Early Evansville Portraits And Biographies
From History of Vanderburgh County, Indiana
by Brant & Fuller
1889

Hamilton Allen Mattison

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MAJOR HAMILTON ALLEN MATTISON, Attorney and Counselor at Law, was born in South Berlin, New York, September 23, 1832, and is the son of Allen J. and Lucy Mattison. His grandfather, Allen Mattison. was a Rhode Island Quaker, who joined the Revolutionary Army in 1775, under Gen, Nathaniel Greene, and fought at the battle of Bunker Hill. Some time after the close of the revolutionary war, he removed with his family to South Berlin, Rensselaer County, N.Y., where he resided until his death at the age of eighty-four years.

Hamilton A. Mattison was reared on a farm, and his early instruction was received in a common country school where he attended about three months in a year. His ambition as a boy was to obtain a good education, and at the age of nineteen years, he entered the New York Conference Seminary, at Charlotteville, N.Y., where he pursued his studies, at the same time earning by his own labor, as assistant teacher, the means necessary to support himself and pay for his tuition. Later he entered Union College, from which institution, under the presidency of the distinguished educator, Dr. Eliphalet Nott, he graduated in 1860. From the fall of that year until the summer of 1862, he was principal of the Bacon Seminary, at Woodstown, N.J.

In July, 1862, during the progress of the Civil War, convinced that it was his duty to respond to President Lincoln's call for troops, he enlisted and raised a company of recruits which became part of the Twelfth New Jersey regiment. Before leaving the state he was commissioned Second Lieutenant and received successive promotions as First Lieutenant, Captain and Major.

He was on the staffs of Gens. Alexander Hayes and Nelson A. Miles, and was actively engaged in about twenty-five battles, received three wounds at Chancellorsville - from one of which he never entirely recovered - was wounded twice afterward and had his horse shot under him at the battle of the Wilderness, at which time he was made a prisoner of war. On that battlefield he was introduced to Gen. Lee and held a conversation with him.

Here began a chapter of hardships in the life of Maj. Mattison such as can be appreciated only by men who have undergone similar sufferings in southern prison pens. He was first taken to Lynchburg, Va., thence to Macon, Ga., and there confined "on short rations" from the latter part of May until about the first of July, when he was taken to Savannah, Ga. He was one of fifty federal officers taken from this place by the rebel authorities and placed under the fire of the federal guns while they were shelling the city of Charleston from Folly Island. After several weeks, with others, he was taken to Columbia, S.C., and put in a pen exposed to all kinds of weather, without shelter of any kind, and fed only on coarse corn-meal and sorghum.

Here through intense suffering he remained until November 28, when, in company with a fellow prisoner, Rev. John Scamahorn, well known in Evansville, he made his escape. Without money or food and with a scanty supply of clothing, the two took to the woods and started out to meet Sherman's army which they believed to be on its way to Augusta, Ga. They traveled across the state of South Carolina, walking by night and concealing themselves in the woods and swamps during the day. Reaching the Savannah river, they took possession of a small boat and ran the gauntlet of rebel guards and steamers until they reached the lines of Sherman's army at Savannah, which place had been captured subsequent to their escape. They had traveled nearly 1,500 miles through a rebel country and were nearly prostrated with fatigue. General Sherman ordered Maj. Mattison to report to the army of the Potomac as soon as he was able to return to duty.

After visiting his home in New York, he rejoined the army of the Potomac about March 1st, 1865, and took part in all the battles in which that army was engaged until the surrender of Lee, some six weeks later. He was mustered out of service at the close of the war, and soon after entered the Albany Law School from which he graduated in 1866, receiving the degree of LL. B. The same year he married the daughter of Hon. Marinus Fairchild, of Salem, N.Y.

He began the practice of law at Salem, in partnership with his father-in-law. In February, 1868, he removed to Evansville and in the following fall took an active part in the political campaign, advocating the election of Gen. Grant for president. In 1870, he was appointed County Attorney, but resigned the office in the following year for the purpose of accepting the appointment by the Governor to the Office of Prosecuting Attorney of the Vanderburgh County Criminal Court, to fill a vacancy. In the fall of 1872 he was elected by the people to the same office for a term of two years.

In 1876 he was appointed, by United States Chief Justice Waite, Register in Bankruptcy, and discharged the duties of the office until its abolishment by law. In 1887 he was appointed City Attorney for Evansville, and was reappointed to the same office in 1888.

Ever since his coming to Evansville Maj. Mattison has taken an active part in city, county, and state politics. He served four years as chairman of the republican executive committee of the county and city, and to his able and skillful management the successes of the party were largely due. He attended the national republican convention of 1876 as an alternate delegate at large from the state. As a forcible stump speaker he has a high reputation throughout the district. In 1888 his name was presented by his friends to the republican district convention for the congressional nomination, without his knowledge or consent (not being present at the time), and was defeated by the Hon. F. B. Posey by but one vote.

He became a member of the Masonic fraternity at Troy. N.Y., in 1862, and joined Reed Lodge, No. 316, of this city, by demit in 1868; became a member of LaValette cornmandery of Knights Templar in 1872, and has held many important offices; and is now past master of Reed lodge, past high priest and past eminent commander.

He joined Trinity Methodist Episcopal church soon after moving to Evansville, and ever since has been an active member of both church and Sunday school.

His first wife having died in 1873, he was again married February 7, 1878, to Miss Henrietta M. Bennett, of Evansville, formerly of Brooklyn, N.Y. He has one daughter, the issue of his first marriage.

Maj. Mattison is numbered among the leading lawyers in Evansville, and has been eminently successful in the practice. As a public officer he has been faithful to every trust and has performed every duty in a praiseworthy manner. He is a genial, kind-hearted, and courteous gentleman, and is esteemed as a man of honor and strict integrity in all business matters.