Roelof Steffins was born on June 28, 1837, in the Netherlands, the son of Hendrick (b. 1795) and Maatje (b. 1795).
Roelof’s family immigrated to America and evnetually settled in western Michigan where by 1860 Roelof was working as a lumberman and living with his parents in Blendon, Ottawa County.
Roelof, known also as "Ralph," stood 6’0” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was 23 years old and probably still living in Blendon when he enlisted in Company F on May 13, 1861. He was absent sick in the hospital in August of 1862, but eventually recovered and reenlisted on December 24, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Vergennes, Kent County. He was presumably absent on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864, and probably returned to the Regiment on or about the first of February.
Roelof was transferred as a Sergeant to Company F, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and was shot in the left side of his chest on June 21 near Petersburg, Virginia. Dan Crotty, formerly of Company F (in both Third and Fifth Michigan infantry), wrote some years after the war that he came across Steffins in a field hospital near Petersburg, “shot through the lungs,” he wrote, “and in a fearful way. The maggots crawl all over his body. No one has as yet seen to him, for there is not enough help, and a great many died for want of care. I go to work and wash his wound, and get some clean drawers and a short for him. He seems to think he is going to die, but I cheer him up as well as I can, in the mean time I have no hopes for his recovery -- but he got over it, and now is at home after the war and doing well.”
According to the Grand Rapids Eagle, in mid-October Roelof returned to his home in western Michigan, “on a furlough of 20 days to visit his family and friends in this vicinity. Young Steffins has been in numerous bloody battles with that gallant command, escaping serious injury until the 16th of last June, when, in a battle before Petersburg, he was seriously wounded by a musket ball, which passed directly through his body. Since the battle, and up to within a short time past, he has been in hospital. He is still afflicted by the wound, but is in a fair way to permanently recover his health.”
Roelof remained absent wounded through February of 1865, and entered Broad & Cherry Streets hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 1, 1865. He was mustered out as Corporal on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.
After the war Roelof returned to Michigan.
He married Dutch-born Jentje “Jane” (1838-1912), and they had at least five and possibly six children: Harvey (b. 1868) and Mary (b. 1869), Katie (b. 1875), Jenny (b. 1874) and Jacob (b. 1879), and possibly another son.
By 1870 he was working as a farmer and living with his wife and and two children in Blendon, Ottawa County; just two houses away lived another former member of the Third Michigan infantry, Wilbur Scott and his family. By 1880 Ralph was working as a farmer and still living in Blendon with his wife and children; he lived just several houses away from James Mowry who had also served in the Old Third during the war.
He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association.
He was still living in South Blendon, Ottawa County in 1883 when he was drawing $8.00 per month for a wounded left chest (pension no. 100,649, dated October of 1869), and he resided in South Blendon for some years.
Roelof died on February 4, 1904, at his home in Holland, Ottawa County. His Petersburg wound eventually caught up with him, and according to an obituary, Steffens “died suddenly of internal bleeding caused by a gunshot wound received in the battle of Petersburg. The mine ball passed through his right lung.” He was buried in Zeeland cemetery.
In March of 1904 (?) his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 658545).