Frederick Steele was born in Delhi, New York on January 14, 1819 and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1843. He served with distinction in the Mexican War where he was meritoriously mentioned for distinguished bravery, and he was promoted to first lieutenant in June 1848. He served in various western territorial assignments in the years before the Civil War. When the war began, he was appointed major in the 11th U. S. Infantry and fought at the battle at Wilson’s Creek. Promoted to colonel, he later commanded the 8th Iowa Infantry of volunteers. Steele was promoted to major general in November, 1862 and commanded a division under William T. Sherman during the Vicksburg Campaign. After Vicksburg, Steele served in Arkansas and led the Union forces that captured the Confederate capital at Little Rock. In 1864, he commanded the Camden Expedition in southern Arkansas, a failed attempt to join forces with General Nathaniel Banks’ Red River Expedition in Louisiana. Later that year, Steele was asked by the Lincoln administration to organize Arkansas unionists and recreate a loyal state government to send representatives to Washington. A conservative Democrat who opposed emancipation, Steele showed little enthusiasm or leadership for the task. In 1865, Steele led troops in Alabama involved in the capture of the city of Mobile. After the war, he served in the northwest until his death on January 12, 1868. Steele, who never married or had children, is buried in Colma, California.
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