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.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

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Maggie Bowker, HCP Collection

Maggie Bowker, HCP Collection

Near New Castle Ferry
Pamunkey River, Va.
May 3rd, 1864

My dear Maggie,

I snatch a few hasty moments from our busy life to write you a few lines. Since my last letters from Milford Station we have had two hard fights but we whipped the rebels both times. In the last one we lost heavily, but the rebel losses exceeded our largely. Our company lost three wounded; the regiment 9 killed & 26 wounded. The rebels are “gigging back” all the time, & we gradually coming down onto Richmond. We are withing [sic] 15 or 20 miles now. The infantry are nearer. The infantry are fighting to-day.

Maggie, I thank God I am well – my health is good, and trust will remain so through the campaign, and God only know when that will end.

My dear girl, excuse me from writing more at present. I will try & keep you posted as often as possible as to my where abouts. Remember me, dearest, as yours, ever,

Matthew

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

Stephensburg, Va.
March 25th, ‘64

My dear Father,

I received yours of the 13th last night. I am sorry to hear of Robert’s illness. Jefferson Kelley heard that you did not expect him to live for some time. I hope he will be entirely recovered when this reaches you. Though I was not very well when I last wrote I am enjoying very good health just now. I acknowledged the receipts of the stocking in two letters. I think, but they could not have reached you.

It has been some time since I got a letter from Sammie but he thought he would start for home by the first of the month. I hope he will have the privilege of going home if I cannot. Speaking of clover seed, how much bls [bushels] you expect to sow this spring?

Now I would like to say a word about my Cedar Creek lot. Could you so arrange it as by a year from next fall, to put in ten acres of wheat for me? My term of enlistment will have expired then, but not soon enough for me to come home to do it myself. I want some kind of a start when I get home, and I do not know how else to get it. Robert told me that you had seeded the south lot. That you can mow this season & next summer you can, if it is mostly clover, let it grow till in June and thus turn it under.

I think that will aid greatly in producing a good crop of wheat. If you sow oats on the north lot this spring, I would like to have that sowed to pure clover also, and then next summer have it turned under. If you plant it to corn, then it will have to be summer followed. I will try and furnish you with the money it will cost for clover seed. And will pay you for the labor & wheat required to put in ten acres. What do you think it will be worth one acre to fit the ground for and put in ten acres of wheat? The seed cost included. If you want to use the ground, and can tell me where I could do better, will you do so?

The government owes us two months pay now, and I think we’ll soon get. Then I hope to be able to send you twenty dollars more. I am glad my last draft got through safe. Tell me all you can about the prospect of putting in a wheat crop. It may seem soon to begin to think of it, but if I begin early I shall not fail for want of time.

Remember me to all the friends and with my love to all the family, and my prayers for the recovery of health to Robert.

I remain,
With much affection,
Your son,
Matthew

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.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

Letter written to Baird from Enos. P. Chandler, a farmer, as noted in the 1880 Census. Born in New York in 1815, he was close to 47 years old at the time this letter was written.

Cedar Creek Oct. 20th 1861

Dear Sir, you letter of the fourth inst, was received by the last mail. I was glad to hear from you, but Sorry to read the news it contained. The Service has lost a good soldier and the country a good citizen. Samuel L. Phillips was a good hearted man, I received the letter you & Linns wrote me, I got it about the first of September owing to sickness in my family I did not answer it, and now it is too late. I wish you would ascertain the name of his Captain and the number of the Company in which he served, and also the amount of pay that was due him at the time of his death, an let me know who to write to, to get information on serving his affairs, myself & family have all been sick this fall but we are better now and we get some news from the army that is cheering to all the neighbors except S. Doud, the Larabees, A. Gordimin & A. Mott. So you see their forces are small in this section. Friend C. P. Dickenson had got up a flag, Uncle P. Howard also, and we all take off our hats as we pass under them, you may rest assured, that our prayers are for the Safety of the Nation & its Brave Defenders Oh, Matthew you cant imagine how often I have wished myself ten years younger or at least, healthy and robust, that I might take part in this struggle. Jonathan Valentine and two of Mr. McShane’s boys, just over in Baltimore [Township], they went to Chicago. Hewey S. Johnson lost his wife this summer, and he is about being married again we have a very wet fall, but no frost to speak of until this morning and then not very severe. Wheat is mostly going in late, in consequence of wet weather. Crops are very good this season I do not think of any think of any thing more of importance to write and therefore will draw this lengthy epistle to a close, if your patience is exhausted by reading this, write to me again as soon as you can and I will endeavor to be more prompt for the future, this from your Sincere Friend and well wisher Enos. P Chandler

To Matthew Baird

–          –           –           –           –           –           –           –           –

PS Please write soon and let me know all you can learn of Linn’s affair
                                                                                                                                   E.P. C.

Samuel L. Phillips  was from Ottawa County, MI and enlisted in Co. I of the Third Michigan Infantry on May 13, 1861 in Grand Rapids for 3 years, age 32. Mustered June 10, 1861. Died of disease at Georgetown, D.C. Sept. 5, 1861. From Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War 1861-1865, vol. 3.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

Below is a letter written by George Baird, to his son Matthew. George was born in 1815 in New York and died shortly after the end of the war in 1866. He mentions several of Baird’s siblings and details about life at home and friends he interacts with in this missive. There is very little punctuation in the letter, as you will see if you take a peek at the image, and George spells a some words phonetically.

