This letter from Baird is likely missing a page; the missive ends abruptly and Baird is typically scrupulous about the proper sign off. A search for the additional page was fruitless, but the letter is still interesting, especially Baird’s description of his illness and his overall appearance.

Henry Ward, mentioned in the letter below, enlisted 1862 in Barry County at the age of 19. He was promoted to Corporal in 1864 and Sergeant in 1865 prior to mustering out at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He died May 7, 1923 and is buried in Greenwood cemetery, Petoskey, Michigan. His obituary can be found here.

 

Stevensburg, Va.
Tuesday, Jan. 26th ‘64

My dear Maggie,

I had the pleasure yesterday of reading your kind letter of the 10th & 16th. They do not find me altogether well, however; for I have one of the worst Colds I ever had and I can find time for nothing else hardly but to Sneeze & blow my nose. Added to this I have an exceedingly sore mouth, so that I can Scarecely eat as talk and it is always worse just at night. I have just been reading the news to the boys and my mouth feels like a blister. I do not know the cause of it. Seems all of the boys have been troubled with it. It affords me much pleasure to know that your health remains so good amid so much labor, but The “pinin away” to such an extent, is really astonishing. I [illegible] Mary doesn’t very often reach that figure.

That little incident you mentioned, is quite fresh in my memory. That “push” was “Slight” indeed; but I would’nt mind taking another walk to Peirland [sp], I believe I told you in a former letter that Mary had sent me her photograph. She expressed a great desire to See “Maggie” and indeed, I would not mind seeing her myself. Do you Suppose Maggie would invite me to a Sleigh ride if I were at home now? (It is leap year you know.)

I receive Mr. Ward’s compliments with much pleasure, & you may assure him of my respects, and tell him I will try & write a few lines with Henry when I see him again. I saw him yesterday, but it was before I got your letters. He is quite well! Well Maggie, I am going to have Some photographs taken pretty Soon & then I will send you one, though I have not changed much in the past year. At least in general appearance, I think, now that I am fleshier than when at home and my face is much fuller. I believe there is a likeness due from you to me; didn’t you promise me one? I can assure you it would be a pleasure to have one. But I will change the Subject; You know a great that a great many of the old troops are reenlisting, and it has been rumored that our regiment will be requested to reenlist. Do you think it would be advisable for me to do so? Now I do not know that the regiment will have the change but you can tell me your mind. No, Maggie, my wages were not increased on account of my being here. I am only detailed; and detailed men are never paid more than they receive at their companies. My position here is just the Same it was at my company.

I frankly suggest confess that I do not like my new companions as well I did my old. It may be the fault is in me.

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

Here is the first letter Matthew wrote to his girlfriend Maggie after the first of the year in 1864. He primarily discusses matters from home and wintertime activities. He also mentions a matter of family strife, although it is unclear if “Lizzie” is actually a family member or a close friend. Please feel free to share any thoughts you may have.

Stephensburg, Va.
Saturday, Jan. 9th, ’64.

My dear Maggie,

I was just now favored with a letter from you of the 27th Dec. 1863, and will now devote a few moments in writing a reply. I thank you very much for the happy New Year, though it did not dawn so happily for me. I have for a week past been quite unwell, but am now getting better.

I am glad to hear that your health continues so good. What is more pleasant or agreeable to one than to enjoy good health. It is truly one of heaven’s best gifts. I hope your health may continue good while you remain in your present Situation.

I too, am Sorry there is Such a difference existing between Lizzie & My father. Perhaps they are both wrong. I have always loved Lizzie very Much notwithstanding her faults, And one of her greatest faults is that she abuses the right of Speech too much, this is the Most. But I have always overlooked this for her Sake. Could I only See her I think I could convince her that it was a great fault in her. I trust it may be so that I can See her Some day. I think a great deal of her yet, and respect & dearly love my uncle. Lizzie wrote me that Uncle balked of going to Washington in the Spring.

I know how you feel with regard to David. How thoughts of absent ones will weigh upon our minds! It is now nearly two months Since I heard from Sammie, And I begin to feel anxious about him.

It has been Some time too Since I heard from home, I have written three letters home since the 23rd of last month, but nothing yet. They are very negligent, or my letters do not reach them very often.

Well, Maggie, My Merry Christmas was not spent very glibly either. We were building our Winter quarters & I had to work pretty hard, & New Year ditto. I have first received a letter from Portland, Me. from a cousin of mine there.  She writes that they have very fine sleighing there and offered me a gay sleigh ride if I would come there.

