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?

Near Hagerstown
Monday, July 13th, 1863

My dear Father,

It is now a very long time Since I heard from home, and as you may Suppose, I begin to feel anxious to hear. The 4th of July was the last time we got any mail and I was Sure I Should hear from home then, but I was disappointed. My health Still remains good, though of late I have Seen a great deal of Service. You have doubtless heard before this of the String? Events that have taken place lately this Side of the Potomac, but there Still remains much to be done. Our regiment has participated in four or five different battles & Skirmishes already. Yesterday the division to which we belong had a brush with the enemy, driving them out of Hagerstown & capturing some 800 prisoners.

We expect another big battle Soon at Williamsport. The rebels are Strongly fortified there, and our force is large, I look for bloody work, but am hopeful that we Shall Succeed in defeating the enemy. The boys are all well, and in good Spirits.

How I wish you would write oftener. It Seems to me that Some one of you might write once a week, at least, it is So long Since you have written that it Seems as though you had forgotten me, but I hope you have’nt I haven’t [Illegible name] likeness yes, I Shall look for it till it comes.

Henry Ward & Jeffry Kelly are with us yet, & Johnathan Smith also, & Fred, Milo, Jimmie Hunt in fact all the boys from our neighborhood. They are good Soldiers, Johnathan was slightly wounded a few days ago at Boonsboro, the ball first breaking the Skin a little above his knee. Sylva Young’s husband, Manson Buck, was wounded at Hanover, a ball passing through one of his arms.

At Gettysburg George Brownell & Dana Wilson were wounded by the explosion of a shell that Struck in the ranks, there were three horses killed by the same shell. You will find all the names I have mentioned, on my record.

Thus far I have escaped with an unbroken Skin, you must excuse this writing, for I can do no better here. Do write soon, I Sent you 18 dollars the last of May, did you get it?

Give my love to all, and believe me, as ever your Affect’ Son

Matthew

Baird mentions many fellow soldiers in this letter, all were members of Co. K of the 6th Michigan Cavalry. The brief histories below were taken from several sources, but primarily, Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War 1861-1865 and www.familysearch.org.

Henry Ward 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. Click here to view his obituary.

Thomas Jefferson Kelley (Jeffry Kelly above) enlisted in 1862 in Barry County at the age of 19. He was promoted to Corporal in March 1864, Commissary Sergeant in November 1864, and First Sergeant in 1865 before mustering out. On the 1890 Census of the Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War he is listed with a disability, “sabre cut-left-side of head.” He died March 4, 1925 and is buried in Cedar Creek Cemetery, in Dowling, Michigan.

Jonathan Smith enlisted in Hope Township, Barry County in 1862 at the age of 26. He was killed at Newby’s Cross Roads, Virginia on July 24, 1863. The battle was fought near Amissville, Virginia on the slopes of Battle Mountain, which was near Newby’s Cross Roads. Baird will mention Smith again after his death in a future letter. Click here to learn more about the battle.

Frederick Bergman (Fred above) enlisted in 1862 at the age of 28. He was wounded in action at Newby’s Cross Roads on July 24th, and would never fully recover based on his service records. He was transferred to the Invalid Corps in 1864 and was discharged from the 9th Co., 2nd Battalion, Veteran Reserve Corps in 1865. The Invalid Corps consisted of injured men that were still capable of performing light duties, such as patrol and guard duty, and draft enforcement. Read more about the Invalid Corps here.   Fred was from Germany and he married Harriet Galloway and made his living farming after the war. They had 3 children. Harriet died in 1900 and Fred lived with his son Henry prior to his death in 1925. He is buried in the Cedar Creek Cemetery in Dowling, Michigan.

Milo West is likely the soldier Baird is referring to in the letter. He was from the same town as Baird and enlisted in 1862 at the age of 19. He was held as a prisoner of war, although there is no record of him having been at Andersonville. He died of disease in 1864 and is buried in the Annapolis National Cemetery in Maryland.

Jimmie (James) Hunt was also from Hope in Barry County. He enlisted in 1862 at the age of 31. He is listed as missing in action later in 1863 near Brandy Station, Virginia. He survived and was discharged in 1865. The 1890 census of surviving Civil War soldiers  lists that he was wounded in the shoulder by a bullet.

