George W. Bailey was born March 31, 1841, in Comstock, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, the son of Leonard (b. 1815) and Margaret (Sternberg, b. 1824). (Much of this information comes from Jerry Post, a descendant of George Bailey.)
Both New York natives, George’s parents were possibly married in New York, but had settled in western Michigan by 1841. George’s family moved from Kalamazoo to Allegan, Allegan County the same year he was born, and, except for his service in the army, George lived his entire life in Allegan. He attended the local district schools and, although his father was a carpenter, George learned the trade of miller. In 1850 George was attending school with his younger siblings and living with his family in Allegan, and by 1860 George was working as a miller and living with his family in Allegan, Allegan County, where his father worked as a carpenter and joiner.
George was a 20-year-old miller living in Allegan when he enlisted in Company F in the first of June of 1861. According to the Allegan Journal, in the late Spring of 1861 the “Allegan boys” were spoiling “for a fight”, and on the evening of June 5, “two of our boys, George W. Bailey (son of our wealthy fellow townsman Leonard Bailey), and John Calkins started from here afoot, bound for Grand Rapids, where they intended to join the Third Regiment. We have no doubt but that if there is any fighting to be done, the boys named above will have a hand in it. Since writing the above, we learn that the boys have been mustered into the Third Regiment.”
In fact, according to George, there were three “boys” who walked to Grand Rapids. “On the fairgrounds at Allegan,” Bailey wrote in 1903, “during the latter part of April and for part of May, a squad of Allegan County volunteers were quartered and when that nucleus increased it took military form. Officers were elected to lead or direct movements.” However, on Tuesday, June 4,
“the patriotic spirit moved” and at about 6:45 p.m. John B. Champion, John Calkins, and G. W. Bailey, after bidding farewell to relatives and friends, were seen wending their way eastward, via Martin Corners to Grand Rapids, taking the old and reliable line of foot and walker, as the surest way to “get there”. None of the trio had ever been to the Rapids, and all were confident they could not get off the right road after striking the plank. The early evening was very dark and the atmosphere torrid. On our journey through Watson we came to ‘a little red school-house’ where a meeting of some kind was being held. Here an inquiry was made as to the direct route and distance to Martin. We had not proceeded many miles when the road seemed to come to an abrupt termination, and all felt sure that Lake Michigan nor the ocean was on the east boundary of Allegan County, and it was our most solemn opinion that “Saint Patrick” had in his travels through Ireland found himself in our plight, and he did then and there banish all snakes and frogs from the land, and the whole outfit -- in our imagination -- had dropped right here in a large swamp. After skirmishing around a short time, we found the right turn of the road, and some came to a corduroy bridge leading across a large swamp, whose inhabitants were as disloyal as any ranting traitors in the south. This is the manner in which they encouraged our patriotism and self-sacrifice. First the little frogs squeaked, “going-t'enlist, going-t'enlist, going-t'enlist”, then the guttural voice of Mr. Bull would bellow “Dam-phool, dam-phool, dam-phool”.
At 11 o'clock we arrived at Martin, ate a lunch, then proceeded on our journey, being well pleased with the “plank road”. At 2 a.m. we were well on our way, but mighty sore on the feet. At 3 o'clock we were spread out, Calkins taking the advance, Champion holding the center, and Bailey the rear guard. At about this hour we came to a hotel and after consultation it was agreed to awake the proprietor and hire him to drive us the balance of the way. After vigorous pounding assisted by the loud bark of a dog within, we finally aroused a small boy, who informed us that “it was about 9 miles to Grand Rapids.” We then informed this boy -- and he the proprietor of our wish, and were informed that $6 would be the price. To this we readily agreed. I was then conducted to the bedroom door, to talk with the proprietor (who would not arise), informed him of our great haste (we were going to enlist in the third Regiment of Michigan infantry, and understood the Regiment left Grand Rapids for the front that day, June 25.) This did not seem to impress him favorably, for he and his wife had a talk in an undertone, after which he said, “I don't care to go for less than $9”’ This attempt at extortion was rejected and we again took up the old line of march (foot and walker), consoling ourselves in the belief that “mine host” was a rebel sympathizer, and a fit companion to those frogs who inhabit the pond near Martin, for all seem to think or call us “dam-phools”, if we were going to enlist. Calkins again took the lead, Champion the center and I way back.
