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.

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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.

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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.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

Camp Michigan Dec 18  1861

Mr Baird Sir I arrived in camp the 16th all right with the exception of the galling my feet coming from Washington but getting better now I found the boys all well but Duane. He is not getting any better of the rheumatism yet I think they will send him to the Hospital in Georgetown or Washington. We had a good time from Annapolis to Washington and took dinner at the soldiers retreat and got our passes to the regiments between one and two in the afternoon. I found the regiment about two miles from fort Lyon in the woods building A log city for winter quarters the 17th there was two of the New Jersey cavalry killed on the picket lines by the rebels and yesterday morning some of the rebel cavalry about ten or twelve made their appearance riding towards the lines but they found so warm a reception by the michigan fifth that they were glad to retreat after firing their carbines which took a button from one mans clothes and cut his shirt close to his body but he remained unhurt in the night last night there was two regiments of Infantry and some cavalry and two pieces of artillery passed our camp toward the picket line they have not found anything to do as yet for I have not heard any firing in that direction since they went out by here. You wanted I should tell about the tents and clothing when I wrote the tents are large round tents with a small stove in the centre which makes it very comfortable they have for clothes Black overcoats and blue pants an some socks and shoes but no under coats yet. the second have got nice blue dress coats and they look first rate. There was a letter come for you yesterday and I will send it with this. General Richardson  is building his house upon the hill so that he can look down upon us and see what is A going on in camp. Part of our boys were out on picket and came in last night they did not get troubled on their posts at all and came in all right. the boys are anxious to get A chance at the rebels but it does not look much like advancing this way or they would not take the trouble to build winter quarters here. I will write A few lines to Mr Locke just to let him know where his regiment is if you will please to hand it to him. I will write it sheet and you can cut it off this from your friend and fellow soldier  Dwight Tousley

Mr. Locke Sir your regiment the first New Jersey cavalry are in camp near fort Lyon below Alexandria. they lost two men on picket the 17th one was a Lieutenant and the other A private. I was writing to Mr Baird and I thought I would let you know where they were for it might save you A considerable trouble in finding them if you should wish to go to your regiment I could hardly find A man that knew where my regiment was when I got within two miles. I am well as usual I must slope for my paper is short this from your friend Dwight Tousley

 

This letter was written to Matthew Baird by Dwight Tousley, a fellow infantry soldier in his company. He enlisted in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1861 and died as a result of wounds received in action at North Anna River on May 23rd, 1864. Dwight was the second of three brothers, the “Duane” mentioned above was the oldest and Buell was the youngest. All three served in Company E of the 3rd Michigan Infantry. To read more about the brothers, click here. Tousley was a frequent correspondent of Baird’s while he convalesced.

“Locke” was most likely Thomas H. Locke of the 1st New Jersey Cavalry. He enlisted as a Private on August 27th, 1861.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

Dec. 18

The scene on the wharves to-day has been enlivening and animated. A large brig made her appearance in the harbor early in the fore-noon and anchored about a quarter of a mile from the wharves. There have also several large steamers been expected to arrive today and also a large number of troops for the expedition, neither of which, however, have yet made their appearance.

Today another four soldiers was carried to his last resting place. The sad duty was performed by the [purposely blank] Mass. Reg’t. There have been a good many deaths among the soldiers since my arrival at this place. And alas; my private opinion, from what I have seen, is, that not a few of the deaths that occur is the result of neglect. May God grant that I may never die at a hospital. Ten thousand times would I rather fall upon the field of battle, surrounded by all its terrors, and be buried by my surviving comrades in an honorable grave, than to be carried by the regardless [not legible] and interred in an unknown spot over which friends might shed a few tears, in token of sacred memory.

Today has been quite cool and cloudy, and strong indications of rain prevail.   

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

Dec. 17

Nothing of importance has occurred today, except the arrival of one or two steamers with army stores. I took a stroll along the beach this morning while the tide was out and picked up a number of Oysters which I opened and eat on the shore the first had ever eaten in that way. It was rumored here to day that the 3rd Mich. Reg’t had moved. I could not learn to what place nor for what purpose. The weather has been delightful today.

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

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