In this letter, Matthew Baird writes an account of the 6th Michigan’s activities during the Battle of the Wilderness and the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, and several others. This series of battles resulted in heavy casualties, but instead of pulling back to regroup after such losses, Grant decided to continue the advance that would eventually lead them to Richmond.

Raid on Richmond
Malvern Hil
Mar James River, Va.
May 16th, 1864

My dear Maggie,

I write this upon historic ground. The battle field of Malvern Hill is one of the bloodiest on record & is now the site of the present encampment of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. When I last wrote you we were pleasantly situated near Culpeper a few miles north of the Rapidan. I did not think then that our army would move so soon, nor did any one. And though we were looking for a movement, yet we were taken by surprise. We received the order to march the evening of the 3d. & by 6 a.m. the 4th our regiment was in line.

We marched to the Rapidan the 4th & crossed at Elyis [Ely’s] Ford the 5th Camping for the night on the Chancellorville battle field. Early the morning of the 6th the division pushed out to the front, at that part of the country called the Wilderness. Here we found the enemy, fought them pushing them back. The 8th Mi marched to Spotsylvania C.H. [Court House] Where we found the 5th corps engaged with the rebels. We then marched back to our train & halted for the night. The 9th, the rebels cavalry Corps moved out no one – that is, private troops – knowing our destination. By noon we had gained the rear of the rebel army & marched rapidly on to the Va. Central R.R. where we arrived first in time to liberate 300 of our troops that had been taken prisoners the day before in battle, captured three trains of cars, three locomotives, and a large amount of commissary stores. All of which we distrowed [sic] loosing [sic] two men killed.

The 10th we moved towards Richmond camping for the night on the south bank of the Pamunkey River. The morning of the 11th, as the column began to move out we were attacked by a small force of rebels in our rear. This was soon dispensed with & we marched on without interruption until we arrived at Mountain Road Station on the Fredericksburg & Richmond R.R. within 7 miles of Richmond. This & about 8 miles of railroad we burnt, at the same time engaging and fighting the enemy, again whipping them capturing 4 pieces of artillery & over 100 prisoners. We camped on our battle field for the night. The morning of the 12th, we moved out passing within two or three miles of Richmond City. At Meadow Bridge on the Chickahominy River we found the rebels fortified and ready to dispute our passage. They detained us half a day. We fighting them all the time, we routed them at last and the column moved on without further annoyance until we arrived at Gaines Mills where we halted for the night. The night of the 13th we camped near Bolton Bridge on the Chickahominy and the 14th we moved up to and halted on Malvern Hill. Here we are now, and I am thankful that I can say, although we have had hard marching, scanty fare, & no inconsiderable fighting I am well. And I know you will rejoice too, Maggie. In the fight at Meadow Bridge I were placed in great danger by a couple of shells thrown from the rebel battery. But thank God I still survive. Only one man in Co. K has been hurt since we crossed the Rapidan, & that was our Leiut. [sic] C.P. Pendill, one of the bravest & best officers in the regiment. He was badly maimed in our first fight on the 6th. I do not know what our destination will be nor how long we will remain here. We are in sight of the James River & our gun boats, a heavy cannonade was heard up the river this morning, & I have no doubt we will move soon. In the meantime, dear Maggie, you will remember me in your prayers, I know you will not see to pray for me.

I will write at earliest opportunity & you may direct your letters as usual Company K are our on picket, this gives me leisure to write now.

Remember me to all the friends at home, & should you go to Barry before you hear from me again, give my love to my folks, & be sure to make them a visit. Though I have written a long letter, yet it does not contain half what I’ve seen during the last two weeks. But, you will excuse me this time, & I trust I shall be able to tell you the whole story at some future day.

Be assured dear Maggie you have my constant love, & with a loyal & true kiss,

I remain ever,
Yours, affectionately
Matthew
Sergt
Company K, 6 Regt
Mich. Cavalry
Washington D.C.

Lieutenant Cortez P. Pendill was from Prairieville, MI and was commissioned as second lieutenant in March 1863. He was wounded during the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864. He was commissioned as Captain in July of 1864, but was discharged for disability in September of the same year. He passed away in Hickory Corners, MI on April 11, 1891.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

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In this letter, Baird tells of the Rio Hill Skirmish and the thwarted Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid that took place at the end of February 1864 that he alluded to in his previous letter. General Kilpatrick’s goal was to free 15,000 prisoners of war being held in Richmond, while General Custer was to provide a distraction by attacking from the other direction. The plan was not successful and the descriptions provided by the above links do not directly correlate with Baird’s reporting.