It was now getting to be daybreak. “Walking the plank” had become tedious on account of blistered feet, which made me doubly tired, and necessitated a long rest for a short distance traveled. While taking one of these rests, and meditating on the “croaking of frogs”, my ear caught the sound of a wagon approaching from the rear. This welcome sound revived me, and I at once prepared for a ride. In a short time it drove into sight and proved to be a men [sic?] moving a load of household goods “up north”. On his approach I hailed him, and requested a ride, informed him of my two companions, on the road ahead, and of our willingness to pay him well. But he refused on the plea “of a large load, and a tired team”. I then explained to him our situation, also our experience with the landlord a short distance back. That story (it was no fable, either), fired his loyal heart and he exclaimed, . . . “You climb up here, and we will arrange this furniture so you can all ride.” this done we soon overtook Champion and Calkins, who were taken on the load. At 8 o'clock we arrived at the fairgrounds where the Regiment was quartered, and as ‘our loyal friend’ could not be induced to take money consideration, large or small, for our ride, on parting with him he accepted one dollar, with our express wish that his horses should be well groomed and have a substantial breakfast. As we approached the gate we passed a soldier who informed us that we were “all right, and one time”, and for us to request the guard at the gate to call for Captain J. J. Dennis of Company F, who wanted a few more men to fill his company. On arrival at the gate, we were confronted by a soldier marching back and forth carrying a gun, with a sharp and ugly prodding rod on its muzzle end. Being green hands at this business, we attempted to pass him. That act brought forth the challenge, “Halt!”, at the same time the point of his gun was brought to bear on us in such a savage manner that our hair “riz” (we were not bald-headed then). We now followed instructions, called for Captain Dennis, who soon appeared, ordered the guard to ‘let the boys pass’. The captain was very glad to assign us in his command, conducted us to his company quarter in the barracks, where we enjoyed a rest and sleep until noon. After dinner we were conducted to the surgeon's office, where we were ‘sized up’ in length, breadth, and thickness, were accepted and sworn into state service -- to date from May 10. Champion, who was a musician, joined the Regiment band (which was at that time regularly enlisted musicians). We then returned to the barracks, where we found several of our Allegan County friends, some of whom were late members of Captain Bassett's home company [from Allegan]. We were now real soldiers and genuine “tenderfoots”, and our first business was to inspect “mudsills”, so off came the boots, when lo! what a sight! Each foot had one blister, in size the full width of foot, and extending from the end of toes to heel, and as to thickness, will say, I was one half inch taller when measured that day, than I have been able to stretch up to since; and they were not vanity puffs, either. After foot inspection we took to our bunk, being reminded of “Pilgrim's Progress”, and the welfare of our soles, although we were not as yet, “bowed down with a hump on our back”, neither had we wallowed in Virginia mud. Still, the argument was forcibly brought to mind that “it is better to travel in the straight and narrow path,” than follow the broad highway, which, if not leading directly to Sheol, did (with us) in after years, pass so near that we saw fire and smoke, heard its roar, and witnessed all the devilish accompaniments of four years in “hell let loose.”
The following day, June 5, George Bailey formally enlisted in Company F at about 9:00 a.m. Four days later,
On Sunday, June 9, I was agreeably surprised by a visit from father and mother, who drove over from Allegan, and who brought with them pies, cakes, baked chicken, and other food, enough to feed the half of my company, which was distributed among by old friends in Company I, from the lake shore. Monday morning [June 10] father and mother returned home. Soon after, it was reported that a U.S. mustering officer had arrived, which proved true, and the Regiment was mustered (by companies) into the military service of the United States, for “three years, or during the war”.
On the afternoon of the 12th Ed. C. Wheelock and Alonzo C. Hill (Big Bub) were brought to ‘the Rapids’ by Andrew Oliver for the purpose of enlisting (with us), both of whom experienced some trouble then and later, by not having been properly mustered. They were, however, accepted by the captains of co. F (Ed.) and Co. I (Bub) and were mustered by a justice of the peace, which was later confirmed, and they were properly mustered at Washington, DC. June 12 there was great excitement in camp, for it had been known all day that on the morrow we would leave Michigan for the seat of war.
