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

Your,
Affectionate Son,

Matthew

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.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

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Last page of Holmes' letter. HCP Collection

Jan 29th 1862

Bro Matthew

After a very long time I sit down to write you a letter. I am at your father’s now. They are well, I have just been reading your letters written home.

Nothing gives me more pleasure here than to hear that you are true to God

Now for the reason why I have not written I have been quite sick for several weeks past. My circuit is in a very low state & my time has been mostly occupied in trying to elevate that. I am not holding a meeting north west of Hickory Corners about three miles. Some interest manifested Hope in God many will be saved. The church all over is so Excited about the war that many if not entirely backslidden are so far from God that no signs of life are exhibited. Bro Matthew it makes one mourn to see the church so dead when it ought to be the widest awake. I am doing the best I can to preach the truth to the people. The Devil kicks at me occasionally, but I try to keep near enough to God so that he cannot hurt me. O what need for praying, for our Country, for our Soldiers, for the advancement of piety for the coming of the kingdom of God. Nothing better qualifies a man in whatever station of life, for usefulness than religion. O what peace, courage, glory Thank God for salvation. Good in peace, good in war, good in sickness & in health. Swearing suits some people but not me. Card playing some, but not me. Drinking some, but not me. If I am not bearing the banner of our Country at the head of an army I trust I am bearing the banner of Jesus over hill & through the valley. Upon its broad silken stream – may be read in emblazoned letters “Jesus died to save you
Come to Jesus, Just now”

O how cheering to the way worn itinerant while reflecting that a few more storms will end the battle, a few more rounds will end the strife, victory gained, Heaven won.

You thought I had forgotten you not so. I seldom think of the war but what I think of Bro Matthew his friends past scenes.

But I must write you some news

1 Emery Jackson & Jacob Mott have come home, discharged, reason, sickness, came to day

2 Brother Fulkerson is dead, was buried one week ago last Saturday sick 72 days, typhus fever often awakened the people in the night by his shouting. Gone to the “upper Homestead” thank God I’m on the track

‘Tis then will sing & offerings bring
When we meet to part no more’

3 Jefferson Stanton is not married your father heard them bell [illegible], but they were fooled.

4 I do not know that is will be news but I will venture it. This clap is very low, about to smash I fear, very little union, very little love of course  Bunnep versus Clarke, Democrat versus Republicans, Secessionists versus “true blues”

All the classes on the circuit save this, are doing papably well. I intend mounting my artillery & by the help of God “blow up” the Devils batteries on some points yet, pray for me that the lord will direct the charge to the right spot. Very few revivals I hear of by this winter One minister (Wesleyan) preached every night for five weeks & not a soul converted.

Now Matthew I want you to write to me frequently, perhaps I shall not answer every one in their turn, for I shall be away from home, but I will write to you as often as I can. I should like to hear how the hospital looks, how many in it – preachers, prayer meetings, rations, everything. I am ignorant of every think almost. You need fear, but what you are instructing a child.

Your mother says she will answer your last letter as soon as she possibly can.

“O watch & fight & pray
The battle ne’er give o’er
O Renew it boldly every day
And help divine  [?]”

Yours Joel H Holmes

My address is
Bedford Calhoun Co Mich

Tracking down Joel H. Holmes has been problematic. He likely lived in Barry County at some point, given his familiarity with many of Baird’s acquaintance and visiting with Baird’s parents. Joel could perhaps be a relation of Levi Holmes, who lived in Woodland, Michigan. Levi had eight children, Joel is not listed among them, and was a religious man who served as preacher in his own church. From a History of Allegan and Barry Counties, Michigan, 1880.

Emory Jackson and Jacob Mott, mentioned above, enlisted in Company H, Merrill Horse along with Baird’s brother Samuel in August 1861. Jackson died of disease in February 1862 while at home in Michigan. Mott was discharged on a surgeon’s certificate in February 1862, there is no mention of him returning to the military.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

First page of letter. HCP Collection.

Baird received this letter from his father, George, in November of 1861. As later posts will

show, Baird had been in and out of several hospitals by this time, having taken sick in mid-October 1861. His lingering illness will eventually lead to his discharge in early 1862.

Hope Nov 17th/61

My Dear Son

Yours of the 7 came Duly to hand, we thought that there was something rong as we could not get A letter befor this time from you, your Mother frets About you all the time, if you are not Able to write at any time get some one to write for you, and let us know how you are and just how it is with you, so that I may try and get you home, and will if it takes a farm, you must not flatter us with Anything that is not so, let us know the worst, while you are Away from us you will all ways have out prays for God to help you and give you health. I have just returned from meeting and have had a very good one, you say that you think I ought to write to Uncle Jacob I will try and do so, I suppose he has A very hard time of it, I am very glad to here that your Uncle Matthew is well and has got work in the Navy yard but I cannot see how he can expect us to write to him, when we did not know where to with we raised this year of Buck wheat 21 Bushel you want to know whether the treasure nots passed or not, they did, I wish I could get them as fast as I could pays them, you said you would send more money in your next letter, you must be sure and keep enough to make you comfortable, if property goes, don’t give your self Any trouble About how, if there is Any think rong here we will let you no it, we have just received two letters from Samuel [Baird’s younger brother] he was well when he wrote the last letter, he was then on the March, you can Direction to him the same as we do, to Col, Merrills hors. Co. Camp Benton St. Louis, MO, he has got all of our letters, I give him your Direction in the last letter I wrote to him, we are all well at present I will get Lucys Lightness [likeness?] as soon as I can and send it to you, George Robinson is Married to E.P. Chandlar’s Daughter you must write as soon and as often as you can, take as good care as you can of yourseld and I hope that God will care for you and bless you, your sickness may be all for the nest, be faithful to your trust this is from your Father and friend Geo. W. Baird

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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?