In this letter, Baird discusses the Kilpatrick-Dahgren Raid (February 28-March 3, 1864) and its failure to achieve the goals for which it was intended. Click here to learn more about Dahlgren’s death and the story Baird reports near the end of this letter.

Stephensburg, Va.
Monday, March 14th, ‘64

My dear Maggie, I find myself this morning at the beginning of another week and, though I have not received your usual manuscript during the past week, I will try & pen you a few lines. I sat down for that purpose last evening, thinking to spend a while in your company, but there was so much confusion in the tent that I was compelled to defer it. I do not know but I shall fail to interest you this morning for I am not real well. It is nothing more, however, that the result of a cold.

The weather for the last two weeks has been exceedingly changeable. Three days ago we had a tremendous storm. Yesterday it was beautifully warm, and this morning it is just the opposite. Cold & blustery. Some of my old neighbors have enlisted and are now here in the 7th Mich.Cavalry, Robert Kelley, Geo. Robinson, John Chandler, Charles Bergman, & Robinson Norwood, Geo. Robinson was left in Washington however sick. Were you acquainted with Robinson Norwood? He lived at Eben Penocks a great deal of the time. I got a letter from Lizzie yesterday. She tells me that brother Robert is very sick with lung fever. I fear it will go hard with him, for he had a desperate siege of it some years ago.

Kilpatrick’s division has not returned from its raid yet, though it is expected every day. The general lost several of his most valuable officers among them Cap. Dahlgren killed & Lieut. Col. Litchfield prisoner. The rebel authorities, according to their own statements treated Col. Dahlgren barbarously, inhumanly, and they threaten also to hang all the prisoners they took. Some two hundred fell into their hands. I think they will defer hanging. The expedition proved an entire failure as to the object intended to have been accomplished and that too there the treachery of their guide, a colored man employed for the purpose.

I understand the 5th Mich. Lost every fifth man. The 6th have lost only slightly. I sent you by this morning’s mail the Sunday Chronicle, (Washington) of yesterday. I will now close as I wish to write to Eliza. Write soon I wish I could get your letters every week.

The letters from home are far between, at least so they seem to me.

Truly & Sincerely,

Your own,
Hd. Qrs. 2nd Brigade
3rd Division
Cavalry Corps.
Washington, D.C.
Maggie, Croton, Michigan

Who’s Matthew Baird?

After an extremely busy season here at Historic Charlton Park, we finally have time for a long overdue post. This letter was especially difficult to transcribe, but gives an interesting perspective on the bounty system, which you can read more about here. Baird’s letters to his father George are quite different than those addressed to his lady love, Maggie.


Envelope marked "Paid 3", HCP Collection.

Envelope marked “Paid 3″, HCP Collection.

Stephensburg, Va.
Tues, March 8th, ‘64

My dear Father, 

Yours of the 29th Feb. came yesterday. I thank you for those stamps, tho I have plenty just now. 

With regard to those letters marked “Soldier’s letters” that I have sent home, I cannot avoid their being stamped “Due three cents”, It must be done at Washington if not there then at the other end of the route, as at Bristol’s.  

I have received a great many letters, the postage of which was not prepaid. Of course they were marked “Due Three Cents”, but as they have to pass the line of all regular P.O.s I did not have to pay the “due”, So what I loose on the one hand I gain on the other or rather the gain comes to those who write.

 You spoke of a town bounty of 100 dollars being due Sammie. Is it pay for his Veteran enlistment or his original enlistment? And if it is for either, how will he lose it? Certainly the town will not refuse paying it. Do you ever hear anything about my bounty? Charlie Robinson, as you will remember, was the only man that was honorable enough to pay. There’s eighteen dollars coming to me yet. I did’nt enlist for the sake of the bounty, for goodness knows, the amount was too small to be anything of an inducement. But still when men promise their word, and that in public, for a large or small amount. I should not think it would require the full extent of of that test to induce them to keep it. I understand that some of the boys did get the most of their bounty, but Uncle Tommy Robinson charged something like 25 percent for collecting fee. I think this is [illegible] against. It is an insult to any soldier. I think I have done my bounty’s ($20) worth of fighting, & feel as though there might to be some way in which I could get it. I expect if God spares my life, that I shall do another bounty’s worth of fighting this Summer, but I don’t expect to get anything above what Uncle Sam pays me. You may show this to Uncle Tommy Robinson, or to any one whom it may concern, or not, just as you choose, “sawmill” Clarke, Mr. Doud, Mr. Howard, Mr. Gessler, Mr. Geo. Robinson & Mr. Warren Woodruff, are the men from whom the money is yet due. Dr. Jackson can tell you the amount due from each.

I will write a few lines to Lucie & and [illegible].

I sent you a check for eighteen dollars a short time ago.

