Joseph Bailey was born on May 6, 1825, probably at Pennsville, Ohio, but was taken by his parents to Illinois at an early age. He studied civil engineering there and, in 1847, moved to Wisconsin to become a lumberman. On July 2, 1861, he was mustered into Federal service as captain of a company of the 4th Wisconsin Infantry. Most of Bailey's war service was under General Benjamin F. Butler and then General N. P. Banks in the Department of the Gulf, during which time he was promoted to colonel of his regiment. His flair for engineering had distinguished him* at Port Hudson and New Orleans, but Banks's Red River expedition afforded him the opportunity of a lifetime. The success of this joint army-navy venture depended upon high water in the Red River. However, on the retreat to Alexandria, after the repulse at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, it was found that the thirty-three naval vessels could not be gotten over the shoals. Despite the opposition of most of the professional engineers of both services, Bailey obtained permission from Banks to construct a pair of wing dams from the sides of the river, in order to raise the water level enough to bring the fleet through to safety. The Herculean efforts of 3,000 men, including several hundred lumbermen from Maine regiments, finally pushed the fleet through a sixty-six foot spillway on May 12, 1864. In reward, Bailey received the thanks of Congress, the brevet of brigadier general, and a sword from Admiral David D. Porter. He later participated in the reduction of Mobile, and was promoted to full brigadier general of volunteers and brevet major general. After the war he settled in Vernon County, Missouri, and was elected sheriff in the fall of 1866. On March 21, 1867, near Nevada, Missouri, he was shot and killed by a pair of bushwhackers whom he had arrested. General Bailey is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Fort Scott, Kansas.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.