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Letters from the Front
Apr 15, '12

Here are full text versions of four letters written by Baillie during the American Civil war. Reading words that one has written in another life is just a plain miracle. They still give me goosebumps. I can hear myself writing them and see pictures in my head of me doing so; truly fascinating. I am indebted to Ian Lekus of Duke University, Durham NC, for his help and kindness in supplying copies of these and other original letters from the library there.

Letter I:

Rushland Aug 14th 1862

My dear Sister

Will you forgive me for not answering your letter & thanking you for those nice &

usefull(sic) presents you sent me, as camp life has given me such an aversion to writing that it

has become quite a task for me to write a letter, except to yourself & other dear friends. Our

camp is situated on a river, in a beautifull(sic) oak & hickory grove, formerly, the residence of

Mr Morris, an hour & a half's ride from home. I have fine fish for dinner every day and all the

other good things that are to be had out of salt water and of all things, that could not have

suited me better, we have a quartette(sic) club of singers, in which I take part and I flatter

myself that our singing is hard to surpass. Our Savannah members of the company are nearly

all of them men of great musical talent.

Mother & Hettie have gone up to Walthourville on a visit to Sister Mary & only hope that

they may be persuaded to make a long stay, for it is quite lonely now at Rushland & at

Walthourville with the McIntoshes and Bryan's, they will no doubt have a merry time, very

much to the astonishment of the Liberty people, who never leave their houses, not even call

upon strangers. What favourable news we have from East Tennessee & Virginia, from which,

I cannot but think, will arise a divission (sic) and strife amongst the people of the North. I

don't suppose you've heard any more from brother since leaving Nassau. May his cruize (sic)

on this new steamer be as successfull(sic) as that of the Sumpter's, of which I have no doubt it

will be, if she is as fast a steamer as the Sumpter.

The Nashville is still lying under our battery

at the mouth of the Ogeechee, awaiting her opportunity to escape, and I hope that she may be

soon favoured, and once she is out, she can out sail any of the Yankee Steamers on the

Southern waters. What an extremely hot summer we are having & most fearful are its effects

upon the soldiers about Savannah, though I believe that they are now being removed from the

city to more healthy situations along the coast.

My dear Sister I should like very much to see you and the children, but should no opportunity

offer itself, I must resort more to letter writing. Confound those orders I say, that took brother

back to England, for I flatter myself, that I should have lead you on a visit to Rushland again,

had he been allowed to return home.

There is a man of the name of Bagsby that is putting up extensive salt works, which will cost

him not less than $20,000 before he commences operations, he is three miles from our camp

& I believe he is a citizen of Macon. I expect shortly to go down to Sapelo with the Capt. &

twenty men to bring back some of the negroes on the island that have gone from us, & I do

hope that I may come across some of ours. I never should allow any of mine, if we should be

fortunate enough to get them back to remain three days on the place, but take them right away

& sell them. We are to go down at night with muffled oars in three boats; then to reconnoitre

the island to find out the strength & position of the enemy if there are any there, before any

attempt is made to rescue the negroes.

My dear Sister, with the hope that you will excuse this short & miserable scrawl of a letter, I

now end it and with much love & kisses for the children.

I remain Your Affectionate brother


Notes: This is very important, I always spell "Hettie" with an ie as in the Scottish fashion, not Hetty as

the rest of the family spelt it. I also did this with Johnny the eldest son of my brother John McIntosh

Kell. As can clearly be seen in letter III below; I wrote "Johnnie" (I confidently predict therefore, that if

letters of Baillie are found mentioning his brother's nickname, "Donny" then they will be spelt Donnie)

Another point is that I always put the date as month, day number with suffix and year e.g. Aug 14th

1862. I have found it extremely irritating to remove the suffixes in order to edit this book into a

consistent modern format. Again I always used to put the suffixes as shown in these letters I to IV. The

proof is in the detail, because I always do the same thing. Therefore Baillie has to be me; it is beyond

reasonable doubt!

