The Presbyterian Cemetery

The Extraordinary Life of James M. Steuart: from Soldier to Postmaster, a Legacy of Service


In the annals of American history, there are families whose stories resonate with dedication, valor, and service. One such family is the Steuart family, a prominent clan of 11 children whose legacy is defined by their contributions to various spheres of life. At the forefront of this family’s remarkable narrative is James M. Steuart, a man whose journey through war, business, and community service left an indelible mark on the tapestry of the United States.

A Journey of Bravery and Dedication

Born in 1826, James M. Steuart’s life was destined for greatness. His journey began during the Mexican War, where he demonstrated his bravery and commitment to his country as a soldier. His selfless actions during this conflict set the tone for the rest of his life, characterized by service and unwavering dedication.

Venturing to California: Conquest in the Business World

After the Mexican War, James embarked on a new adventure in the vibrant state of California. There, he found success in the business world, showcasing his prowess not only as a soldier but also as a savvy entrepreneur. His ability to adapt and thrive in various domains solidified his reputation as a versatile individual with an unyielding spirit.

The Civil War: Leadership in Turbulent Times

The outbreak of the American Civil War beckoned James M. Steuart back to his homeland. He answered the call by assuming the role of Captain of Company E, 17th Virginia – a regiment comprised of volunteers from various counties. James’ leadership skills and military experience proved crucial during this tumultuous period, underscoring his dedication to his comrades and his country.

A Servant to the Community

James M. Steuart’s commitment to service extended beyond the battlefield. His role as Captain in the Relief Hook and Ladder Company exemplified his dedication to his local community. His presence not only helped safeguard the neighborhood but also served as an inspiration for others to give back to their communities.

Post-Civil War Contributions

Even after the Civil War’s end, James M. Steuart’s service did not wane. He held the prestigious position of Official Postmaster for the United States House of Representatives from 1876 to 1880. His role in this capacity exemplified his continued dedication to public service and his ability to transition seamlessly between roles for the greater good.

Eternal Rest and Shared History

The legacy of the Steuart family, including James M. Steuart himself, endures in their final resting place. In Alexandria’s Presbyterian Cemetery, in Section 42, plot 60, these individuals, including James’ grandparents Thomas and Eleanor Tretcher, find eternal peace together. This sacred ground stands as a testament to their interconnectedness and shared history, preserving the memory of their significant contributions to their community and nation.


The Steuart family’s story is one of sacrifice, valor, and a deep-rooted commitment to service. James M. Steuart’s journey, from soldier to entrepreneur, from community servant to postmaster, paints a vivid picture of a life dedicated to bettering the world around him. As we remember the legacy of the Steuart family, let us also draw inspiration from their example, knowing that the echoes of their contributions will resound through generations to come.

Died October 7, 1880
Loved and mourned

Sources of Information

Wallace, Jr., L. A. (1990). 17th Virginia Infantry. H. E. Howard, Inc., Lynchburg, Virginia.

Pippenger, W. E. (1992). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia: Volume 1. Family Line Publications, Westminster, MD, and Heritage Books, Inc., Bowie, MD.

Miller, T. M. (1997). Biography of Captain James M. Steuart. The Alexandria Chronicle, 5(3), Alexandria Historical Society, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia.

Dahmann, D. D. (2022). The roster of Historic Congregational Members of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. Unpublished.

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By David

Hello. With a passion for bringing history to life, I serve my community as a public historian and cemetery superintendent. My journey has led me to own businesses, conduct Civil War battlefield tours and research Alexandria’s cemeteries.

Since 2015, I have had the privilege of serving as Superintendent of the historic Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium, located within Alexandria's Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex. The Presbyterian Cemetery has close ties to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, situated one mile east, where my family has worshipped for two generations. My parents are laid to rest in this cemetery, which holds a special place in my heart.

Most weekends, you can find me leading tours of the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex, where thirteen cemeteries are located, with over 35,000 buried. Considered one of the most historic cluster of cemeteries in the United States, I weave my enthusiasm for teaching with the stories of those interred there. I also manage a blog focused on all the cemeteries in Alexandria where the many souls buried across the city are memorialized.

In addition, I'm an active Board Member of both the Alexandria Historical Society and Lee-Fendall House Museum. As part of the Northern Virginia Cemetery Consortium, I diligently preserve endangered burial sites throughout the region.

If Alexandria’s history captivates you, I invite you to join one of my cemetery tours, read my blog on memorializing souls buried across the city’s cemeteries, or connect with me on social media. I find joy and purpose in bringing Alexandria’s rich past to life and serving my community.

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