December 2011


Last page of Baird's letter. HCP Collection.

Baird writes home to his mother the day after Christmas. He writes to her regarding their celebration, including what they ate and how the mess hall was decorated. For a peek at mess hall from a nearby hospital, click here.

U.S. General Hospital
Annapolis, Dec. 26th 1861

My Dear Mother, it is sometime since I wrote to you, and seeing Christmas was over and as we have had a good time, I thought I would write you a few lines. I hope Christmas has passed off merrily and happy with you all at home. Though there are many homes that have not had so many bright and joyous faces around the Christmas circle as there was last year. Still I hope those left at home are none the less bright and cheerful. Though our country is distracted by the fearful struggle, and all the evils of civil war, besides being threatened with war with one of the greatest powers on earth still I see no reason why we should not have a merry good time on that day of joy and gladness – Merry Christmas. Indeed yesterday was a day of merriment and a bright spot in the path of the weary-way-worn soldier. In the morning there was no small [illegible] among the cooks and hospital attendants. Several wagon loads of roast turkey, baked ham, oyster pies and pies of all kinds besides a great many other good things came in and when noon came round we had a capital princely dinner thanks to the good and loyal ladies of Annapolis.

The table was long and well filled with all the good things of the land (it seems war has not cannoned the whole yet and well crowded with hungry men, but after they were all done there was enough left for as many more. On each end of the table there was of course a fine Christmas tree, filled with rich yellow oranges with a nice miniature Star-Spangled-banner on the top of each tree. After dinner was over, a few appropriate remarks were made by a gentleman and lady in the course of which they lady urged upon the men the necessity of abstaining from all kinds of liquor the using of all profane language and everything ungentlemanly. She said her only child was a soldier. (of course in the Union army). She had thus given up all to the cause of her country. She very particularly wished us to remember our Christmas dinner to our friends at home, and to tell them we had not only friends at home, but we had friends here. The soldiers she said would find friends everywhere. The citizens of Annapolis welcomed the Union troops as friends, friends of liberty.

I tell you we had a grand good time. Now you must not think that because I am here yet that I am sick for I am not, and am as eager to go to any regiment as can be, but I have the notions of others. Dear Mother a happy New Year to you, Goodbye
Matthew
~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

 

 

Dec. 24th

By the lively movements around the hospital toward evening today one would think merry Christmas was approaching in good earnest, even for the weary way – worn soldier. Pies and cakes in abundance, roast turkeys, and baked ham and numerous other good things, and substantial came in by wagon. Something to make glad the heart and satisfy the [illegible]ing hungry stomach of the soldier. Something to remind one of its joys and seasons of merriment. It reminded us too of the loved ones there and the annual gathering, the circle round the old hearth-stone. The meeting of old friends and…

Baird trails off at the end of this diary entry and never picks up the thread. He does not write on Christmas Day, presumably to enjoy the festivities around the hospital ward. His mother receives a letter written on December 26th describing the scene.

Happy Holidays!

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

 

This entry was difficult to transcribe...are we right?

Dec. 23rd

Today has been wet and stormy with a slight sprinkling of snow accompanying the rain. So without troubling myself about out-door affairs I confined myself within the cosy and comfortable quarters of my room and busied myself with writing letters reading the news. The day closed with in [illegible] cold.

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

Dec. 22nd

Sabbath. This forenoon I wrote a letter and [illegible] I went to church for the first time since I came here. The 7th Rhode Island Battery arrived to-day, from Washington, with cannon, horses, ammunition and equipments. The weather has been pretty cold for a day or two.

Unfortunately, the 7th Rhode Island Battery does not appear to exist, so Baird was obviously mistaken. The likely unit, they arrived in Annapolis December 22nd and were attached to Burnside’s Expedition, was Battery F, 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery.

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?


Dec. 21st

Vessels continue to arrive. The Sherman steamer arrived, soon after which a very sad accident occurred on board. The engine had not quite stoped its motion, when one of the engineers steped around to see that everything was right about the machinery, and unthinking he steped too near, the shaft to the engine struck him just above the ankle, crushing the bone almost entirely through, and mangling the flesh dreadfully. He was brought to the hospital this afternoon, when the poor fellow had to submit to an amputation. I witnessed the operation, though secretly I must confess.

Another accident occurred on the [purposely blank], by [illegible] falling from a mast which he was cleaning, he struck on the deck, flat on his back. It is said he struck a long two inch plank, which was split from one end to the other by the colision. It is thought he will not live.

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

 

Dec. 20th

Nothing has occurred to-day of any particular importance. The weather seems rather unfavorable and doubtful.

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

Dec. 19th

The steamers New York and New Brunswick arrived today with the eleventh Connecticut regiment. This is a very fine looking body of men, uniformed and equiped throughout. This regiment is also connected to the present expedition. A quantity of shells and several morters also arrived from Washington. The number of vessels in the bay is increasing. The weather has been delightful to-day notwithstanding the indications for rain were so strong last night.

Baird has been observing the formation of  Burnside’s Expedition, which would begin to depart for Hatteras Inlet on January 5th, 1862. The 11th Connecticut had just been formed and left their state for Annapolis, Maryland on December 16th, arriving there on the date of this entry. General Ambrose Burnside detailed the expedition in an speech given in 1880 – you can read an abridged version here.

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

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