Caught up in the jingoistic military fervour of 1861, Baillie a gentleman and natural horseman joined the local McIntosh Light Dragoons as a 3rd Lieutenant. In a somewhat cavalier and picnic air, gallant home spun uniforms and high manners were the order of the day as the dashing troops reviewed in front of the town ladies. Those ladies most certainly included the beautiful blonde seventeen year old, Sarah Elizabeth Spalding. It was at this time that Baillie sat for the portrait that we see today, proudly displaying his 3rd Lieutenant's Officers bars denoting his class and status for his young lady. Upon studying the eyes and face one can perceive his hopeless devotion and undying love for the object of his affections; the photograph was without doubt especially commissioned for none other than Sarah Elizabeth Sallie Spalding, the Princess of Sapelo. It was also in Baillie's mind a very practical gesture, for it would help young Sallie to remember her beau sabeur, whilst he was away discharging his duty, lest she forget him in the testing time that was to come.
The test came soon enough, the Yankees set too with a will to blockade the Southern coast, thereby putting Darien and the Georgia tidewater squarely in the front line. The vigilant local cavalry militia patrolled the coast and skirmished against the ever-increasing tide of naval raiding parties. After his initial six month enlistment, Baillie was faced with a dilemma; should he try to be an officer in the Infantry or seek some other lesser position in arm blanche; the Cavalry? Being on patrol, close to Sallie and not on some forsaken battlefield far from home seemed to be the better option to the thoughtful Baillie. One can only guess now at the possible outcomes of this fateful decision. His military training at the Kentucky Military Institute meant that he could have been an officer from the outset in the Infantry, but he felt that the glamour and elan of the Cavalry was more suited to his status as a Southern Gentleman. In the event, a concern for his properties, the excitement of horses and the real love in his life, Sallie made the decision for him. Alexander Campbell Wylly, one of Sallie's many relations became a Lieutenant in the newly reorganised cavalry, which blocked Baillie's possible position among the Officer class. Finally decision made he enlisted as a private soldier in May 1862 with another of Sallie's Uncles, Captain William Brailsford's, in the Lamar Rangers at Sutherland Bluff, this was the site of the Brailsford plantation and became the area headquarters for Confederate forces. As the war intensified the Rangers later mustered in as Company H, 5th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry CSA in December 1862. Although it meant being a private soldier, Baillie hoped to gain rapid promotion in the field through his gallant actions, intelligence and social position. Indeed with the charismatic if somewhat hot headed Captain Brailsford life would be far from dull. He had also escaped the command of his less than adventurous, monetary orientated brother-in-law Colonel Charles Spalding, who despite having attended West Point and a fellow class mate of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis no less, declined to take a more active role in the war. Charles, upon the death by pneumonia caused through alcoholism of Sallie's father, Randolph in May 1862, had resigned his commission as Colonel of the 1st Battalion Georgia Cavalry to concentrate on preserving the family's wealth and power. He decided to act swiftly and assumed over all control of the entire Spalding Negro workforce. He then marched them all to a retreat plantation near Quitman, on the Florida border, well away from the Yankee coastal forces.
Throughout 1862 the Rangers were engaged on the patrol and skirmish front around McIntosh County and up to Savannah often hunting down run away contrabands and returning then to their owners. In one such incident a number of such were killed on Sapelo in a firefight. The Captain later justified this action stating that the Negroes had been found in arms against the white man. For this a reprisal gunboat attack was launched against Captain Brailsford's plantation on Sutherland Bluff. The Rangers made a determined effort with their carbines at repelling the infantry, but the shelling took its toll on the plantation and the war entered a new and more ugly phase, culminating in the burning of Darien.
The war moved swiftly on and the New Year of 1863 saw the newly formed and reorganised 5th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry headed for Savannah and with them Baillie marched into history.
The hand-written letter requesting that Private Alexander Baillie Kell be promoted to second Lieutenant in the 5th Georgia volunteer cavalry, CSA. Signed by Marse Bob, Colonel Robert H Anderson Colonel Commanding. Baillie’s fate hinged on the two words “Drill Master” had the words been more forceful or relevant he may well have received his promotion and history would have been changed.
The letter was counter signed by none other than General P G T Beauregard, Officer Commanding the Department of South Carolina and Georgia. As can be seen Richmond took a pretty dim view of the idea that a regiment needed a Drill Master at this late stage of the war.
