Matthew Baird was born on October 17, 1838, in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of George W. (b. 1816 in New York) and Mary Eliza Merrill (b. 1816 in New York).
George and Eliza settled in Maryland sometime before 1838 (there was a Matthew Baird living in Baltimore’s 5th Ward in 1840), moving to Ohio sometime between 1840 and 1844, settling in Michigan between 1850 and 1851. By 1850 George W. “Bard” was working as a farmer and living with his wife Eliza and their children in Hope, Barry County.
By 1860 Matthew was working as a laborer and living in Hope, Barry County, Michigan, with his family.
In late April of 1861 Matthew joined the militia company then forming in Barry County and on April 29, he was mustered into “Company H” under command of George A. Smith. According to Baird’s diary, that day he “took a few (my first) lessons in the military from Hardee’s Tactics.” Known locally as the “Hastings True Blues,” the company soon left for Grand Rapids where Michigan was organizing the third regiment of volunteers. [The following diary and most of the letters can be found on the Historic Charlton Park blog.]
May 1 Bade my friends farewell and repaired to the place of rendezvous, at the place of enlistment.
May 2 The Company was mustered at the Kenfield House, Hastings, where more teams and wagons ready to convey it to Grand Rapids. We started about 7 ½ o’clock in the morning and proceeded to the [not legible] House where we took dinner on the green in front of the house. [not legible] then determined by the officers to proceed to Ada and go by rail to Grand Rapids, which we did and arrived at the above place about 6 o’clock p.m. We were quartered at the National [Hotel] and Barnum House at night.”
May 3 Today the Company passed the medical examination with the exception of one or two. Our heights were also taken. We drilled some in a large room below the National and were quartered in a large room on [not legible] street.
May 4 Today we drilled in the room and an on a small green west of Grand River till about 3 o’clock P.M. when all the companies present formed on [not legible] street and marched out to the fair ground two miles south of the city. The fair ground farms are paved and the house upon it, which is a large, narrow, semicircular building forms our barracks. There are three rows of bunks and on each side placed one above another calculated to accommodate four persons. Today we ate our first camp meal in a large shedlike building, which is being constructed, and which when done will accommodate the entire regiment. Eight of our men were detailed on guard immediately on arriving at camp.
May 5 Sabbath. Notwithstanding today is sabbath carpenters are being detailed and are busily engaged in constructing and repairing quarters for the soldiers. But little drilling has been done. The day was spent in idleness by most of the men.
May 6 Today our company elected the officers, wrote a letter home and got leaf [leave] of absence and went down to the city [Grand Rapids, MI]. This morning came on the sick list with sore eyes. The dust in marching to camp injured them very much. The surgeon gave me medicine to apply to my eyes.
May 7 The following is the rule of the camp. At sunrise a small brass field piece is fired when every boy is expected to be out of bed. The drum immediately beats for roll call. The boys are then dismissed to mark. The drum then beats for drill, which is continued until breakfast. Breakfast at 7 o’clock A.M. Sick list is called at 8 o’clock A.M. At 9 A.M. the drum beats and the guard is formed (so many men are detailed from each company). The guard is formed into three [smudged]. The guard stands 24 hours, each relief is on 2 hours and 4 off making 8 hours in 24 for each relief. At 10 o’clock A.M. the drum beats for drill again. Drill till noon. At 2 P.M. on drill again, and drill till about 4 o’clock, at 5 the drum beats for evening parade and the regiment is formed in line. At 6 ½ o’clock the drum beats for supper. At sundown the cannon is again fired and roll is called. At 9 P.M. the tattoo is beat again and every boy is required to be in bed again.
May 9 News being received that the President would not accept any more three months volunteers. The regiment today was disbanded and reorganized and the men enlisted for three years. So great many of the men being disappointed in their expectations returned home leaving our ranks rather thinner than usual. There are enough however left to keep up a respectable appearance as a regiment.
May 10 Today Company [B] performed the melancholy duty of consigning one of its members to the tomb. He [Joseph Proper] died last evening at 8 o’clock from an attack of brain fever. How little he thought his comrades would be called upon so soon to lay the last tribute to humanity, but life is fleeting. And though he will never see the contest of armies, nor see the clash of arms. Yet we may hope he is engaging a far better scene where fierce contentions and disabling wars are unknown.
May 12 Today we heard a short sermon from the Rev. Mr. Cuming. He is very aged and his grey hair and wrinkled brow contrasted strangely with the many youthful faces and manly upright forms by which he was surrounded. There was a large attendance of citizens at preaching.
After some heated discussion in the regiment, the “Blues” company was disbanded sometime during the second week of May, and the men were incorporated into Company E, 3rd Michigan Infantry. Matthew stood 5’8” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was 22 years old and still living in Barry County when he was assigned to Company E on May 13, 1861.
May 16 Today the firemen of Grand Rapids paid the regiment a visit. They looked quite neat in their uniforms as they paraded up and down the race courses. They had a very pretty banner.
May 18 The brass band designed for the regiment came into camp today. It will accompany the regiment in the campaign. The musicians are mostly Germans. The band makes an important improvement in the appearance of the regiment on dress parade, besides the luxury of having good music after when off duty.
May 19 Today we had preaching on the parade ground. The soldiers were very attentive and very large numbers of citizens attended from the city and country. The sermon [smudged] was excellent.
May 26 We had preaching today on the parade ground by our chaplain the Reverend Mr. Cuming. He alas read a part of the articles of war, after which we had a general parade and the day closed.
June 2 The past week out encampment has been one busy scene. The distribution of clothing and uniforms and exercising in drill have occupied pretty much all of our time. Today we received our arms and went immediately on parade at which time we heard a sermon from our chaplain.
