William H. Bailey, also known as “William Baily”, was born 1841 in Michigan or New York, the son of Hannah (b. 1818).
William was living in Carmel, Eaton County, when he married Catharine D. Pangborn (b. 1842) on July 4, 1859, in Charlotte, Eaton County.
By 1860, however William, although reported to have been married within the previous year, was attending school and living with his mother and siblings on a farm in Carmel, Eaton County. (That same year there one Catharine A. Bailey was living in Grand Rapids with the Goff family; next door was the Pangborn family.)
William was 20 years old and possibly living in Charlotte or Eaton Rapids, Eaton County when he enlisted in Company D on May 13, 1861. (Company D was composed in large part of men who came from western Ionia County and Eaton County.)
On Tuesday September 17, 1861, while the regiment was encamped at Fort Richardson, Virginia, William wrote the editor of the Eaton County Republican in Charlotte.
Having a little spare time, I venture to give you a short account of the camp life of our volunteers:
At half past four in the morning we are summoned to roll call. At six our breakfast is ready, prepared by two or more men detailed for that especial duty. At 8 o'clock the sick call is beat, and those who desire a consultation with the doctor can have it by calling at his quarters. At half past eight o'clock the detail for working men is made, and not infrequently all the men not on guard and other duty are ordered to shoulder spades or picks and dig in the trenches, or to work on some unfinished battery. We work about three hours. When the tools are brought again to the tool house, each man receives one gill of whiskey, and judging from the faces made up, it must be “Old Rye”.
At nine o'clock the drum is beat for guard mounting, when a sufficient number are stationed around our camp and instructed in regard to examining passes. From this time till noon, the men are at their regular duties, and the camp is very quiet.
At twelve o'clock the drum is rolled for dinner, when our men partake of a repast in the shape of bean soup, bread and pork, and rice, which they seem to relish well. In the afternoon the men may be seen in the cool shade of some tree, engaged in writing to their friends -- the older ones writing to their families, while the younger ones write to their parents, their brothers and sisters, and perhaps to their 'sweethearts'.
At five in the afternoon comes the call to supper, which consists of bread and beef or pork, with rice and coffee, which is well relished.
As the evening sets in the men repair to their tents, where some indulge in smoking, some read and others listen. Later, the strains of some religious hymn, or some sentimental song may be heard, and not infrequently the well known strains of “Home, Sweet Home” may be heard from some of our boys who still remember the comforts of a life in dear old Michigan.
On October 10, William wrote the paper from Fort Lyon, Virginia, that since his last letter “nothing of special importance has happened.”
Troops are arriving and moving into positions assigned them with an activity that indicates plainly the intention of the government soon to make another attempt to suppress the rebellion. Whatever may be the character or result of the movement, I hope nothing will occur to discourage our troops. We have as resolute a set of men as any in the grand army. It was an undeniable fact that after the retreat of Bull Run our boys did not seem to be in the least discouraged. They said, only give is a few more men, and we can whip them to to one, at any time, in any place. The service they have since seen has rendered them still more confident; and now they are waiting with hopeful patience for the opportunity to redeem the credit of our arms. If the Michigan boys get into another fight they will pitch in with a determination never before shown.
Our regiment left Fort Richardson on the 13th inst. We marched down the Potomac River two miles below Alexandria and camped on Eagle Hill, near Fort Lyon, where we expect to spend the winter completing the fort, which is now unfinished. This fort will be as large as any on the Potomac, and will be mounted with 70 large guns.
We have become pretty well accustomed to camp life, and have learned to lie on the road-side, in the woods, and in almost every imaginable place. We have been out on the advance almost every week since we came to Virginia.
The weather continues warm and pleasant; we have had no frost here as yet. Everything is green and growing except corn which is mostly harvested. Crops are good in this region. Virginia would have raised enough to support her people if it had not been the seat of contending armies; but the soldiers have destroyed the greater part of the crops raised this year.
It is hoped that another twelve months will give success to our cause and bring this war to a close; but time alone can tell.
On January 16, 1862, William wrote informing the folks back home in Eaton County that the Third Michigan was presently
encamped at present at a place [some] four miles from Alexandria, in a southwestern direction on the Alexandria and Richmond road. Our camp is is a piece of woods, which makes good shelter from the chilly winds, and a convenient place to obtain wood for the camp-fire. The men have provided for themselves very good quarters, in the shape of log cabins, covered with long shingle made from the chestnut oak, which abounds here. The men are highly elated with the prospect of some new rifles, which we are to get in a few days. Our Regiment have been furnished with nothing but the common musket heretofore. These muskets are not a very good weapon for the business which we have been employed in, viz., that of picketing, skirmishing and scouting. We have been on the advance almost every week since we came to this State. Many times our company have been out on picket for a week at a time. Our Camp is in hearing of the rebel batteries at Cockpit Point. At the time of the running of the blockade by the Pensacola the flash of the rebels guns could be plainly seen from our camp. It resembled the flashes of lightening; but God be praised the magnificent Pensacola is now ploughing the brine in promotion of one of the noblest causes which every prompted the heart of man to action. Three of our boys have been taken prisoner by the rebels since we came to Virginia. One of them, who has been released, returned to our company the other day; he was held prisoner at Richmond, and does not look as if the rebels were so near starved out as is reported. The weather remains warm and pleasant, with the exception of now and then a snow storm; the snow has fallen about one inch deep at two different times this winter. The Republican is received with as much joy as a home letter; it brings the home news; and it reminds me of the days spent in the beautiful village of Charlotte. Receive a soldier's thanks.
William was on duty with the regiment as it advanced up the Virginia Peninsula in the spring of 1862. From near Yorktown, he wrote to the editor of the Eaton County Republican that the men of the Third Michigan were working on fortifying their position,
the men working directly in range of the rebels’ guns; of a shell weighing near 100 lbs. being thrown into the camp; and the whole letter is written in a cheerful and joyful spirit. He says that “Near the camp is a steam saw mill, which was abandoned, for the water was warm in the boiler when we reached it. An engineer, fireman, and sawyers, were found in a moment, in Comp. I, of our regiment, and were placed in the mill, which was soon as busily employed as ever, sawing lumber for the building of hospitals, officers’ quarters, etc. It stands in plain view of the rebel camps and tauntingly puffs away, as busily as when working for them. There is some considerable sickness in our regiment, but none seriously ill. It is thought that the ball will open soon, then once more we try the mettle of the southern chivalry.”
Soon after he wrote this letter home William became sick with fever probably during the “Peninsula” campaign and died in the hospital at Portsmouth, Virginia, on June 29, 1862. He was buried at Hampton National Cemetery: section B, grave no. 4738, Hampton section (old row 22, grave 9).
In 1863 his widow applied for and received pension no. 22630, drawing $8 per month in 1864 and increased to $12 per month by 1904.
In 1867 Catharine married Gilbert Hoag (d. 1880), in Bellevue, Eaton County, and then sometime after 1880 married his brother (?) L. W. Hoag, who died in 1904. That same year she was living in Alma, Gratiot County.