I suppose, of course, that you have good sleighing up in our little Lake State now. Oh dear, how I would love to enjoy one just now. But, what’s the use of talking or wishing, we have just snow enough to cover the ground, but the Blue Ridge looks as though the snow had fallen quite heavily there.

There is no news at present. Everything is quiet and we are trying to enjoy ourselves in a soldierly way.

I do not feel much like writing to-day, So you will please excuse these imperfect lines,

And, believe me,
Truly & Affectionately,

Matthew

Compliments to the friends

~~~~~
Who’s Matthew Baird?

In this letter, Baird reflects on the battles he remembers from the past year (1863) and his health. He also looks forward to finally marrying his longtime love, Maggie Bowker.

Stephensburg, Va.
New Year Eve, 1863

My dearest Maggie,

I find myself once more at the close of another year, and that close Still finds me in the tented field. When I look back over the past year, I Sometimes wonder that I Still live. It has been one of extreme care, toil, privation, and Suffering. I have borne my part, I will not Say how well, on Several bloody fields. Have Seen many who have fallen on those fields, indeed have Seen all the horrors and Suffering incident to war. The first night at Gettysburg will ever be fresh in my memory, nor will Falling Waters, Boonsboro, or Thornton’s Gap soon be forgotten by me. The little incident at Monterey, too, which occurred on the night of the 4th last July, will also be one worthy of reflection. But amidst all these dangers, toils, & privations, we have had our enjoyments, our frolicks & fun. Though Much has been bitter, Still a due proportion has been mingled with the Sweet and in every circumstance I cannot but acknowledge the providence of God, I had hoped when I left home that this conflict would have closed ere this. In this I was disappointed. It Still continues, and our remorseless foes Still cling with a pertinacity worthy of a bitter cause,  to the determination to distroy our country. I had hoped for health, This has been kindly granted to me to a degree far beyond my expectations.  Nor have the fated bullets been permitted Sear or lacerate my flesh, or limbs. Oh! Maggie, Why Should I complain? Why should I not rather look with brighter expectations and fonder hopes to the close of the approaching year? True it is Still in the dark future, We cannot Solve its undeveloped misteries, but we can trust, as we have, in the past, to the Strong arm & ever watchful eye. Oh! Maggie, I wish I could believe that you were as trustful on that Strong arm as I am, that you could believe that He holds the destinies of individuals, as well as of nations, in his hand. And then if we ask not amis he will surely grant it; and ere another year has flown we will have the Consummate Satisfaction of knowing that our petitions & desires have been crowned with answers of blessing. Then we will both enter the new year with Strong hearts placing our entire confidence and dependence on the Ruler of all, And look with bright hopes of anticipation to the closing Scenes of another year.

Your letter of the 20th reached me the 29th. The question you ask me I will answer by directing your attention to the 4th Chap. 17th verse of James. I am surprised to hear of so horrible an affair as that which you relate. I trust the perpetrators of so atrocious a deed will be discovered and brought to justice. Surely a crime so terible aught not to go by unpunished. I Should, indeed, love dearly to enjoy with you some of your “calls” though that time is still distant, but we will hope on. I heard Sometime ago that Noah’s regiment was now in Mich. but from your letters I conclude that it is not. I think it would do Noah much good to get a furlough home. Our doctors & officers do not seem to consider the good that would result from the sending home of men who are lingering along in sickness & suffering. I hope Noah may have the opportunity of visiting home & friends and once more. I have been wishing that David’s regiment would come down into this detachment, but I understand it has gone West. May David have Success while gone and a Safe return & friends.    

I got a letter from home the other day dated the 21st. Father stated that they would move into the new house that week and so I suppose they are now there. How much my poor Mother looked & hoped for the time when She might enjoy that comfort, but, alas, she was not permitted to See her hopes fulfilled. My father writes me that Leiyyis has lost one of his sisters, she died of smallpox. Our regiment has been out on picket the last three days and a very disagreeable time have they had of it. Now is the worst Season of the year. Rain and mud are the principle features of a Virginia winter. I came here just in time to escape the hard weather we are having now and I find my new Situation much easier than my former one. When we get our new winter quarters completed I Shall enjoy myself much better. I am on duty to-night and so I will watch the old year out & the New Year in. The old year goes out rather gloomily, for it has stormed all day, & Still Storms and 1864 will be ushered in with a frown. But it will brighten up in a few days again, and all will go “Merry as a Marriage bell.” A fair day here is beautiful indeed and if we could only have such all the time Soldiering would not pass so drearily. But we cannot rule the weather, so we will find no fault.

Well, Maggie, Swift flows the old year’s ebbing tide And each Man moans a doleful dirge, only about an hour more & the new year will have been born & as I have written all the news and more, perhaps, than will interest you I will bring this lengthy message to a close. However, I must first have the pleasure of wishing you a happy New Year, & health & success while its hours last.

Write Soon, Maggie, how cheering your letters are I alone can know.

But good night, dearest, and with respects to all friends,
I remain yours ever & constant

Matthew

(Sealed with a kiss)

Noah and David Bowker were two of Maggie’s older siblings. Noah served in Co. A of the 13th Michigan Infantry and David was a Sergeant in Co. L of the 11th Michigan Cavalry. Both were farmers after the war.

