Josiah Steele was only 15 years old when the Revolutionary War started. He and Noah Webster argued about whether they should go to college first, since the Revolutionary War was to last only a few years, then they could go in the military after they graduated. Josiah Steele disagreed with his cousin; he enlisted January 18, 1777, when he was 17 years old.
Steele served for three years with the 6th Company, 3rd Battalion under Captain William Judd and Colonel Samuel Wyllis, then the first Battalion under Captain John Barnard. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant in July 1980 under Simon Spaulding and Colonel John Dunkee of the 4th Company of the 1st Connecticut. He finished his length of war service with the 6th Company of the 1st Connecticut under Colonel Zebulan Butler. Steele was discharged and received a “Badge of Merit” for his loyal service. Before that he took what was called a furlough discharge, perhaps to attend Yale and two years later he re-enlisted as a sergeant in Captain Spaulding’s Company of the first Connecticut Regiment. This company was called the “Wyoming” Company. An excerpt of a poem published by the Caldwell Presbyterian Church (which Steele would later attend) reads: “And with War’s end, a score of patriots came: Josiah Steele and Lane among these braves, to whom for seven long years of war endured, is due an honored mention on this page.”
Steele was one of several sergeants who petitioned the Connecticut Governor to allow them to not pay taxes on their return home to Connecticut. He went to New Jersey at the end of the war, and in 1785 he started a school in Centerville (now Roseland).
Josiah Steele Jr. married Phoebe Smith on August 14, 1790, in Caldwell, New Jersey. They had 10 children. He was the father of Josiah Steele III, Amanda (Steele) Whitehead, Elizabeth (Steele) Williams, Marshfield Smith Steele, Phoebe Bradford (Steele) Harrison, Matilda (Steele) Moore, George Colton Steele, Aaron William Stele, Lot Chester Steele and John Amzi Steele.
Josiah Steele Jr. passed away on October 22, 1836, in Caldwell, Essex, New Jersey United States. He is buried in the Caldwell Presbyterian Churchyard, Caldwell, Essex, New Jersey, with a grave inscription of “a native of West Hartford, Connecticut.” His wife, Phoebe, passed away on December 7, 1847 at the age of 75. She is buried with him.