Joseph Edward Stevens was born on July 4, 1836, in Campbell, Steuben County, New York, the son of Ralph (1811-1901) and Jane (Miller, b. 1812).
Joseph’s parents were married in 1834, possibly in New York. In any case by 1836 they were living in Steuben County, New York. Joseph eventually left New York and moved west, settlingin Michigan by the time he Michigan native Jane Eliza Bartlett (1840-1903), on March 24, 1858; they had at least five children: Edward Corwin (b. 1859), Brainard Wyman (b. 1863), Rufus W. (b. 1865), John Bartlett (b. 1874) and Estelle Phylora (b. 1877). By 1859 they wre living in Plymouth, Wayne County, and by 1860 Joseph was living with his wife and son in Canton, Wayne County, Michigan. He may have been living in Lansing by the time the war broke out when he became a member of the Lansing company called the “Williams’ Rifles,” whose members would serve as the nucleus of Company G.
In any case, he was 23 years old and probably living in Lansing when he enlisted as Fourth Corporal (or promoted as such on May 31, 1862) in Company G on May 10, 1861.
Joseph was nearly shot accidentally in early August. Frank Siverd of Company G wrote on August 7 that “An accident occurred this p.m. which came near proving fatal to Gaskill, of our company. A musket charged with ball and buckshot was carelessly fired by a member of Co. B. The charge riddled two tents. The ball struck Gaskill on the back part of the head and made a flesh wound several inches long. One of the shot took effect in the elbow of Corey, formerly of our company, but now of B. Corporal Stevens and a number of others were sitting in the same group with G. and C. and their escape is miraculous.”
By the first week of September Stevens, who had been sick with the fever, was convalescing in Columbian College hospital in Washington, DC. He eventually recovered, returned to duty and by the end of June 1862 Stevens had been promoted to Sergeant. According to Homer Thayer of Company G, by early August “Sergt. Stevens from company G, will soon be in Lansing and give any who want it an opportunity to enlist in the 3d. He was selected for this duty as a recognition of his uniform good conduct and bravery, and we would all be pleased to hear of his appointment to a position of higher rank in one of the new Regiments.” Indeed, he was on detached service recruiting in Michigan from September 15, 1862 through April of 1863 (he was reported as a Sergeant on February 27, 1863).
Joseph eventually returned to the Regiment and was wounded in his side on July 2 or 3, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. According to Edgar Clark, also of Company G, “A shell tore off his knapsack which wounded him so bad that he left the field.” By late July Joseph was reported in a hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and he remained hospitalized until he was mustered out on June 20, 1864, at Detroit.
After his discharge Joseph returned to Michigan and by 1865 he was probably living in Plymouth, Wayne County. He eventually moved his family to the western side of the state and by 1865 they were living in Greenwood, Oceana County. By 1870 he was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Greenwood; nearby lived Rufus Skeels, another former member of the Old Third Michigan, and possibly the namesake of Joseph’s son Rufus. (Joseph’s father was living in Joseph was still living in Greenwood in 1880. He was living in Holton, Muskegon County by 1882 when he became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, and in 1883 he joined Grand Army of the Republic Holton post no. 149 in Holton. By 1886 he was possibly living in Holland, Ottawa County, but by 1889 was residing in Ashland, Wisconsin. He was probably living in Ashland County in 1890 and was probably working as a talleyman for L. Shores co. in Ashland and boarding at 1001 W. Second st. in 1891-92; in 1893 he was working as a trimmer for Shores co and living at 1422 9th Avenue west in Ashland.
In 1873 Joseph applied for and received a pension (no. 139,542), dated January of 1878, drawing $6.00 per month in 1883 for atrophy of the right thigh.
By 1920 Joseph was living in Washburn, Bayfield County, Wisconsin.
Joseph died on November 22, 1922, in Ashland or Washburn, Bayfield County, Wisconsin, and was buried in Mount Hope cemetery in Ashland.