In this letter, Baird reflects on the battles he remembers from the past year (1863) and his health. He also looks forward to finally marrying his longtime love, Maggie Bowker.

Stephensburg, Va.
New Year Eve, 1863

My dearest Maggie,

I find myself once more at the close of another year, and that close Still finds me in the tented field. When I look back over the past year, I Sometimes wonder that I Still live. It has been one of extreme care, toil, privation, and Suffering. I have borne my part, I will not Say how well, on Several bloody fields. Have Seen many who have fallen on those fields, indeed have Seen all the horrors and Suffering incident to war. The first night at Gettysburg will ever be fresh in my memory, nor will Falling Waters, Boonsboro, or Thornton’s Gap soon be forgotten by me. The little incident at Monterey, too, which occurred on the night of the 4th last July, will also be one worthy of reflection. But amidst all these dangers, toils, & privations, we have had our enjoyments, our frolicks & fun. Though Much has been bitter, Still a due proportion has been mingled with the Sweet and in every circumstance I cannot but acknowledge the providence of God, I had hoped when I left home that this conflict would have closed ere this. In this I was disappointed. It Still continues, and our remorseless foes Still cling with a pertinacity worthy of a bitter cause,  to the determination to distroy our country. I had hoped for health, This has been kindly granted to me to a degree far beyond my expectations.  Nor have the fated bullets been permitted Sear or lacerate my flesh, or limbs. Oh! Maggie, Why Should I complain? Why should I not rather look with brighter expectations and fonder hopes to the close of the approaching year? True it is Still in the dark future, We cannot Solve its undeveloped misteries, but we can trust, as we have, in the past, to the Strong arm & ever watchful eye. Oh! Maggie, I wish I could believe that you were as trustful on that Strong arm as I am, that you could believe that He holds the destinies of individuals, as well as of nations, in his hand. And then if we ask not amis he will surely grant it; and ere another year has flown we will have the Consummate Satisfaction of knowing that our petitions & desires have been crowned with answers of blessing. Then we will both enter the new year with Strong hearts placing our entire confidence and dependence on the Ruler of all, And look with bright hopes of anticipation to the closing Scenes of another year.

Your letter of the 20th reached me the 29th. The question you ask me I will answer by directing your attention to the 4th Chap. 17th verse of James. I am surprised to hear of so horrible an affair as that which you relate. I trust the perpetrators of so atrocious a deed will be discovered and brought to justice. Surely a crime so terible aught not to go by unpunished. I Should, indeed, love dearly to enjoy with you some of your “calls” though that time is still distant, but we will hope on. I heard Sometime ago that Noah’s regiment was now in Mich. but from your letters I conclude that it is not. I think it would do Noah much good to get a furlough home. Our doctors & officers do not seem to consider the good that would result from the sending home of men who are lingering along in sickness & suffering. I hope Noah may have the opportunity of visiting home & friends and once more. I have been wishing that David’s regiment would come down into this detachment, but I understand it has gone West. May David have Success while gone and a Safe return & friends.    

I got a letter from home the other day dated the 21st. Father stated that they would move into the new house that week and so I suppose they are now there. How much my poor Mother looked & hoped for the time when She might enjoy that comfort, but, alas, she was not permitted to See her hopes fulfilled. My father writes me that Leiyyis has lost one of his sisters, she died of smallpox. Our regiment has been out on picket the last three days and a very disagreeable time have they had of it. Now is the worst Season of the year. Rain and mud are the principle features of a Virginia winter. I came here just in time to escape the hard weather we are having now and I find my new Situation much easier than my former one. When we get our new winter quarters completed I Shall enjoy myself much better. I am on duty to-night and so I will watch the old year out & the New Year in. The old year goes out rather gloomily, for it has stormed all day, & Still Storms and 1864 will be ushered in with a frown. But it will brighten up in a few days again, and all will go “Merry as a Marriage bell.” A fair day here is beautiful indeed and if we could only have such all the time Soldiering would not pass so drearily. But we cannot rule the weather, so we will find no fault.

Well, Maggie, Swift flows the old year’s ebbing tide And each Man moans a doleful dirge, only about an hour more & the new year will have been born & as I have written all the news and more, perhaps, than will interest you I will bring this lengthy message to a close. However, I must first have the pleasure of wishing you a happy New Year, & health & success while its hours last.