Thursday morning [June 13] came and at about 8:30 o’clock the battalion was in line and filed out through the gate for a march ‘down through the city’, and up to the Detroit, Grand Haven & Milwaukee depot. This was an exciting time for many of the boys, whose relatives and friends lined the whole route, or marched alongside their ‘brave soldier boys’. To us from Allegan the only familiar face we saw was that of Andrew Oliver, looming up among the multitudes, who lined the walk, as we passed from Monroe Street (Grab Corners) to Canal Street. Arrived at the depot, we were soon seated in first class passenger coaches, the engine bell rang, and about 10:30 we were moving. At Ada the train slowed down, and finally came to a full stop. Now came our first reception, after leaving home. Eatables and drinkables were passed through the doors and windows, haversacks and canteens emptied of their contents (hard tack, salt beef and water) pies, cake, doughnuts, chicken, milk, lemonade, and all such, took their places very rapidly. At Lowell, Ionia, St. Johns, Owosso, Holly, Pontiac, and Royal oak this ovation was continued. Arrived in Detroit about dusk, disembarked, and paraded through several streets, were then given a rousing reception as our farewell to ‘Michigan, My Michigan’. At about 11 o’clock the whole Regiment was comfortably stowed away on two steamers (one a side wheeler, the other a propeller).
In the morning [Friday June 14] we sighted Cleveland, O., and were soon at the wharf, where we disembarked and awaited the arrival of the propeller, which was late. Here too we were received in a hospitable manner, as was the case in all cities and towns through which we passed in Ohio and Pennsylvania, until we arrived at Harrisburg, where we appeared to be among enemies more than friends. From Cleveland we took the Pennsylvania railroad for Pittsburgh, Altoona, and Harrisburg, arrived at Altoona Saturday morning [June 15]. here we disembarked, cleaned up, and ate our breakfast. Arrived at Harrisburg about 2 p.m., where we disembarked, drew ammunition for our arms --old muskets and Springfield rifles, all muzzle loaders. From Cleveland to Harrisburg especially in our passage over the Allegheny mountains, we were much amused by the ingenuity displayed by a painter who had found no rock, bough nor boulder too low for him to paint his advertisement thereon: ‘S.T. 1860 K. Drake’s Plantation bitters’. From Grand Rapids to Harrisburg we had ridden in first-class railway coaches.
About 6 p.m. the battalion formed, when the order was given, “Load arms”. We then marched to the railway yards, where a long side-track was full of box cars. Into these we were ordered, and as soon as darkness came on this long train pulled out and crossed the railroad bridge over the Susquehanna River into Maryland. We were now in “Secesh country”. Soon after it was noticed that our train was running very slowly and that there were little fires at short intervals along the track. Soon we learned that these were guard’s fires, and the whole route from Harrisburg to Washington was guarded. The night was very hot, which was augmented by our being packed in box cars and the slow running of the train. Soon it was apparent that the boys (through the whole train) were after more and sufficient ventilation, for the butts of their guns were making sad havoc on the sides and roof of every car. After ventilation was secured quietness reigned. About one o’clock, however, there was a ‘general awakening’, for a regular thunder-storm, such as Maryland is noted for, had ‘broke loose’, and Oh! my!! how it did come down, and everyone was soaked to his hide.
We arrived in Baltimore about ten o’clock Sunday morning [June 16], and it took no special urging to get us out of the dilapidated box cars into a hot sun, which soon ‘dried us out’ and renewed our courage to give battle in the streets of Baltimore should occasion require it. At that time the Baltimore and Potomac railroad depot was on the opposite side (south) of the city from the Pennsylvania depot (north), where we had just arrived, and was the terminal of that railroad. it was therefore necessary that we march right through the very heart of the city -- the same streets where the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment had been assaulted in April. It was now noon. The churches had closed and most of the worshipers, with thousands of other citizens, had congregated at the depot, or lined the sidewalks, occupied windows, and the roofs of every building, the entire distance through the city, all eager to see the ‘Lincoln hirelings’ and ‘northern mudsills’. The battalion was now formed and order given, ‘cap guns! half-cock guns!’ The captains of each company had previously been given orders for ‘every man to make sure his powder was dry’ and given a priming cap, the order was now given, ‘Battalion right face; Form platoons by companies; forward; Take intervals’ march!’ We were now off. This order, as given and executed, made four platoons of each company (forty in all) each platoon extending from curb stone, to curb stone, thus forming a large, long, wide, and imposing body of ‘mudsills’, which no rebel, nor rebel sympathizer, felt justified in or duty bound to molest or tamper with; and it was well for them, and for the peace of that day (Sunday), that they took a reasonable view in this matter, and allowed us to go on our way unmolested. In our march through the city the only hostile demonstration made or voice raised was that of a youngster on a housetop who shouted, ‘Hurray for Jeff Davis’. Arriving at the Baltimore and Potomac depot, we were soon speeding for Washington, soon passe the ‘relay house’, arriving at the capital about 4 p.m., and now our marching troubles began.