Our encampment seems to be the curiosity of the whole country around us as it is thronged with visitors nearly all the time especially at parade hours.
June 3 Our camp begins to assume quite a military appearance. Most of the men are dressed in full uniform and the bright guns stacked at the respective stakes of each company, with a number of flags flying from the different quarters of the men, make quite a martial appearance.
Today the ladies of Grand Rapids presented the regiment with a beautiful banner and also to each man a m[ending] book containing needles, pins, thread, buttons. They also distributed a large number of testaments through the regiment. The banner is pretty costly, the ground work is deep blue with a gilt fringed border. In the center, the arms of the “Republic” with the American Eagle and the words are admirably marked in gilt. The paint of the staff is also gilt from which is suspended two silken cords to which is attached two gilt tassels. Colonel [Andrew McReynolds] on behalf of the ladies presented the banner to Colonel McConnell preceding which however he made a patriotic speech to which Chaplain Cuming replied in [smudged] of Colonel McConnell. In the presence of the young ladies we presented the banner, our national red, white and blue were admirably combined. An immense crowd of visitors thronged the camp nearly all day and at the presentation almost every available spot from which could be obtained a view was filled. The fifth company has the honor of bearing the regimental flag. After the ceremonies were over, the regiment went on dress parade after which the crowds dispersed and the camp was comparatively quiet again.
June 4 Quite an excitement was created among the soldiers on account of the officers refusing to let them go home. A great many however obtained furloughs for three days away. The day has been wet and drizzly in consequence of which but little drilling has been done. There were but few visitors in camp today. Dress parade was short and uninteresting.
June 5 Nothing of importance occurred today except the lowering of the flag at half-mast and the firing of a number of guns in honor of Judge Douglas. The regiment made a very fine appearance on dress parade. A rumor has been circulated today that this regiment would soon leave here for Washington. The most of the men seem eager to go.
June 6 Nothing of particular interest occurred today. The weather though was fine. Dress parade was attended by quite a number of citizens.
June 7 This morning the company to which I belong was detailed for guard. The balance of the regimental clothing arrived at camp today and will be distributed tomorrow. Colonel [Backus] the United States Mustering officer arrived here today. It is expected the regiment will be mustered into the U.S. Service tomorrow after which we will expect marching orders soon. The morning was foggy and dull but the day closed fine and warm.
June 8 Last night between 9 and 10 o’clock a company of young gentlemen and ladies came unexpectedly into camp and gave us a serenade. They sung the “Star Spangled Banner” and other songs and as the last words of each died on the air, the party was greeted with three hearty cheers from the soldiers. They were beautiful singers and after closing with “Dixie” they were about retiring but the shouts of “Give us the Star Spangled Banner again” called them back to the platform. They then sung the noble song after which they returned to their carriage and retired amid the shouts of the delighted soldiers.
Today the regiment was mustered into the United States service there were but few that refused to take the oath and all but one or two afterwards repented and took the oath.
Matthew’s first diary runs out shortly before June 13, 1861, when the regiment left Michigan for Virginia. On June 30 he wrote his parents to let them know that he was all right and that the regiment was bivouacked at Camp Blair near the Chain Bridge just up the Potomac from Washington, DC.
I presume before this time you have heard a great many remarks concerning our regiment and the war, but they are mostly rumors without the facts. There is but little done as far as I can hear, in active operations except now and then a slight skirmish. And some are of the impression that there will be little or no fighting at all.
The last week a skirmish took place at Matthias Point [Va] on the Potomac between a small reconnoitering party and a large body of rebels in which Capt. Ward of the Pawnee was killed and a number of his men severely wounded, one mortally.
Last Friday I paid a visit to the Capital. I visited the Capitol, Patent Office, and Smithsonian Institution. It would be impossible for me to describe in this small sheet all that I there saw. However in the first place I ascended to the top of the Capitol where I had a splendid view of the whole city. I then descended to the interior of the building and trod those places which three months ago I little expected to ever see. I went to both houses of Congress, but visitors are permitted to go only in the galleries at present on account of the repairing being done.
I then went to the Patent Office. My time was so short that I could not pay particular attention to all, but I got a glimpse of the moot [?] and especially of those things so closely connected with the history of our country. The equipment of [George] Washington, his clothes, army shot, a fragment of his tent, and many other things too numerous to mention.
The Smithsonian is a place well worthy the attention of any one. Here is a Museum in which is collected a vast number of the curiosities of Nature. The different species varietals and specimens of animals, birds, reptiles, insects, plants and minerals brought from different parts of the globe form a study highly instructive and interesting. There is also a large picture gallery of the most of the paintings seem to be portraits of distinguished Indians. In the center of this gallery is a splendid statue of the dying Gladiator. But when I come home I will tell you more, as my space here is too limited. A few days before I left the Rapids I sent my satchel to Hastings to Bailey’s Store in the care of [name illegible] or Mrs. Dickerson, but I have not thought to speak of it before. And now I would say a few words with regard to my trunk. I have a few papers there which if you have not yet taken out I would request that you would not disturb until I come home. I have not as yet received any news from home and I begin to feel anxious to hear. Wm Fox is regaining his health fast, and is so as to be out. Our boys are much better than when I last wrote. I have sent three papers, which I presume, will reach you before this. My health is good, and time passes swiftly away. I do wish some of my old comrades would write to me. Remember me to all my friends.
