Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stedman, Charles

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STEDMAN, CHARLES (1753–1812), military historian, was of a family that claims descent from Andrew Barton [q. v.] According to the Stedman tradition, Andrew Barton left an only son, Charles, who married Susan Stedman of Leith and took his wife's name. His descendants acquired land in Kinross-shire, and supplied many ministers to the kirk. Alexander (1703–1794), the father of the military historian, became an advocate and a Jacobite, but was compelled to fly the country after Culloden, together with two of his brothers. He found refuge at Philadelphia, where he was ultimately appointed a judge of the supreme court. On the declaration of independence he withdrew to England and died at Swansea in 1794 (cf. Appleton, American Biogr.) He married Elizabeth Chancellor, the daughter of an immigrant to America from Somerset, who had been captured during the Spanish war and brought up in a convent.

Charles, their second son, was born at Philadelphia in 1753, and educated for the law at William and Mary College in Virginia. Like his father, he remained loyal to the British crown, and, on the outbreak of hostilities, he was appointed commissary to the troops under the command of Sir William Howe. His knowledge of the German language, presumably acquired from early intercourse with the numerous German settlers in Pennsylvania, stood him in good stead, both as interpreter with the Hessian auxiliaries, and afterwards as commander of a rifle corps of colonists from the Palatinate. He was twice taken prisoner, and sentenced to be hanged as a rebel; but on each occasion he managed to escape, once from the same prison that held the ill-fated Major André. He was also twice severely wounded. On the conclusion of peace in 1783 he retired to England on the half-pay of a colonel. He was one of those appointed to examine and settle the claims of the American loyalists. In 1794 appeared his ‘History of the Origin, Progress, and Termination of the American War’ (2 vols. London, 4to, with folding maps and plans; and in the same year 2 vols., Dublin, 8vo), which still remains the standard work on the subject. It is dedicated to Lord Rawdon, earl of Moira, his former commander-in-chief. Shortly after it appeared Sir Henry Clinton printed ‘Some Observations upon Mr. Stedman's History’ (4to, 1794), which impugn the author's accuracy on minor points; but these strictures appear to have been prompted mainly by personal feeling. Through the influence of the Marquis of Cornwallis, Lord Rawdon's predecessor in the command, Stedman was in 1797 appointed to the office of deputy controller and accountant-general of the revenue of stamps, with reversion to the chief controllership, which, however, never fell in. He died on 26 June 1812, and was buried at Paddington. He married Mary Bowen, by whom he had one son, John, who became judge of the court of admiralty at Gibraltar, and compiled a genealogical memoir of the family (1857).

[John Stedman's Memoir of the Family of Barton, continued through that of Stedman, privately printed, 1857; Gent. Mag. 1812, ii. 91.]

J. S. C.