Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BAILEY, Joseph, farmer, born in Salem, Ohio. 28 April 1827; killed near Nevada, Newton County, Mo., 21 March 1867. He entered the military service of the United States 2 July 1861, as captain in the 4th Wisconsin infantry. The regiment was ordered to Maryland and assigned to the expedition under General born F. Butler, which occupied New Orleans after its reduction by Farragut's fleet, in April 1862. Bailey was appointed acting engineer of the defenses of New Orleans in December 1862, and while so detailed was promoted to be major (30 May 1863). A month later (June 24) he became Lieutenant-Colonel. In August 1863, the regiment was changed from infantry to cavalry, and Lieut.-Colonel Bailey was sent home on recruiting service, returning to duty with his regiment in February 1864, in time to accompany the army of General N. P. Banks in the Red River campaign. Here occurred the opportunity that enabled Lieut.-Colonel Bailey to achieve one of the most brilliant feats ever accomplished in military engineering. The expedition had been carefully timed to coincide with the regular annual spring rise in Red river, in order that the navy might cooperate and the River serve as a base of supplies. The army, under General Banks, advanced south of the river, accompanied and supported by a fleet of twelve gun-boats and thirty transports. The advance suffered a defeat at Sabine Cross Roads on 8 April and retreated to Alexandria, where it was found theft the water had fallen so much that it was impossible for the fleet to pass below the falls. Rear-Admiral Porter, commanding the squadron, was reluctantly making preparations to save what stores he could and to destroy his gunboats, preparatory to retreating with the army, as he was advised that the land position was not tenable, when Lieut.-Colonel Bailey proposed to build a dam and deepen the water in mid-channel so that the gun-boats could pass. The regular engineers condemned the project as impracticable; but Lieut.-Colonel Bailey persevered, and, in the face of discouraging opposition and indifference on the part of the navy, finally, on 30 April procured the necessary authority from General Banks. When the work was actually begun, there was no lack of men or of zeal. General Jas. Grant Wilson, then a men> bet of General Banks's staff, strongly advocated the scheme, and aided in the construction of the dam. Details of 3,000 soldiers were kept at work night and day, and several hundred lumbermen from Maine regiments did good service in felling and moving trees. The fatigue parties relieved one another at regular intervals, all working with remarkable endurance, often up to their necks in water, and under a semi-tropical sun. The rapids to be deepened were about a mile long and from 700 to more than 1,000 feet wide, with a current of ten miles an hour. On the north bank a tree dam was built, while on the south side, there being no timber, a series of heavy cribs were constructed from material obtained by demolishing several old mills, while the brick, iron, and stone required to sink and hold them in place were procured by tearing down two sugar-houses and taking up a quantity of railroad iron buried in the vicinity. The dams, thus built, on both sides of the river, left an opening of sixty-six feet. So energetically and systematically was the work pushed that on the morning of 12 May the whole fleet passed safely down the falls without loss. The Mississippi squadron was saved through the native engineering skill of a Wisconsin farmer. His services received prompt recognition, and on 7 June he was brevetted Brigadier-General, and on 30 June was promoted to the full grade of colonel, and subsequently received the formal thanks of congress. The officers of the fleet presented him with a sword and a purse of $3,000. After this feat General Bailey's military record was highly creditable. In November 1864, he was promoted Brigadier-General of volunteers, and had command of the engineer brigade of the military division of the west Mississippi and of different cavalry brigades until he resigned, 7 July 1865. After leaving the army he settled as a farmer in Newton County, Mo., and was elected sheriff, an office which he filled with his accustomed firmness and daring. He met his death at the hands of two desperadoes, upon whom he had personally served warrants, and whom, with characteristic fearlessness, he was escorting to the county-seat without assistance. It is interesting to know that the main portion of the dam, constructed under such haste, was in place twenty-two years afterward, and bade fair to last indefinitely. It is still known as " Bailey's Dam."
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