Your affectionate son,

Who’s Matthew Baird?

In this letter, Baird tells of the Rio Hill Skirmish and the thwarted Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid that took place at the end of February 1864 that he alluded to in his previous letter. General Kilpatrick’s goal was to free 15,000 prisoners of war being held in Richmond, while General Custer was to provide a distraction by attacking from the other direction. The plan was not successful and the descriptions provided by the above links do not directly correlate with Baird’s reporting.

Stephensburg, Va.

Sunday, Mar. 5th ‘64

My dear Girl,

I again sit down, after the lapse of another week, to pen you a few lines, though I have anxiously awaited and watched each Mail for a word from you. But I have been Sadly disappointed. It is now two weeks Since you last came to me. I have been fearful that you were sick; but I trust not. My health still remains good, and may this find you enjoying that blessing in every sense of the word.

We are having delightful weather, we may say much enjoying Springtime. The little birds awake us every morning with their songs. I have never seen so beautiful weather. I believe I told you in my last letter that Gen. Custer had just gone out on a raid. He returned last Tuesday night, after two & a half days weary marching having penetrated into the rebel lines as far as Charlottesville. He destroyed four large government mills, with their grain and flour, burned a large binder, drove the rebels out of two encampments, captured and destroyed [illegible number] Cavalry Saddles, took 400 horses & 50 prisoners, and returned with a loss of, perhaps, a half dozen men.

H Kirkpatrick started also at the same time, going round on the rebel right. The Washington Chronicle of yesterday states that his expedition penetrated to the outer works of Richmond, after distroying an immense amount of railroad bridges, mills & other valuable property, but finding the oposition there too strong, he withdrew and fell back into the lines of Gen. Butler’s department. His loss is stated at less than 150 men, he having several skirmishes on the way. The object of the expedition was the liberation of Union prisoners at Richmond but the strength of his force was not eaqual to the task.

It will probably be some time before the division returns, 20 men from Com. “K” went out. Henry Ward was one of them. Friend Kahler is detailed at the Brigade Train. He was over here to see me this morning. He is well & wishes he be remembered.

Well, Maggie, I have given you about all the news, so I will close for this time hoping to hear from you soon when I will write more.

In the meantime,
Maggie, Believe me,
ever your own,


Hd. Qrs. 2nd Brig.
3rd Division C.C.
Washington, D.C.

Jacob  Kahler was from Prairieville in Barry County, Michigan and enlisted in Co. K of the 6th Michigan Cavalry in 1862 at the age of 20. According to his obituary, he drove General Custer’s headquarters wagon and was discharged in 1865. He married Mary Ward in 1867 and moved to the Charlevoix/Petoskey, Michigan area in 1883. They had 3 children and Jacob was a farmer prior to his death. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Emmet County, Michigan. You can read his obituary here and see his death certificate. John can sometimes be a nickname for Jacob.


Who’s Matthew Baird?

Stephensburg, Va.
Wednesday, 24th Feb. ‘64

My dear Father,

I received your note with Cousin George’s letter a few days ago. I was glad to hear from him though his communication was unexpected. He Seems to be doing very well, And his hopes of rising in the world are very Sanguine. I heartily wish him entire Success. Our pay master Major Nicols came out and paid us two months pay last week and I will enclose in this an allotment for twenty dollars and also the bill you Sent me. I did not have a chance to use it, So I will return it for Lucy. I understand we are to get paid again in a few weeks.

We had another grand review [photo similar to what Baird describes] yesterday, near these Hd Qtrs. The troops reviewed were those of the 2nd Army Corps (Infantry) and Gen. Kilpatrick’s Division of Cavalry, and some artillery.

The President I understand, was here to witness the review.

There is an important movement of some kind on foot, and the troops that were out yesterday will, I think, participate in it. I have no doubt that we are destined for the Peninsulas. The Capture of Richmond & the release of our troops held there as prisoners, oppose to be the defect in men. Senator Howard from Michigan was here last week, & in a Short address to the officers and men of our regiment, intimated as much. But then I do not pretend to know this to be the case but from what I have heard and observed, this seems to be the design.

I am not very well at present though on duty. We had some pretty hard riding yesterday & being So many hours in the Saddle wearied me considerable.

I was over to the regiment a day or two ago & the boys are all well. Quite a number of recruits came for our regiment last week, filling up the “vacant ranks” considerably. It is only a Short time Since I wrote, so I will conclude this soon. I am now coppying my Diary and will send it to Robert, and if you find it interesting you may all read it, It will give you Some idea of how checkered is a soldier’s life. The weather is delightful, and the roads in Splendid condition.

Remember me to [illegible] and Cousin, and with love to all,

I remain,


This article provides more information on Senator Howard’s part in the above and why he was in D.C.


Who’s Matthew Baird?

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,


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


(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?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,267 other followers