Write Soon, Maggie, how cheering your letters are I alone can know.

But good night, dearest, and with respects to all friends,
I remain yours ever & constant


(Sealed with a kiss)

Noah and David Bowker were two of Maggie’s older siblings. Noah served in Co. A of the 13th Michigan Infantry and David was a Sergeant in Co. L of the 11th Michigan Cavalry. Both were farmers after the war.

Who’s Matthew Baird?

This letter does not contain dramatic news, but Baird does reference the draft. The draft was instituted for the first time in 1863 and led to uprisings around the country, but especially in New York. Be sure to follow the link below.

Raccoon Ford, River Rapidan Va.
Friday, Nov. 20th, ‘63

My dear Father,

Your letter of the 3rd reached me last Saturday, but I have’nt had a chance to write till to-day. I am Sorry to hear that your corn has done so poorly. If you can find a good pair of colts, well matched, I would like to have you buy them for unexpectedly I got my pay yesterday, & so I will endorse to you in this a check for twenty dollars which will help towards buying the colts. I got a letter from Sammy this week, dated Oct. 3rd. He was then still in Arkansas, & was well. By his talk I think his regiment is going into winter quarters.

The 6th Mich. is now picket at this place

Our Camp is some five miles to the rear of us at a little place called Stephensburg. Nearly all of the Army of the Potomac is now around Culpepper & Brandy Station. The rebels are strongly fortified on the other side of the Rapadan, I think Meade will soon try & drive them out of their nest, however.

Henry Ward is with the Company & looks real well & hearty. So does Jeff Kelley, in fact all of the boys do. My health is getting right good again.

When you write please send me a list of all that have been drafted in our town.

With my love to all I remain, as ever,


Who’s Matthew Baird?

Camp Stoneman
Friday, Nov. 13th ’63.

My dear Maggie,

I left the hospital last Saturday and am now at the dismounted camp near Washington, but Shall probably Start for my regiment to-morrow. I would have written before, but I have been waiting to hear from you. But I as I leave so soon I will wait no longer. I haven’t heard from home Since your wrote from Hickory Corners.

You will now want to direct your letters to my company at first. Well, Maggie, now do you enjoy yourself? And how do you find things up in Newaygo [Michigan]? Do you have Sleighing up there yet? The weather is delightful here. We have had but very little rain, and the roads are as dry & hard as a brick. Fine time for the army to move, Meade gained another victory last Saturday. The advance of the army is now at Culpeper.

I presume my regiment is at that place. There was report of another fight at Fredericksburg yesterday. I have not new of news to write this time, So you will excuse the brevity of this; won’t you? I am not so well as I would wish, but let this create no uneasiness in your mind.

Write me as soon as this reaches you, give me all the news you can, and believe me, dearest,

Ever Your Own,

Company K,
6th Mich. Cav’l
Washington, D.C.


Who’s Matthew Baird?

In this letter, Baird writes home to his future wife, Maggie Bowker about his hopes for the future. The letter is much more poetic than his recent letters with expressive turns of phrase.

Washington D.C.
Thursday, Nov. 5th ‘63

My dear Maggie,

Taking into consideration the prospects and hopes of the future, how slowly the time moves along; yet predictably, it is Swifter than the fleet footed deer. We look away and into the future, panting & thirsting for the undeveloped enjoyments which, we fondly hope, it holds out to us, and we murmur & seem disappointed because those hopes are not realized to us Sooner.

One long year has fled Since we last met, Since we parted. I had flattered myself then, that ere another Autumn had Seared the forrests And browned the fields, we would be made happy in each other’s Society & love. But Providence has otherwise ordered.

