After an extremely busy season here at Historic Charlton Park, we finally have time for a long overdue post. This letter was especially difficult to transcribe, but gives an interesting perspective on the bounty system, which you can read more about here. Baird’s letters to his father George are quite different than those addressed to his lady love, Maggie.


Envelope marked "Paid 3", HCP Collection.

Envelope marked “Paid 3”, HCP Collection.

Stephensburg, Va.
Tues, March 8th, ‘64

My dear Father, 

Yours of the 29th Feb. came yesterday. I thank you for those stamps, tho I have plenty just now. 

With regard to those letters marked “Soldier’s letters” that I have sent home, I cannot avoid their being stamped “Due three cents”, It must be done at Washington if not there then at the other end of the route, as at Bristol’s.  

I have received a great many letters, the postage of which was not prepaid. Of course they were marked “Due Three Cents”, but as they have to pass the line of all regular P.O.s I did not have to pay the “due”, So what I loose on the one hand I gain on the other or rather the gain comes to those who write.

 You spoke of a town bounty of 100 dollars being due Sammie. Is it pay for his Veteran enlistment or his original enlistment? And if it is for either, how will he lose it? Certainly the town will not refuse paying it. Do you ever hear anything about my bounty? Charlie Robinson, as you will remember, was the only man that was honorable enough to pay. There’s eighteen dollars coming to me yet. I did’nt enlist for the sake of the bounty, for goodness knows, the amount was too small to be anything of an inducement. But still when men promise their word, and that in public, for a large or small amount. I should not think it would require the full extent of of that test to induce them to keep it. I understand that some of the boys did get the most of their bounty, but Uncle Tommy Robinson charged something like 25 percent for collecting fee. I think this is [illegible] against. It is an insult to any soldier. I think I have done my bounty’s ($20) worth of fighting, & feel as though there might to be some way in which I could get it. I expect if God spares my life, that I shall do another bounty’s worth of fighting this Summer, but I don’t expect to get anything above what Uncle Sam pays me. You may show this to Uncle Tommy Robinson, or to any one whom it may concern, or not, just as you choose, “sawmill” Clarke, Mr. Doud, Mr. Howard, Mr. Gessler, Mr. Geo. Robinson & Mr. Warren Woodruff, are the men from whom the money is yet due. Dr. Jackson can tell you the amount due from each.

I will write a few lines to Lucie & and [illegible].

I sent you a check for eighteen dollars a short time ago.

Your affectionate son,

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?

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


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

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.

Who’s Matthew Baird?

As Baird states in this letter, his messages home had become less frequent due to his stints on picket duty.

The letter becomes difficult to read by the end and several of you were able to help us with the transcription. Thank you Debra Wisniewski!

Chantilla, Va
May 12, 1863

Can you decipher the missing words?

Can you decipher the missing words?

My Own Maggie,

Your welcome note of the 2nd reached me several days ago, and day before yesterday I undertook to answer it, but I had nothing but a pencil to write with and my letter was such a miserable thing, that I was ashamed to send it, So I have not answered your letter till to-day. I am sorry my letters are so irregular now, but it is on account of our being so far removed from any Mail route.

You see we are out on picket nearly all of the time, and consequently we have had but little chance to send letters out. I have managed, however, to Send you one each week, but on account of the irregularity of the mail they have not reached you. But I trust you have heard from me ere this however. I well know how you feel when my letters are So long delayed, but you mustn’t think that I have forgotten you, neither must you worry on account of my health, it was never better than it is now. And I feel very much in hopes that it will remain good. The kind of life we lead here is just suited to my temperament. We have a dash outside of the lines, occasionally, and, altogether, the times we have here are rather interesting than otherwise.

We are out on picket at this place for three days. This morning before we had got our breakfast, Some six or eight rebels came right in onto one of our pickets, the picket fired on them and they skedaddled, the reserve were soon in the Saddle, and out we went after them but they had got the start of us and escaped without our getting a single shot at them.

We expected to have been relieved from picket duty the tenth, but we are still here, and it is rumored that we are to remain here thirty days to come, but it is only a rumor, there is nothing certain about it.

I wish it were so that I come home and bear you company while you[r] parents are absent. But many long days must elapse ere we can see each other again. Keep up a good heart and all will be well.

Johnn and Jake send their regards, Jake wants you to write, Remember me to all friends, with My especial regards to “Cousin.”

