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In this letter, Matthew Baird writes an account of the 6th Michigan’s activities during the Battle of the Wilderness and the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, and several others. This series of battles resulted in heavy casualties, but instead of pulling back to regroup after such losses, Grant decided to continue the advance that would eventually lead them to Richmond.

Raid on Richmond
Malvern Hil
Mar James River, Va.
May 16th, 1864

My dear Maggie,

I write this upon historic ground. The battle field of Malvern Hill is one of the bloodiest on record & is now the site of the present encampment of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. When I last wrote you we were pleasantly situated near Culpeper a few miles north of the Rapidan. I did not think then that our army would move so soon, nor did any one. And though we were looking for a movement, yet we were taken by surprise. We received the order to march the evening of the 3d. & by 6 a.m. the 4th our regiment was in line.

We marched to the Rapidan the 4th & crossed at Elyis [Ely’s] Ford the 5th Camping for the night on the Chancellorville battle field. Early the morning of the 6th the division pushed out to the front, at that part of the country called the Wilderness. Here we found the enemy, fought them pushing them back. The 8th Mi marched to Spotsylvania C.H. [Court House] Where we found the 5th corps engaged with the rebels. We then marched back to our train & halted for the night. The 9th, the rebels cavalry Corps moved out no one – that is, private troops – knowing our destination. By noon we had gained the rear of the rebel army & marched rapidly on to the Va. Central R.R. where we arrived first in time to liberate 300 of our troops that had been taken prisoners the day before in battle, captured three trains of cars, three locomotives, and a large amount of commissary stores. All of which we distrowed [sic] loosing [sic] two men killed.

The 10th we moved towards Richmond camping for the night on the south bank of the Pamunkey River. The morning of the 11th, as the column began to move out we were attacked by a small force of rebels in our rear. This was soon dispensed with & we marched on without interruption until we arrived at Mountain Road Station on the Fredericksburg & Richmond R.R. within 7 miles of Richmond. This & about 8 miles of railroad we burnt, at the same time engaging and fighting the enemy, again whipping them capturing 4 pieces of artillery & over 100 prisoners. We camped on our battle field for the night. The morning of the 12th, we moved out passing within two or three miles of Richmond City. At Meadow Bridge on the Chickahominy River we found the rebels fortified and ready to dispute our passage. They detained us half a day. We fighting them all the time, we routed them at last and the column moved on without further annoyance until we arrived at Gaines Mills where we halted for the night. The night of the 13th we camped near Bolton Bridge on the Chickahominy and the 14th we moved up to and halted on Malvern Hill. Here we are now, and I am thankful that I can say, although we have had hard marching, scanty fare, & no inconsiderable fighting I am well. And I know you will rejoice too, Maggie. In the fight at Meadow Bridge I were placed in great danger by a couple of shells thrown from the rebel battery. But thank God I still survive. Only one man in Co. K has been hurt since we crossed the Rapidan, & that was our Leiut. [sic] C.P. Pendill, one of the bravest & best officers in the regiment. He was badly maimed in our first fight on the 6th. I do not know what our destination will be nor how long we will remain here. We are in sight of the James River & our gun boats, a heavy cannonade was heard up the river this morning, & I have no doubt we will move soon. In the meantime, dear Maggie, you will remember me in your prayers, I know you will not see to pray for me.

I will write at earliest opportunity & you may direct your letters as usual Company K are our on picket, this gives me leisure to write now.

Remember me to all the friends at home, & should you go to Barry before you hear from me again, give my love to my folks, & be sure to make them a visit. Though I have written a long letter, yet it does not contain half what I’ve seen during the last two weeks. But, you will excuse me this time, & I trust I shall be able to tell you the whole story at some future day.

Be assured dear Maggie you have my constant love, & with a loyal & true kiss,

I remain ever,
Yours, affectionately
Matthew
Sergt
Company K, 6 Regt
Mich. Cavalry
Washington D.C.

Lieutenant Cortez P. Pendill was from Prairieville, MI and was commissioned as second lieutenant in March 1863. He was wounded during the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864. He was commissioned as Captain in July of 1864, but was discharged for disability in September of the same year. He passed away in Hickory Corners, MI on April 11, 1891.

~~~~~
Who’s Matthew Baird?

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By February 1862, the letters to Baird have become sporadic and he does not appear to have written home frequently. In March 1862, he is still listed as ill and located at the hospital in Annapolis, Maryland.

Baird was finally discharged for disability on April 19, 1862. He was discharged for Irritatio Spinalis, or “irritation of the spine,” in Virginia and returned home to recuperate. His discharge papers, located at the National Archives, list him as 5’ 8” tall with a light complexion and light hair with blue eyes. He is listed as a farmer prior to enlisting in the service. The discharge papers indicate that Baird had been unfit for duty for 60 days and that he “was taken to General Hospital in the month of October [1861] since which time I know nothing of him.”

He reenlists on August 13, 1862 in the 6th Michigan Cavalry, Co. K. His letters from that time show that he went back to the east coast and spent all of 1863, 1864 and 1865 in various conflicts. He served as a horse farrier during his time in the 6th Michigan Cavalry. 

During his recuperation, Baird likely met the woman who would later be his first wife, Maggie Bowker. His first letter to her after he returns to the service is September 18, 1862. They continue to correspond throughout his second enlistment and marry sometime after his discharge in 1865 and before July 15, 1870.

Baird’s story will resume later this year.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

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