Stephensburg, Va.

Sunday, Mar. 5th ‘64

My dear Girl,

I again sit down, after the lapse of another week, to pen you a few lines, though I have anxiously awaited and watched each Mail for a word from you. But I have been Sadly disappointed. It is now two weeks Since you last came to me. I have been fearful that you were sick; but I trust not. My health still remains good, and may this find you enjoying that blessing in every sense of the word.

We are having delightful weather, we may say much enjoying Springtime. The little birds awake us every morning with their songs. I have never seen so beautiful weather. I believe I told you in my last letter that Gen. Custer had just gone out on a raid. He returned last Tuesday night, after two & a half days weary marching having penetrated into the rebel lines as far as Charlottesville. He destroyed four large government mills, with their grain and flour, burned a large binder, drove the rebels out of two encampments, captured and destroyed [illegible number] Cavalry Saddles, took 400 horses & 50 prisoners, and returned with a loss of, perhaps, a half dozen men.

H Kirkpatrick started also at the same time, going round on the rebel right. The Washington Chronicle of yesterday states that his expedition penetrated to the outer works of Richmond, after distroying an immense amount of railroad bridges, mills & other valuable property, but finding the oposition there too strong, he withdrew and fell back into the lines of Gen. Butler’s department. His loss is stated at less than 150 men, he having several skirmishes on the way. The object of the expedition was the liberation of Union prisoners at Richmond but the strength of his force was not eaqual to the task.

It will probably be some time before the division returns, 20 men from Com. “K” went out. Henry Ward was one of them. Friend Kahler is detailed at the Brigade Train. He was over here to see me this morning. He is well & wishes he be remembered.

Well, Maggie, I have given you about all the news, so I will close for this time hoping to hear from you soon when I will write more.

In the meantime,
Maggie, Believe me,
ever your own,

Matthew

Hd. Qrs. 2nd Brig.
3rd Division C.C.
Washington, D.C.

Jacob  Kahler was from Prairieville in Barry County, Michigan and enlisted in Co. K of the 6th Michigan Cavalry in 1862 at the age of 20. According to his obituary, he drove General Custer’s headquarters wagon and was discharged in 1865. He married Mary Ward in 1867 and moved to the Charlevoix/Petoskey, Michigan area in 1883. They had 3 children and Jacob was a farmer prior to his death. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Emmet County, Michigan. You can read his obituary here and see his death certificate. John can sometimes be a nickname for Jacob.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?

Stephensburg, Va.
Wednesday, 24th Feb. ‘64

My dear Father,

I received your note with Cousin George’s letter a few days ago. I was glad to hear from him though his communication was unexpected. He Seems to be doing very well, And his hopes of rising in the world are very Sanguine. I heartily wish him entire Success. Our pay master Major Nicols came out and paid us two months pay last week and I will enclose in this an allotment for twenty dollars and also the bill you Sent me. I did not have a chance to use it, So I will return it for Lucy. I understand we are to get paid again in a few weeks.

We had another grand review [photo similar to what Baird describes] yesterday, near these Hd Qtrs. The troops reviewed were those of the 2nd Army Corps (Infantry) and Gen. Kilpatrick’s Division of Cavalry, and some artillery.

The President I understand, was here to witness the review.

There is an important movement of some kind on foot, and the troops that were out yesterday will, I think, participate in it. I have no doubt that we are destined for the Peninsulas. The Capture of Richmond & the release of our troops held there as prisoners, oppose to be the defect in men. Senator Howard from Michigan was here last week, & in a Short address to the officers and men of our regiment, intimated as much. But then I do not pretend to know this to be the case but from what I have heard and observed, this seems to be the design.

I am not very well at present though on duty. We had some pretty hard riding yesterday & being So many hours in the Saddle wearied me considerable.

I was over to the regiment a day or two ago & the boys are all well. Quite a number of recruits came for our regiment last week, filling up the “vacant ranks” considerably. It is only a Short time Since I wrote, so I will conclude this soon. I am now coppying my Diary and will send it to Robert, and if you find it interesting you may all read it, It will give you Some idea of how checkered is a soldier’s life. The weather is delightful, and the roads in Splendid condition.

Remember me to [illegible] and Cousin, and with love to all,

I remain,

Matthew

This article provides more information on Senator Howard’s part in the above and why he was in D.C.

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Who’s Matthew Baird?