Reproduced by kind permission of the Rare Book, Manuscript, & Special Collections Library, Duke

University, Durham NC.

Letter II:

Camp Davant August 12th 1863

My dear Sister

I received your answer to my note today & thank you kindly for giving me the detailed

information about the strings so promptly. Please get me three treble E & one B which is the

next largest and the violin strings you may get two of the first and one of the last, which is A

on the violin. I do not know what the price of them all separately so I enclose you ten dollars.

There is another Col. Anderson, a Carolinian I think that is in the army at Charleston, but no

part of our regiment has been sent there. Should I get into an engagement I shall immediately

drop you a line, though I do not anticipate my chances of it at present, though there is no


Gen. Evans of South Carolina has arrived with his brigade from Mississippi & they are now

encamped on the island, but the General's headquarters are in Sav. And as he outranks Gen.

Mercer, he will be in command of this department & Gen. M. will take the field. I attended

Christ church two Sundays ago and by invitation I dined with the Bishop and he kindly gave

me a standing invitation to dine with him when ever I came to church, so I think I shall attend

frequently; and as often unless I am taken sick. I must come into town & let him know that he

may have me properly visited & cared for. There has been a great deal of sickness from

typhoid fever & a number of deaths but I have never been in better health. Our tents are

moved out now entirely clear of the stables, which I think will cause an improvement in the

health of the regiment.

In going to Cos. Charles' you get off at Quitman about half past six in the evening, where you

take supper but Valdosta, ten miles this side is the regular supper house; at Quitman you get

in a four horse coach after supper & you arrive at Retreat about eleven O'clock, right upon the

road, 11 miles from Quitman. Tell Munroe that Roanoke is at Rushland & he is so old that I

have given him his freedom. Tell Johnnie that I will have a pony for him when I get back

home. I must now close as I will have to go on picket to Sav. in a very short time. With much

regards to your father & love & kisses to the children, I am

Your affectionate Brother


P.S. Do let me know what the violin strings come to -

Reproduced by kind permission of the Rare Book, Manuscript, & Special Collections Library, Duke

University, Durham NC.

Notes: Baillie played the guitar and violin! I play the guitar and I was always breaking the D string

(modern nylon wound strings). Interestingly with old wire strings it is always the top two that break, I

noticed this in a photograph of an original Civil War guitar. The tune "Turkey in the straw" keeps

going around in my head and I believe that Baillie played this on the fiddle for his comrades around the

campfire. Certainly I took up the guitar to do the very same thing whilst camping in my younger days.

The detailed travel information is very much in character with me and certainly the references to

supper stops and dining is me. It just go to show that I don't change my tune!

Letter III:

To the front 6 miles from Marietta june 18th 1864

My dear Sister

I received your pleasant & affectionate letter a few days ago, but postponed answering it

untill(sic) rejoined Wheeler's Corps. I am quite well, excepting a cold which is very

disagreable(sic), making me feel almost useless to myself & to any body else. I have not been

yet to find out where Nath is, as we are on the extreme right of the Army & there is nothing

but cavalry here: I was told that the 47th regt. Of which Jimmie Holme is Ordinance Serg. is a

mile & a half on our left, but no ones allowed to leave camp out of hearing of the bugle; I am

very anxious to see all of my friends in the army, but as we are expecting every moment to

hear boots & saddles sounded, we cannot go off anywhere.

Day before yesterday, we had some skirmishing in our front: but our squadron of our regt.

was engaged in it, but lost no men our squadron & the remainning(sic) two, held a very strong

position upon the side of a high hill & behind a fence, against which we piled up the rocks

formming(sic) as perfect a battery as we could wish & with the Enfield rifle, the best that is in

use anywhere, we were spoiling for a fight; upon the top of the hill in our rear there were two

batteries of cannon & a line of sharp shooters, but the Yanks were of course repulsed before

they reached us.