The Same passions that then agitated the public mind of our country, still continue to rage. The same urgent voice that echoed over hill & dale, calling men to battle for their homes, is Still heard; And the Same conflict, in which is invalued The Sacred principles of universal liberty, Still continues. That year has passed, the future of that year has been reached; but does it bring the coveted object? No, it does not. But it does Seem to increase that desire – The desire for the return of peace, and the enjoyment of those blessings which flow from peace. You do not know how much my thoughts turn to the closing period of this conflict, & the opening of another period in which, is involved the happiness of us both. Yet that future may, like the future of the past year, bring but a bitter disappointment, But I have reason to believe, & predict different. Another Autumn will usher in, & welcome the Sweet harbingers of peace. Joy, throughout our land, will take the place of crying & mourning. And those who now so boldly grasp the weapons of death, will return to caress the loved objects of home. Every day brings Some new evidence that the Rebellion is Sinking, Slow it may be, but sure. The great question, whether the American people are able to govern themselves, will soon be decided. And it will be decided in the affirmative.

I am glad you had so good a visit at “Cousins,” but I regret you did not make a longer stay at my father’s. I gather from your letter that you Simply Stoped there, I was in hopes you would, for my sake, make a visit. But I will not reproach you for this, only I’m sorry you didn’t. I was marked for my regiment a few days ago, but I do not know when I will go to it. Direct as usual, till you hear from me again. I presume when this reaches you, you will have got all my other letters, & you will have to write a long one to answer them all, at least I shall expect a big one.

Write me all the news, My love to “Cousin Mary,” when you write her,

Yours Affectionately,


P.S. Yours of the 28th came yesterday, M

Who’s Matthew Baird?

Baird has not written home to his father in quite a while. In this letter he discusses home matters primarily and gives his father advice. Unfortunately, the haste of his penmanship makes this letter very difficult to read. Can you help? Thank you!

First page of Baird's letter. HCP Collection.

First page of Baird’s letter. HCP Collection.

Washington D.C.
Monday, Oct. 19th ’63.

My dear Father, Your letter of the 12th reached me Saturday, being only three days on the road. I was glad to hear the money reached you Safe. I wrote you on the Same day, enclosing a draft of 20 dollars, I do not know how much money I have Sent home, not having kept any account, but think it is very near 124 dollars. You did not mention the probable Sum you would have to pay for the colts you wish to buy; nor their age, but I Should prefer that they were quite young.

If you can turn the [illegible] you have into a good span of colts I would do it. And turn them toward the money I have let you have. But don’t go in debt for them, Tell me their age, color, and value $ & C.

With regard to the Wing Willison affair I will not venture any advice, but will simply tell you what I would do. It is far better to “suffer wrong than to do wrong.” And, though in this case you will Suffer. I Should pay it, and then ever after be careful how I made business contracts on Sunday, and with what kind of men I made such contracts. Were not the School District to be the loosers it would be different, and then the thing might invoke you in lawsuits and trouble, and in the end you be a greater looser than to pay it now.

You will suffer now but verily Wing Willison will have his “reward.”

You say you have had a deed of the Bob Kelly lot made out to myself and Sammy, and I will now suggest a thought which perhaps has not touched your mind. It is this. Should anything happen to Sammie or myself, or both of us, so that one or neither of us Should return home, would not those deeds involve your law difficulties from having to go through the Probate Court? I hope I may be wrong, but it is first a thought.

Third page of Baird's letter. HCP Collection.

Third page of Baird’s letter. HCP Collection.

I would dearly love to be at home to have a Share of the cider, but drink my Share & call it mine. How near will you Square up all [illegible] of this fall? I was in hopes you would be pretty much clear. If I do not go

out to the front before I get my next pay, I will then Send home my watch and try and get my picture for Lucie. I wish you would get a family picture & Send it to me, of all that are at home. I have Sent Several newspapers home lately. I have off and on Since I came here, do you get them? If you do not I will Send no more. I mailed a Harpers’ yesterday to Mary & a Chronicle to Robert this morning. I do not feel so well to-day as usual, but I expect to be able to my regiment Shortly. Meade is again on the Potomac. Skirmishing every day, battle expected hour, Spirits of the Army good. I have faith & confidence in Meade.

Write Soon & frequent,


The Willison family was one of the first families to arrive in Barry Township, Barry County, Michigan.

Samuel and his brother James, Wing’s father, brought their families from Cayuga Co., N.Y. in 1837. One of the first schools was in the Willison district of the township, church services were also held in this school prior to the Baptist Church of Barry having its own home. Wing was a farmer in Barry Township, but was also active in Hope Township where he bought out C.P. Larabee’s pioneer store c. 1855. He does not appear to have married and lived with his brother Martin in his later years. He died in September of 1914 and you can see his death certificate here.


