Jesse Mattson’s Effects: One great coat, one canteen, one rubber blanket, one pencil, one blouse, one pair of boots, one pair of stockings, one pair of trousers, one shirt, one haversack, one pocket book, $3.40 and one gold ring. This is all that Jesse Mattson had on the day of his death on July, 1st 1864, according to the records from De Camp General Hospital on Davids’ Island, New York.
He had joined the 13th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Calvary for a 2nd stint in the Union Army just a few months before on March 14th. He must have known what he was getting himself into when he joined. He had been in the 130th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers Company H for 9 months and was discharged May 21, 1863. The newspapers were full of both Federal and Confederate losses almost daily. Gettysburg had occurred just 9 months before and was fought in the Mattson’s home state of Pennsylvania, a mere 118 miles from their home in Valley Forge. Though it is impossible to know why he re-enlisted, most likely he made the choice due to his family’s poor circumstances. His widowed mother needed the regular income to take care of his niece and two nephews. He would receive a bounty of $60 immediately, an advance of $13 for a month’s pay and he was still due $400 for the remainder of the bounty.
According to the Regimental history, the Calvary spent April on reconnaissance, but by the beginning of May, they were in hot pursuit of Lee’s army north of Richmond, Virginia. This is the beginning of the Battle of Cold Harbor and it lasted from May 4 to June 3rd. General Grant was intent on beating General Lee in his own backyard. In skirmish after skirmish, the armies fought and repositioned themselves further south to get the best strategic locations. Both armies suffered significant casualties, but both were fighting for the win. Lee protecting the Confederate capital and Grant trying to bring the war closer to an end.
According to Jesse’s mother’s widow’s pension record, his commanding officer Captain A.H. Glassmire stated that “Jesse C. Mattson received a gun shot would in his right leg on the twenty-eight day of May AD 1864 while he, the said Jesse C. Mattson was engaged in the battle fought at House (Haw’s) Shop near the Pamunkey River in Virginia.” The National Park Service has the histories of the Civil War battles (a great resource) and I was able to find a very detailed description of Cold Harbor’s Calvary Battle at Haw’s Shop. The Pennsylvania Calvary were here fighting along side General’s Sheridan, Davies, Gregg, Merritt and Custer (yes that one). It appears that the Union won that day, but the battle wasn’t over for a few more days and it was hardly as decisive as Grant had wished.
We see in the Jesse’s Compiled Military Service Records that he died of “exhaustion following Hospital gangrene and hemorrhage from popliteal artery.” (The artery is above the knee that supplies blood to the knee and muscles in the thigh and calf) He was just 26 years old. He had never married or had children. He was surely mourned by his family and they buried him in the church yard of Valley Forge Baptist Church, just down the road from their family home. Jesse’s brother John (my 3rd great grandfather) named his son Jesse Wayne when he was born in 1870 in memory of both of his brothers Jesse and Anthony Wayne killed in the Civil War. Jesse’s sacrifice was remembered and honored.