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Prison Diary of James L. Bailey

4th N.Y. Heavy Artillery, Company B

Source: Military Records of Schoharie County Veterans of Four Wars. Compiled by George H. Warner, Late Co. C., 134th N.Y. Vol. Inf. Albany, N.Y.: Weed, Parsons and Company, Printers. 1891. Pages 380 - 386.

James L. Bailey
Gilboa- Laborer; single; age 20; enlisted October 23, 1861; did full service until captured at Reams Station, Va., August 25, 1865 (misprint, error in year); confined at Belle Isle until October 7, 1864, and then removed to Salisbury, N.C., where he died, January 25, 1865. (Page 153)


"This diary was kept by Bailey in one of the small pocket editions so commonly used by the boys in the army. After he became aware that he could not live to see his home and friends, he requested a fellow prisoner to preserve his diary, and in case he survived him, to send it to his parents at Gilboa. The comrade survived, reached his home at Albany, and when sufficiently recovered from the effects of his imprisonment, made the journey to Gilboa, and placed the prison diary of James Bailey into the hand of his mother. The little leather-covered book with a needle attached to the pocket, and the scarcely legible words recorded from day to day, are all that "came back from the war" to the father and mother of James Bailey."

Aug. 25th, 1864. Taken prisoner at Reams Station, near Petersburg by Mahone's Brigade, Brigadier-General Wilcox's Division, A. P. Hill's Corps. Marched to Petersburg, guarded by a regiment of North Carolinians. Remained there over night, then marched to the station, took the cars for Richmond. Stayed there over night, then marched out just across the street into an old tobacco ware-house, from there sent to Belle Island.

Aug. 31st. A prisoner of war on Belle Island. Our day for muster for pay in camp, but such is not our fate.

The United States government owes me six months' pay and an installment of fifty dollars.

Sept. 1st. A prisoner of war on Belle Island. No signs of being paroled or exchanged.

Sept. 2d. A bright sunny day on Belle Island. Nothing new relating to our present situation.

Sept. 4th. Still on Belle Island. Weather hot and sultry, some prospects of rain.

Sept. 5th. No rain has yet fallen. The weather has been very uncomfortable for us, being exposed without shade or shelter.

Sept. 6th. Rained the night previous, which made things very uncomfortable for us. Continues cloudy and misty till night, then tents given to us.

Sept. 7th. Morning finds us in the same old position, the weather fine.

Sept. 8th. Out again to be numbered. A hot day. Nothing but camp rumors to cheer us up.

Sept. 9th. Again turned out to be numbered. Remained out till dark. About midnight, a large fire in Richmond.

Sept. 10th. Still a prisoner on Belle Island. All turned out to be counted and to have camp regulated, the weather hot and sultry.

Sept. 11th. Remained in close quarters through the day. No material change in the weather or rations.

Sept. 12th. All out again to be numbered, and told off in squads.

Sept. 13th. Finds all here yet, the most in good health.

Sept. 14th. In camp all day. All kinds of rumors afloat, amounting to nothing. Some heavy firing in the direction of the "Burn."

Sept. 15th. Enjoying ourselves in the best manner possible for us while here. Weather fair.

Sept. 16th. Every thing the same in camp. No sign of deliverance.

Sept. 17th. Out to be counted and have the camp policed. Day fair and pleasant.

Sept. 18th. Turned out to be counted, came back before noon. The weather has every appearance of rain. Some cannonading toward Petersburg, results not known to us.

Sept. 19th. Again out to be counted, nothing new for us.

Sept. 20th. Out again in the morning, nothing new in camp today, no signs of being released.

Sept. 21st. Yet on the island. Turned out to be counted.

Sept. 22d. As usual out to be counted, did not remain out long. Weather some cooler to-day. Did not feel able to walk much. Cannonading in front of Petersburg, nothing known of its results.

Sept. 23d. Out in the morning to be counted. Some rain in the forenoon, appetite some better to day.

Sept. 24th. Turned out to be counted. Weather rainy and bad to be out. Heavy firing toward Petersburg.

Sept. 25th. A beautiful Sabbath day on Belle Island. The men mostly in good spirits. We were out again to be counted in the morning.

Sept. 26th. Out in this morning to be counted, rained all day.

Sept. 27th. Out again to be counted. Weather fair, some heavy firing in the direction of Petersburg.

Sept. 28th. Still a prisoner on Belle Island. Weather fair in the morning. Turned out just at night to be counted, rained at night.

Sept. 29th. All out to be counted. Heavy fighting down the river.

Sept. 30th. Still on the Island a prisoner. All out to be counted. Some signs of rain. The rest of the prisoners came from Libby prison.

Oct. 1st. Morning dawns cold and chilly. The prisoners out to be counted. Commenced to rain, continues all day. Heavy fighting on the river.