Who’s Matthew Baird?

Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, Oct. 13th ‘63

Respected Friend,

You doubtless think me very negligent in my delaying to answer your letter.

The facts, however, are just these. Your letter reached me at a time when our regiment was doing picket duty out on the front, when constant & excessive duty was required of every man. Four days would Sometimes pass before we would be relieved and often only twenty –four hours would intervene before we would be placed on duty again. Thus, you See, we had but little time to give though, And the few letters written were always in haste & consequently very brief. Then in June came our Falmouth raid of four days & immediately following the Summer Campaign. The excitement and heat of which, excluded almost the possibility of writing. Your letter I kept until the battle of Falling Waters where I lost my horse & my post-folio was in my Saddle pocket. Your letter was lost also. And now at this late date I have pretty much forgotten the contents, in general but think they touched mostly on the opposition with which the defenders of the Republic have not, during the present and past wars, I remember your letter refreshed my mind very much in several points of history, & presented to it ideas of which I had not thought. Weak as was the nation at its birth, formidable as was the foe against which it struggled, cruel as was the internal opposition, in the long contest the Republic became Strong enough to conquer the one & crush the other.

And in the present contest, formidable as is the enemy in the front, and powerful as is the opposition in the rear. I do not know as we have any right to think, to hope, or to believe that we Shall Succeed, that our government will come out more than conquerers.

Every day brings us new evidence of the relaxation of the muscle & Sinew of the rebellion, the failing of its resources, the discouragement of its most hopeful friends. The opposition grows weaker, the ranks of the Union friends grow Stronger, and deeper.

And to-day, we hope, we trust, we believe, will achieved for the country a a greater victory than has been won in either East or West, in the terible Campaigns of the past Summer & that victory will be won at the ballot box. And as the enemies in the field have often been Scattered like chaff before our Armies, May Such a blow, to-day, be dealt, that will Shame and confuse and Scatter the opposition on which the enemies of our country look with So Much difidence, confidence and expectation, And So trusting that the God of battles & Rule of Nations will give to our government the victory, and to the country a Speedy and lasting peace, and with my respects to yourself and family & hoping to hear from you occasionly, I will close,   

Respectfully Yours,
M. Baird

Rev. Silas Bowker

Who’s Matthew Baird?

Matthew Baird and his daughter Carrie Ethel, c. 1900. Courtesy of the Connell Family.

Matthew Baird and his daughter Carrie Ethel, c. 1900. Courtesy of the Connell Family.

Exciting news! Early in September, the Park’s curator received a call from a distant Baird family member that had stumbled across this blog. Our hopes of finding a photo of Matthew Baird were finally fulfilled! The image to the right is of Matthew Baird and his daughter Carrie Ethel Baird, likely taken around 1900. Thank you so much to the Connell Family for allowing us to share it with you!

Washington D.C.
Sunday, Sept 27th ‘63

My dear Maggie,

Although it is very difficult for me to write, Still I must try and pen you a few lines. I am So weak it is hard to work for me to write. I Sit up but little of the time and I get, oh So tired lying abed all day. But this will not last long, I hope to get Stronger Soon. A poor fellow from the State of New York, whose cot was next to mine, died this morning at 11 ½ o’clock. His soldiering is finished, and he has gone to render his account. Oh how necessary it is that we Should be prepared, “for in an hour that we think not, the Son of man cometh.” Fred Bergman is going home on furlough. He Starts next Tuesday, Oh how I wish I could go with him.

Well, Maggie, I have not heard directly from my regiment since I left, but by other means I learn that in crossing the Rappahannock a few days ago, it was tiribly cut up. It was placed, as usual, in the advance. It is four weeks to-day Since I had a letter from you but I presume there are letters for me at my company.

I sent for them, when I first came here, but they don’t come along yet. Maggie, I wish I could write more, at least more that would interest you, but my stock of news is exhausted, and I am compelled to be brief.

I don’t hear from home. Oh! how I would love to hear from home again. But I must close. Remember me as usual to all the friends.

And believe me, dearest,
Your own,


Who’s Matthew Baird?

