Sunday, November 18, 2012

Patriots of '61 - Major Charles Manly Stedman - Last Confederate Officer in Congress



Patriots of ’61 – Major Charles Manly Stedman of Chatham County

Born at Pittsboro, Chatham County on 29 January 1841, his family moved to Fayetteville when he was twelve years old.  At age sixteen he entered the University of North Carolina, took first honors in his studies, and was to be salutatorian of his class though interrupted by the war.  He volunteered as a private in the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry; subsequently he rose to captain of Company E, (Chatham County), 44th North Carolina Regiment; then regimental field rank of major on 28 July 1862.

Major Stedman was one of twelve North Carolina soldiers who held the distinction of fighting in the first battle at Bethel Church and who ended the war with Lee at Appomattox. He was wounded three times and distinguished himself at Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and Ream’s Station in late August 1864 when four North Carolina brigades assaulted, and, virtually unaided, drove Warren’s Corps in a complete rout from behind their breastworks.

After the war he returned to Chatham County to teach, studied law under John Manning, and moved to Wilmington in 1867 to practice law.  There he married Miss Catherine Wright in 1866, daughter of Joshua Grainger Wright.  Major Stedman was elected as Lieutenant-Governor in 1884 and served 1885-1889; he ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1890 when he lost to Judge Fowls. Due to poor health, Stedman relocated to Asheville, North Carolina in 1891.

Major Stedman also served president of the North Carolina Bar Association, director of the North Carolina Railroad, and Trustee of the University of North Carolina.  He was among the original charter members of Wilmington’s distinguished Cape Fear Club, incorporated in 1872 and today the oldest men’s club in continuous operation. The last home of the Wilmington Light Infantry on Market Street was previously owned by Major Stedman until his departure from Wilmington.

In 1910 he was elected to Congress from the Fifth District where he served continuously until his death on 23 September, 1930.  At the time of his death at 89 years, Major Stedman was the last Confederate officer serving in the United States Congress.  His body was laid to rest with full military honors in Cross Creek Cemetery in Fayetteville.

Mr. A. Wayland Cooke said of Major Stedman in 1914, nominating him for a third term:

“If I were to name his greatest traits of character I should say that they were his constant and unswerving adherence to duty, his absolute fearlessness and fortitude, his eminent truthfulness and his fidelity to his friends….he is one of the highest type of men the State of North Carolina has ever produced. I commend to you as a soldier of the South who was first at Bethel, four years in the service without a furlough, and who laid down his arms with Lee at Appomattox, and the officer of the Southern army now in Congress.”

(North Carolina, Rebuilding an Ancient Commonwealth, Vol. III, American Historical Society, 1928, pp. 550-551;  Confederate Veteran, November 1930, page 414)

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