It was a fearfully hot afternoon, and many of the soldiers could not stand the long tramp down Pennsylvania avenue, through Georgetown, and up the Potomac River, about six miles, to ‘Chain Bridge’. At that time there was little pavement in our capital (the little was cobble stone). Pennsylvania avenue was dry and dusty -- red clay about four inches deep. The city water was poor and warm, and was secured by manipulating a long handle attached to a pump about twelve feet high. These pumps were numerous at that time. As we passed the White House, President Lincoln and General Scott were seated on the East Portico, in plain view. About two miles above Georgetown we passed the Second Michigan (who had arrived a week earlier and were encamped in heavy pieces of timber). We arrived at ‘Chain Bridge’ about 7:30 p.m. (Sunday, June 16), went into camp on a high bluff overlooking the Potomac River and the bridge. Our stragglers were coming in for two hours later, and some of them did not ‘show up’ until the next morning. We were now a thoroughly exhausted lot of ‘mudsills’. All were glad, however, to be ‘Away down south in Dixie’.”
On June 17, the day after the Third Michigan arrived at its camp along the banks of the Potomac River six miles north of Washington, George wrote to his friends in Allegan County describing the trip eastward. At the Detroit & Milwaukee depot in Grand Rapids, where the troops boarded the train for Detroit,
A large crowd of people (I should think the whole County) assembled to witness our departure. Some were laughing, and some were crying, and some were shouting and cheering, and we had a time generally. The cars started from the depot at about nine  o’clock, and at every station large crowds of men and women, boys and girls, were assembled, all eager to see and shake hands with the boys of the gallant Third, as they called us. I shook hands with (well I will not say how many thousands) all sizes and sorts of old men and young men, old ladies and young ladies, and pretty girls (my stars!) they were too numerous to mention.
. . . . We arrived in Detroit at five o’clock p.m. The Detroit people received and treated us handsomely. . . . We left Detroit at eight o’clock on steamers for Cleveland, which place we reached at five o’clock on the morning of the 15th [14th]. -- Here we were fully armed and equipped, and at 10 o’clock we left by cars for Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Baltimore and Washington. . . . All through Michigan, Ohio and a part of Pennsylvania, we were cheered as we passed, and when the cars stopped they filled with people, giving us pies, cakes, biscuit and butter, boiled ham, lemonade and ice water and everything else that we could ask for.
We saw oil wells, coal mines, iron ore, and rocks and mountains in any quantity, and the cars in many instances got through the mountains instead of around them. . . . We arrived at Baltimore at 6 o’clock, the 10th [16th] inst., and (with our muskets loaded with an ounce ball and three buckshot, with powder enough behind to send them through any Baltimore Plug or anything else that might obstruct or way) we marched through the city, but they were all as peaceable and quiet as lambs. The only disunion demonstration we noticed was an urchin hurrahing for Jeff. Davis, from a housetop. But many people cheered us from the windows (on the sly). They appeared to be afraid of their neighbors. -- Baltimore is a beautiful city, but many of its people are rather DARK!
. . . . We reached Washington at eleven o’clock a.m., Sunday [June 16], and at 12 o’clock, not withstanding the long distance we had traveled beneath a scorching noonday sun, tired and dusty as we were, we started for our present camp ground, which place we reached at 5 o’clock p.m. Here we were furnished with new tents. -- We pitched them about dusk, got our rations, and then turned in and went to sleep, for we were pretty much used up.
This morning [Monday] the 17th at 7 o’clock, we all went down to the canal near by, and had a good swim.
Edward Wheelock, John Calkins and myself are in one tent with a number of others. Big Bub (Hill) is in company I, and as happy as a clam in high tide. We have all been out this morning gathering juniper boughs for the doors of our tents.
Some of our boys are now crossing the “sacred soil of Virginia” in search of a flag staff for our camp, from the top of which is to float the Stars and Stripes, a flag never to be dishonored by the Michigan Third.
Ed and myself have just been down to the spring for some water, and poor stuff it is too. It was then that we thought of, and longed for, that old Sycamore stump over in Bossman’s Ravine in Allegan. The 2nd Michigan Regiment is near us. I mean to visit them the first opportunity and see how George West likes soldiering.