Manson Buck enlisted in 1862 at Yankee Springs at the age of 23. He married Sylvia (Sylva above) Young in 1862, shortly after he enlisted. He was listed as missing in action in Hanover, Pennsylvania in 1863, taken prisoner in 1864, and died of disease while imprisoned.  He is buried in Danville, Virginia. His wife does not appear to have remarried.

George Brownell lived in Prairieville in Barry County, Michigan and enlisted in 1862 at the age of 22. He died of the wounds received at Gettysburg that Baird mentions in the letter.

Dana Wilson was from Hastings and enlisted in 1862 at the age of 30. He married Sarah Mudge in January of 1861. He was made Corporal in 1865 and is listed “on detached service” in March 1865 and there is no further record of him. His wife remarried in 1867 and submitted claims for payment cards in the early 1900’s.

~~~~~
Who’s Matthew Baird?

As Baird states in this letter, his messages home had become less frequent due to his stints on picket duty.

The letter becomes difficult to read by the end and several of you were able to help us with the transcription. Thank you Debra Wisniewski!


Chantilla, Va
May 12, 1863

Can you decipher the missing words?

Can you decipher the missing words?

My Own Maggie,

Your welcome note of the 2nd reached me several days ago, and day before yesterday I undertook to answer it, but I had nothing but a pencil to write with and my letter was such a miserable thing, that I was ashamed to send it, So I have not answered your letter till to-day. I am sorry my letters are so irregular now, but it is on account of our being so far removed from any Mail route.

You see we are out on picket nearly all of the time, and consequently we have had but little chance to send letters out. I have managed, however, to Send you one each week, but on account of the irregularity of the mail they have not reached you. But I trust you have heard from me ere this however. I well know how you feel when my letters are So long delayed, but you mustn’t think that I have forgotten you, neither must you worry on account of my health, it was never better than it is now. And I feel very much in hopes that it will remain good. The kind of life we lead here is just suited to my temperament. We have a dash outside of the lines, occasionally, and, altogether, the times we have here are rather interesting than otherwise.

We are out on picket at this place for three days. This morning before we had got our breakfast, Some six or eight rebels came right in onto one of our pickets, the picket fired on them and they skedaddled, the reserve were soon in the Saddle, and out we went after them but they had got the start of us and escaped without our getting a single shot at them.

We expected to have been relieved from picket duty the tenth, but we are still here, and it is rumored that we are to remain here thirty days to come, but it is only a rumor, there is nothing certain about it.

I wish it were so that I come home and bear you company while you[r] parents are absent. But many long days must elapse ere we can see each other again. Keep up a good heart and all will be well.

Johnn and Jake send their regards, Jake wants you to write, Remember me to all friends, with My especial regards to “Cousin.”

Hoping you will have success in your Summer’s undertaking, and in all the pursuits of life, I will close, remaining, as ever

Your Own,
Matthew

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

Washington, Jan. 18, ‘63

Dear Father,

I now Sit down to write you a few lines as I promised in my last letter, and to enclose to you fifteen dollars in United States currency. I received $28.93 the payment and wanted to send you more but I wanted to get a few necessary articles, and for this reason retain the balance we were paid up to the 31st Oct. only, but as we expect, in a few days to be paid up to the 1st Jan. I think I shall then be able to Send you $22 more. You remember when I left home, that Robert let me have two dollars, and you will pay to him two dollars of this I send you now, and oblige me. I think he has waited long enough for it and tell him I am very much obliged for the loan of it.

I am not very well to-day, and of course you will excuse me from writing so brief a letter, I must however, before I close, acknowledge the receipt of those beautiful verses my mother sent me, and for which I thank her very much. I have rewritten them [in] all my letters.

I will try and answer Mary’s and Lizzie’s letter in a few days. Give my love to all and remember me as

Your,
Affectionate Son,

Matthew

Robert Baird was born in 1843 in Mt. Giliad, Marion County, Ohio. He was the third eldest of the Baird children after Matthew and Samuel. In the 1860 census, he is 16 and living at home in Cedar Creek, Barry County, Michigan. Robert enlisted in the cavalry on August 5th, 1864 in the same unit as his brother Samuel – Co. H, 2nd Missouri Cavalry, “Merrill Horse”. Records indicate that while in Benton Barracks, Missouri, during the fall of 1864, Robert and many others in his unit, came down with the measles. Robert was brought home and succumbed on December 4, 1864. 205 other soldiers in his unit also died as a result of the measles.

Mary Baird, five years younger than her brother Robert, was born in 1848 in Mt. Giliad, Marion County, Ohio. She is 12 years old in the 1860 census and living with her parents in Cedar Creek. Her parents passed away in 1866, so she becomes difficult to track. She married Alphonse Larkin c. 1870, he was a farm laborer from the Hastings, Michigan area. They had one daughter, Lucy, who was 10 in the 1880 census and another Maggie, 12 years later. By the time the 1900 census rolls around, Mary and Alphonse are living with their 5 year old granddaughter Gladys. Mary passed away in 1904 from complications of diabetes. Alphonse (64) and his father Nathan (92) are living with Maggie (Larkin) Trumper in the 1910 census.

