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.