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?

Written just prior to the Christmas holiday, this letter is again addressed to Maggie Bowker. In the second paragraph Baird’s description of his view of Washington D.C. and the sounds is fascinating – you really get a sense of what he is experiencing. Here is a link to a map showing Washington D.C. and outlying camps and tents. Baird was again encamped at Meridian Hill.


Washington, Dec. 23rd, 62

My dear Maggie,

I received your kind letter of Dec. 13th, only last evening and I now hasten to pen you a few lines in reply. Your letter found me quite well with the exception of a very severe cold with which I have been troubled some time. When we first came here the weather was quite warm, almost hot, and have since had a sudden change, and for the past few days it has been very cold, and I think this is the cause of my cold, and most of the boys are in the Same fix. To-day, however, is beautiful, almost like Spring. Indeed while you are enjoying yourselves Sleighriding and frolicking at the evening parties, we are enjoying all the pleasures of a Michigan April, with the exception of now and then a chilly day.

I wish you could be with me now, just where I am sitting, (for I left the camp So that I might have the privilege of writing one letter in the quiet. ) and have the view I have. There is scarcely a direction that you may look, but your eye meets an encampment. Scarcely a hillside that is not dotted with tents. The whole country here is one grand military encampment. Washington abounds with hospitals. There is nothing to be heard around but the rattling of army waggons, the rolling of drums, and the sounding of bugles; with now and then the heavy booming of cannon in the far distance. If Virginia and the District of Columbia recover from the ravages of this unholy war in twenty years I shall miss my guess. There is nothing but desolation reigning every where. God forbid that as dire a calamity should ever befall our fair little State of Michigan.

Well Maggie, I presume you are anticipating grand times about Christmas and New Year, well you must try and enjoy yourself the very best you can. I regret only that it is not in my power, nor my lot to share those holy days with you. And while yourself and Miss Miller are enjoying yourselves, you must neither of you forget me, nor, indeed, any of the Soldiers.

Now Maggie, when you write again you must take time and write a_ O ever so long a letter. Your letters lately have been so brief, only a few short lines. Now, as to your teaching next summer, that should rest with yourself, you know whether you are competent to teach or not and if you are, I think it is the best thing you can do. You will, with care, if you improve your time, have every chance of informing yourself, and developing your mind. You must however, use your own judgement. I will inclose in this a short note to Miss Miller, according your request, which you will please hand her. And be sure and have her answer it.

Now do try and write once a week, and oftener if you can. Please excuse this ill looking letter, and wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy New year.

I will close, remaining yours,
Constantly and ever,



Who’s Matthew Baird?

John C. Dillin’s home, also enlisted in 6th Michigan Cavalry, Co. K, now located at Historic Charlton Park

Matthew Baird re-enlisted as a Corporal in Co. K of the 6th Michigan Cavalry on August 30, 1862 for 3 years. Baird’s enlistment records show he makes his living as a farmer. The unit was organized in Grand Rapids, Michigan and was settled at Camp Kellogg. Camp Kellogg was located in an area now bounded by Union, Lyon, Michigan and Prospect streets in downtown Grand Rapids. Co. K was comprised almost entirely of soldiers from Barry County, Michigan. He even served in the same unit as John C. Dillin, whose home is now at Historic Charlton Park.

Co. K was mustered into service on October 13, 1862, but did not leave Grand Rapids for the East until December 10, 1862. When the men left Grand Rapids, they had horses and equipment, but did not receive their weapons until arriving in D.C. Each company was also assigned the same color horse – A: bays, C: greys, L: sorrels, etc. The 6th Michigan Cavalry, comprised of 1,229 men, made its way to Washington D.C. and was encamped at Meridian Hill until the spring.

Unlike his previous enlistment, Baird spends much less time in the hospital. He spends a couple of months in the hospital in late 1863, but otherwise is always present on all muster rolls, and was even promoted to Sergeant in March 1864. He was apparently thriving in the cavalry until he was captured at the Battle of Trevilian Station on June 11, 1864. He would go on to spend 6 months in Andersonville Prison before being exchanged in Savannah or Charleston in November or December of 1864. He was ill throughout much of the rest of his service and worked as a farrier until his discharge in November of 1865.

After returning to Michigan, he wasted no time in marrying his constant correspondent during the war, Maggie Bowker. They were married March 4, 1866 in Allegan County, Michigan. More of Maggie’s story will be revealed as the letters commence.


Record of Service of Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War, 1861-1865, vol. 36. Published by Ihling Bros & Everard, Kalamazoo, MI. 1905.

History of Allegan and Barry Counties, Michigan, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Their Prominent Men and Pioneers. Published by D.W. Ensign & Co., Philadelphia, PA. 1880.


Who’s Matthew Baird?

First page of Deits' letter. HCP Collection.

Head Quarters 104th Regt Penn.
Carvars Barracks Meridian Hill
Washington D.C.

Feb. the 17th 1862

Kind & respected Friend

I take this opportunity to write you a few lines to let you know how I am & where I am. As you will see by this I have not got to Port Royal yet & the prospect is not verry good for getting there verry soon if ever. When I got to Washington I was sent to Gen. Caseys Office & he sent me here. I am in a Pennsylvania regiment & they are quartered in barracks which are verry Comfortable they are on meridian Hill same place where my regt camped when we first got to Washington & in sight of the Hospital where I was in October. I shal get a lot of Clothing today. I shal stay here for the present & after a spell I will get a pass to town & go to the Quarter Master Generals office & see if I can get a pass to go to my regiment & if I can’t do it I will content myself to stay in this regt. This regiment is in a brigade of four thousand men under the command of Gen. Casey the Colonel of this regt acting Brigadier there are two Penv. regts here one New York regt & one Maine regt. The barrack ar in the form of a hollow square of six or seven acres  Each Company has a building by its self  I think I shall do well enough to stay here, the boys all seems to think that this brigade will not leave here at all I don’t think any more to write now but I will write to you again after a while when I get a little more regulated  No more at present So good bye This from your friend and well wisher  Amasa H Deits

P.S. I will write a little more for I have not done verry well this time I have not got a verry good place to write & so you must Excuse my poor writing  I hope you will get over your lameness before long so that you can help yourself again  I expect that there will be some letters there for me after a few days & I should like to have them down here, if you could have your ward master see the Post master and have him forward them to me I would be glad if you could do that the directions will be as follows Amasa H. Deits Co. J. 104th Regt Penn. Vols. Carvers Barracks Meridian Hill Washington D.C., I suppose that there will be a couple there for me before long  No more this time yours

Amasa H. Deits

Give my respects to all the boys


Amasa H. Deits was from Kent County and enlisted in 8th Michigan Infantry, Co. H on September 5th, 1861. He was assigned to  Co. I, 104th Pennsylvania Infantry sometime after October 1861. He likely met Baird when they were both in the hospital, which he mentions in the letter. He lived out the term of his service in the 104th Pennsylvania and was discharged due to wounds on September 30th, 1864 and lived in Charlevoix, Michigan for a time.  He eventually located to Hesperia in Oceana County, Michigan where he purchased property in 1877 and was a founding member of a local G.A.R. chapter in 1879. He was drawing a pension of $4.00 per month in 1883. He married his wife Rhobia in 1874 and they had three children together, only one of which was living by 1900, their daughter Idaline. Amasa passed away in 1907 and is buried in the West Hesperia Cemetery in Oceana County, Michigan, click here for an image of his tombstone.