Your affectionate Son, Matthew Baird
On July 26, just a few days after the fiasco at Bull Run, Matthew wrote home from camp near Arlington Heights, Virginia:
Since I last wrote to you our Regt has had a long march into Virginia, and I have already been witness to two battles. If you have not already heard, you will have heard before you get this of the battle of Bulls Run and its disastrous results to the Federal army. And as you will doubtless get a more correct description than I can give I shall not say much about it. However you may depend we had a tough old time. Our Regt was not engaged in either battle (except the right and left companies as skirmishers). We left Chain Bridge the 16th and late on the 18th we came up to the rebels when our artillery opened a brisk fire upon them. The rebels returned it with considerable effect killing several of our men. The whole brigade was thrown into the field when an engagement too place which lasted about four hours. Our Regt was held as a reserve, though we were exposed to the cannon shot of the enemy and often to their musketry, without the [illegible] means of defense or the privilege of returning their fire.
One cannon ball fell into Co. F Striking James Beck of Hastings on the knee, however not so as to injure him much as the ball was spent. Several musket balls fell into our company and striking near our Captain’s feet. A great many cannon shot and shell went over our heads with tremendous velocity often striking only a few yards beyond us. In such cases we had to hug the ground pretty close. We did not lose any men in the 3rd, but the 1st Mass and 12th N.Y. was considerably beat up. The Mich 2nd lost a few men. Finding the evening [illegible] the brigade was withdrawn about two miles to wait for reinforcements. (Our brigade of 3,000 men were drawn up to oppose 30,000 of the enemy) Last Sunday [July 21st] the battle was begun again on the extreme right and was fought with dreadful effect, the loss on both sides was immense. The roaring of the cannon was almost constant and the wall of musketry was like the continual muttering of distant thunder. Our brigade with three others, supported by a number of batteries occupied the left wing.
A little skirmishing however was all that was done on the left except by the batteries, which threw shot and shell all day without receiving a single shot in answer. The battle was fought within sight of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The country through which we passed is almost entirely deserted by the inhabitants. Crops are extremely poor, and I should think by the appearance of everything that the soil was entirely exhausted. And if we can’t whip out the rebels, if the crops are poor all over the south as they are in Virginia they will soon starve out.
My health is as good as ever yet. Give my best wishes to all my friends, and my love to Uncle and Cousin.
Please write soon to your Affectionate Son, Matthew Baird
Matthew returns to his diary on August 19, 1861, with details about camp life and other matters.
There is something interesting . . . in camp life.
And though it is attended with many inconveniences and often with hardship and suffering it still has something of a charm which makes a man feel perfectly at home. There are blended the serious, the comical, the sentimental and the ludicrous.
There may be found men of refinement and accomplished educational attainments. Men whose hearts beat high with generous impulses, men in whose hands might well be trusted the nation’s honor. There may be found men of fortitude and courage and to whom danger and difficulty would seem but as passing scenes of every day occurrence which to in [illegible] would be but to overcome. There may also be found men of weak minds, and of dastardly and cowardly dispositions. Men to whom vice is more sacred than virtue, men who are sunk to the lowest ebb of depravity and who would delight as much in destruction of their fellows by their own corruption, as their on destruction is sure. But the latter form an exception. I am happy to say that I believe that a great majority of the American army, though not strictly moral, are possessed of enough of the principal of justice and honor to detain them from acts of crimination, or from a desire to lead others into such measures. Here there are many too whose lives are in strict conformity to the morality and religion, and whose acts and virtue we would do well to copy. But these, alas; also form an exception. Thus a man who loves to study character and human nature will find no better place than in the Camp.
The scenes in camp are also varied. The things that occur today, are often entirely different from those things that transpired the day before. The mode of cooking, which is after a primitive fashion, and the ridiculous eagerness of the soldiers to obtain their food, with their manner of eating it, often forms an interesting and laughable scene. But above all the most exerting is packing up for a march. Everything is then all in a bustle and confusion. Camp kettles and eating utensils are hurried together. Soldiers hurrying hither and thither, packing their knapsacks, cleaning their guns, and striking their tents, lashing the wagons, with the usual hurry flurry impatience of the officers presents a picture at once lively and interesting.
Today our camp at Hunters Place presented such a scene. After everything had been packed and loaded and all men ready, we were formed into line and marched in our present camp above Fort Albany. From this camp (as from most others we’ve occupied since 21st July) we have a beautiful view of Washington and the Potomac. The Mich 2nd and the N.Y. 34 are stationed just to the west on our rear. . . .
Diary of Camp Life Or a few Practical Thoughts and Observations on what I saw and heard in the Army
Headquarters, Hunters Place, Camp Hunter
August 19, 1861
There is perhaps no sentiment so doubly or so strongly implanted in the bosom of man as the love of country.
This Sentiment is a natural one. It grows up with a man from his infancy. Hence its depth – its strength. But it begins at home.
Throw a pebble into the stream and the eddies that form around the place where it strikes become larger and wider till they vibrate to the utmost limit of its shares.
Thus with man, his love of country begins at the hearth-stone on which falls the whitened ashes, & dying embers of the evening fire. It begins where he first feels the merest joys of childhood’s hours.
It begins where he first participates in the innocent pleasures of his schoolboy days. He first learns to love the flowerbeds and garden walks, which his earliest recollection tells him were planted and formed by his mother’s hand.
Next, the surrounding fields, the hills, the tiny vales, the murmuring brooks and the “deep tangled wildwood” attract his attention, and around which cling the affections of his youthful heart. Soon however his ideas expand. In his loved schoolroom he studies Geography. Then in his imagination he views wide extended plains, lofty mountains, broad, deep rivers and populated cities. He sees cultivated fields, busy workshops, and numerous mercantile establishments.
Next his quick perceptive faculties take in the Government with all its different branches, its administrators, its advisors, its supporters, and its dependents. He sees mighty armies, large fleets and an extensive commerce.