Hoping you will have success in your Summer’s undertaking, and in all the pursuits of life, I will close, remaining, as ever

Your Own,


Who’s Matthew Baird?

Washington, Jan. 18, ‘63

Dear Father,

I now Sit down to write you a few lines as I promised in my last letter, and to enclose to you fifteen dollars in United States currency. I received $28.93 the payment and wanted to send you more but I wanted to get a few necessary articles, and for this reason retain the balance we were paid up to the 31st Oct. only, but as we expect, in a few days to be paid up to the 1st Jan. I think I shall then be able to Send you $22 more. You remember when I left home, that Robert let me have two dollars, and you will pay to him two dollars of this I send you now, and oblige me. I think he has waited long enough for it and tell him I am very much obliged for the loan of it.

I am not very well to-day, and of course you will excuse me from writing so brief a letter, I must however, before I close, acknowledge the receipt of those beautiful verses my mother sent me, and for which I thank her very much. I have rewritten them [in] all my letters.

I will try and answer Mary’s and Lizzie’s letter in a few days. Give my love to all and remember me as

Affectionate Son,


Robert Baird was born in 1843 in Mt. Giliad, Marion County, Ohio. He was the third eldest of the Baird children after Matthew and Samuel. In the 1860 census, he is 16 and living at home in Cedar Creek, Barry County, Michigan. Robert enlisted in the cavalry on August 5th, 1864 in the same unit as his brother Samuel – Co. H, 2nd Missouri Cavalry, “Merrill Horse”. Records indicate that while in Benton Barracks, Missouri, during the fall of 1864, Robert and many others in his unit, came down with the measles. Robert was brought home and succumbed on December 4, 1864. 205 other soldiers in his unit also died as a result of the measles.

Mary Baird, five years younger than her brother Robert, was born in 1848 in Mt. Giliad, Marion County, Ohio. She is 12 years old in the 1860 census and living with her parents in Cedar Creek. Her parents passed away in 1866, so she becomes difficult to track. She married Alphonse Larkin c. 1870, he was a farm laborer from the Hastings, Michigan area. They had one daughter, Lucy, who was 10 in the 1880 census and another Maggie, 12 years later. By the time the 1900 census rolls around, Mary and Alphonse are living with their 5 year old granddaughter Gladys. Mary passed away in 1904 from complications of diabetes. Alphonse (64) and his father Nathan (92) are living with Maggie (Larkin) Trumper in the 1910 census.

Who’s Matthew Baird?

Maggie Bowker, HCP Collection

Maggie Bowker, HCP Collection

Washington, D.C.
Jan. 3rd, 1863

Dear Maggie,

It is now nearly 4 weeks Since we came to Washington, And though I wrote you imediately after our arrival, and though I have watched each successive mail with an anxiety know only to your-Self yet I have as often been [illegible] to disappointment.

I was almost sure that to-day I should certainly hear from you, but alas; the same luck attended me.

Nor have I heard from home either. I guess you have all forgotten me. Well, I’m hardly worth thinking about, and of course it is no wonder then that I get no letters. I presume, however, you will all take pity on me by and by and Send me a few lines. How cheering a few lines would be to hear from home, and those we love. These long evening while gathered around the campfires, how it would make the poor Soldiers heart pound, to get some such little token of remembered love, Some Such gentle proof of unbroken affection. Ah; you little know how much the Soldier thinks of home and those he has left behind, those whom he has gone to defend. You may think too that we are given to complaining but do you not remember, when we left, how you drew from us the promises to “write often”, and assured us that our letters should be met with a hearty and speedy response, but the answers thus far have been few and far between.

But I will not chide you too much.

I presume you would like to hear news but indeed you will get it much more correctly from the news papers and speedier than I can give it here. In fact we don’t hear anything correctly, nothing but rumors come our way. So you must excuse the scarcity of news in this.

Hoping and trusting that I shall hear from you directly, I will close this hastily written note. I am well, only tired, for we have been drilling pretty hard to-day.

With a sweet good night, I remain dear, yours as ever,



Who’s Matthew Baird?

Baird often wrote poetry and prose in his diaries and we will publish some of these in the absence of letters and diary entries. This poem followed the June 9th date.

June 9

Faith in God

While on the wakes of lifes

rough sea

By storms and tempests


Thou Lord wilt shield

and comfort me

And bring me safe to Heaven.