2d. The Sabbath, a beautiful day after the rain of yesterday. All out to be counted, returned to camp. But little excitement in camp to-day and night leaves every thing quiet.

3d. Morning all taken out to be counted. The weather rainy. Some more prisoners sent on the island from Libby.

4th. Quite pleasant to-day, turned out to be counted, one thousand sent away, whereabouts not known; 300 more sent away in the night, in all 1300 for Salisbury, N.C.

5th. A pleasant day on the Island. Out again to be counted,- but little excitement this day. Five squads more, 500 sent off the Island this afternoon.

7th. Out to be counted in the forenoon, came back to camp, took dinner, shortly after drew our supper and three-fourths of a loaf of bread, then left the Island. Took the cars at half-past 10 o'clock for Danville. Remained in the cars all that night.

8th. Arrived at Danville late in the forenoon. The weather cold and chilly. Again took the cars for our place of destination. Was detained on the way. Remained on the cars all night.

9th. Arrived at Greensborough late at night. Left the cars, marched out a little from town to some woods, and had three crackers given out to us. The night very cold, a heavy frost had fallen.

Oct. 10th. Arrived at Salisbury at 8 o'clock. The night was very cold and chilly. Did not get food of any kind, things look dismal for us.

11th. Passed up into Salisbury in the afternoon, no grub for us yet. The pains of hunger begin to gnaw us to a fearful extent. Late at night our bread came to us, on-half loaf to a man.

12th. We got our allowance of bread and meat at noon or after, this day finds us in a dull state of feeling.

13th. Morning finds the weather some cooler. To day we got our allowance of bread and rice soup, some of our division drew hard tack.

14th. Still a prisoner at Salisbury, N.C. The day quite pleasant. We got our usual allowance of bread and rice soup. Nothing going on of any interest in camp.

15th. Finds us the same. Weather fair although cool at night. To-day our food is bread and molasses, which goes very well for a change.

16th. The Sabbath day finds us still prisoners of way. Our food to-day is rice soup and molasses. one of the officers shot by the guard, twelve more said to have died since the night previous.

17th. A fair day for us in camp. We drew our rations first in the morning, rice soup and molasses, no meal issued to any of us.

18th. Every thing the same. Morning finds us all waiting for something to eat, but we do not get any thing till dark, then get warm bread.

19th. Finds camp full of rumors. About 500 more prisoners brought from Danville. We get our grub sometime in the afternoon, rice "tay" and molasses. Our officers taken away from here.

20th. Morning finds us alive and well. We get our ration of bread and a ration of meat.

21st. Finds this division waiting for our rations, but do not know when they will be given to us.

22d. Finds all in their usual state of feelings. Nothing of any note to-day, the weather fair and chilly.

23d. A quiet day in camp. Weather mild and pleasant, though cold at night.

24th. Finds us in camp waiting for our grub. No bread, no flour. Molasses comes when the train arrives. One-third of the division drew flour. Thaddeus Laymen of this company died between the hours of 2 and 12 o'clock, of chronic diarrhea.

Oct. 25th. Finds us yet prisoners. Do not get our food quite as regular as before, though have to be content with what we get.

26th. Finds me alive and well. We get our allowance of food for the day. A great many dead taken out for burial.

27th. Morning weather hazy. About noon began to rain, which continues during the night. Some more prisoners brought here, the most part taken in the valley. This division draws flour, no bread baked for us.

28th. Morning finds the weather clear. Nineteen said to have died the night previous. We got our meat this forenoon, got some rice soup in the afternoon, but no bread, no flour.

29th. Finds us yet alive; we get our meat in the forenoon. Afternoon some rice soup but as yet no bread or flour. Weather fair and pleasant. Just at night a small ration of rice soup.

30th. A beautiful day. Every thing quiet in camp. This division draws flour and rice soup.

31st. Finds us yet prisoners. Weather fair, nothing of importance in camp. We get our allowance of bread and rice soup. George Wright goes to the hospital.

Nov. 1st. November comes in warm and pleasant. The camp full of rumors about being paroled. To-day we got bread and rice soup, some got hard tack.

2d. Morning dawns, when it begins to rain. Continues to rain all day long. We draw our flour just at night. Adolphus Brandon died in hospital prison.

Nov. 3d. Finds the weather very cool with a drizzling rain, which continues through the day. A good many dead in camp. We draw oats, wheat bran, and rice soup.

4th. Finds us yet in camp. Do not feel very well to-day. Weather cool and uncomfortable.

5th. Finds us in camp yet. The camp full of rumors. We get our rice soup and draw flour. Some frost.

6th. Another beautiful Sabbath day in camp; the sun shines most beautiful. We get rice soup in the forenoon, some meal in the afternoon. Six hundred prisoners came in last night.

