1861: Seth Daniel Steedman to Friend

This letter was written by Seth Daniel Steedman (1840-1921) who graduated from the Citadel in the Class of 1862. He wrote the letter from Camp Butler in September 1861 while serving in the 14th South Carolina Infantry under the command of Col. James Jones.

Later in the war, Seth Steedman served in the 1st Alabama Regiment under his brother Isaiah George Washington Steedman who was the Colonel of the regiment. His parents were Reuben Steedman (1813-1898) and Elizabeth Fix (1815-1907). He married Mare Henrietta Mercier (1840-1919). Capt. Seth D. Steadman is mentioned a few times in Sarah Morgan: The Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman by Sarah Morgan Dawson.

Camp Butler was a camp of instruction and training (seven miles east of Aiken, South Carolina) for men who entered Confederate service from the Barnwell and Edgefield area. “The site of this encampment seems to be the admiration of every visitor. Contiguous to a number of gushing fountains which furnish an abundance of the purest water, it is high and dry, gently undulating, and far away from the malaria of the swamps. The parade grounds are nearly level, very smooth, and clear enough for a marble yard. The “streets” are well shaded by tree and brush arbors, and everything in every direction is kept in the nicest order. The tents have plank floors which contribute much to health and comfort.”

S. D. Steedman’s 1861 Letter with Image of Citadel Cadet John R. Mew (left) who graduated with him in the Class of 1862


Camp Butler
September 24th 1861

Dear Friend,

Your long and interesting epistle was received this evening and as you well know, it pleased me very much indeed. I had been expecting an answer to my lengthy communication for some time. As you see I am for the present encamped at Camp Butler and will remain here for three weeks perhaps. Gen. [James] Jones is the Colonel of this Regiment—dry as the arid plains [of] Arabia. Sits in his usual contemplative style letting nothing distract his attention, yet takes strict note of everything that transpires. He is very polite to me and treats us in a fatherly way. I had the honor of acting adjutant this evening for the second time. I came out pretty well but as usual, felt a little florid at first. I gave the command, “Prepare to open order,” instead [of] “open ranks.” But the next evening I will do better. I wish I had the chance of acting for some time. It would aid me a great deal for I never learn anything until I have to do it myself and then I generally have to blunder around once in a while before I get [   ]. Brown is acting adjutant of this Regiment. He expects to leave the Citadel—that is, if he gets the position he thinks of getting. He applied to Jones for adjutancy in his regiment but Jones gave it to Ready. Brown expects to get a Lieutenancy in a Battalion that Col. Lamar is raising and he says if he gets that he will leave.

You have heard perhaps that Capt. Bennie White is superintendent of the Citadel. ¹ Tompson Capt. at the Citadel also, and Tomas at the Arsenal. Won’t we have a gay faculty? I will graduate for the diploma not for what I will learn from this out. I am sorry Major Stevens has left although he never did believe in me; but I think his opinion of me has been changed. I was in Charleston a few days ago and met Stevens. He talked freely and I did the same. I remained with Colonel Orr just one month. My condition is not as pleasant in every respect at this place as it was with Col. Orr but in some things I like it better. Dink, Ward, and myself have a splendid arrangement. We have two tents. One wall tent and one company tent. The great thing about it is the manner in which we have them fixed. We have the wall tent pitched and floored and then just behind we have he company tent pitched, and have cut the wall tent so we can have a communication from one into the other.

We are preparing for the reception of ladies, as they visit us frequently. As I have introduced the subject of ladies, I might as well give my experience in that line for the last month. It is soon told. I am no closer to a conclusion than I was one year ago, It does seem as if it is impossible for me to make up my mind and act with decision. I can easily account for the want of decision in this case from the fact that I am totally in the dark as to my future pursuits.

If I intended commencing business as soon as I graduate, I would perhaps try my hand in Greenville. She has all a sensible man can expect. But there is something on my part which keeps me from acting. I regret that I am so situated that I can not have some definite object upon which to center my affections—a main character in a great measure affected by the stand in which he takes in that matter. The better part of his nature is called upon to act. Nothing sordid and groveling is allowed to enter his mind. And as he is kept under this spell, as it were, during the tender part of his life, his manners and inclinations all lean to the path of virtue and politeness. I speak from conjecture. You can from experience, no doubt. From what you said I inferred that every letter you received from a certain lady revealed some hidden gem. The pleasure of writing to a young lady is a great advantage. There is a great deal to be learned by the careful study of a letter—especially when written under such circumstances.

George has the exquisite pleasure of corresponding with Miss Pet, I suppose. I hope we will all get back safe to the Citadel. I want us all to assemble once more. Each can tell his story. I have not heard from [John R.] Mew since I left the Citadel. I do not even know his address.  Do not send your letters without paying. I know the difficulty of getting charge. Remember me to McD[owell]. South Carolina is making great preparation. It is reported that a vessel landed at Savannah with valuable goods. I hope some more will get in. We are greatly in need of such articles &c.

Write immediately to your friend, — S. D. Steedman

Address to Johnston P. O., care of James Jones

¹ James Benjamin White was in the second graduating class of the Citadel. He became a math professor there. When the war began, he became a Major and was the leader of the cadets during the war, leading them into battle. “Old Benny” was much beloved by the cadets and treated them like his own sons. After the war he worked to have the Citadel released from the Union and returned to the state.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s