Tho few should rise

Tho friends should fail

Tho dearest ties be riven

My faith in thee will

still prevail

And [smudged] me on

to Heaven.

And though afflictions

bitter cup

To me is often given

I still with confidence

look up

And put my trust in Heaven.

And when the shared

hours of love

Like golden streams

at [smudged]

Break on my heart I

look above

And feel they come from Heaven.

And when the

Trials of earth are over

And lifes last link

is riven

Then will I haste to

[illegible] share

And reign with

Christ in Heaven.

June 7

This morning the company to which I belong was detailed for guard. The balance of the regimental clothing arrived at camp today and will be distributed tomorrow. Colonel ______ [purposely blank] the United States Mustering officer arrived here today. It is expected the regiment will be mustered into the U.S. Service tomorrow after which we will expect marching orders soon. The morning was foggy and dull but the day closed fine and warm.

June 8

Last night between 9 and 10 o’clock a company of young gentlemen and ladies came unexpectedly into camp and gave us a serenade. They sung the “Star Spangled Banner” and other songs and as the last words of each died on the air, the party was greeted with three hearty cheers from the soldiers. They were beautiful singers and after closing with “Dixie” they were about retiring but the shouts of “Give us the Star Spangled Banner again” called them back to to the platform. They then sung the noble song after which they returned to their carriage and retired amid the shouts of the delighted soldiers.

Today the regiment was mustered into the United States service there were but few that refused to take the oath and all but one or two afterwards repented and took the oath.


Who’s Matthew Baird?

May 1st

Bade my friends farewell and repaired to the place of rendezvous _ at the place of enlistment.

May 2nd

Kenfield home in Hastings, MI. HCP Collection

“The Company was mustered at the Kenfield House, Hastings, where more teams and wagons ready to convey it to Grand Rapids. We started about 7 ½ o’clock in the morning and proceeded to the ______   House where we took dinner on the green in front of the house. [Not legible] then determined by the Officers to proceed to Ada and go by rail to Grand Rapids, which we did and arrived at the above place about 6 o’clock p.m. We were quartered at the National and Barnum House at night.”


Who’s Matthew Baird?

“Indian Landing” is located in Historic Charlton Park along the Thornapple River in Hastings Township, MI In 1849, the Thornapple Band of Ottawa Native Americans owned the property, but they permitted Rev. Manasseh Hickey, a Episcopal Methodist minister, to build a mission on their land that year. The mission was a 30 foot square two room log cabin with an alley and fireplace separating the rooms. A fireplace was shared by both rooms and wood could be fed into the fire from outdoors. Sources say, that Sundays before church, a horn would be blown to call Native American and Euro-American settlers to services. This horn could be heard up to 4 miles, alerting people on the opposite side of the Thornapple River that it was time for church. They came to the waters edge and were ferried across by the Native Americans for services. The mission operated until 1854, when the Native Americans sold the property to Henry Edgecomb and moved to the Middleville area.

View of the site during excavation.

The mission was located near a creek in a grove of walnut trees, where the current excavation is taking place. After the departure of the Native Americans, the mission was turned into a home by multiple landowners. Most objects found come from the habitation period, approximately 1855 – 1871. In 1871, the property was purchased by Elam Crook who already owned a farm a mile to the west. By 1894, only the cabin’s foundation remained. The objects on display here illustrate that settlers in this area had almost the same amenities as those that lived in large cities. Barry County was not a backwater, but a thriving young community in Michigan. 

Click here to see some short video clips from a presentation on the excavation.
There have been some exciting finds from the mission. Most recently, many coins and tokens have been turning up. Coins found during excavation help to date archaeological sites. The excavation is currently being led by Dr. Dale Borders of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI.




This coin helps to date the site to the habitation period. Eleven million of these coins were made at the Philadelphia Mint.

1863 Indian Head One Cent coin, 49,840,000 were coined at the Philadelphia Mint.

One inch in diameter large cent minted in 1843. It is pierced. 2,425,342 were minted. Click the link below for a clear image.

A token from Foster & Parry Stoves in Grand Rapids, MI dated c. 1850. “Foster & Parry Dealers in Stoves” is on the front with an image of a stove, “Dealers in Stoves, Wholesale & Retail Iron & Hardware” on the back with a lock. Scroll to the bottom of the link below for a clear image.

Yeoman, R.S. A Guide Book of United States Coins: 44th Edition. Western Publishing Company, Inc. Racine, WI. 1991.