Edmund Orville Matthews is one of five brothers who are prominent in scientific and commercial circles, and who merit the esteem of their fellow-men.
They were born in the city of Baltimore, Md. Inspired with enterprise, the family removed in the spring of 1842 - when the subject of this paper was five years old - to St. Francisville, Clark County, Mo., upon the then borders of civilization. Three years later they removed to a farm near to Hannibal, Mo.
From this Western home Edmund Orville Matthews - then less than fifteen years of age - on October 2, 1851, entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., from which, after due course, he was graduated with honor.
As his official service has been varied, it may best be told in abbreviated form, as appears in the "Records of Living Officers," 3d edition, compiled and published by the Government:
-Naval Academy 1851-5, as Acting Midshipman.
-Frigate "Potomac," Home Squadron, Nov. '55, to May, '56.
-Sloop of war "Saratoga," Home Squadron, May, '56, to Jan., '58 as Midshipman.
-Promoted to Passed Midshipman Apl., '58, and ordered to sloop "Macedonian," of the Mediterranean Squadron, May, '58, to July, '60.
-Promoted to Master Nov. 4, '58, and commissioned a Lieutenant June 27, 60.
-At naval Academy, as Instructor in Mathematics, Oct., '60, to April, '61.
-Went with the Naval Academy to Newport, R.I., in the "Constitution."
-With steam frigate "Wabash" May, '61, to Nov., '61; capture of forts at Hatteras Inlet, Aug., '61; prostrated by sickness and sent to Brooklyn Hospital.
-Instructor in Seamanship Nov., '61, to Oct., '62.
-Promoted to Lieutenant Commander July 16, '62.
-Head of the Department of Gunnery and Ordnance Oct., '62, to June, '64.
-With South Atlantic Squadron, commanding the "Sonoma" (double-ener), then constructing naval battery on Morris Island, S.C., June, '64, to July, '65.
-Commanded Naval Light Artillery at Honey Hill, S.C., Nov. 30, and in the battles at Tullifeiny Cross Roads, Dec., '64.
-On staff of Admiral Dahlgren from Jan. to July, '65.
-Fitted out apprentice ship "Savannah" Aug., '65.
-Naval Academy Nov., '65, as Asst. Department of Gunnery, etc.
-Head of Department of Gunnery, etc., Oct., '66, to June, '69.
-Head of Torpedo Corps June, '69, to July, '73.
-Promoted to Commander April 22, '70.
Commanding U.S. Steamer "Ashuelot," Asiatic Squadron, Mch., '74, to Apl., '77.
-Inspector of Ordnance at Navy Yard, New York, Apl. 1, '78, to Apl. 15, '81.
-Commanding U.S.S. "Powhattan," on special service, Atlantic Coast, Aug., '81, to Feb., '83.
-Promoted to Captain Sept. 14, '81.
-In command of Training Ship "New Hampshire," at Newport, R.I., Mch., '83, to July, '84.
-Member of Gun Foundry Board, appointed by President Arthur, under act of Congress: board composed of three army and three naval officers, Apl., '83, to Feb., '85. In course of this duty visited gun establishments in Europe.
-Commanding U.S.S. "Brooklyn," first in Home Station, sailing Aug. 12, '86, for Asiatic Station, through the Suez Canal, visiting Persia, India, etc., Oct., '85, to Sept., '87.
-Captain of the Navy Yard at Boston, Mass., Nov., '87, to May, '90.
-Commanding Receiving Ship "Wabash," at Boston, May, '90, to July 31, '91.
-Member of Board of Inspection and Survey from July, '91, to Mch., '94.
-Chief of Yards and Docks, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., from Mch. 16, '94, as Commodore, and since June, '97, ,as Rear Admiral, which is his present official position.
The important commands and positions filled, under selection and orders of the Navy Department of the Government, are evidences of recognized ability. It may have been Commodore Matthews' misfortune to have been so young during the War of the Rebellion, as the opportunities for earning promotion and fame furnished by such conflict, occurs but once during generations of men.
-Levering Family: History and Genealogy
That's a great deal of information about the military career of Orville Matthews and, among all of that, there's a lot to talk about.
First, I should add that Matthews retired from the Navy in 1898 about six months or so after he was promoted to Rear Admiral. It's my understanding that, in 1897, he was offered the command of the Asiatic Squadron or was in line to receive the promotion but, due to his impending retirement, he turned it down. That doesn't seem like a big deal except for the fact that the man who took that command, George Dewey, became a national hero for his role in the Spanish-American War. History doesn't really work like this but if it had been Matthews who seized the Philippines, he might have been the naval hero of the war instead of Dewey.
Second, and more importantly, it does not appear, based on this record that Matthews was ever stationed in St. Louis. It had been my operating assumption that he had been based here right before the war. Considering that he was in the navy, I couldn't think of any other reason for him to be here. I knew that St. Louis had some kind of navy presence during the war and a naval shipyard was operating in the city during that period but I had been unable to find any information about an antebellum naval station in St. Louis. And now I know why. There was likely no naval presence in St. Louis prior to the war and Matthews was likely on leave and visiting his family in the city during the summer of 1860.
Finally, I can now confirm that Orville Matthews and Alex Crosman were at the Naval Academy together and that they were both members of the Class of 1855. This is important because it explains how Crosman ended up playing with the Cyclone Club. Matthews' brothers were members of the club and must have invited their visiting younger brother to join the club for the summer. Crosman's father, George H. Crosman, was an officer in the United States army and was stationed in St. Louis at the time and while official records suggest he should have been in Utah, an 1860 city directory shows that Captain Crosman was still in St. Louis. So young Alex was likely visiting his family at the same time young Orville was visiting his and Matthews must have invited his friend and former classmate to join the Cyclones. Like with Matthews, I had assumed that Crosman had been stationed in St. Louis and that was how the two knew each other. But it appears that the two were visiting the city independently of each other and this coincidence is the reason the two ended up playing with the Cyclones in 1860.