And here he begins to comprehend the greatness and glory of the nation. Then the light breaks in upon his mind and he exclaims, my country, my native land. For this he is willing to sacrifice all that is great in life. The easy arts of home, the society of friends, the acquisition of property or the property which he may have, and even life itself. For his country the true patriot will endure without complaint every privation, and hardship, hunger and thirst, toil and fatigue, and even sickness and death. When Peace with all its blessings smiles upon his country and his home, when with her balmy breath she cools and soothes the flames of contention, and spreads the fragrance of to every fireside, then he thinks only of his home and the loved ones there.
But when the fires of war are lit up. When the terrible foe is marshaling in battle array and the bugle sounds; to arms, dutifully he the haunts of peaceful life, rallies to his countries flag and goes forth nobly to battle for his nation’s honor, as his countries rights.
Thus it is at the present time. Every emotion in the patriots bosom has been mastered. He has been called forth to meet a foe, terrible and evil. Not a foreign foe. Not a foe that is contending merely for a question of honor, or to seek redress for a broken treaty or a simple question of territory. It is a questions in which is involved the liberties of thirty millions of people. A question which [illegible] at stake one of the best governments God ever permitted to rule on earth. A question which if lost on our side, will result in the establishment of one of the most tyrannical despotisms that ever disgraced God’s footstool. But we trust this will not be the case. In God is our refuge and our strength. He is our Rock, our Light tower, and the refuge of our nation. And the many mustering thousands of freemen who respond so nobly to their countries call in this greatest hour of danger, with a humble, yet confiding trust in the Rules of Nations, tell us that we shall succeed in quelling this haughty, ambitious and virulent foe, and thus unite still stronger the bonds of our hitherto prosperous nation, and place upon a firmer basis the foundations of our glorious Republic.
Then let us put forth every effort in our power. Let every freeman awake to his duty. And “Let this be our motto in God is our trust. And the Star Spangled banner in triumph shall wave. Over the land of the free, and the home of the brave”.
Aug. 26 Today I paid a visit to the 4th Mich. Regt. to see one or two old acquaintances. This is a healthy robust looking regiment. It is stationed at half a mile west of Fort Corcoran and forms a part of Sherman’s brigade. The 4th is at present engaged in building another fort in a commanding situation to the right of their camp. The work has progressed finely since they began. The boys seem to be in good spirits, jovial and full of life. On my return I passed Fort Corcoran, which presents quite a formidable appearance. It is situated on the opposite side of the river from Georgetown and has a command of the town and river, and the road leading down the canal, beside a large range of country to the west. Passing through one or two other camps, and down the canal road I soon arrived in camp.
Going out on picket.
I had not been long in camp before the alarm was given and the 3rd was called out to relieve the picket guard in the advances. This is a pretty particular duty and in this war has thus far proved to be a very dangerous one.
There seems to be so much antipathy existing between the Union and the rebel troops that a sight of each other is temptation enough to draw fire. Quite a number have been killed on both sides in such cases. Company E [Baird’s company] are posted along the road at short intervals in squads of six. While several other companies are thrown out still further in the advance.
Aug. 27 Today has been cold and rainy.
We were hurried off so quick that some of us could bring neither over-coats nor blanket in consequence of which we suffered considerable with the cold last night.
Not having brought any food with us and not expecting any till late we began to examine the premises around us. In a deserted house upon the hill above us, was found several pounds of pork, half barrel of crackers and some fish, this with a fine lot of potatoes taken from an adjoining building made us quite a breakfast. Between eight and nine o’clock a.m. our overcoats and blankets came with a supply of provisions. Today our pickets were thrown out into the woods for half a mile west of the road and thus were drawn in again at the close of day.
Though we neither saw, nor heard anything of the enemy from our position, still there was considerable sharpshooting done out in the front at Balls cross road, the result of which I have not yet learned.
Aug. 28 In camp again. Last night the rain came down in torrents drenching everything exposed. I succeeded in getting dry quarters however, when not on duty. And this morning we were relieved and started for camp through the rain and mud and arrived quite wet and very much fatigued.
Sept. 1 Sabbath. Out on picket again. If ever military duty becomes odious and repulsive it is on the Sabbath. But our national difficulties force the painful necessity upon us.
Company E was placed a little more in the advance today.
Nothing of importance occurred. I was not on duty till night. When with two others I verified a post in what was once a cultivated field, but is now thickly overgrown with thrifty pines, many of which have attained to a considerable size. The night, as the day, passed without anything worthy of remark, except now and then the sharp ring of the sentinels musket far in the advance or the night wind “sighing its soft melody” through the tall pine trees.
Sept. 5 Today our regiment received the balance of money due it from the State of Michigan. It was a small sum, but money is always welcome to the soldier be it ever so small a sum.
Matthew’s father George wrote his son from Hope in Barry County on September 9.
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 much wheat we have in the half Bushel, we had About 400 in the whole, 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 Bushel. Brother Clark hauled a load of wheat to Market last week and could get but 80 cents per Bushel, that will not pay up, some body must wait I will do the best I can, and pay as far as I can. I went to [not legible] 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 hear 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, Emery Jackson has Also gone in the same company with Samuel Cas Roberson wanted to know whether 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 Thomas’ and Lucy letters, your Uncle Matthew will start for Washington the last of this week. Give my respect to Wm Fox tell 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 neighbor 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 gotten 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 immediately so that we may know that you are in 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
Two days later Matthew wrote an unnamed friend passing along a few of his personal observations about the war.
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 really desire to. The two armies have now agreed to cease firing at each other’s 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 pebbly 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 playfully 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 Fremont’s 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 excellent girl. But I am really 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, terrible in form and power.
