpsburg on the 17th. He later wrote of his experience at Fox's Gap:
... early in the morning we were ordered to double quick to the battlefield, and at the foot of South Mountain we were ordered to leave our knapsacks, or heavy baggage, under guard by a large pine tree ... Our regiment was so hotly engaged that they could not get back to the pine tree, and consequently lost their baggage. It was my privilege to climb the mountain and see a part of this fight, and if I could describe it I would be glad. Our little divisions looked insignificant beside their whole army.
The rest of the War
He served with the regimental band to the end of the war and was surrendered and paroled at Appomattox Court House, VA on 9 April 1865. Afterward,
... two days were spent in getting our paroles and getting ready to start home. On the night of the 11th, our Band serenaded General Lee for the last time. After playing three or four pieces he came out of his tent and complimented the music and thanked us for it, and said, "I hope you will get home safely and find your friends well." He did not shake hands with us, but bade us good bye, and want back in his tent.
On Wednesday the 12th, we were up early and started for home on foot.
After the War
He had a farm and sawmill, and made bricks, and by 1880 he was a carpenter in Fallstown, Iredell County. In 1889 he founded the New South Brick Machine Company (renamed J. C. Steele and Sons in 1900) and he had a machine shop in Statesville, making brickmaking and other clay-working equipment. He finally retired there and turned the business over to his sons in 1912. He was an alderman of Statesville, and Mayor for two terms, from 1903 to 1907.
References & notes
His service from his Compiled Service Records,1 via fold3, also as James C. Steel. His role in Maryland and the quotes above are from his own Sketches of the Civil War: especially of Companies A, C and H, from Iredell County, N.C. and the 4th Regimental Band (1921), online from North Carolina Digital Collections. It's the source also of a good post-war portrait photograph of him. Personal details from Sketches, family genealogists, and the US Census of 1860, 1880, and 1900-1920. His gravesite is on Findagrave.
He married Eudora Valinda "Dora" Mongtomery (1853-1914) in October 1871 and they had 4 sons and a daughter. He married again, the widow Annie Brandon McKenzie Murdoch (1868-1960) in October 1916; all three of her Murdoch children died young, the last in February 1916.
More on the Web
07/10/1839; Cool Springs, NC
07/13/1921; Statesville, NC; burial in Oakwood Cemetery, Statesville, NC