We left Augusta a week ago last Saturday arriving in Atlanta the following morning; in the

afternoon I walked out to hunt up Mr Pinkerton, but did not go far before I met him in the

street and my presence there was so unexpected & my uniform such a complete disguise that

he did not recognise me for some moments, he took me immediately to his house. Keeping

me untill(sic) next morning. I had received a few letters from Mother since my arrival here &

mentions not having heard from you, but concluded that you had not returned yet from

Griffin. I am very glad to hear that your health is much improved & also that Johnnie is

looking so well, but I beg my dear sister that you will not allow the loss of those dear little

treasures to affect you too seriously. Tell Johnnie that I will certainly bring him a Yankee

pony if I can catch one. I am very much obliged to you for your kindness & will certainly

avail myself of your offer if I have the opportunity of being sent to the Macon hospital. I

really do not know when the great battle is to come off, but it is thought as soon as the roads

become passable, after the excessive rains that we have had. I can hear the booming of the

cannon & firing of small arms, but that is nothing at all unusual. Col Anderson has been given

command of a brigade & he intends using our regt. for charging only. taking(sic) the rifle

from us & issuing us with sabres(sic) and revolvers.

Letter ends abruptly no second sheet available from records:

Reproduced by kind permission of the Rare Book, Manuscript, & Special Collections Library, Duke

University, Durham NC.

Notes: Baillie was involved in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain of which this letter is the prelude to.

Interestingly enough, his brother John McIntosh Kell, Executive Officer of the CSS Alabama was

about to fight the famous duel off of Cherbourg France on the next day; June 19th 1864.

I have a complete sub-conscious memory of the battle described in the second paragraph. This

prompted me to build the musket and the full sized cannon when I was 15 years of age! The picture

"Battle for the Saltworks 1864" that I painted from images in my sub-conscious may be the memory of

this action described so graphically in the letter?

Blanche (Julia Blanche Munroe Kell) John's wife affectionately called Sister by Baillie, has just lost

her two youngest children Boysie and Dot to diphtheria. She was in a state of great distress, hence

Baillie's comforting words. She then volunteered to be a Nurse in the Macon hospital, in order to keep

busy and to overcome her grief. Hence her kind offer to nurse Baillie if he is wounded in the coming


Johnnie her eldest son survived the illness and became a Medical Doctor after the war, but tragically

died of TB just after qualification in his early twenties.

Letter IV:

June the 21st

I write you a few lines more to inform you that our cavalry had a severe fight with the enemy

two days ago, about two thousand strong on each side, but our squadron was not engaged in

it, the loss in the two squadrons engaged was 4 killed & 25 wounded; in the other cavalry

there was only two killed & I don't know how many wounded, the Yanks were finally driven

back with great slaughter. I enclose you a few dollars with which please get me a pencil for

letter writing: you can cut it in half if it is too long to enclose the full length & please send it

as soon as you are able to get it. I suppose Nath's regt. is on the left as all the forces are being

concentrated there & towards the centre as Johnston is doing his best to bring on a general


Ever Your Affectionate brother


On the reverse side:

Gen. Lee has telegraphed Gen. Johnson(sic) that he has given Grant the most complete

whipping of any Gen. That has been in command of that army & our army here has all

confidence in Johnston & the opinion is that he will serve Gen. Sherman as he did McClellan

before Richmond having retreated over a hundred miles & had it not been for Magruder and

Huger, the whole Yankee army would have been compelled to surrender. Do let me know

when you hear anything more of brother and send it to H Troop, 5th Ga. Cav. Wheeler's

Corps. Army of East Tennessee - Atlanta - Ga.

With my best regards to your father, I remain

Your Affectionate brother


P.S. Please excuse the condition that my paper is in which became so after writing the letter &

had to keep it in my pocket not being able to get it to Marietta.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Rare Book, Manuscript, & Special Collections Library, Duke

University, Durham NC.

Notes: This letter is clearly written just before the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, June 27th 1864. The

regiment was engaged at Kennesaw Mountain on the 19th and at Big Shanty on the 20th.

The detail about the pocket is interesting because this is where Baillie would have kept his portrait of

Sarah "Sallie" Spalding.

Apr 15, '12
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