William H. Bailey

This letter was written by Pvt. William H. Bailey (1840-1916) who enlisted as a musician in Co. K of the 4th Michigan Infantry in June 1861. He later served as a wagoner. William reenlisted and served with the reorganized 4th Michigan Infantry until they mustered out in January 1866 at San Antonio, Texas. William’s military records indicate that he stood 5’7″ tall.

William was the son of Israel Bailey (1811-1880) and Harriet Elizabeth Stewart (1818-1893) of Dexter, Washtenaw county, Michigan. William’s Canadian-born father, Israel — a blacksmith by trade, enlisted as a sergeant of Co. K at the age of 45 but was discharged for disability in November 1861 at Minor’s Hill, Virginia.

William died at the Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Fort Leavenworth in June 1916. He is buried in the Leavenworth National Cemetery, Plot: Sect 31 Row 8 Site 11.

This letter was also written to Charles Bates of Dexter, Michigan. It is the property of the Dexter Area Historical Museum and is used with their express permission.


Camp Union
August 3d 1861

Mr. Charles Bates
Dear sir,

I received your letter last evening & read it & went to bed & got up in the morning & eat my breakfast. Then I set down to answer it. We have a good time here generally speaking — enough to eat, drink, & wear. Uncle Sam has given us some new clothes & promises plenty of money this week. He owes me about 40 dollars. Won’t that make me feel as if I was somebody. That is more money than I ever see. Heem Smith is all right & tight too, I guess, for he makes noise enough. James Heath & Sol Wilsay are both well & Am[brose] Easton is tougher than Bull beef.

Old Jeff’s men are within 9 miles of us now & I guess there will be trouble in his camp about Thursday for if they don’t come here, we will be likely to go there. So it is fight — have it as you may.

Father is quite sick. He went over to Georgetown Hospital yesterday but he was a great deal better than he was the day before. The doctor says that he will be able to get around in a week.

I should have answered that letter you wrote me to Fairfax if there had been anything to answer. If I had been home, I could have said something to match it but since I became a soldier, I have forgotten all of my bad language. They keep us straight here. There is no news here — only what you will see in Henry’s letter. What you see in the newspapers, you can’t believe cause they make it so much more than it is. The newspapers say that we are good for twice our numbers but they lie like the devil. There is not much difference between us in fighting. We kill 4 pickets of theirs while they kill one of ours but that is not [a] fair fight. That is a sneaking way of doing business.

Well, I must close for it is time for the mail to leave. Write soon. Give my [re]spects to all [and] keep a few for yourself if you want them. [Eri] House is all right. So is [Charles H.] Barlow. Write soon & often & all the news. Excuse this & I will try to do better next time.

From William H. Bailey to Charles Bates

A prisoner says that us (old) Yankees are too sharp for them. They are getting it in their little craniums that the (d___d) Yankees can fight. Bill Ihrig was on a scout the other day and got on their pickets before he knew it & heard the quarreling. Some said that that they could whip 4 to one while the others said that we could fight better than they could. So you see they have got an idea that they have got something to contend with.

Well I must close for it is most time to put out lights. Write soon. Give my [re]spects to all & keep a few for yourself. I will write a little to Charley so goodbye. From your friend, — William H. Bailey