Enclosed I send you a photograph of General McClellan commanding the Army of the Potomac. 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 gratitude 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
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
On September 24, 1861, just over three months after the 3rd Michigan had left Grand Rapids, Matthew wrote to a girl by the name of Sarah in Barry County, reassuring her that in order to preserve the Union certain sacrifices were necessary.
I am really pleased with the patriotic spirit our neighborhood is beginning to manifest. And, although the enlisting of so many young men from that vicinity, will cause many hearts to be sad, and many homes to look desolate, although the sacrifice parents and brothers and sisters are called upon to make, is great, still we feel the sacrifice is just; being made as it is upon the altar of our country. There is no Union-loving man, but that believes and feels that upon the broad basis of our excellent government, rests the foundation of our future hopes of liberty. In the maintenance of that government, our hopes are realized. In its fall, all is blasted. The fair fabric of the Union will then crumble to the dust. Columbia, “The gem of the ocean,” will be forever stricken from the pages of future history; and the glory of America will be buried in the dark oblivion of the past.
Then may we not willingly relinquish the comforts of our beloved homes, and the society of dear friends, and endure, for a while, the toils and dangers of war? If we fall in battle, we are sure the blessings of our friends will rest upon our graves, and the sympathies of a grateful country will follow us to the tomb. -- And if we return to our homes, covered with the scars of strife, and the wounds of deadly conflict, we will then well know how to appreciate the blessings of liberty.
I am glad this war is not carried on in our fair State. You would be surprised at the desolation o so many beautiful homes. The lovely and romantic hills of Virginia, already begin to show the saddening effects of rebellion. Almost every house in this part of the State has been deserted by the inmates, who have gone over to secession, or have fled to Washington for protection. Indeed, the desolation of the land is enough to make one heartsick. But the hour is growing late and I must bring my letter to a close.
Tell my folks I am well, and ready for duty; and with my best wishes to yourself and family, . . .
On October 2, Baird noted in his diary:
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 Munson’s 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.
On October 19 Matthew was admitted to Seminary Hospital in Georgetown, reportedly suffering from typhoid fever. On November 17 his father wrote Matthew passing along all the news from home.
My Dear Son,
Yours of the 7 came duly to hand. We thought that there was something wrong as we could not get a letter before 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 prayers 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 hear 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 [write?]. We raised this year of buckwheat 21 Bushel. You want to know whether the treasury notes 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 thing wrong here we will let you know 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 direct [your letters] to him the same as we do, to Col. Merrill’s Horse Co. Camp Benton St. Louis, MO. He has got all of our letters. I give him your [address]. In the last letter I wrote to him, we are all well at present. I will get Lucy’s [likeness?] as soon as I can and send it to you. George Robinson is married to E.P. Chandler’s daughter. You must write as soon and as often as you can. Take as good care as you can of yourself and I hope that God will care for you and bless you, your sickness may be all for the best. Be faithful to your trust. This is from your Father and friend Geo. W. Baird
Two days later Matthew was transferred to the hospital in Annapolis. That same day he wrote a friend
I presume by this time you think I have quite forgotten you, but when I tell you that I was taken sick only a few days after I wrote my last letter to you, and have been ever since, you will excuse me for not writing before. I was taken sick and laid in my tent over a week. I then went to the regiment hospital and in four days after was conveyed to a hospital in Georgetown, D.C. where I remained four weeks. I left my bed last Wednesday, and yesterday I was brought to this place where I expect to remain until I have fully recovered my health and strength. I have no doubt you have long been looking for your paper, and the Daguerreotype, I have had no opportunity to obtain either. I shall not send you my picture till I am somewhat recruited, or I am thin now it would be only a scare-crow.
As I have been away from my regiment so long I have not much news to send you. But I presume you have already heard of the success of the late naval expedition. Our troops in connection with the fleet have taken possession of Port Royal and Beaufort in South Carolina (very important points) besides a portion of the rail-road between Savannah and Charleston. This is the most important news I have to send you. You must, and I know you will be kind enough to excuse me the shortness of this letter, as I have half a score of letters received while sick that remain unanswered. I only wrote two while sick and both of those I wrote home. I write you these few lines, so you will know I have not forgotten you.
Write soon and believe me as ever your Sincere Friend Matthew Baird
On December 2 he returned to confide in his diary that the past,
to my last date, has been a blank to me as far as regards military matters. The 7th Oct. I was taken very sick. The 17th I was conveyed to regiment hospital and the 19th was removed to Georgetown to the Seminary Hospital.
I was detained there four weeks with a heavy fever, and then again, 17th Nov. was removed to this place; U. S. General Hospital, Annapolis, MA. I have been here two weeks today. I forgot to say that the 4th Brigade removed from Camp Albany to Fort Lyons two miles below Alexandria, on the 14th Oct. I have heard nothing definite from the 3rd since I left. They are however in the same camp.
On December 8 he replied to his father’s recent letter.
Dear Father, I received your letter of the 17th Nov. last week and was glad to hear that you were all well.
My health is so far recovered that I shall return to my regiment next week. (Today is Sunday.) Indeed I can say I am well again. You seem to think I have tried to hide from you the true state of my health. But as I told you in my last letter I was not so sick at any time but what I could [tear in the paper] walk all around my ro[om].
If I become dangerously ill I will immediately assure you of it. And when I become disabled by sickness or otherwise, I can get my discharge with out much trouble. I presume you are having considerable snow in Michigan by this time, while here the weather is beautifully warm, though we have had a few days of pretty cold weather, but no snow, and but very little frost. I should really like to be home now to eat some of the buckwheat cakes. Can’t you send me one in your next letter, steaming hot, and already buttered. Buckwheat cakes are good in cold weather at least I should think so from the price they sell at here. Such as we make at home bring three cents apiece here. That is too much buckwheat for me. The reason why I have not written before, since my last letter is because I didn’t get my pay until last Friday, and I didn’t wish to write till I could send you some money. I shall send you by mail with this letter fifteen dollars in Treasury Notes. I wish I could send you more at this time, but it is only a little more than a month until my next payment and then I will try and send you a larger sum. I shall write to Mary this week and then I will send her the dollar I promised her.