This letter finds Baird still in a dismounted camp outside Alexandria, Virginia. Cavalry soldiers were stationed at dismounted camps when there were no horses to be had until they could be assigned another and return to their unit. There were inherent issues in this system, which you can read more about here.

Identifying “Jeff” and “Cyrus” is not possible with Baird’s scant references. There were several men with the first (or last) name Cyrus living in Hope that Baird mentions above. Copperheads were northerners that wanted to see the end of the war and saw it as unconstitutional, in the most basic terms. The story of the Copperheads is rather more involved and deserving of a read. 

Camp Windham,

Wednesday, Aug 12th 63’

My dear Father,

Though I have written Several letters Since I last heard from home, yet I will try & pen a few lines to-day. I have not been well for Some time & for the last few days I have been quite unwell, though I am Still about. I am Still at the dismounted camp near Alexandria Va. Some of the boys will go out to-morrow I think though I Shall remain here now till I am able to do duty. Jonny Irwin is Still here & like my Self is unwell, with the diarreah. Henry Ward is here also & is rather under weather.

I was fortunate enough to get my pay again to-day for two months, So I am able to Send you another check of $18.00. You will find it enclosed in this. Now when you get this & answer it, I wish you would Send me all the agricultural news you can. What you got for haul, how the hay & wheat crops came out, what is the price of wheat this fall, what is the prospect of the corn crop, & How does the clones in those two lots near Jackson’s do? or did you have to plow it up?

Tell me, too, about the draft, how many were drafted from Hope, who they were & how they take the draft & what do the Copperheads think about the war now? Do they begin to tremble for Jeff? Is Cyrus as flush of Southern patriotism and Sympathy as usual?

Give him my respects, but tell him Southern pride must come down, & that Southern chivalry must Submit to Yankey valor & determination.

The boys have first bought a fine Watermellon, & I shall have to close to help discuss that, So please excuse me further, giving my love to all

And believing me truly,
Your affectionate Son,


Who’s Matthew Baird?

Washington City
Friday, July 31st, ‘63

My dear Father,

You will be surprised, no doubt, to find that I am in this city.

But the incessant & rapid marches which our division has performed Since the 25th June, had used nearly all of our horses up, they being either killed or worn out, rendering  it necessary for us to recruit. So last Sunday we were ordered to return all our unserviceable horses & report to this place for fresh ones, but many of our horses gave out entirely on the way, my own among the number.  Of course we lost all our equipments & after we arrived the authorities failed to provide us with the necessary equipments & so quite a number of us had to remain behind. John Irwin is with me here.

My dear father, you have, no doubt, frequently heard from us through the papers, and of the valuable services the Cavalry regiments have rendered this campaign.

Since we left Fairfax the 25th June, the 6th Mich Cav’l has been engaged in eleven different battles & Skirmishes & I have been with it every time. Just a week ago today, we had a hard brush with a large force of the enemy, at Battle Mountain, near the Blue Ridge. In that fight Company K lost two men killed & two wounded.

One of those killed is, I have to lament, my much esteemed friend Jonathan Smith. He was Shot dead as we were advancing. I have written to his mother. The other killed was Ira Kelsey.

The wounded were Jimmie Hunt in the right shoulder slightly, & Fred Bergman in the right leg just above the ankle, fracturing the bone to some extent. I saw Fred to-day. He was very cheerful & Said if he got able to do Service he was willing to go back & try it over again. He is doing well now, He is in Mount Pleasant Hospital Ward No. 2 Washington.  The patients are all well cared for. You may tell Johnathan’s Mother that She can draw a pension of eight dollars per month from the date of his death, if she makes application for such pension before the expiration of one year.

I am now in what is termed a Dismounted Camp near Alexandria, Va. There is a large number of Cavalry waiting here for horses, I could not tell now when we Shall leave. We may Soon, we may not in Sometime. We came here yesterday before I could finish this.

My health is tolerable good, Johnny is well, as were all of the boys when I left.

Love to all

Dismounted Camp
Near Alexandria, VA.
Aug. 1st, 1863

As mentioned in a previous letter, Jonathan Smith was killed near Amissville, Virginia on the slopes of Battle Mountain near Newby’s Cross Roads.

