A matross was a soldier of artillery. He was a member of an artillery (gun) crew. A matross ranked next below a gunner. The duty of a matross was to assist the gunners in loading, firing and sponging the guns. They were armed with muskets and bayonets. They marched with the store-wagons, acting as guards. In the American army a matross ranked as a private of artillery.
Matrosses were first used in the British Army in 1639. Before that they were called gunner's assistants. In the German language a matrose means a sailor. The work assigned to the matross was considered sailor's work on a ship. It was an effort to give the assistant a respectable title. But their pay rate remained the same. In 1873 all matrosses were promoted to the rank of gunner. The rank of matross was no longer used.
A soldier's manual for artillery used by Americans in the Revolutionary war gave a detailed instruction for a matross. In part it said:
|“||The first matross (1) stands on the right side of the chace of the piece, between the piece and the right wheel, and with his back touching the axletree. His left foot is advanced a pace in front and both legs are straight. His head is turned so much tothe left as to have a glimpse of the flash of the vent with the left eye when the piece if fired. His duty is to sponge and ram the piece.||”|
By the War of 1812 an ideal gun crew could be up to 15 men. Each man would have a specific task in the sequence of loading and firing the artillery piece. Often a non-commissioned officer would commanded the gun crew and aimed the gun. Like the other gun crew members, the matross had a specific place to stand as he performed his duties.
- "Artillery". AmericanRevolution.ORG. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
- Mathias L. Koppinger, Jr. "Soldier's Manual, Section X, Artillery" (PDF). Brigade of the American Revolution. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
- Spencer Tucker; James R. Arnold; Roberta Wiener; et al., The Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, Volume 1 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2012), p. 29