Orders, Decorations and Medals (25 September 2008)

Date of Auction: 25th September 2008

Sold for £3,300

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,600

Military General Service 1793-1814, 3 clasps, Vittoria, St. Sebastian, Nivelle (E. Matson, Lieut. R. Engrs.) suspension re-fixed and several edge bruises, otherwise very fine £1400-1600


Ex Graveson Collection 1989 and Dean Collection 1992.

Edward Matson was born on 26 July 1791, and was commissioned in the Corps of Royal Engineers as Second Lieutenant on 7 May 1810, shortly before his 19th birthday. In late 1812 Matson joined the forces in the Peninsula at Malha da Sorda, with a party of sappers, many of whom were practised in the construction of military field-works. In the following spring, at night while the bridge at Toro was burning, the 8th Company 2nd Battalion repaired the broken arch with ladders and planks, under the direction of Matson, and the company was later present at the battle of Vittoria on 21 June.

Later in 1813, during the siege of St Sebastian from 11 July to 8 September, several of the embrasures of the breaching batteries were cut in broad daylight under fire by a party of sappers under Matson. Construction of a mine in the drainage tunnel leading to the counterscarp is described in Burgoyne's Journal:

“July 22nd... Lieutenant Reid, assisted by Lieutenant Matson, is directed to take charge of the arrangement of this mine. July 24th... The mine was all loaded ready, but not tamped, in consequence of the difficulty caused by the great length of so confined a gallery, and from want of air, which began now to be experienced. The powder was put in barrels; the gallery would only contain two on their sides, and then one on its end, and so on alternately: the length occupied therefore by the thirty barrels was very great.”

In 1814, Matson joined a body of Peninsula veterans sent to Negril Bay in Jamaica, to join the British forces there in the war with the United States. The troops already there included the 2nd Co./4th Bn. of the R.S. & M., who had seen earlier service in the attacks on Bladensburg, Washington and Baltimore. A combined force landed in Louisiana at the head of Lake Borgne, for an attack on the naval base at New Orleans on December 24th 1814:

“With this force were two companies of sappers - the Second of the Fourth Battalion, under Captain Blanshard RE, and the Seventh of the First Battalion, under Captain Emmett RE. The other Engineers were Second-Captain H. O. Jones, Lieutenants Tapp, Reid, Wright, Matson, Elton, Robe, West and Wortham.”

After lengthy periods of heavy fighting and bombardment, the assault on New Orleans was a failure. The British forces withdrew and by 19 January 1815 they had reached the evacuation point. After being delayed by a period of heavy storms, the evacuation fleet sailed for Dauphin Island, off Alabama, on 6 February. For the security of the fleet it was decided to capture Fort Bowyer, at the point of the long bay leading to Mobile. The surrender of Fort Bowyer took place on the 12th, the British flag was hoisted over the fort, and the garrison marched out with the honours of war, laid down their arms and the US 2nd Infantry's colours. The fort was evacuated the same day, and on the 13th, news arrived that the war was at an end, peace having been signed at Ghent on December 24th of the preceding year. The two sapper companies involved in the attack on Fort Bowyer were then put on board the
Hyperion transport in March 1815, which returned to the UK to Woolwich in the following June.

Lieutenant Matson then served in the Netherlands in 1815, and was with the Army of Occupation in France until November 1818, when he returned to the UK. He received War Prize money for the Peninsula, Waterloo and the Capture of Paris. He became Brigade-Major of the Corps in November 1831 and later became Deputy Adjutant-General. He retired with the rank of Major-General on 10 September 1856, after 46 years service in the Royal Engineers and died in London on 3 September 1873, aged 82. Sold with full research.