First page of George Baird's letter, HCP Collection

Hope Sept 9/1861

My Dear Son, we rec’d your letter of the first of this month, and was very glad to here from you, we are all well at present, you want to here how mush wheat we have in the half Bushel, we had About 400 in the hole, on the home lot and the Cedar Creek lot together we had 205 Bushel and on R. Kelleys, my 2 thirds was 67 Bushel, and on your we had 125 Bushel  I think it will hold out 400 Bushal Brother Clark hald a load of wheat to Market last week and could get but 80 cents per Bushal, that will not pay up, some body must wate I will do the best I can, and pay as far as I can I went to Corteraly meeting on Saturday last and we had A good time, I gave Brother Hale and Brother Homes the Directions to you, they said they would write to you they appear to be very glad to here from you, and said they would pray for you, your Brother Samuel [sibling] has you also in the Battle field, he has gone in A horse Company, it was got up in Battle Creek, Mn [William] Holman, Donal Soles, John Coleman, Jacob Moot, have gone in the same Company with Samuel, Matthew pray for him that god will take Care of him and shield and that he may return home safe, Emry Jackson has Also gone in the same company with Samuel Cas Roberson wanted to know wether you would sell your land or not, and what time you would give him on it, that is to pay for it, I Asked him $400 Dollars you can do as you please Mn Bay has written to you and has answered Thomases and lucy letters, your Uncle Matthew will start for Washington the last of this week give my respect to Wm Fox tel him that I hope that he will put his trust in God and ask him to give him health and Strength in the time of battle and Ask God to Shield and guide him in the path of duty I hope that God will bless him tell him that he has the prayers of his praying friend in this nighbour hood

Brother Clark says that he cannot write, but says he has often asked his wife to write for him but cannot get her at it, he says he has not for goten you, he says you all ways have his prayers and says you must trust in God and Rely on his promises, if you go in Battle and get through safe, write Amediately so that we may know that you are on the land of the living, I now leave you in the hand of God hoping that he will take care of you May God bless you No more at present but I still Remain your affectionate

Father George W. Baird

Samuel Baird, Matthew’s younger brother by 2 years, enlisted in an independent cavalry unit called the Battle Creek Squadron of Light Horse (according to later letters). That unit was eventually absorbed and Samuel found himself in Company H, “Merrill Horse” or the 2nd Missouri Cavalry in August of 1861. He completed his training in Missouri at Benton Barracks  from September – December. To see a full list of those that served in Merrill Horse click here. He spent the next four years of active duty in the western theater of the Civil War, including Missouri, Arkansas, Western Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Samuel reenlisted in January of 1864, was promoted to Corporal in December and was discharged in September of 1865, when he returned to Cedar Creek. He went on to have three wives and live in several cities around the Midwest, passing away in 1923.

George also mentions Thomas and Lucy, Baird’s youngest siblings, born in 1851 and 1855 respectively. With the death of both of their parents in the mid-1860’s, there are several years where both Thomas and Lucy are difficult to locate. Thomas was too young at the time of the conflict to be involved in the war and is listed as a railroad laborer in the 1870 census. Lucy does not appear again until her wedding record in 1873. Thomas had two wives and one child before passing away in 1924. Lucy and her husband relocated to Los Angeles, CA between 1880 and 1900 with her two daughters Minnie and Flora. Lucy passed away in 1923.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

First pages of Baird Diary. Diary approx. 2.25"x3", all in pencil except this page.

In honor of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the 150th anniversary of the conflict, we will be posting diary entries from Mr. Matthew Baird dated 1861-1865. Historic Charlton Park is in possession of almost every piece of paper that Baird wrote on during his lifetime, creating a very complete picture of his life while serving in the military during the Civil War. After several years of research and lots of volunteer hours put into his study, we are finally ready to make Baird’s story available to the public!

Matthew Baird was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1839, the oldest child of George W. Baird and Mary Eliza Merrill. He and his family, including younger brother Samuel, moved to Cedar Creek in Hope Township, Barry County, Michigan sometime between 1841 and 1850. The census of 1860 finds Baird living at home. He is listed as a 21 year old farm laborer to his father, as best we can tell. He was very devoted to his parents and the rest of the family at home. He contributed greatly to their financial well-being all through the Civil War and showed a continuous interest in how the farming operation was doing and the price of the commodities they grew each year. Baird was a prolific writer and very eloquent in the many poems that litter his diaries and correspondence.

April of 1861 finds Baird having signed up for the war effort, enlisting in Company H in the Third Regiment of the state militia on April 29, 1861 (in his own words). According to sources, he joined the 3rd Infantry, Company E in Grand Rapids, Michigan on May 13, 1861 and reported on June 10, 1861 for duty. Baird’s diary speaks of different dates for the above, as you will see. His letters and diary show a total and complete loyalty to the northern causes. He sees action all through the Eastern Front engagements as an infantryman. He spent the most of time within about 100 or so miles of Washington, D.C. and the Annapolis, Maryland vicinity. He speaks of the many times he visited the Capitol and witnessed the work of the people’s business in Congress and the House.

We will endeavor to post his diary entries on the corresponding dates they were written, starting today, April 29th. Quotes from his diary will appear in italics. More of his story will be revealed as the weeks pass. As of yet, we have not found a picture of Matthew Baird, but hope to have one soon. Where his entries are not sufficient, we will post transcriptions of his letters to fill in the gaps. Many thanks to David Chase, one of our most active volunteers, that tookMr. Baird’s story in hand going as far as the National Archives to finish his tale and for writing much of the above. Also, we are indebted to Gordon Mitchell, a local historian and descendant of Mr. Baird. We hope you will enjoy learning about Baird’s life as much as we have.

Monday, April 29, 1861

Enlisted in Company H in Third Regiment State Militia Monday April 29 1861.

Geo A. Smith

Capt. Of Company.

Term of enlistment Three months.

April 29

Enrolled my name as a volunteer for three months in the States service at Hastings, Mich. In Company H. Capt Smith designed for the Third Regiment, Michigan Volunteers. During the day took a few (my first) lessons in the military Hardee’s Tactics.