Written just prior to the Christmas holiday, this letter is again addressed to Maggie Bowker. In the second paragraph Baird’s description of his view of Washington D.C. and the sounds is fascinating – you really get a sense of what he is experiencing. Here is a link to a map showing Washington D.C. and outlying camps and tents. Baird was again encamped at Meridian Hill.

 

Washington, Dec. 23rd, 62

My dear Maggie,

I received your kind letter of Dec. 13th, only last evening and I now hasten to pen you a few lines in reply. Your letter found me quite well with the exception of a very severe cold with which I have been troubled some time. When we first came here the weather was quite warm, almost hot, and have since had a sudden change, and for the past few days it has been very cold, and I think this is the cause of my cold, and most of the boys are in the Same fix. To-day, however, is beautiful, almost like Spring. Indeed while you are enjoying yourselves Sleighriding and frolicking at the evening parties, we are enjoying all the pleasures of a Michigan April, with the exception of now and then a chilly day.

I wish you could be with me now, just where I am sitting, (for I left the camp So that I might have the privilege of writing one letter in the quiet. ) and have the view I have. There is scarcely a direction that you may look, but your eye meets an encampment. Scarcely a hillside that is not dotted with tents. The whole country here is one grand military encampment. Washington abounds with hospitals. There is nothing to be heard around but the rattling of army waggons, the rolling of drums, and the sounding of bugles; with now and then the heavy booming of cannon in the far distance. If Virginia and the District of Columbia recover from the ravages of this unholy war in twenty years I shall miss my guess. There is nothing but desolation reigning every where. God forbid that as dire a calamity should ever befall our fair little State of Michigan.

Well Maggie, I presume you are anticipating grand times about Christmas and New Year, well you must try and enjoy yourself the very best you can. I regret only that it is not in my power, nor my lot to share those holy days with you. And while yourself and Miss Miller are enjoying yourselves, you must neither of you forget me, nor, indeed, any of the Soldiers.

Now Maggie, when you write again you must take time and write a_ O ever so long a letter. Your letters lately have been so brief, only a few short lines. Now, as to your teaching next summer, that should rest with yourself, you know whether you are competent to teach or not and if you are, I think it is the best thing you can do. You will, with care, if you improve your time, have every chance of informing yourself, and developing your mind. You must however, use your own judgement. I will inclose in this a short note to Miss Miller, according your request, which you will please hand her. And be sure and have her answer it.

Now do try and write once a week, and oftener if you can. Please excuse this ill looking letter, and wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy New year.

I will close, remaining yours,
Constantly and ever,

Matthew

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Who’s Matthew Baird?