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,
Matthew

~~~~~
Who’s Matthew Baird?

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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.

~~~~~
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,
Affectionately,

Matthew

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.

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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?

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,
Matthew

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

Matthew Baird received news that his mother passed away 11 days after her death. Although we have no letters from her to Baird, he wrote to her, she is mentioned in letters home, and he obviously cared for her a great deal based on the below. Her illness was incredibly quick – just 3 hours in length!


Washington, Feb. 10th ‘63

Dear Maggie,

Some time has now lapsed Since I wrote you and you may possibly think I have forgotten you, but I have not. I intended to have written last Sunday but Such Sad news reached me that it was almost impossible for me to write, and So I have delayed it untill now. You will doubtless, have heard, ere this reaches you, of the death of my mother.

It was So Sudden and unexpected that it almost unmaned me, and to-day, even, I can Scarcely collect my thoughts. Oh: Maggie, it is possible I can Scarcely realize it, And yet it is So. She has gone.

How my heart bleeds to think I shall meet her no more on earth. How little I thought when I left home three months ago that I Should be called afar, So soon to part, with the dearest and best friend of my life. But, Maggie, I shall not mourn for her. I feel that our loss is her gain, She has gone to rest. She has left a world of care and sorrow, of toil and pain, of Sickness and death, to participate in the joys of a world that is full of life and immortality. The only consolation I now have is that I may one day, meet her, in that land of rest and peace. Oh: how fleeting is life, and each day convinces me that life is but a Shadow, but a farce.

To-day we are with our friends enjoying the Society of those we love, to-morrow, they are gathered to the tomb. When we look around us, upon our friends, we do not realize how frail they are, and not till death Strikes the fatal blow, do we consider the deep import of those words: “Man is as grass, as the flower of the field.”

My Mother died, after an illness of only three hours. I had a letter from David and Mira yesterday. They were well, their letter was dated 3rd of Feb. I got a letter from Sammy also, yesterday, he was well and seems to enjoy himself very much. Poor boy! I fear his mirth will be dampened when he hears of his mothers death. I have’nt heard from Noah yet.

Write soon, Give my compliments to Miss Miller, And believe me Maggie, Truly Yours,

Matthew.

————

From the Hastings Banner, Feb. 18, 1863:

“At Cedar Creek, Jan 31st, 1863, MARY ELIZA, wife of George W. Baird, aged 48 years, 9 mo’s and 13 days. In the death of Mrs. B. the husband has sustained an irrepairable loss, in a faithful, affectionate, and beloved companion; the children, one of the kindest of mothers; and society, a spotless member, whose loss will be sadly felt, not only by family friends, but by a large circle of acquaintance’s. But they mourn not as one without hope. The deceased had for many years been a consistent member of the Church, and she has now gone to her reward. May she rest in peace.”

————

George Baird was remarried in October of 1863 to Antinet Baker.

David and Elmira (Mira) mentioned above are Maggie’s brother and sister-in-law. They were married in December of 1860. David was a Sargent in Co. L of the 11th Michigan Cavalry and served from October 1863 to May 1865. They had two daughters together, Cora and Bertha and had a “Domestic Servant” according to the 1870 census. Elmira died in March of 1871 and David remarried around 1875 to Nancy J. [Moore], Elmira’s older sister by 9 years. Nancy was likely married prior to her marriage to David, but locating her information around 1850 is difficult because she was already out of her parents’ home. Nancy and David had one child, Harry. Nancy died in 1910 and David in 1911. Noah, also mentioned, is another of Maggie’s brothers.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

Margaret “Maggie” Bowker. HCP Collection.

During his recuperation (February 1862 – August 1862) after leaving the 3rd Michigan Infantry, Baird likely met or was reacquainted with the woman who would later be his wife, Maggie Bowker. September 18, 1862 is the first letter Historic Charlton Park holds addressed to her after Baird returns to the service.

The Bowker’s were some of the earliest settlers in Barry County, Michigan. The family’s first settler was David Bowker, the first landholder in Hope Township in 1840. In 1847, Maggie’s father Silas Bowker moved into Hope Township. George Baird, Matthew’s father, also settled the same year. Bowker’s four children attended the Mott Schoolhouse, which was situated on the same property as the town’s cemetery in 1848. The school also served as the Old Baptist Church for many years where Silas was an Elder and preached many sermons. By 1850, Silas Bowker owned 160 acres of land near what is Bowker Lake today.

The Bowker’s and the Baird’s likely interacted frequently. Besides being neighbors, both George and Silas held many elected township offices through the 1850s, including Supervisor, Treasurer, Overseer of the Poor, School Inspector, and Clerk.

In 1850, Maggie is nine years old living at home with her parents, Silas and Margarette Bowker, and her three brothers and sisters. In 1860 she is still at home in Hope Township with her parents and her brother David. She and Baird correspond frequently through the remainder of the Civil War. It is obvious that they will marry, providing Baird survives the war. The later stages of the war find her envelopes show a return address in the Croton Township area of Newaygo County. It appears that either she and/or her parents have moved out of Hope Township towards the end of the conflict. After Baird is discharged and returns home in 1865, they marry on March 4, 1866 in Allegan County, Michigan. They were married by Maggie’s father, Silas.

Maggie and Matthew reside near Hickory Corners (near Cedar Creek), Michigan in Barry Township after their marriage according to the 1870 census. His parents are both deceased and we find no one left at the old home site. His parents are thought to be in unmarked graves at the Cedar Creek cemetery.

On July 2, 1875, his longtime companion and letter correspondent Maggie passed away. She was only 34 years old at the time. There is no evidence that they ever had any children and her cause of death is listed as “paralysis”. Maggie is buried in Cedar Creek Cemetery, near her parents’ grave sites, with Mathew close by.

Although, Historic Charlton Park is not in possession of a photo of Matthew Baird, we are lucky enough to have one of Maggie. The image here was likely taken during the war.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?