~~~~~
Who’s Matthew Baird?

This letter does not contain dramatic news, but Baird does reference the draft. The draft was instituted for the first time in 1863 and led to uprisings around the country, but especially in New York. Be sure to follow the link below.

Raccoon Ford, River Rapidan Va.
Friday, Nov. 20th, ‘63

My dear Father,

Your letter of the 3rd reached me last Saturday, but I have’nt had a chance to write till to-day. I am Sorry to hear that your corn has done so poorly. If you can find a good pair of colts, well matched, I would like to have you buy them for unexpectedly I got my pay yesterday, & so I will endorse to you in this a check for twenty dollars which will help towards buying the colts. I got a letter from Sammy this week, dated Oct. 3rd. He was then still in Arkansas, & was well. By his talk I think his regiment is going into winter quarters.

The 6th Mich. is now picket at this place

Our Camp is some five miles to the rear of us at a little place called Stephensburg. Nearly all of the Army of the Potomac is now around Culpepper & Brandy Station. The rebels are strongly fortified on the other side of the Rapadan, I think Meade will soon try & drive them out of their nest, however.

Henry Ward is with the Company & looks real well & hearty. So does Jeff Kelley, in fact all of the boys do. My health is getting right good again.

When you write please send me a list of all that have been drafted in our town.

With my love to all I remain, as ever,

Matthew

~~~~~
Who’s Matthew Baird?

Camp Stoneman
Friday, Nov. 13th ’63.

My dear Maggie,

I left the hospital last Saturday and am now at the dismounted camp near Washington, but Shall probably Start for my regiment to-morrow. I would have written before, but I have been waiting to hear from you. But I as I leave so soon I will wait no longer. I haven’t heard from home Since your wrote from Hickory Corners.

You will now want to direct your letters to my company at first. Well, Maggie, now do you enjoy yourself? And how do you find things up in Newaygo [Michigan]? Do you have Sleighing up there yet? The weather is delightful here. We have had but very little rain, and the roads are as dry & hard as a brick. Fine time for the army to move, Meade gained another victory last Saturday. The advance of the army is now at Culpeper.

I presume my regiment is at that place. There was report of another fight at Fredericksburg yesterday. I have not new of news to write this time, So you will excuse the brevity of this; won’t you? I am not so well as I would wish, but let this create no uneasiness in your mind.

Write me as soon as this reaches you, give me all the news you can, and believe me, dearest,

Ever Your Own,
Matthew

Company K,
6th Mich. Cav’l
Washington, D.C.

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

In this letter, Baird writes home to his future wife, Maggie Bowker about his hopes for the future. The letter is much more poetic than his recent letters with expressive turns of phrase.

Washington D.C.
Thursday, Nov. 5th ‘63

My dear Maggie,

Taking into consideration the prospects and hopes of the future, how slowly the time moves along; yet predictably, it is Swifter than the fleet footed deer. We look away and into the future, panting & thirsting for the undeveloped enjoyments which, we fondly hope, it holds out to us, and we murmur & seem disappointed because those hopes are not realized to us Sooner.

One long year has fled Since we last met, Since we parted. I had flattered myself then, that ere another Autumn had Seared the forrests And browned the fields, we would be made happy in each other’s Society & love. But Providence has otherwise ordered.

The Same passions that then agitated the public mind of our country, still continue to rage. The same urgent voice that echoed over hill & dale, calling men to battle for their homes, is Still heard; And the Same conflict, in which is invalued The Sacred principles of universal liberty, Still continues. That year has passed, the future of that year has been reached; but does it bring the coveted object? No, it does not. But it does Seem to increase that desire – The desire for the return of peace, and the enjoyment of those blessings which flow from peace. You do not know how much my thoughts turn to the closing period of this conflict, & the opening of another period in which, is involved the happiness of us both. Yet that future may, like the future of the past year, bring but a bitter disappointment, But I have reason to believe, & predict different. Another Autumn will usher in, & welcome the Sweet harbingers of peace. Joy, throughout our land, will take the place of crying & mourning. And those who now so boldly grasp the weapons of death, will return to caress the loved objects of home. Every day brings Some new evidence that the Rebellion is Sinking, Slow it may be, but sure. The great question, whether the American people are able to govern themselves, will soon be decided. And it will be decided in the affirmative.

I am glad you had so good a visit at “Cousins,” but I regret you did not make a longer stay at my father’s. I gather from your letter that you Simply Stoped there, I was in hopes you would, for my sake, make a visit. But I will not reproach you for this, only I’m sorry you didn’t. I was marked for my regiment a few days ago, but I do not know when I will go to it. Direct as usual, till you hear from me again. I presume when this reaches you, you will have got all my other letters, & you will have to write a long one to answer them all, at least I shall expect a big one.

Write me all the news, My love to “Cousin Mary,” when you write her,

Yours Affectionately,

Matthew

P.S. Yours of the 28th came yesterday, M

