These letters were in the possession of Georgia Lee Brown Fowler, daughter of Mary Emma Baird Brown and granddaughter of George Washington Baird and Mary Elizabeth Traughber. Photocopies were provided to me by Robert E. Fowler of Houston, Texas in 1971. In the transcripts below, punctuation has been added for readability, but spelling is left as in the originals.
#8 2 May 1863 letter from Colonel George W. Guess to George W. Baird: (return address from “Army in the Field, en route for Alexandria, La.”)
My dear young friend,Your favor of April 19th
was just received last night, for which you have my most hearty thanks. When I last wrote you I was just on the eve of starting, with the Brigade to Boggy depot, in the Indian Nation. You know where it is. On this day was a week ago, we took up the line of march in that direction, and on the fourth day arrived at the Boggy river, where I encamped the Brigade for the evening and night. While at that camp, an express came from Lieut. General Kirby Smith to march the Brigade without delay to Alexandria, La. I immediately countermarched the troops & arrived a Camp Kiamishi yesterday forenoon, at ten o’clock, in a very hard rain. Here I got your letter and box containing knives, forks, plates, spoons, cups & saucers, etc. etc. For all of this I again thank you. Remaining at Camp Kiamishi all night, at six o’clock this morning we again resumed the line of march in the direction of Jefferson, by way of Clarksville and Mountpleasant[?], in about the hardest rain you have seen fall for many a day. Her, then, we are now, in camps, the boys are all wet & muddy, but in about the best humor you ever saw boys under such circumstances. All the Brigade cannot cross the Kiamishi & Red River today, so that we may remain in this camp tomorrow. However, of this I am not advised as I have not seen the Brigade commander today.This change of programme in the movements of our command is as unexpected as it is desirable to me, and, I believe, the boys are universally pleased with the turn affairs have taken. Why this change has been made is, I suppose, now palpable to any one. It seems that Gen Taylor and Gen. Sibley have been badly whipped and beaten back sixty miles, by an overwhelming force of the enemy under Banks. The fight seems to have commenced near New Iberia. Our loss is doubtless one thousand in killed, wounded, prisoners & missing. Banks’ wagon train is all marked “For Texas”, so it is easy enough to see what the Feds intend to try to do. Whether they succeed or not depends upon the amount of determined resistance that we may offer. For our own part, we are few in number, but we are on our way to put ourselves in their front, determined to do or die. What our fate may be, I know not, but if our fair state of Texas, the great Commissary Depot of the Trans-“Mississippi” department, is subdued & overrun, the blame shall not be upon us. For my own part, I would much prefer death to seeing my own dear Texas home trodden by the foot of the enemy. Lest those who are now lounging in idleness at home & speculating upon the necessities of the wives & helpless children of the poor soldiers, look to it that they do not have to bear the awful curse of future generations for permitting the enslavement of this fair country. There are now thousands still at home who could & should be in the war, in the service, in the battlefield. All the heaviest curses of a just God & a fair country will be upon them for their worse than treasonable course. They think they have reasonable excuses. They have no such thing. I speak of the people in & around Dallas. They are my people. I have a right to talk to them& about them on this subject. I say to you, my friend, that the time has come when such a course is worse than treason. Should the want of their presence & exertion in the field lose in the final victory, they will be, & they will deserve to be, eternally damned for failing to render needful assistance in this struggle for the life & independence of a great country. Let no one deceive himself & say that these remarks apply to others & not to him. To each one, I say, the country says, your struggling, bleeding, dying fellow countryman, say “Thou art the men”. Be not deceived, the country, the people will not be [marked?] by you. Your judgment will be just & righteous & you will be condemned unless you come quickly, come now. Tell this to my friends, & let them laugh at it if they dare, & for every smile of theirs & Bacchanalian social, let them remember that there is a ghastly corpse of a brother whose blood has been pouring out like water for a holy cause for which they are not only doing nothing, but which they are betraying & missing by the dastardly course they are now & have been pursuing. And even this warning will elicit from them, perhaps, only a sneer. Even let it be so. Tis their day now, & twill be their day again ere long. [Some one?] will live to see the day of reckoning for all their days upon the wheel of our great revolution.
