James Fulton ("Foot") Stepter (1833-1864) was one of ten children born to William Henry (1808-1871) and Sarah Fulton (1808-1878). William was the son of Henrietta Steptoe (1776-1850), a mixed race woman, who resided in Washington, DC; his father is unknown. Sarah was born in Maryland and most of their children were born in Cecil County, MD. In addition to James, William and Sarah's children included William Jr. (1829-1872), Henrietta (1831-1883) who married William Manuel (1830-1895), George Washington ("Wash") (1835-1874) who married Emma Mingen, Ann Rebecca ("Beck") (1838-1924), John Christopher (1841-1863), and Andrew Thompson (1850-1913). Four others died before 1860. Most of the family members are buried in Delaware where the Manuel and Steptoe families resided following the war.
James F. Stepter served as a private in the Union Army during the Civil War. On August 14, 1862, he enlisted in Company B of the 6th Maryland Regiment Infantry, a company from Cecil County. Stepter was wounded and captured on May 5, 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia. He was held a prisoner of war at Andersonville, Georgia, and died either there or more likely in prison at Charleston, South Carolina, allegedly on October 4, 1864.
James married Amanda Kershaw and they lived in Elkton, Maryland, in Cecil County, prior to the Civil War. According to the 1860 federal census, James F. Stepter was a twenty-seven-year-old weaver. His wife, Amanda Kershaw, was twenty-six years old at the time of the census, and the couple had a three-year-old son named William (Will) and a one-year-old daughter named Sarah E. (Ema). A third child named Lewis (Leau) was born before Stepter's enlistment. At some point after James Stepter entered the Union Army, his wife and family moved to Chester, Pennsylvania. Amanda Stepter was born in Pennsylvania and Chester may have been her hometown. Although Amanda Stepter traveled to Elkton on at least one occasion, it appears that the family remained in Chester for the period covered by these letters. Following James' death, Amanda Stepter married William Simpers in about 1867 and had three more children; she died after 1880.
James' sister, Henrietta Steptoe Manuel, and her husband, William resided near Newark, Delaware. William was a spinner in a woolen mill. At the time of the correspondence, they had three children; a daughter died in 1862.
George Washington ("Wash") Steptoe served in the 10th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. In late 1862 and early 1863, his company was assigned guard duty in Washington, DC. In the spring of 1863, the company moved near Suffolk, VA to fight the Confederates. By the summer of 1863, they were in Philadelphia, PA. George was at his brother John's bedside when he died there in July.
Ann Rebecca ("Beck") Steptoe was a mill worker who may have lived at home with her parents during this period.
John Christopher Steptoe served in the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry. He was wounded July 3, 1863 in the Battle of Gettysburg. He was taken to the Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon & Hospital in Philadelphia where Beck wrote that his wound was not serious but he had typhoid fever. John died there on July 28 surrounded by his parents, his brothers Andrew and George, George's wife Emma, and Beck.
STEPTER OR STEPTOE?
The confusion surrounding the spelling of the last name of this family comes from the family members themselves. James signs 16 of his known letters to his wife as Stepter and five as Steptoe between 1862 and 1864. Letters to Henrietta Steptoe Manuel and Rebecca Steptoe from their siblings are signed Steptoe. The collection was originally named for James F. Stepter and these letters retain the Stepter spelling assigned in 1996. The letters written by the Steptoe siblings acquired in 2011 are titled according to the spelling that they consistently used.