Joseph Steele enlisted in 1861 at the age of 20. He was described as being 5’7″ tall, with black hair, hazel eyes, and a light complexion. He was single, a farmer, and enlisted at Lane Depot in Ogle County, Illinois. He received a promotion to corporal.
On January 25, 1865, Joseph was given 25 days leave, to accompany the body of his brother, William, home to Illinois. Joseph boarded a steamer at Eastport, Mississippi. On the Tennessee River, somewhere near Johnson’s Landing, the steamer blew up. Joseph survived, although his eyes – already troublesome from exposure at Vicksburg – were further injured and “continued to afflict him during his continuance in the service.” William’s body was lost in the explosion.
After the war, Joseph farmed and lived in Ogle County, Illinois until June of 1876. He moved to Strawberry Township, Washington County, Kansas, where he spent the remainder of his life. Ironically, after serving four years in the artillery, escaping the sinking of the Horizon at Vicksburg in ’63, and surviving the explosion of another steamer in ’65 – Joseph Steele died as a result of a Fourth of July fireworks accident. He lingered a few weeks, but succumbed to his injuries on July 24, 1882.
SOURCES: Barnickel, We Enlisted as Patriots (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1998). Joseph Steele pension file, National Archives.
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