On June 24, shortly after arriving in Washington, DC, Bailey was attacked by a case of smallpox (or measles) and spent six weeks in the hospital convalescing. On July 7, he wrote home that
All is quiet in camp, no sight for meeting the Secessionists yet. Although order is given for forty thousand troops to cross over into Virginia this afternoon, we do not know what regiments will go or what they are to do. Ex-Gov. Johnson of Tennessee spoke to the 3d Regiment to-day. He is the right kind of man, and says he came from among Secessionists, but thanks God, he is not one of them. He says there are Union men enough in his State to dispose of the secessionists, but they are deficient in arms and munitions. Johnson says Gen. Beauregard’s name is to be changed to Gen. No regard, to make his name consistent with his acts,m for he has no regard for principle, and in serving under the Rattle-Snake flag, a traitor to his country.
Old Abe is good “blood”. We have just been reading his message, and if he gets all the men he calls for you can look for us home in less than three years; for he will have men enough to walk through the South and “clean out” secessionism.
You ask me if I was one of the boys that fainted on the way from Washington to this place, on that Sunday afternoon that we reached the city. No Sir! G.W.B. was too tough a boy for that. But the measles got hold of me, and then I had to cave, but I am getting well now.
One of Company K’s men [David Kernehan] ran the guards last Monday, and went over into Virginia about eight miles, stopped at a house and asked for a drink, which was given him. Soon after drinking he went into spasms. A doctor who lived near by took the fellow in and sent word to our camp that one of our men was poisoned. Some of our men went and took care of him until Friday, and then brought him to camp. He is pretty hard up, don’t know whether he will live or not. The man by whom he was poisoned fled.
Our camp is supplied with good water now; it is brought in lead pipes from the water that supplies the city. We have also a good bathing house, etc.
It is very hot today; our camp is in an open space without any shade, so that the sun has a fair chance at us.
We are to change our gray clothes for U.S. clothes this week; our new suits will be black [blue].
The boys are all well except Wilson, Lyman Davis and myself; we have had the measles, but are getting better.
Send me all your papers every week.
Capt. Dennis is an able officer and is liked extremely well by all of his men.
George was still sick when the Third Michigan was ordered on the march toward Manassas and played a small role in the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. He wrote to his friends in Allegan County the following week that on the 22nd he was still in Camp Blair near Georgetown Heights.
The teams that were to take the baggage, camp equippage and men who were not strong enough to march, did not arrive. So we did not follow the regiment, as we had expected to do. We heard heavy cannonading all day on Sunday [July 21], in the direction of Manassas; on Monday morning there was a flying report that our troops had taken the place, but in s short time the soldiers began to return; then we learned that there had been a terrible slaughter of our brave troops by the mismanagement of some of the superior officers. But you have learned all the particulars of the battle before this, I presume. Our regiment (the 3d) returned as far as Arlington Heights, where I joined it. One the 23d I was very happy and thankful to find my friends Wheelock, Calkins and all our boys alive and well.. When they take the field again, I will be by their side (for I am well now) and if any of us fall in battle you will hear from the others, unless we all meet with the same fate, and if we do . . . we hope it will be in a way that will not dishonor our flag,or our friends at home. I learn from the boys that our regiment was not called into action on the day of the great battle, but was stationed where it could witness the battle. . . .
. . . . I will tell you how the men of the 3d feel at this time: they want revenge for last Sunday’s transactions, and if there is any more fighting to be done they want a hand in it, and help wipe out the stains of the 21st of July.
Old Abe and Secretary [of State William] Seward visited our camp last Tuesday.
When any of us receive papers we pass them around among the boys; please send me all you can and write often.
In December of 1861 he was detailed as Regimental Hospital Steward in the Regimental hospital at Camp Michigan, Virginia and he remained in that capacity through April of 1864.