I shall write to Sammy soon. I shall return to my regiment a week from tomorrow and if I find I can’t stand the fatigue of the camp I shall then apply for discharge and come home, I tell you the truth when I say I never was healthier than I have been the past summer till I was taken down with the fever. I hope you will not give yourself any trouble, nor worry any on my account. My trust is in God. I know nothing will befall me unless it is his will and his will is just and right.
No more at present, may Heavens best blessing abide with till we meet again.
Your Affectionate Son. Matthew
A week later he returned to his diary.
Dec. 15 Still at the Hospital and likely to remain here for a while yet. No news of any importance from the Reg’t as yet. Everything seems to be quiet over the Potomac.
No special movement of the army has taken place since my absence from the regiment. The weather, although the season is so far advanced is remarkably mild and pleasant, no snow has as yet fallen and we have had but little frost.
My health is considerably improved, but still have a lingering cough.
Dec. 16 The scene on the bay has been quite exciting today, by the arrival and departure of vessels, quite a number of steamers and schooners are now lying at anchor, and at the wharf.
There is an expedition fitting up at this place intended for southern confrontations, which will soon start for its point of destination, which of course is not known by outsiders and doubtless by but few if any persons connected with it. I understand there are 30,000 men to accompany the expedition. There has been quite a military display for the past few days. Soldiers marching, drums beating, bands playing, and colors flying, has tended to enliven somewhat the monotony of hospital life and to instill into those who have lost through sickness that necessary nerve of war, a military spirit. The weather ever turns fine, though cool.
Dec. 17 Nothing of importance has occurred today, except the arrival of one or two steamers with army stores. I took a stroll along the beach this morning while the tide was out and picked up a number of Oysters which I opened and eat on the shore the first had ever eaten in that way. It was rumored here to day that the 3rd Mich. Reg’t had moved. I could not learn to what place or for what purpose. The weather has been delightful today.
Dec. 18 The scene on the wharves today has been enlivening and animated. A large brig made her appearance in the harbor early in the forenoon and anchored about a quarter of a mile from the wharves. There have also several large steamers been expected to arrive today and also a large number of troops for the expedition, neither of which, however, have yet made their appearance.
Today another four soldiers was carried to his last resting place. The sad duty was performed by the [purposely blank] Mass. Reg’t. There have been a good many deaths among the soldiers since my arrival at this place. And alas; my private opinion, from what I have seen, is, that not a few of the deaths that occur is the result of neglect. May God grant that I may never die at a hospital. Ten thousand times would I rather fall upon the field of battle, surrounded by all its terrors, and be buried by my surviving comrades in an honorable grave, than to be carried by the regardless [not legible] and interred in an unknown spot over which friends might shed a few tears, in token of sacred memory.
Today has been quite cool and cloudy, and strong indications of rain prevail.
On December 18, 1861, Dwight Tousley, also of Company E, wrote Matthew, who was in the hospital in Annapolis. Tousley himself had recently been hospitalized in Annapolis and had just rejoined the regiment at Camp Michigan outside of Washington.
I arrived in camp the 16th all right with the exception of the galling my feet [took] coming from Washington but getting better now. I found the boys all well but Duane. He is not getting any better of the rheumatism yet I think they will send him to the Hospital in Georgetown or Washington. We had a good time from Annapolis to Washington and took dinner at the Soldiers Retreat and got our passes to the regiments between one and two in the afternoon.
I found the regiment about two miles from Fort Lyon in the woods building a log city for winter quarters. The 17th there was two of the New Jersey cavalry killed on the picket lines by the rebels and yesterday morning some of the rebel cavalry about ten or twelve made their appearance riding towards the lines but they found so warm a reception by the Michigan Fifth that they were glad to retreat after firing their carbines which took a button from one man’s clothes and cut his shirt close to his body but he remained unhurt.
In the night last night there was two regiments of infantry and some cavalry and two pieces of artillery passed our camp toward the picket line. They have not found anything to do as yet for I have not heard any firing in that direction since they went out by here.
You wanted I should tell about the tents and clothing when I wrote. The tents are large round tents with a small stove in the centre which makes it very comfortable. They have for clothes black overcoats and blue pants an some socks and shoes but no under coats yet. The Second [Michigan?] have got nice blue dress coats and they look first rate. There was a letter come for you yesterday and I will send it with this.
General Richardson is building his house upon the hill so that he can look down upon us and see what is a going on in camp.
Part of our boys were out on picket and came in last night. They did not get troubled on their posts at all and came in all right. The boys are anxious to get a chance at the rebels but it does not look much like advancing this way or they would not take the trouble to build winter quarters here.
I will write a few lines to Mr Locke just to let him know where his regiment is if you will please to hand it to him. I will write it [on this] sheet and you can cut it off.
This from your friend and fellow soldier Dwight Tousley
Matthew’s diary picks up again the following day, December 19.
Dec. 19 The steamers New York and New Brunswick arrived today with the Eleventh Connecticut regiment. This is a very fine looking body of men, uniformed and equipped throughout. This regiment is also connected to the present expedition. A quantity of shells and several mortars also arrived from Washington. The number of vessels in the bay is increasing. The weather has been delightful today notwithstanding the indications for rain were so strong last night.
Dec. 20 Nothing has occurred today of any particular importance. The weather seems rather unfavorable and doubtful.