Thank you for your kind wish for my health & protracted life. Sorry to hear of Parson Smith’s death, though I had been led to expect it from what I had heard. I think the Masonic resolutions passed on the occasion are very tame considering the subject.
Mrs. Murphy overtook the command on our first day’s march toward Boggy Depot, & has been with us ever since. She seems to enjoy a camp life &, of course, the children are hugely satisfied. I was glad to see them. Mary comes to see me every afternoon, which I enjoy greatly. I think Mrs. M. will start home tomorrow, & Lieut. Moore who is sick will come with her. He also comes with written orders from Col. Alexander.
Can’t Lizzie & Mattie come to see me at Shreveport? I have a good friend, Mrs. Eppes, on the Dallas Road, 9 miles from Shreveport who will take good care of them. She is an aged widow lady & very wealthy. Has plenty of house room & but one child, a son, & he is in the army. They might stay with her for month or two or three, & it would be near enough for me to come and see them. Perhaps I would be permitted to come home with them. Indeed, George, the chances of my getting safe through the campaign must be slim, & I do want to see Mattie & the babe one time. They would not regret the visit I am sure. Mist. Moore and Capt. Peak (Pease?} could easily see them through & they would readily do it as a favor to me. Sister Mattie & her boy really must come, & you must see them off. Let her bring both Fanny & Sophie with her. And now my kind friend, Good-bye. Yours very truly,
Geo. W. Guess
Colonel George W. Guess (1819-1868) and George Baird were good friends. George had named one of his sons after Col. Guess in 1858. Both men had come to Dallas at about the same time, both served as aldermen in Dallas in the late 1850s, and both were members of the same Masonic lodge. Guess, an attorney, had been elected a Lt. Colonel in the 31st Texas Cavalry a year earlier and served in that unit for the remainder of the war. He later served as mayor of Dallas 1866-1668. The two men evidently had a continuing correspondence, as an earlier letter from Guess to Baird dated 10 July 1862 was commented upon in the “Dallas News Herald” issue of 2 August 1862. Judging from the second paragraph, Col. Guess intended this letter to be published as well. (Punctuation, underlining and spelling are as in the original.)
Mattie’s identity is unknown. She was not Guess’s wife, the former Mattie Miller, who had died three years earlier. Lizzie was George Baird’s wife. Guess must have intended the first part of this letter to be shown about Dallas, but the remainder is clearly personal.
A large collection of additional George W. Guess Civil War letters is housed at the Louisiana Statue University Library in Baton Rouge. During the war he wrote frequently to Sarah Horton Cockrell, a wealthy Dallas widow who funded several of his business ventures.
#9 21 [November?] 1869 letter from William Seal of Holly Springs, Mississippi to George W. Baird of Dallas.
My old friend,I must make an apology to you for my neglect. I rec’d a line from you some time since and thought to answer you in a few days but laid it aside for a suitable opportunity and forgot it. I have nothing new to communicate at present. This leaves all well, only three of us in family at present, myself & wife and Ellen. Thos. and family are with us at present & will be for a short time. My children all married but Ellen and living about me, the furthest about thirty miles, all doing well. I say thirty miles but William he is living in the neighborhood of Nashville, Tenn. I have no —- from your folks at Springfield.The tract of land that you spoke of that your father held in Missouri I have some recollection about that and one thing I know that you are the only heir of your father Isaac Beard and unless any conveyance mad be recorded in the County of Missouri where the land lies such conveyance is of no account if you can get hold of the old original grant & if not get a copy of it from the land office and have it recorded in the County where the land lies. You will hold the land this is beyond doubt. I have nothing of importance to say but I wish you well and your family would be extremely glad to see you and aunt Polly.
William Seal was the county clerk for Robertson County, Tennessee from 1819-1839, after which he served as a state legislator from Robertson County. George Baird had evidently inquired about his father’s land due for his War of 1812 service. It’s not clear if George pursued this further. The grant had been awarded to Isaac Beard in Linn County, Missouri in 1819. Linn County land records are missing before 1836, so there is no record of a sale. It appears, however, that Isaac Beard had sold the land. The Linn County tax records show that taxes were paid on the land by a Catron Usher, who sold this land in 1842. Presumably, there is a missing deed before 1836 from Isaac Beard to Usher.