7th. Still in camp, weather fine. No grub yet of any kind. Some thin soup, no bread of any kind to-day.

8th. A warm and lovely day in camp, for election. Some excitement as to who will be president.

9th. Finds us in camp yet, alive and well. We get rice soup and warm bread, corn and wheat. Rain the most part of the night.

Nov. 10th. A beautiful day, warm and pleasant. We got our soup.

11th. Finds us yet in camp, doing the best we can to live through this prison life. We get out grub - bread, soup and meat.

12th. Yet a prisoner in Salisbury. Get our bread quite regularly now. To-day we got bread, meat and rice soup. Thus ends the day.

13th. A still, quiet day in camp. Weather fair. We got our rations of bread, meat, and rice soup. The boys in good spirits but anxious to get back to the Federal lines.

14th. Yet alive and well. Fair weather. Get our bread and meat early in the day. The camp is full of rumors. Get our rice soup.

15th. Finds us still in camp. The weather is fair. Draw corn bread and soup early in the morning; get nothing more for the day. The camp full of rumors about exchange. Still I don't see it.

16th. Morning still finds me alive and well. The weather has some appearance of rain. We draw our rice soup, no meat to-day. The bread comes after a while, hot from the oven.

17th. Finds all in camp as usual. Weather fair and nice. We got our bread and rice soup, no meat.

18th. Finds me yet in good health. Today we got our bread, soup, and meat, ___ liver, lights, eyes, etc. Weather fair.

24th. Yet in camp, well. Weather cool and stormy. Get our food as usual, quarter rations.

25th. Yet a prisoner at Salisbury. No signs of any relief from our government. Just at night an attempt was made to break out of camp, but did not accomplish much. Some killed and wounded. All on quarter rations. Ralph Bear died in hospital - diarrhea. Belonged to Company B, Fourth New York Heavy Artillery.

26th. Finds all in camp alive and well. Weather fair and pleasant. Get our rations of bread.

27th. Quite a fine day. It finds me in the hospital with the diarrhea. Some better to-day.

29th. The same old thing. Diarrhea quite bad to-day. We get our rations of bread, meat, and rice soup.

30th. Yet in the hospital. The big chimney fell down about noon, killing one man and bruising two more very bad.

Dec. 1st. A pleasant day for the first of December. The sun shines bright and nice. Not much of any thing going on in camp.

NOTE.- Thus closes a very conservative diary. The last entry apparently written with as much courage as the first, yet the writer was lying in the Rebel hospital, and from December 1, 1864, until a lingering death terminated his life, nearly two months later, he was unable to continue his memoranda. Inscription on fly leaf of diary:- James. L. Bailey, of Gilboa, Schoharie county, N.Y., died at Salisbury Prison, January 25, 1865.

Individuals mentioned in the diary

Thaddeus Layman.
4th N.Y. Heavy Artillery, Company B

Conesville - Laborer; single; age 26; enlisted October 7, 1861; did continuous service until captured at Reams Station, August 25, 1864; confined at Belle Isle; removed to Salisbury, N.C., where he died, October 24, 1864. (p. 153)

George H. Wright.
4th N.Y. Heavy Artillery, Company B

Gilboa - Fireman; single; age 21; enlisted November 15, 1863; captured at Reams Station, August 25, 1864; confined at Belle Isle, and afterward sent to Salisbury, where he died; referred to in James Bailey's diary as going to the Rebel Hospital, October 31, 1864. (p. 156)

Adolphus Brandon.
4th N.Y. Heavy Artillery, Company B

[Transcriber's Note: Adolphus "Brandon" is not listed anywhere in this book, as James Bailey's handwriting was either misinterpreted by the transcriber, or a printer's typo was made back at least 115 years ago. The soldier was Adolphus Brandow, who enlisted as a Private on December 22, 1863, at the age of 18, in Bat'y B. of the 4th Heavy Artillery. Private Brandow was captured with his Company B comrades on August 25, 1864 at Reams Station, Virginia. Service records say he died on November 3, 1864 in Salisbury, N.C. There were Brandows residing in the Town of Conesville, Schoharie County, NY.]

Ralph Bear.
4th N.Y. Heavy Artillery, Company B

Conesville - Farmer; single; age 22; enlisted December 17, 1861; taken prisoner at Reams Station, August 25, 1864; confined at Belle Isle and Salisbury, N.C.; died of diarrhea at the last place, November 29, 1864; Salisbury Cem., No. of Grave, 182. (p. 155)

James L. Bailey and his comrades were at Salisbury Prison during the height of its occupancy late in the War, when malnutrition and disease took a high daily toll. The POW dead were buried in 18 trenches, each measuring about 240 feet long. It is likely that Privates Bailey, Brandow, Layman and Wright lie buried in the anonymous trenches.


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