Dec. 21 Vessels continue to arrive. The Sherman steamer arrived, soon after which a very sad accident occurred on board. The engine had not quite stopped its motion, when one of the engineers stepped around to see that everything was right about the machinery, and unthinking he stepped too near, the shaft to the engine struck him just above the ankle, crushing the bone almost entirely through, and mangling the flesh dreadfully. He was brought to the hospital this afternoon, when the poor fellow had to submit to an amputation. I witnessed the operation, though secretly I must confess.
Another accident occurred on the [purposely blank], by [illegible] falling from a mast which he was cleaning, he struck on the deck, flat on his back. It is said he struck a long two inch plank, which was split from one end to the other by the collision. It is thought he will not live.
Dec. 22 Sabbath. This forenoon I wrote a letter and [illegible] I went to church for the first time since I came here. The 7th Rhode Island Battery arrived today, from Washington, with cannon, horses, ammunition and equipments. The weather has been pretty cold for a day or two.
Dec. 23 Today has been wet and stormy with a slight sprinkling of snow accompanying the rain. So without troubling myself about out-door affairs I confined myself within the cozy and comfortable quarters of my room and busied myself with writing letters reading the news. The day closed with in [illegible] cold.
Dec. 24 By the lively movements around the hospital toward evening today one would think merry Christmas was approaching in good earnest, even for the weary way – worn soldier. Pies and cakes in abundance, roast turkeys, and baked ham and numerous other good things, and substantial came in by wagon. Something to make glad the heart and satisfy the [illegible]ing hungry stomach of the soldier. Something to remind one of its joys and seasons of merriment. It reminded us too of the loved ones there and the annual gathering, the circle round the old hearth-stone. The meeting of old friends and. . .
Matthew’s diary abruptly ends here. But on the day after Christmas, Matthew, still in the hospital at Annapolis, wrote home to his mother.
My Dear Mother,
It is sometime since I wrote to you, and seeing Christmas was over and as we have had a good time, I thought I would write you a few lines. I hope Christmas has passed off merrily and happy with you all at home. Though there are many homes that have not had so many bright and joyous faces around the Christmas circle as there was last year. Still I hope those left at home are nonetheless bright and cheerful. Though our country is distracted by the fearful struggle, and all the evils of civil war, besides being threatened with war with one of the greatest powers on earth still I see no reason why we should not have a merry good time on that day of joy and gladness – Merry Christmas. Indeed yesterday was a day of merriment and a bright spot in the path of the weary-way-worn soldier. In the morning there was no small [illegible] among the cooks and hospital attendants. Several wagon loads of roast turkey, baked ham, oyster pies and pies of all kinds besides a great many other good things came in and when noon came round we had a capital princely dinner thanks to the good and loyal ladies of Annapolis.
The table was long and well filled with all the good things of the land (it seems war has not cannoned the whole yet and well crowded with hungry men, but after they were all done there was enough left for as many more. On each end of the table there was of course a fine Christmas tree, filled with rich yellow oranges with a nice miniature Star-Spangled-banner on the top of each tree. After dinner was over, a few appropriate remarks were made by a gentleman and lady in the course of which they lady urged upon the men the necessity of abstaining from all kinds of liquor the using of all profane language and everything ungentlemanly. She said her only child was a soldier. (Of course in the Union army). She had thus given up all to the cause of her country. She very particularly wished us to remember our Christmas dinner to our friends at home, and to tell them we had not only friends at home, but we had friends here. The soldiers she said would find friends everywhere. The citizens of Annapolis welcomed the Union troops as friends, friends of liberty.
I tell you we had a grand good time. Now you must not think that because I am here yet that I am sick for I am not, and am as eager to go to any regiment as can be, but I have the notions of others.
Dear Mother a happy New Year to you, Goodbye. Matthew
Matthew was probably still in the hospital when Dwight Tousley wrote from Camp Michigan on January 10, 1862.
I received a letter to day from you and read it with pleasure. It found me as well as could be expected. I have been able to do duty ever since I came to camp and feel first rate at present. The rest of the boys are all well but Duane and Ralph Hanley. Duane is not any better than he was when I came to camp. He cannot use his right much yet and I do not think he will get any better this winter.
I was waiting for a letter from you so that I would would know whether you was coming out here or not so I could send your letters to you. I got one for you last week and it had almost slipped my mind until last night when I happened to find it in my portfolio. Our mail comes once a week now I guess for we have had no mail for three days or more until to day besides four more to send you which you will please acknowledge the receipt of in your next.
It is very wet and muddy here now. The mud is shoe deep in the streets of the camp. We were called out Christmas morning at four oclock and marched out to Pohick Church where it is was reported the rebels were building a battery but when we got there we could not find a single secesh in a mile of there and finally marched back to camp at night. I do not know as I have any more news to write at present, please excuse all mistakes and poor writing.
This from your friend Dwight Tousley.
P.S. If you want your description list please let me know in your next
And on January 28 Matthew’s father wrote him expressing their concern over his continuing bad health.
We Recd yours of the 13 we found by your letter that you are not so well as we thought you was I am very sorry that you are not getting along, but always be willing to say the Lord’s will be done not mine. Your being sick may be all for the best. We are all well at present we are doing the best we can the weather is very bad. It snowed very hard yesterday and to day it is raining very hard; the snow is about one foot deep.
I would like to have you write a letter to Robert and ask him if he still retains his Religion. He does not attend to his class meeting at all. Him and Charles and Henry Ward are about alike; neither of them has any thing to say when they are asked. I want you to talk to him, but don’t let him know that I said any thing about it [in] my letter. Robert is a good boy but he has got off the track. Write as soon as you can. Your Mother says she will answer your letter as soon as she can. This is from your Father Geo. W. Baird
February 12, Tousley wrote Matthew, again from the Camp Michigan:
I have just Rec’d you letter of the tenth inst and was very sorry to hear such news from you for I had almost began to look for you here but as that cannot be. I will do all I can for you at least for I know how to pity a poor inmate of the Hospital especially at Annapolis for I got tired of it while I was there but I will dwell on this no longer.