On March 8, 1862, while the Regiment was still in its winter quarters at Camp Michigan near Alexandria, Virginia, George wrote home that
Gen. Richardson’s brigade is in the Heintzelman division of the army, and consists of four regiments, viz.: the Michigan 2d, 3d and 5th and the New York 37th; and our camp (Michigan), is between Alexandria and Mt. Vernon. Here we have spent the winter as comfortably as mud and rain would admit -- some in their tents and some in small log houses, built for the occasion. Gen. Richardson’s headquarters is a large log house built by the 3d regiment for that purpose. We have spent our time in drilling, guard and picket duty, with occasional reconnoitering expeditions. Our pickets extend two or three miles beyond Pohick. Last week we expected that ere this we would be on the march for Richmond, but here we are yet, and our company (F) ordered to go on picket tomorrow morning. But we are all ready to march at any time. All the sick in our Field Hospital were sent to Alexandria last Tuesday, and everything got in readiness. Speaking of hospitals, we have got the best field hospital tent this side of the Potomac, and the sick are made as comfortable as can be expected in the field., They have all the necessary clothing, wine, jelly, and such “fixings” as the doctor will allow them to use. Our new rifles are just the things we wanted, and shoot O.K. This Brigade thinks that Old Dick (Gen. Richardson) can’t be beat, and the 3d think their Colonel (Champlin) is one of the best officers in the army. -- Last Monday we received new pants, and yesterday we all received a small tent cloth about 4 by 6 feet, with buttons, loops, etc., it weighs about 8 pounds. -- This is to protect us from the rain when on picket guard or on the march. Two of us button our tent cloths together and this makes a tent supported by four sticks, about two fee long. We expect our pay next week. When I have time I will send you a list of names of the men from Allegan County that are in this regiment. Allegan Co. is well represented in the 3d.
E. Wheelock and J. Calkins are well.
And less than two weeks later he wrote from camp between Fortress Monroe and Hampton, Virginia, that
We left Camp Michigan, near Mt. Vernon, at nine o’clock on Friday morning of last week, marched down to our old camp ground, near Ft. Lyon, where we remained nearly three days in the mud and rain (for it rained all the time) without tents or shelter of any kind. We got very wet, and some of us took bad colds. On Monday, at 10 o’clock a.m., we started for Alexandria, and at 12 o’clock we were on the dock, and at 1 o’clock the 3d with one company of the Michigan 2d and two companies of the New York 37th were on board the Steamer John Brooks, but it was nearly dark before the Quartermaster’s stores were all on board. At 8 o’clock the steamer dropped out in the stream and here we laid until the next day (Tuesday noon). By that time the troops were all on shipboard, and the fleet started down the Potomac River. The rebel batteries on the river were all forsaken, we think, for we heard nothing from them. We arrived at Fortress Monroe on Wednesday afternoon at 4 o’clock. We passed near the iron battery Monitor, which is a queer looking fish. We could see the dents in her armor, made by the rebel battery Merrimack [Virginia]. We landed at 9 o’clock yesterday (Thursday) and marched out to our present camp ground. It is about 1 3/4 of a mile from the fort, and near the town of Hampton. This is the town that was burned by the secesh last summer. The Michigan 1st, 2d, 3d and 5th Regiments are here now and the 4th is expected soon. Where we are to go or what we are to do, is more than I can tell, but the boys all feel well, and are anxious to meet the traitors; and I think they will be accommodated very soon. Brigadier General Richardson has been promoted and takes command of the Sumner Division. This we all regret very much, for we hoped to go in battle under old fighting Dick, as he is called by his men. Col. Terry of the Michigan 5th, commands this brigade now.
And from near Yorktown, Virginia, on April 17, George wrote to the Allegan Journal
that on Tuesday
at sundown, the Michigan 2d and 3d Regiments started for the Picket line, where we arrived a little after dark, for we are so near the Secesh works that our pickets are posted and relieved after dark. We were placed about ten yards apart in the edge of the woods with an open field in front. We could see the lights all along our front, which we were told were the Secesh forts and pickets.
All passed well through the night, and daylight came at last, when we found ourselves in front of one of the rebel forts. -- One of their picket posts was about 30 rods from us, but the pickets had been withdrawn before daylight. With daylight came two batteries of Federal Artillery -- one to the right and one to the left of us. At this time we could see the Secesh busy at work in the forts. It was full of rebels but our guns soon put a stop to their operations. Bang! -- Bang! -- went two cannon on our left and both shells burst plumb over their heads. It is my opinion that they did not need the command to march -- for such running I never saw before. They dropped everything -- fairly tumbling over each other to get into the Bomb-Proof. In less than two minutes were saw a flash from their cannon, and down we all went flat on the ground. The ball went over our heads, crashing through the woods. This was the signal for our cannon to open upon them, which they did in earnest all along the line. The Secesh stood it for a while very well, and gave shot for shot, until noon, when they stopped firing. Their guns that bore on us were nearly all dismounted, for shot and shell had been dropping in their forts all the afternoon, and one gun has continued to fire all night and is at it yet. This is to prevent the rebels from making repairs.
One Sergeant in the Mich. 2d was struck by a ball and cut in two. One of our men (in Co. K) had both feet shot off. [Fernando Page]
General McClellan was with us at this time of shelling the forts. We all have confidence in him, and to be plain, his men idolize him.
