Mathew Marvin was born on September 21, 1838 in Connaston, New York. Later, his family moved to St Charles, Illinois. In 1859 at the age of 19, Matthew moved to Winona, Minnesota where he worked as a clerk for J. J. Randall & Co, a leather goods store. He was of fair complexion with brown hair and blue eyes.
He volunteered at the first call for troops and on April 29, 1861 was mustered into Company K of the First Minnesota Infantry as a private. He was promoted to the rank of corporal on Dec 7, 1861. Eventually he rose to the rank of First Sergeant. He was wounded in the foot at Bull Run, in the thigh at Harrison’s Landing, and in the foot at Gettysburg. A good son, in 1862 he was sending home to his mother $8 of his $13 a month pay.
After the war he wrote the following about Bull Run:
“At Bull Run, our first experience, the regiment was just as courageous. The first shell fired at us came so close that I dropped on one knee. When the bullet struck me I started to fall forward but swayed so I fell on my left arm, then rolled over on my back. Bullets were so thick on the ground that they almost touched. A handful were under my cartridge box.”
On August 9, 1862, he was wounded freakishly while in camp at Harrison’s Landing. An unknown soldier of the 5th New Hampshire Infantry, bivouacked in a nearby camp, discharged his gun. The ball traveled through Mathew’s tent and hit him in the left thigh near the groin. Mathew was sent first to the regimental hospital to convalesce and then, after the regiment moved on, to the Coney Island General Hospital. While he was gone, the 1st was engaged at the Battle of Antietam. Mathew returned to the regiment on November 8, 1862, three months after he had been accidentally shot.
Shortly thereafter, the regiment was involved at the Battle of Fredericksburg. In his diary, he noted the following on Dec 24, 1862:
“We lay under the fire of the rebs…the missles of death were whistling their song close to our ears…if ever I dug a hole in the ground with my nose it was that day…”
By July of 1863, Mathew had become the first sergeant (known as the orderly sergeant) of Company K. On the morning of July 2, the dawn of the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, he wrote in his diary, “This is to be the battle of the Civil War…”
On the back cover of his diary, which he had kept from the beginning of his service, he noted, “Should any person find this on the body of a soldier on the field of battle or by the roadside they will confer favor on the parents of its owner by sending the book and pocket piece & silver finger ring on the left hand. Taking their pay for trouble of the greenbacks herein enclosed.”
During the charge that day, he was shot in the foot. The ball entered the front , travelled its length and exited near the heel.
His diary reports, “…the two armies were not 500 yards apart. We had not fired a musket & the rebs were firing rappedly. I dropped to the ground with a wound some whar. I picked my self up as quickly as possible when I saw blood on my shoe the heel of which was tore out. I thought it was a slight one….I had just ketched up again when I fell a second time to Faint to get up. I drank some Water & put some on my head and rists then I tried to walk to the rear was to week for that so after resting again I tried the hands and knees.”
Crawling on his hands and knees, Marvin was able to return to where the regiment had started their charge. There, fellow Sergeant Charley North, his friend, who famously and fatally shot a cow when it failed to give the password when challenged one dark night, helped Matthew back towards the field hospital near the Union lines. While helping him, Charley was himself wounded so the ambulances took them both to the rear.
Later Marvin wrote, “I got to the rear of our batteries when I divested myself of Gun & Equipment & Knapsack….I have got about all the pain I can stand.”
As a result of this wound, his active military service was done. This last injury caused him considerable suffering for the remainder of his life.
About Gettysburg, he later reminisced, ““Yes, I remember distinctly the particulars of the battle of Gettysburg. Hancock came riding along and stopped about sixty feet from where I stood. He said, “What regiment is this?” “The First Minnesota.” “Who is in command?” “Colonel Colville.” “Charge,” and before Colville could give his command the men were making preparation. 262 against six or seven thousand.”
A comrade of Matthew’s in the First Minnesota was Sergeant David Dudley. Before moving to Minnesota, David had lived in New Hampshire. While there he developed a close relationship with Angie Towle. They wrote to each other regularly. In these letters Sergeant Dudley must have mentioned Mathew. On March 16, 1863, Angie wrote to Mathew asking about David as she hadn’t heard from him in months. Marvin wrote back and related the sad news of David’s death the previous October from wounds suffered at the Battle of Antietam. She wrote back thanking him. They continued to write to each other and eventually married August 29, 1867. They moved to Winona in 1871 where he started a harness business but, because of his poor health, sold out to his partner. In 1873 he was appointed caretaker of Woodlawn Cemetery in Winona. Matt, Angie and their family lived on the cemetery grounds in the house provided for the superintendent. He retired in 1899.
He died on July 25, 1903 at the age of 64. Angie died in 1924. They are buried next to each other in Woodlawn Cemetery.