John Irwin enlisted in Johnstown Township in Barry County, Michigan in 1862. He was made Corporal in 1865 and mustered out shortly after. He married Priscilla Sams in 1866 and settled in Kansas where he was a farmer. They had 4 children together. He died in 1943 at the age of 100 and is buried in Centralia Cemetery in Nemaha County, Kansas.

John Smith is listed in a previous entry. Ira Kelsey enlisted in Co. K in 1862 at the age of 36 and was killed in action at Newby’s Cross Roads, Virginia on July 24, 1863.

James Hunt (Jimmie above) and Frederick Bergman were discussed in a previous entry, and their wounds were not fatal.


Who’s Matthew Baird?

First page of Baird's letter, HCP collection.

First page of Baird’s letter, HCP collection.

The date on this letter clearly reads July 21st, 1863, but the battle Baird describes seems to be the Battle of Upperville that took place on June 21, 1863. Could Baird have been mistaken? What do you think?

To help your pondering, here are some links to descriptions of battle at Upperville: and

Near Upperville, Va.

Tuesday, July 21st, ‘63

My own Maggie,

It affords me much pleasure to hear from you So often. ISolated as we are from the genial influences of home Society, Seperated from those we love, we pass many lonely hours; but thanks to a kind Providence, now and then the “white winged messenger” comes to cheer our desponding hearts, & bring us Sweet tokens of [illegible, on crease] & love. Now & then one comes to bless my eyes & cheer my heart.

Yours, mailed the 10th, reached me this morning. I was more than glad to hear from you So Soon again, It found me quite well, with the exception of very weak eyes, caused by constant exposure to bright air and riding in the dust.

Our regiment, with a larger portion of the army, is now lying near Ashby’s Gap (Blue Ridge Mts.). We came to this place the night before last. The rebels then ocupied the Gap. Yesterday the 5th & 6th Mich, Cav’l, Made an advance on their position, as we advanced the rebels fell back until we had possession of the Gap. The 5th then fell back, the 6th following the enemy up about two miles, which brought us to the Shenandoah river. The rebels had crossed Sinking their boats after them, (the river being too deep to ford). Across the river the enemy had thrown up breast works & made a Stand. We dismounted about 1/6th of a mile from the river & advanced to fight on foot, Co’s K & B being, being on the extreme left came into action fast. In taking our position we had to advance through an open wheat field, with out any covering, as Soon as we entered the field we were greeted with a perfect Shower of bullets, but we had already deployed in Skirmishing order, So that none of their Shots took effect. For a few moments we took cover under the Shocks when we were ordered to a large brick house 60 rods to the front, with a cheer we advanced on double quick, another Shower of bullets greeting us, but without injury to us. As soon as we were under cover we commenced firing, & in ten minutes not a rebel could be induced to Show his head. A Scattering fire was kept up about two & a half hours, & as we couldn’t ford the river to charge their situation, & they being too well covered for our Carbines we fell back. As we were falling back, the cowardly dogs played upon us gayly with their long range guns, but they didn’t hit us, though we retired Slowly. Our casualties in this Skirmish was three wounded in Co’s C & F. They were on the right. We now hold the Gap, we may soon have a fight, but I can’t Say.  Yesterday makes eight times I have been exposed to the enemies fire, But a kind Providence has spared, though many times the bullets cut close. There is now a large body of infantry here, among them the old Third, & last night I had the pleasure of Shaking hands with many of my old comrades. But, alas, many of them have fallen.

 Remember me to your parents, give my love to “Cousin” Saving a dust Share to yourself, As ever, Your own,


Upside down: I am glad to learn that my picture reached you, I was fearful that it would not as I was compelled to trust an entire Stranger to the mailing of it. John Kahler got your letter this morning & he will write at the earliest convenience. The boys are all well.


Jacob (John above) Kahler was from Prairieville in Barry County, Michigan and enlisted in Co. K of the 6th Michigan Cavalry in 1862 at the age of 20. According to his obituary, he drove General Custer’s headquarters wagon and was discharged in 1865. He married Mary Ward in 1867 and moved to the Charlevoix/Petoskey, Michigan area in 1883. They had 3 children and Jacob was a farmer prior to his death. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Emmet County, Michigan. You can read his obituary here and see his death certificate. John can sometimes be a nickname for Jacob.


Who’s Matthew Baird?