~~~~~
Who’s Matthew Baird?

Maggie Bowker, HCP Collection

Maggie Bowker, HCP Collection

Washington, D.C.
Jan. 3rd, 1863

Dear Maggie,

It is now nearly 4 weeks Since we came to Washington, And though I wrote you imediately after our arrival, and though I have watched each successive mail with an anxiety know only to your-Self yet I have as often been [illegible] to disappointment.

I was almost sure that to-day I should certainly hear from you, but alas; the same luck attended me.

Nor have I heard from home either. I guess you have all forgotten me. Well, I’m hardly worth thinking about, and of course it is no wonder then that I get no letters. I presume, however, you will all take pity on me by and by and Send me a few lines. How cheering a few lines would be to hear from home, and those we love. These long evening while gathered around the campfires, how it would make the poor Soldiers heart pound, to get some such little token of remembered love, Some Such gentle proof of unbroken affection. Ah; you little know how much the Soldier thinks of home and those he has left behind, those whom he has gone to defend. You may think too that we are given to complaining but do you not remember, when we left, how you drew from us the promises to “write often”, and assured us that our letters should be met with a hearty and speedy response, but the answers thus far have been few and far between.

But I will not chide you too much.

I presume you would like to hear news but indeed you will get it much more correctly from the news papers and speedier than I can give it here. In fact we don’t hear anything correctly, nothing but rumors come our way. So you must excuse the scarcity of news in this.

Hoping and trusting that I shall hear from you directly, I will close this hastily written note. I am well, only tired, for we have been drilling pretty hard to-day.

With a sweet good night, I remain dear, yours as ever,

Matthew

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

Baird often wrote poetry and prose in his diaries and we will publish some of these in the absence of letters and diary entries. This poem followed the June 9th date.

June 9

Faith in God

While on the wakes of lifes

rough sea

By storms and tempests

driven

Thou Lord wilt shield

and comfort me

And bring me safe to Heaven.

Tho few should rise

Tho friends should fail

Tho dearest ties be riven

My faith in thee will

still prevail

And [smudged] me on

to Heaven.

And though afflictions

bitter cup

To me is often given

I still with confidence

look up

And put my trust in Heaven.

And when the shared

hours of love

Like golden streams

at [smudged]

Break on my heart I

look above

And feel they come from Heaven.

And when the

Trials of earth are over

And lifes last link

is riven

Then will I haste to

[illegible] share

And reign with

Christ in Heaven.

June 7

This morning the company to which I belong was detailed for guard. The balance of the regimental clothing arrived at camp today and will be distributed tomorrow. Colonel ______ [purposely blank] the United States Mustering officer arrived here today. It is expected the regiment will be mustered into the U.S. Service tomorrow after which we will expect marching orders soon. The morning was foggy and dull but the day closed fine and warm.

June 8

Last night between 9 and 10 o’clock a company of young gentlemen and ladies came unexpectedly into camp and gave us a serenade. They sung the “Star Spangled Banner” and other songs and as the last words of each died on the air, the party was greeted with three hearty cheers from the soldiers. They were beautiful singers and after closing with “Dixie” they were about retiring but the shouts of “Give us the Star Spangled Banner again” called them back to to the platform. They then sung the noble song after which they returned to their carriage and retired amid the shouts of the delighted soldiers.

Today the regiment was mustered into the United States service there were but few that refused to take the oath and all but one or two afterwards repented and took the oath.

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

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