Oct. 2nd

Nothing has occurred since my last date of any importance, till with in a very few days.

The rebels have evacuated and abandoned their works on Munsons Hill and the hills adjacent, and have retreated with their whole advance line toward Bull run. The Union troops now occupy those hills and our advance line is thrown out as far as Fairfax. Where I heard the rebels a few weeks ago playing in division the ever glorious Star-Spangled-Banner, now the air resounds with the strains of that noble tune sung and pledged by true, loyal, and patriotic men.

Considerable excitement was created in this and other camps belonging to the 4th brigade. The day-before-yesterday, by rumors being circulated that the enemy were returning upon their lately abandoned works and had begun an attack upon our centre. The rumors were however false. The reason why the Brigade was called and (which was done) was because we had received orders to march or to hold ourselves in readiness to march, and the alarm was sounded for the purpose of testing the energies of the men. A real fighting spirit was manifested. We have orders now however to hold ourselves in readiness to march at a moments notice. The camp is all quiet however at present. People still continue to seek safety in Washington. Three teams are passing along while I am writing, fleeing from the country, and the rebels, and seeking safety within the Union fortifications.  

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?

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Last page of Baird's letter with poem "Our Flag". HCP Collection.

In Baird’s own words, this letter is “extravagantly long”, containing details of picket duty and interesting gossip from home. We unfortunately do not know to whom the letter was written, but we do have an indication of Baird’s sense of humor for the first time.  The photo to the right contains the text of the poem found at the end of this 6 page, over 1,000 word letter all written in pencil (for which Baird apologizes)!

Wednesday Morn

Sept. 11th 1861

Dear Friend.

I received you kind letter of Sept 1st last evening, but have been detained from answering it till this morning on account of our Company being detailed for picket guard, and as a matter of course I had to accompany it.

Pickets are used for the purpose of giving warning to the camp in case of the approach of an army to begin an attack.

This is a very particular duty and has thus far in this war proved to be a very dangerous one.

A great many have been killed on both sides by pickets firing at each other. Company E has been detailed for this duty almost exclusively for the last few weeks. So you see, I have had some experience in this part of war. One day and night last week, I was on a post within full view of a rebel fort on Munson’s Hill (it is about three fourths of a mile from where I stood.) and about five miles from Washington city on the road to Manassas. This fort occupies a beautiful and commanding site, and to every appearance from where I was, might be made a very formidable place. Sunday and Monday, the 8th and 9th, I was on a post so near the rebel pickets, we could hear them talk, and in part their pickets and ours did get to talking with each other in rather a rough sort of way. Many harsh words passed between them, and they often answered each other by discharging their muskets back and forth.

Monday morning the firing grew so warm that the rebels threw several shot and shell from the fort at our pickets, however without any harm.

For my part, I have not had the privilege of firing at a single secesh yet, nor can I say that I realy desire to. The two armies have now agreed to cease firing at each others pickets. There are from three to six men on a post.

But now I must tell you something about the post I occupy at present. It is about three miles west of our camp on the railroad running from Alexandria to Vienna. I have two comrades with me. We have a little bough house to protect us from the sun. Behind us is a thick deep forest into whose shades the strongest eye would not penetrate at night. Before us is the railroad with its winding [illegible] running through sunny fields, and shady groves, now along some steep hillside. Now through a tiny vale, then it plunges into a deep cut where it is lost to view. Just below the railroad is a deep ravine through which courses a pleasant little stream overhung with huge rocks and towering forest trees. And here as it passes along unheeded by the desolating hand of war and untainted by treasons foul breath. As it rushes over heavy boulders, or along smooth pebly banks, or plunges and foams at the foot of a steep precipice, and then dashes on through the [illegible] shade of a wide spreading tree, whose ample and luxuriant branches reach far over the mossy banks and then playfuly murmurs out into the broad sunlight, it ever sings all its course the songs that were sung by our grandsires, the sounds of liberty. And I have no doubt if it had a human voice it would cause the surrounding hills to resound with the music of the Star Spangled Banner, or with the thrilling notes of Hail Columbia. At least it would not lend a voice to the traitors cause, nor whisper one word of comfort to its disunion in its expiring hour. And in this beautiful spot we are to spend the day. We expect to be relieved at night. But I must say a little about home matters. I received a letter from home a few days ago and they stated that brother Samuel [sibling] had enlisted in the cavalry company at Battle Creek and was expecting to go to Missouri to join Gen Fremonts command. I will give you a list of the names of those that enlisted (in the same company) and with whom you are acquainted.

Emery Jackson, Mr Holman, De Witt Keyes, Daniel Toles, Elanzo Gilbert, Jacob Mott, and Sam’l Baird. They stated too that Mary [sibling] had broken one of her arms. There appears to be several out and out rebels down in Barry [County] and they don’t carry any colors to disguise it either. Secession seems to be quite a prominent theme with them, and certain young ladies, say they hope every northern boy that goes south to fight will get shot. Patriotic young ladies, They have a small thimble full of humanity and a considerable loss of common sense.

I have never written to Noah yet but I think I shall if I have time, but I suppose you often write to him. So if I do not get time to write, you will please give him my best respects, and tell him I would be happy to hear from him, and also give him my address. I saw Aaron’s wife last winter, I think he married her out of pure love, for she is not much handsomer than myself, which you of course know does not excel, but she is spoken of by every one as an excelent girl. But I am realy sorry the widow Polly is married, for I shall miss a good chance then won’t I? But never mind she’ll get tired of him after awhile. You will please remember me to Jackson Russell, tell him I said my best respects to himself and wide from the battle ground of Virginia.

You spoke of its being such a beautiful Fall morning, when you wrote, but everything retains the hue of summer here yet. Scarcely a leaf is turned to show the change of season. The weather is beautiful and warm. We have been expecting a battle here for a long while, but everything seems to move slowly. Yet it may come when we think not, like an avalanche, terable in form and power.

Enlcosed I send you a photograph of General McClelan commanding the Army of the Potamac. He is a shrewd, far seeing man and [two words obscured by tear] with all, and under him we may hope to subdue secession and restore peace and tranquility to the Union. Words cannot express my grattitude to you for the kind wishes you express in my behalf. While there are some who would desire that evil might befall those who have gone to fight for their country there are others whose hearts are not quite so calloused in whose sympathies we may find a place, and whose kindest wishes and sincerest prayers we know are ascending to Heaven in our behalf. You will please excuse me for writing you in pencil, but I am so far from camp and have no ink with me and I am on duty so constant that I have to write whenever an opportunity offers.

But my letter is getting extravagantly long and I must close and I presume you will wish I had sooner before you have read it through.

With my kindest regards to you parents and my best wishes for yourself.

I remain yours
Write soon, write often, truly and sincerely
To your Friend                 Farewell, Matthew


Our Flag


Where is the banner that doth wave

Beneath the sky, on land or sea

So beautiful, so bright, so [tear in paper]

As thee, our noble Flag, as thee

Well may the laws of Freedom feel

Proud when they see that standard above?

And proudly draw their sacred steel

T’ defend the banner of the brave

Matthew

~~~~~

Who’s Matthew Baird?