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

Matthew

(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.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

Near Hagerstown
Monday, July 13th, 1863

My dear Father,

It is now a very long time Since I heard from home, and as you may Suppose, I begin to feel anxious to hear. The 4th of July was the last time we got any mail and I was Sure I Should hear from home then, but I was disappointed. My health Still remains good, though of late I have Seen a great deal of Service. You have doubtless heard before this of the String? Events that have taken place lately this Side of the Potomac, but there Still remains much to be done. Our regiment has participated in four or five different battles & Skirmishes already. Yesterday the division to which we belong had a brush with the enemy, driving them out of Hagerstown & capturing some 800 prisoners.

We expect another big battle Soon at Williamsport. The rebels are Strongly fortified there, and our force is large, I look for bloody work, but am hopeful that we Shall Succeed in defeating the enemy. The boys are all well, and in good Spirits.

How I wish you would write oftener. It Seems to me that Some one of you might write once a week, at least, it is So long Since you have written that it Seems as though you had forgotten me, but I hope you have’nt I haven’t [Illegible name] likeness yes, I Shall look for it till it comes.

Henry Ward & Jeffry Kelly are with us yet, & Johnathan Smith also, & Fred, Milo, Jimmie Hunt in fact all the boys from our neighborhood. They are good Soldiers, Johnathan was slightly wounded a few days ago at Boonsboro, the ball first breaking the Skin a little above his knee. Sylva Young’s husband, Manson Buck, was wounded at Hanover, a ball passing through one of his arms.

At Gettysburg George Brownell & Dana Wilson were wounded by the explosion of a shell that Struck in the ranks, there were three horses killed by the same shell. You will find all the names I have mentioned, on my record.

Thus far I have escaped with an unbroken Skin, you must excuse this writing, for I can do no better here. Do write soon, I Sent you 18 dollars the last of May, did you get it?

Give my love to all, and believe me, as ever your Affect’ Son

Matthew

Baird mentions many fellow soldiers in this letter, all were members of Co. K of the 6th Michigan Cavalry. The brief histories below were taken from several sources, but primarily, Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War 1861-1865 and www.familysearch.org.

Henry Ward enlisted 1862 in Barry County at the age of 19. He was promoted to Corporal in 1864 and Sergeant in 1865 prior to mustering out at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He died May 7, 1923 and is buried in Greenwood cemetery, Petoskey, Michigan. Click here to view his obituary.

Thomas Jefferson Kelley (Jeffry Kelly above) enlisted in 1862 in Barry County at the age of 19. He was promoted to Corporal in March 1864, Commissary Sergeant in November 1864, and First Sergeant in 1865 before mustering out. On the 1890 Census of the Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War he is listed with a disability, “sabre cut-left-side of head.” He died March 4, 1925 and is buried in Cedar Creek Cemetery, in Dowling, Michigan.

Jonathan Smith enlisted in Hope Township, Barry County in 1862 at the age of 26. He was killed at Newby’s Cross Roads, Virginia on July 24, 1863. The battle was fought near Amissville, Virginia on the slopes of Battle Mountain, which was near Newby’s Cross Roads. Baird will mention Smith again after his death in a future letter. Click here to learn more about the battle.

Frederick Bergman (Fred above) enlisted in 1862 at the age of 28. He was wounded in action at Newby’s Cross Roads on July 24th, and would never fully recover based on his service records. He was transferred to the Invalid Corps in 1864 and was discharged from the 9th Co., 2nd Battalion, Veteran Reserve Corps in 1865. The Invalid Corps consisted of injured men that were still capable of performing light duties, such as patrol and guard duty, and draft enforcement. Read more about the Invalid Corps here.   Fred was from Germany and he married Harriet Galloway and made his living farming after the war. They had 3 children. Harriet died in 1900 and Fred lived with his son Henry prior to his death in 1925. He is buried in the Cedar Creek Cemetery in Dowling, Michigan.

Milo West is likely the soldier Baird is referring to in the letter. He was from the same town as Baird and enlisted in 1862 at the age of 19. He was held as a prisoner of war, although there is no record of him having been at Andersonville. He died of disease in 1864 and is buried in the Annapolis National Cemetery in Maryland.

Jimmie (James) Hunt was also from Hope in Barry County. He enlisted in 1862 at the age of 31. He is listed as missing in action later in 1863 near Brandy Station, Virginia. He survived and was discharged in 1865. The 1890 census of surviving Civil War soldiers  lists that he was wounded in the shoulder by a bullet.

Manson Buck enlisted in 1862 at Yankee Springs at the age of 23. He married Sylvia (Sylva above) Young in 1862, shortly after he enlisted. He was listed as missing in action in Hanover, Pennsylvania in 1863, taken prisoner in 1864, and died of disease while imprisoned.  He is buried in Danville, Virginia. His wife does not appear to have remarried.

George Brownell lived in Prairieville in Barry County, Michigan and enlisted in 1862 at the age of 22. He died of the wounds received at Gettysburg that Baird mentions in the letter.

Dana Wilson was from Hastings and enlisted in 1862 at the age of 30. He married Sarah Mudge in January of 1861. He was made Corporal in 1865 and is listed “on detached service” in March 1865 and there is no further record of him. His wife remarried in 1867 and submitted claims for payment cards in the early 1900’s.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

The 6th Michigan Cavalry was very active during June and July of 1863, even serving at Gettysburg as Baird alludes to below. He also mentions the battle at Boonsboro on July 8, but does not go into details. Follow the links to learn more.

 

Boonesborough, M.d.
Friday, July 10th, ‘63

My dear Girl,

You will perhaps think me rather negligent in not writing before; but to tell you the truth, I’ve had no time to write, & no chance to mail letters if I had written.

Since I last wrote, we have passed through a great variety of scenes, many of which have been fraught with danger & fatigue. Our regiment has been in four different battles & skirmishes since the 29th June & I have been present at every one, But as I have time to write only a little I will not Stop to give you the details now, but as soon as we are again settled in camp, I will try & give you a full account of our operations.

We have been fleecing the rebel army “right Smartly” and preparations are being made to give it another. Such a disposition has been made of our forces that almost every one is confident of success. I truly hope we may –

Well, Maggie, our regiment spent the 4th marching & fighting. The afterpart of the day was dreadful Stormy, but it made no difference as Fighting & Marching are our business now. The day before yesterday we had quite a fight at this place, we drove the rebs. But you must excuse me from writing more at present, & when the hurry is over I will write you a long letter.

I am enjoying remarkably good health for the fatigue through which I’ve passed.

Good bye for the present & if Spared you Shall hear from me Soon again.

Your letter of June 20th was received at Gettysburg July 4th, also one from May at the same time. I will send you a Confederate Postage Stamp, which was found in a train we [illegible], & given to me.

Love to all,
Remaining the Same
Constant & true,

Matthew

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Who’s Matthew Baird?