Whilst on duty near Savannah at camp Davant in August 1863, Baillie was finally recommended for promotion to 2nd Lieutenant by Colonel Robert H Anderson, affectionately known to the men as Marse Bob. His qualities as a gentleman and potential officer had finally been recognised, surely with the counter signature of General P.G.T. Beauregard, he would get the long awaited promotion that he desperately required too win Sallie's hand in marriage? However, due to the exceptional calibre of soldier drawn to the cavalry and low mortality rate of the Officer class, Baillie's plans went awry. The war had developed to a stage when fancy notions of promotion became meaningless among the massed carnage and destruction being wrought across the land. It would, despite the recommendations of his senior Officers never happen. Two small words in the Colonel's letter stood in the way, drill master (sic), the last thing wanted after the combined loss of Gettysburg and Vicksburg in 1863, was a drill master! Anything but those two fateful words, may have secured Baillie his promotion and with it, his blonde princess Sarah Elizabeth Sallie Spalding.
Richmond's refusal dashed all hope for the present time. This for Baillie was the crucial turning point in his fortunes, which mirrored that of the Confederacy itself. For at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania and Vicksburg on the Mississippi the tide of the war had turned and the sun had begun to set on the fledgling Confederacy
Everything had all been decided in the events of that fateful summer and Baillie's fate would be a fractal image of the Confederacy's.
Come the autumn the 5th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry marched into South Carolina to defend the railroads around Charleston. The campaigns came thick and fast and the fighting grew ever more bloody as the high hopes of 1863 turned into the attrition and waste of 1864, with the epic campaign for Atlanta. In February 1864 the unit was ordered to Florida in time for the Battle of Olustee. Whilst on its way back to Savannah the regiment was diverted to join the intensifying firestorm of fighting that was raging in front of and around Atlanta. Baillie wrote several letters to Blanche his sister-in-law at this time, the letters have survived and are reproduced in this volume. She despite losing two of her dear little children to diphtheria offered to nurse Baillie in the event of him becoming wounded at Kennesaw Mountain.
Somehow miraculously Baillie managed to avoid injury, death or capture. Mid summer the cavalry units were detached with Fightin' Joe Wheeler for a raid into Tennessee. It was here that Yankee cavalry at Murfreesboro captured Captain William Brailsford in October 1864. The ambush happened as some men from Company H with lame and unshod horses were out with the Cap foraging. The detached unit was left behind in Tennessee, whilst waiting for a sympathetic blacksmith to shoe the horses. They were suddenly surprised, bushwhacked by the Yankee cavalry and all but a lucky few escaped the trap. Baillie with a sound horse and with the main regimental party had narrowly avoided life in a prison camp. Alexander Campbell Wylly assumed command of the troop and would later with his brother William, become a life long friend of Baillie's. The war dragged relentlessly on and Baillie still thinking of Sallie, had only a tattered picture to remind him of the high times before the war. Despite heroic acts of valour, attrition was setting in. Baillie and the 5th continued to give it their best shot along with the other boys' in gray, but the Yankees now, just kept on coming, an endless tide of blue.
November 1864, Atlanta had fallen and the 5th Georgia along with the rest of Joe Wheeler's remaining cavalry were ordered at all costs to attempt to halt Sherman's juggernaut of sixty thousand men. They had cut loose from their lines in Atlanta and were now headed towards Savannah and the sea. Sherman had vowed to make Georgia howl and it was up to Wheeler's three thousand troopers to limit the damage. This they did to some measure, but Savannah fell in time for Sherman to present the city to Lincoln as a Christmas present.
In the New Year, Sherman's jubilant army set out upon their march through the Carolina's. The devastation wrought there was far greater than anything Georgia had experienced. The Union soldiers blamed South Carolina for starting the whole darn war and were determined to wreak havoc in revenge. The 5th still fighting to last round knew it was a hopeless cause, there were just too many Yankees with overwhelming resources. So many in fact, that the boys just couldn't load fast enough to shoot them all! Finally Baillie, along with the remnants of the 5th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry surrendered in good order on April 26th 1865 at Hillsboro, North Carolina. A sad and bitter day all hope for an independent South was gone and a dejected Baillie, paroled on May 3rd 1865 headed home.