Lewis Baird

contributor: Sue Posey
(Source: The LaFollette Press, Thursday, April 25, 1957, No. 17, Section 2, p1)


Baird, Lewis – Old Letter Recalls County Man’s Firm Union Loyalty In Civil War – Nearly a century ago these United States were disunited and torn apart by one of the bloodiest and conflicts in history, the American Civil War, or, as some would call it, the War Between the States. Campbell County played a vital role in that conflict, sending many soldiers to the colors, most of them to the Northern forces. Many of these never returned to their farm homes in East Tennessee.

     But civilians as well as soldiers were victims of the war, one of these civilians being a venerable Campbell Countain who was over 60 years old when the war started in 1861. He was Lewis M. Baird who lived on upper Elk Fork and who died in a southern prison because he would not take an oath of allegiance to the Southern Confederacy but remained firm in his loyalty to the union.

     Mr. Baird was born in North Carolina, August 22, 1795. His father died when he was a small boy and soon after he came to Kentucky and located near Jellico. As a young man he moved to a homestead on upper Elk Fork and there he was arrested by Confederate soldiers in October of 1862. His devotion to the Northern cause was well-know since four of his 11 sons had become soldiers in the Federal army.

     After his arrest, Mr. Baird was taken to a southern prison at Salisbury, North Carolina. He was urged to take the oath of allegiance to the South, being told he would be released and allowed to return home, but he refused. It is said that Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, called on him and tried to persuade him to take the oath but Mr. Baird remained firm in his refusal.

Letter from Prison
(click to see copy)

     Nearly 93 years ago – on April 29, 1864 – a fellow prisoner of Mr. Baird wrote a letter for the older man and sent it to S. C. Baird, one of the sons. The letter is as follows:

To the Sons of Lewis M. Baird:

     “I, as a comrade of your father in prison, deem it my duty to write to you at this time to let you know his present condition. He is in the hospital and to all human appearances must soon be numbered with those who have been taken from the evils of this world. There is no particular disease apparent but old age, and confinement has done its work. Having become acquainted with him ever since his arrest, and been with him ever since, he now seems like a father to me. I can truly sympathize with you. We have slept together and I have been able to obtain many little necessaries for him. He has stood it very well until lately. I have often heard him say that he would love to know how you all were, and let you know how he was, but he never got to hear from any of you at home.

     “I, have often talked to the old man upon the subject of religion. He always expressed himself as being prepared, which is a great consolation. I assure you that all that is possible for me to do shall be done for your father. Pray that God in His great mercies may spare him yet to return home. He wishes for me to say if he does not live to see you in this world, that you will strive to so live as to meet him above where parting and sorrow is no more.

“Very Truly Yours,

Thomas Cayton.”

     Mr. Baird, a member of the First Baptist Church at Elk Fork, died some time later.

     Some years later – in 1898 – S. C. Baird went to Salisbury in search of his father’s grave but failed to identify it.

Children And Grandchildren

     Lewis Baird was the father of William Baird (father of Jess H. Baird), Mary Perkins, Rachel Baird Stanfill, Samuel Baird, David Baird, Jesse Baird, Z. D. Baird, Joseph Baird, Andy Baird, Louis Baird, Flem Baird, and Pryor Baird. He was the grandfather of Z. D. Baird, Dr. C. R. Baird, M. E. Baird, M. L. Baird, J. B. Baird, Frank Baird, Mrs. D. G. Nobles, and Mrs. G. F. Lay.

     Incidentally, the Civil War actually ended not far from Salisbury. In May of 1865 the Confederate force of General Joseph A. Johnston, the last Southern army of any size east of the Mississippi, surrendered to Gen William T. Sherman. The surrender was at Durham, North Carolina, about 60 miles northeast of Salisbury.

For more information please see the old letter image contributed by Lewis Baird's ggg-granddaughter


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