~~~~~
Who’s Matthew Baird?

Baird has not written home to his father in quite a while. In this letter he discusses home matters primarily and gives his father advice. Unfortunately, the haste of his penmanship makes this letter very difficult to read. Can you help? Thank you!

First page of Baird's letter. HCP Collection.

First page of Baird’s letter. HCP Collection.

Washington D.C.
Monday, Oct. 19th ’63.

My dear Father, Your letter of the 12th reached me Saturday, being only three days on the road. I was glad to hear the money reached you Safe. I wrote you on the Same day, enclosing a draft of 20 dollars, I do not know how much money I have Sent home, not having kept any account, but think it is very near 124 dollars. You did not mention the probable Sum you would have to pay for the colts you wish to buy; nor their age, but I Should prefer that they were quite young.

If you can turn the [illegible] you have into a good span of colts I would do it. And turn them toward the money I have let you have. But don’t go in debt for them, Tell me their age, color, and value $ & C.

With regard to the Wing Willison affair I will not venture any advice, but will simply tell you what I would do. It is far better to “suffer wrong than to do wrong.” And, though in this case you will Suffer. I Should pay it, and then ever after be careful how I made business contracts on Sunday, and with what kind of men I made such contracts. Were not the School District to be the loosers it would be different, and then the thing might invoke you in lawsuits and trouble, and in the end you be a greater looser than to pay it now.

You will suffer now but verily Wing Willison will have his “reward.”

You say you have had a deed of the Bob Kelly lot made out to myself and Sammy, and I will now suggest a thought which perhaps has not touched your mind. It is this. Should anything happen to Sammie or myself, or both of us, so that one or neither of us Should return home, would not those deeds involve your law difficulties from having to go through the Probate Court? I hope I may be wrong, but it is first a thought.

Third page of Baird's letter. HCP Collection.

Third page of Baird’s letter. HCP Collection.

I would dearly love to be at home to have a Share of the cider, but drink my Share & call it mine. How near will you Square up all [illegible] of this fall? I was in hopes you would be pretty much clear. If I do not go

out to the front before I get my next pay, I will then Send home my watch and try and get my picture for Lucie. I wish you would get a family picture & Send it to me, of all that are at home. I have Sent Several newspapers home lately. I have off and on Since I came here, do you get them? If you do not I will Send no more. I mailed a Harpers’ yesterday to Mary & a Chronicle to Robert this morning. I do not feel so well to-day as usual, but I expect to be able to my regiment Shortly. Meade is again on the Potomac. Skirmishing every day, battle expected hour, Spirits of the Army good. I have faith & confidence in Meade.

Write Soon & frequent,
Affectionately,

Matthew

The Willison family was one of the first families to arrive in Barry Township, Barry County, Michigan.

Samuel and his brother James, Wing’s father, brought their families from Cayuga Co., N.Y. in 1837. One of the first schools was in the Willison district of the township, church services were also held in this school prior to the Baptist Church of Barry having its own home. Wing was a farmer in Barry Township, but was also active in Hope Township where he bought out C.P. Larabee’s pioneer store c. 1855. He does not appear to have married and lived with his brother Martin in his later years. He died in September of 1914 and you can see his death certificate here.

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

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