21 November 2011

Richard Matson & the Battle of River Raisin

In a biographical sketch written about James Vardeman Matson, a distant cousin of mine, it's stated that his father was Richard Matson. He "fought under General Harrison in the war of 1812, was captain of a company of Kentucky riflemen, and was wounded and left on the battle-field for dead, but succeeded in escaping. He was afterward Captain of a company in the Seminole war, and was interested in the early settlement of Texas. He...joined the Austin colony in Washington county, Texas."

Even though Richard is not technically related to me (his son James is an "in-law"), I was nonetheless interested in learning more about him. You know -- learn about the father, learn about the son. I started searching on Ancestry.com, and was pleasantly surprised by what I was able to find. With no birth or death information for Richard, I excitedly read an obituary included in Austin Colony Pioneers by Worth Ray (Genealogical Publishing Co, 1970). I now know that my cousin James lost his father when he was a young boy of just fifteen years.
COL. RICHARD MATSON. On Sunday morning, August 25, 1839, about 20 miles from Washington, Texas, an encounter took place between Mr. Asa Mitchell and Col. Richard Matson, which resulted in the death of Col. Matson from wounds, as is supposed, inflicted by Mr. Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell was one of the first emigrants to this county. Himself, and the deceased, were regarded as good citizens. -- Texas Emigrant (Washington), 31 August 1839
On the same page in Mr. Worth's book, it is detailed that the Matson family "afterwards resided in the country between the present town of Burton and Gay Hill, or Independence, as they are buried in the old cemetery in that part of Washington county." That notation is followed up with a transcription: "R. T. Matson, born Sept. 21, 1826; died (killed in battle at Pine Bluff, Ark.) October 25, 1863." Hmmm... seems like James had a younger brother that was killed in the Civil War. His biographical sketch did state James was "the second of four children..."

Remember the Raisin

After those nice finds, I turned my attention to finding out Richard's role in the War of 1812. Since biographical sketches sometimes contain erroneous information, I would have been happy just to verify Richard's service. My first hit came from Kentucky in the War of 1812 by Anderson Quisenberry (Clearfield Publishing, 1996). This details the battle of the River Raisin at Frenchtown, Michigan Territory in 1813. A Captain Matson is mentioned. Could it be my Richard Matson? Not sure just yet, I kept plowing through more digitized books.

The same source mentioned just above also contained some listings of companies and soldiers. One was Johnson's Regiment, Kentucky Mounted Volunteer Infantry. Mustered in 20 May 1813, the 7th Company contained a Capt. Richard Matson. Another was the First Rifle Regiment, Kentucky Militia. Organized 15 August 1812, the 1st Company contained a Lieut. Richard Matson.

This information was again found in Minnie Wilder's Kentucky Soldiers in the War of 1812 (Clearfield Publishing Co, 1995). The Roll of Captain William Ellis' Company, First Rifle Regiment Kentucky Militia, Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Allen lists a Lieutenant Richard Matson (15 Aug 1812 - 14 Oct 1812). And the roll of Captain Richard Matson's Company, Kentucky Mounted Infantry, Commanded by Colonel Richard M. Johnson lists a Captain Richard Matson (20 May 1813 - 19 Nov 1813).

The above information seemed to corroborate what the biographical sketch said about Richard's War of 1812 service, but did he really captain a company during the Battle of the River Raisin? I was still a little unsure since the battle took place January 1813, and the above information does not give Richard the leadership position of Captain until May of that year. Further reading told of how Captain William Ellis died not long before the battle, and Richard Matson took over as Captain of his company in the First Rifle Regiment commanded by John Allen. Ah, it all now makes sense.

I then went back to my first hit and read about the battle again, since I was a bit more confident it really did contain information about my Richard Matson:
On the morning of January 17, 1813, General Winchester detailed Colonel William Lewis's regiment of 550 Kentucky militiamen, and Colonel John Allen, with 110 men from his regiment of Kentucky Riflemen, to march to the relief of Frenchtown. Lewis's instructions were "to attack the enemy, beat them, and take possession of Frenchtown, and hold it."

Frenchtown was so named because of the fact that its inhabitants...were of French nationality. They were very loyal to the American Government, under which they had been living for years. On account of the great abundance of grapes which grew along the banks of the stream upon which the town was situated, they called that stream "La Riviere aux Raisins." Two days after the surrender of Detroit by General Hull, Frenchtown was taken possession of by Colonel Elliott, of the British army, and had had more or less of a British garrison ever since...

Early in the morning of January 18 the Kentuckians crossed Maumee Bay at the Western extremity of Lake Erie, upon the solidly frozen ice, and advanced rapidly upon Frenchtown in three lines; the right composed of the companies of Captains McCracken, Bledsoe and Matson, commanded by Colonel Allen... Arriving at Frenchtown, these troops formed in line of battle on the south side of the river, which they crossed on the solidly frozen ice, in the face of a murderous fire of musketry, charged gallantly up the river bank, leaped the pickets, dislodged the enemy, and drove them back in disastrous defeat to the surrounding forests. The Kentuckians pursued the enemy into the forest, where the fighting was very hot from 3 o'clock until dark.

The result of this day's battle was a complete victory for the Kentuckians -- who, as General Harrison stated in his official report, "amply supported the double character of Kentuckians and Americans." Their loss in the engagement was twelve killed and fifty-five wounded, among the latter being Captains Bland W. Ballard, Paschal Hickman and Richard Matson.
I'm not going to continue on, but the battle of River Raisin did not end there. More fighting was to come. As to Richard Matson's continued role, I can only say he was released from the hospital and continued fighting. He made it through, married Diadamia Vardeman, and had my cousin James Vardeman Matson eleven years later.

Now! What about the Seminole War? Looks like I have more research to do.


Anonymous said...

Have you ever thought about writing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog based upon on the same subjects you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my viewers would enjoy your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e mail.

Anonymous said...

What do you think the odds are that Captain Richard Matson of the 1st Rifle Regiment of Kentucky Volunteers under Col. John Allen at the Battle of Frenchtown was the same Captain Richard Matson that would later serve under Col. Richard M. Johnson at the Battle of the Thames. Both enlistments are in "Kentucky Soldiers of the War of 1812" By Glenn Clift

Anonymous said...

All the same. Also same Richard Matson who moved to Missouri in 1816 and had a lot of adventures, Indians and other new people to region.

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