Mattson Sanborn

by Arthur Stansfield

6 August 2014

Mattson Caleb Sanborn was born in South Berwick, Maine, in 1844.  He was the son of Doctor Charles Sanborn and his first wife Catherine. He was educated in South Berwick and graduated from Berwick Academy on July 24, 1860 as valedictorian of his class. He attended Brown University for one year.

His first name is also spelled in various records as Madison, Matison, and Matterson and his last name as Sanbourn and and Sanbourne.

Sanborn originally enlisted as a private in the 2nd New Hampshire Infantry on May 22, 1861. He served in the 2nd New Hampshire during the 1st Battle of Bull Run/Manassas, Virginia on July 21, 1861. He was discharged disabled (wounded, illness, or both) on August 1, 1861.

On December 18, 1861 he enlisted in the 1st Maine Light Artillery, 1st Battery (Company A). He was promoted to Quartermaster (Supply) Sergeant and served in the New Orleans, Louisiana area until November 16, 1862 when he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and transferred to the 20th Maine Infantry.

He did not report to the 20th Maine until April 1, 1863 due to illness. He was mustered out (discharged) from the 20th Maine on June 2, 1865.

During his Civil War Service he was a participant in, and witness to, three of the war’s most important actions; The 1st Battle of Bull Run/Manassas, the first major battle of the war and a Union loss; The Battle of Gettysburg, the greatest Union victory to that point in the war; the final battles and the formal surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse, the first Confederate Army to surrender. The Civil War from beginning to end, if not unique, was a very rare occurrence for one individual.

After the Civil War he enlisted as a sergeant in the 15th Infantry Regiment United States Army, Company A on September 30, 1865 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was sworn in by Captain Horace Jewett also from South Berwick and a Berwick Academy alumnus. He served as Quartermaster Sergeant until September 5, 1866 in Mobile, Alabama as part of the occupation forces.

He was then commissioned as second lieutenant and transferred to the 7th Infantry Regiment, United States Army, Company K in Fort Marrion Barracks, Saint Augustine, Florida to serve as the Regimental Quartermaster Officer. His regiment was transferred to Fort Clinch, Fernandia, Florida on December 6, 1867. He was made a brevet captain for exceptional service, meaning he was acting as a captain but paid as second lieutenant.

On June 1, 1869 the Regiment was transferred to Fort Fred Steele, Wyoming. During this time he served as Post Adjutant. He was sent on Detached Duty at various times to Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory and Fort Snelling Missouri.

In December 1870 the Regiment was again transferred, this time to Fort Shaw, Montana Territory. In November 1871 he was promoted to First Lieutenant. He took a seven day leave in December 1871 that was extended to a thirty day leave. He was declared absent without leave from January 23, 1872 until May 15, 1872. He apparently had a legitimate excuse for his absence as he was not court marshalled (considering his past history and subsequent events, he was probably ill). On June 14, 1872 he was given command of Company G at Camp Baker, Montana Territory, a position he held until November 1872 when the Company returned to Fort Shaw.

He died of apoplexy (stroke) while on detached duty in Helena, Montana Territory on January 12, 1873 at the age of 29. He was buried in the Fort Shaw, Montana Territory Cemetery, Section 12, Plot 2, and later re-interred in the Custer National Cemetery, Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument, Montana (Section A, Grave Number 743) on March 6, 1905. His name on the headstone in South Berwick was probably done as a tribute to him. This was a common occurrence, especially for sailors lost at sea.

He never returned to South Berwick after his illness in late 1862 and early 1863. In letters in the possession of the Old Berwick Historical Society he indicates that low officers' pay coupled with the expenses of being an officer did not let him save enough money to make the trip even though he was always planning to visit home.


U. S. Army Civil War Records and Profiles

U.S. Army Records of Enlistments, 1798 - 1914

U. S. Army Regimental Returns, 1821 - 1916