I saw Henry Garrison last week. He is 2d Sergeant in a Company of Berdan’s Sharpshooters. He is well and sends his respects to his Allegan friends.
George was reported missing in action on May 6, 1864, at the Wilderness, Virginia, and was mistakenly reported as discharged on June 10, “at expiration of term of service”, when in fact he had been taken prisoner. In his diary entry for Friday, May 6, George wrote that “At 10:30 a.m. we were in a rifle pit and the enemy advanced. Our support all left us and the enemy flanked us on the left at 11:00 and” Bailey along with Dan Wilson of Company F and several others from Company K were taken prisoner. They were quickly moved about three miles to the rear of the rebel lines. The following day, May 7, at about 12:30 p.m. the prisoners were marched to the Orange County Courthouse where they arrived at about 10:00 p.m.
George was transferred to Company F, Fifth Michigan Infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and was listed as a prisoner-of-war from June through November of 1864. George reported that on May 8 some 150 men were in his group of prisoners and each man was issued six “hardtack” crackers with a small piece of bacon. Shortly afterwards another 200 or so prisoners arrived and were added to Bailey’s squad. They left Orange County Courthouse the following day at about 9:30 in the morning and marched to Gordonsville where they arrived at 12:30. The men were issued rations consisting of one-half pound of corn meal,3 small fish and one-half ounce of salt. The prisoners were put aboard railroad cars that night and left Gordonsville at 10:00 p.m., arriving in Lynchburg, Virginia the following morning about 9:00 a.m. Some 2,000 Union prisoners were herded into a big ravine and issued rations for the day: six hardtack and about three ounces of bacon. George reported that they were guarded by infantry and two pieces of artillery. The following day, Wednesday, May 11, some 1,000 prisoners were sent off, but George’s group remained behind until Friday, May 13 when the remaining prisoners were put aboard cattle cars, 80 to a car, at about 11:30 a.m.
Bailey was moved around for several weeks, mostly by train, passing through Greensboro, North Carolina on May 18, Salisbury on May 19 and that same day arrived in Charlotte where they remained until Saturday, May 21 when they once again boarded a train and sent on into South Carolina. At about noon on Sunday, May 22 they arrived in Augusta, Georgia, changed cars, drew rations and the following day arrived in Andersonville.
George noted on May 26 that nearly 24 men died every 24 hours in the prison, mostly as a result of chronic diarrhea. In the first week after George arrived in Andersonville several thousand prisoners were added to the prison population. On June 7, George noted that two more Allegan “boys” arrived in the prison: James Dyer and Charles Moses of Company F, Fifth Michigan infantry. The following day, Bailey reported that some 75 men were dying every 24 hours.
One of the most serious problems facing the prisoners, besides the lack of decent housing and food, was the various gangs of “raiders” that roamed the prison taking rations from the weak and helpless, sometimes killing the victim outright. On Tuesday, July 11, Bailey noted in his diary that at about 5:00 p.m., six so-called “raiders”, having been tried by a court martial of 20 sergeants, were found guilty of murder and subsequently hung by a large group of prisoners inside the stockade. Bailey also noted that another troublesome problem was the number of prisoners who were spying for the prison authorities. On July 16, a large tunnel was discovered by the rebels and destroyed. “The fellow,” wrote Bailey, “that told the rebels of the tunnel . . . was caught and half his head was shaved and marched all through camp with ‘traitor’ on his back. Then a large ‘T’ was branded on his forehead.”
He remained at Andersonville until September 10 when he joined a large group of prisoners who were transferred to the prison at Charleston, South Carolina. They left Andersonville at about 8:00 p.m., arrived in Macon at midnight, and left there at about 4:00 a.m., arriving in Augusta at 4:00 p.m. on September 11. Bailey’s group left Augusta at 2:00 a.m. the following morning, and arrived in Charleston at 4:00 p.m., and were placed in a camp at the fairgrounds.
On October 6 Bailey was among a group of prisoners sent to Florence, South Carolina. They left Charleston at 10:00 a.m., some 90 men to a railroad car, and arrived in Florence at 9:00 p.m., camping on an open field for the night. The following morning, at about 10:00 a.m., the prisoners were marched to a nearby stockade. According to Bailey’s diary, on October 10 between 400 and 500 prisoners took the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, following by another 200 on the 11th, 300 on the 14th and 300 more on the 15th. Apparently Bailey was not among those who swore loyalty to the rebels, although “I for one,” wrote Bailey, “cannot blame” those who did. On October 17 William Wood, formerly of Company H of the Third Michigan infantry, took the oath. George added that he hoped to “stand it until after the election”. In fact, on November 9 the prisoners did indeed hold their own presidential “election” and, according to Bailey, out of about 1800 votes cast, Lincoln received over 1200.