I went immediately to the captain after reading your letter and found that your clothes had been overlooked after being packed up ready to send to you untill yesterday morning when the captain started them to Annapolis. I suppose you will receive them before this reaches you. The captain was sorry to hear that you were sick again after being detailed in the hospital and so were the boys. Mr Ward was very well satisfied with his tickets but said he did not look for any thing of the kind until he sees you again. You had not need of sending those tickets to me for remailing your letters for the quarter more than paid me for all the letters I have sent you. Excuse my blunders if you please. I meant to mention the quarter that I got of Drake but I know you will excuse me when I tell you I wrote this in an awful hurry to get it done before Dress parade so that I can send it on its errand early in the morning
W. K. Ferris had gone home before I came from Annapolis. I must tell you about our new guns we have got the Austrian Rifles and they will do good shooting from 120 rods to A half mile.
Duane and Andrew Killpatrick have gone home on a furlough of 30 days. The rest of the boys are all well I believe but Abram Eddy he is in the Hospital at Alexandria. You will find enclosed some stamps to mail letter to me with.
Well Matthew I guess I have written all the news but forgot to tell you how I am getting as tough as a bear again and weigh the same as I did last summer.
Well Matthew I will not tire you by writing any more this time but if there is anything more I can do for you please mention it and I will attend to it immediately. This from your ever faithful friend, Dwight Tousley
Write soon and let me know whether you have received your clothes or not.
Matthew probably never returned to the regiment. He was discharged for irratito spinalis or “irritation of the spine” on April 19, 1862, at Camp Winfield Scott, Virginia.
After his discharge from the army Matthew returned home to Hope where he reentered the service in Company K, 6th Michigan Cavalry on August 30, 1862, for 3 years, crediting and listing Hope as his residence. He was mustered on October 13 at Grand Rapids where the regiment was being organized. The 6th Cavalry remained on duty at Grand Rapids until December 10 when it left for Washington where it participated in the defenses of the capital until June of 1863.
Sometime shortly after the regiment arrived in Washington, Matthew wrote home discussing their accommodations, among other things.
Since we came here, we have been, and are now, quartered at the Soldiers’ Retreat, near the Capitol. Our fare has been none the best, but we expect to go into camp tomorrow, when, of course we will far better. We are to go into camp on Meridian Hill. The Hon. F. W. Kellogg was in our quarters an hour ago, and made a short address. He assures us that we will be armed according to contract, with a five-shooting [sic] breech-loading rifle (we came off without our arms) and that we shall be properly fitted and prepared before we take the field. He assures us also, that as soon as we get into camp and things are regulated, we shall be promptly paid, and things shall be arranged to our entire satisfaction. And now a word about our horses. Six squadrons of them were shipped before the regiment started and the balance soon after; the last arrived last evening. The jaunt was very hard for them, and they show it badly. A few were lost on the way, one from Company K. We have also been short of forage for them on account of some irregularity in the Quartermaster’s department. But it is hoped that in a few days, all these difficulties will be overcome, then soldiers and horses will fare better.
The health of the regiment, generally, is good. There are but few sick at present, and we left but few sick ones behind.
The weather has been delightful since our arrival; more like the month of April than that of December; some days almost hot -- the nights though, are rather chilly.
The 6th Michigan Cavalry occupied Gettysburg, Pennsylvania briefly on June 28, was engaged at Hanover, Pennsylvania on June 30 and participated in the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1-3 as well as in the pursuit of Lee’s forces back into Virginia. Matthew was reported absent sick in October of 1863, and by January of 1864 was at Brigade headquarters.
He eventually recovered and returned to duty when he was listed as a Sergeant and taken prisoner on March 1, 1864. Matthew reportedly returned to duty on May 30, 1865. The 6th participated in the Grand Review in Washington on May 23 and on June 1 was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where the veterans and recruits were consolidated into the 1st Michigan Cavalry later that month. Matthew was mustered out of service on November 24, 1865, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Matthew returned to Barry County.
He married New York native Margaret “Maggie” Bowker (1841-1875), on March 4, 1866, in Allegan County. They had at least one child, a son Ellis (b. 1871).
By 1870 he was working as a farmer and living with his wife Maggie and an 8-year-old boy named Charles Sever (?) in Hickory Corners, Barry Township, Barry County. (In 1870 there was a 66-year-old Matthew Baird, living alone and working as a grocer in Hope, Barry County.)
After Maggie’s death from paralysis in 1875 Matthew married Carrie A. (1852-1880). They had at least two children: Benjamin (b. 1878) and Robert (b. 1880).
It is quite likely that Carrie died in childbirth since she died on April 2, 1880, the day Robert was born. Later that year Matthew listed himself as a widower and working as a farmer in Barry, Barry County.
Sometime after Carrie’s death Matthew married his third wife, Lydia (1852-1943).
Matthew was residing in Barry, Barry County in 1890 (possibly in Cedar Creek) and 1894, and possibly lived in Cedar Creek most of his postwar life.
In 1885 he applied for and received pension no. 431,255, dated June 24, 1886.
Matthew he died of heart disease on November 7, 1908, in Bedford, Calhoun County, and was buried in Cedar Creek Cemetery in Hope, as were his two first wives and finally Lydia, all next to Maggie’s family.
In 1916 his widow Lydia applied for and received a pension (no. 818,934).