June 2011

Below is the first letter, in Historic Charlton Park’s possession, that Baird wrote home to his parents George and Mary.

Camp Blair 
Washington D.C.
June 30, 1861

First and last page of letter home. HCP Collection.

Dear Parents,

                        I presume before this time you have heard a great many remarks concerning our regiment and the war, but they are mostly rumors without the facts.  There is but little done as far as I can hear, in active operations except now and then a slight skirmish.  And some are of the impression that there will be little or no fighting at all.

            The last week a skirmish took place at Mathias Point [Matthias’ Point, Va] on the Potomac between a small reconnoitering party and a large body of rebels in which Capt. Ward of the Pawnee was killed and a number of his men severely wounded, one mortally.

            Last Friday I paid a visit to the Capital.  I visited the Capitol, Patent Office, and Smithsonian Institution.  It would be impossible for me to describe in this small sheet all that I there saw.  However in the first place I ascended to the top of the Capitol where I had a splendid view of the whole city.  I then descended to the interior of the building and trod those places which three months ago I little expected to ever see.  I went to both houses of Congress, but visitors are permitted to go only in the galleries at present on account of the repairing being done.

            I then went to the Patent Office.  My time was so short that I could not pay particular attention to all, but I got a glimpse of the moot and especially of those things so closely connected with the history of our country.  The equipment of [George] Washington, his clothes, army shot, a fragment of his tent, and many other things too numerous to mention. 

            The Smithsonian is a place well worthy the attention of any one.  Here is a Museum in which is collected a vast number of the curiosities of Nature.  The different species varietals and specimens of animals, birds, reptiles, insects, plants and minerals brought from different parts of the globe form a study highly instructive and interesting.  There is also a large picture gallery.  of the most of the paintings seem to be portraits of distinguished Indians.  In the center of this gallery is a splendid statue of the dying Gladiator.  But when I come home I will tell you more as my space here is too limited.  A few days before I left the Rapids I sent my satchel to Hastings to Beiley’s Store in the care of Uncle Tommy or Mrs. Dickerson, but I have not thought to speak of it before.  And now I would say a few words with regard to my trunk.  I have a few papers there which if you have not yet taken out I would request that you would not disturb until I come home.  I have not as yet received any news from home and I begin to feel anxious to hear.  Wm Fox is regaining his health fast, and is so as to be out.  Our boys are much better than when I last wrote.  I have sent three papers which I presume will reach you before this.  My health is good, and time passes swiftly away.  I do wish some of my old comrades would write to me.  Remember me to all my friends. 

Your affectionate Son,

Matthew Baird


Who’s Matthew Baird?

June 13

The 3rd Michigan Infantry left Grand Rapids for Washington, D.C. to join the Army of the Potomac. The men traveled by rail to Detroit, where they boarded boats for Cleveland, then by rail again journeyed to Washington D.C. They arrived on June 16th. To read specifics about the travels of the 3rd Michigan, click here. 

During this time, Matthew Baird is uncharacteristically silent. There are few diary entries and no letters until June 30th. We assume that travel and acclimating to his surroundings took up much of Baird’s time after his arrival in Washington D.C. The diary does not resume regular entries until August. In the meantime, we will be posting undated entries from his diary, including poems and his personal philosophy on camp life.


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


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?

June 4

Quite an excitement was created among the soldiers on account of the officers refusing to let them go home. A great many however obtained furloughs for three days away. The day has been wet and drizzly in consequence of which but little drilling has been done. There were but few visitors in camp today. Dress parade was short and uninteresting.

June 5

Nothing of importance occurred today except the lowering of the flag at half mast and the firing of a number of guns in honor of Judge Douglas. The regiment made a very fine appearance on dress parade. A rumor has been circulated today that this regiment would soon leave here for Washington. The most of the men seem eager to go.

“Judge Douglas” refers to Stephen A. Douglas (April 23, 1813 – June 3, 1861) a well-known Illinois politician who lost his presidential bid to Abraham Lincoln in 1860. He served as a justice of the Illinois Supreme Court in 1841, where he received the name “Judge”. He may be better known by the nickname “Little Giant” due to his height and his larger than life presence in politics. Douglas died of typhoid fever on June 3, 1861 in Chicago. To read more about his life and see images, click here.

June 6

Nothing of particular interest occurred today. The weather though was fine. Dress parade was attended by quite a number of citizens.


Who’s Matthew Baird?

June 2

The past week out encampment has been one busy scene. The distribution of clothing and uniforms and exercising in drill have occupied pretty much all of our time. Today we received our arms and went immediately on parade at which time we heard a sermon from our chaplin.

Our encampment seems to be the curiosity of the whole country around us as it is thronged with visitors nearly all the time especially at parade hours.

June 3

Our camp begins to assume quite a military appearance. The most of the men are dressed in full uniform and the bright guns stacked at the respective stakes of each company, with a number of flags flying from the different quarters of the men, make quite a martial appearance. Today the ladies of Grand Rapids presented the regiment with a beautiful banner and also to each man a m[ending] book containing needles, pins, thread, buttons. They also distributed a large number of testaments through the regiment. The banner is pretty costly, the ground work is deep blue with a gilt fringed border. In the center, the arms of the “Republic” with the American Eagle and the words [Baird left blank to record words, but never did] are admirably marked in gilt. The paint of the staff is also gilt from which is suspended two silken cords to which is attached two gilt tassels. Colonel ______ on behalf of the ladies presented the banner to Colonel McConnell preceding which however he made a patriotic speech to which Chaplin Cummings replied in [smudged] of Colonel McConnell. In the presence of the young ladies we presented the banner, our national red, white and blue were admirably combined. An immense crowd of visitors thronged the camp nearly all day and at the presentation almost every available spot from which could be obtained a view was filled. The fifth company has the honor of bearing the regimental flag. After the ceremonies were over, the regiment went on dress parade after which the crowds dispersed and the camp was comparatively quiet again.

Other reliable sources say that this regimental banner was given to the 3rd Michigan on June 4th, not the 3rd as Baird reports. To learn more about this event, details and what the ladies wore, follow this link. The 3rd Michigan left the state on June 13th for Washington, D.C.