Throughout his time as a prisoner the most persistent of rumors centered on the parole and exchange of prisoners. Rarely a week went by without there being a constant flow of rumor about how many men would be released and when. At last, on the evening of December 7 George was among prisoners chosen to be exchanged. Near sunset he was marched down to the railroad and at 5:00 a.m. the following morning boarded a train for Charleston where they arrived at 8:00 in the evening. At daybreak on the 9th he was placed aboard the “Flag of Truce” boat but owing to the strong winds was disembarked and marched to a nearby hospital. Bailey remained in Charleston throughout the 10th and at last early on the morning of December 11 he was marched down to the wharf, and at 9:00 again boarded the “Flag of Truce” boat and at noon was put aboard a Union ship. He was placed on yet another boat on the morning of the 12th and at about 4:00 p.m. was transferred to the steamer Crescent City and that evening left Charleston.
They passed Cape Hatteras early in the morning of December 14 and arrived at Fortress Monroe at 7:00 p.m. that evening. They left Fortress Monroe late the same night and landed at Annapolis, Maryland at 2:00 p.m. on December 15, 1864.
George eventually returned to his home in Michigan to await final disposition and discharge. “At this point”, writes George’s biographer Gerald Post, “the records become somewhat confused. Apparently George returned to Allegan having been told to remain there until called to Detroit for final mustering out. This is substantiated by a letter in the National Archives in which George wrote to the Adjutant General's office in Detroit on March 1, 1865. ‘I would like to know about what time you can muster me out. I reported to you on the 26th of January and received a paper to remain at home until you notified men to report again.’ Evidently the furlough office at Camp Parole, MD, was not aware of this because the records from that office state that the ‘furloughed failed to report February 28, 1865 . . . and deserted from furlough.’ All of this seems to have been resolved in the usual military fashion and the documents show that George was mustered out with an honorable discharge in Detroit on April 14, 1865.”
In any case, George remained in Allegan and married Mary E. Larkin (1848-1911) on February 2, 1867; they had at least 11 children, nine of whom survived their father: Ina (b. 1871), Mrs. Dora Post (b. 1873), Mrs. Mamie Mead (b. 1874), Roy L. (b. 1877), Nellie A. (b. 1879), Glenn W. (b. 1881), Asa G. (b. 1885), Leo (b. 1888) and Phil Kearney (b. 1890).
In 1872 George was appointed by the President of the United States to a position in the railway service as a mail clerk and worked on the L. S. & M. S. Road. He worked for that railway until about 1889, when he was transferred to the Chicago & West Michigan Railway (afterwards the Pere Marquette R.R.) where he worked until early 1905 when failing health forced him to resign. He had been out of the service for a year and a half during Grover Cleveland’s first administration, but was reinstated by President Benjamin Harrison. “He was,” wrote the Allegan Press, “a faithful clerk, a good citizen, and many citizens held him in high esteem.”
He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association as well as Grand Army of the Republic Bassett Post No. 56 in Allegan, and also a member of “Survivors of Southern Prisons”. He was living in Allegan in 1884 when he attended the Sixth Annual Reunion of the Soldiers and Sailors, at Battle Creek, Calhoun County.
In 1890 he applied for and received a pension (no. 710853).
By the fall of 1903 George was chronically ill. He not only suffered from a disease of the mouth and digestive system as a consequence of scurvy but also had apparently suffered an attack of paralysis of his left side (possibly a consequence of a stroke). and general debility.
George died at his home on Trowbridge Street in Allegan of chronic myocarditis on February 20, 1905. According to the Press, George “had been sick several months, suffering with heart and kindred troubles, but for a time in the early winter was so much improved that hope was entertained for his recovery. The improvement was but temporary, and the past few weeks he had gradually failed, the end coming quietly and peacefully.”
According to the paper, “The funeral was held from the house yesterday [February 25] afternoon at two o'clock under the auspices of the Masonic fraternity, and Rev. George R. Arnold was the officiating clergyman. There was a large attendance and many beautiful floral offerings.” He was buried in Oakwood cemetery, Allegan, lot 437, no. 9.
In March of 1905 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 593559).