An Ohio-born Wisconsin civil engineer and lumberman, Joseph Bailey entered the Union army and became one of only 14 men to receive the Thanks of Congress for the Civil War-the only one who was not an army or corps commander at the time.
His assignments included:
Captain, 4th Wisconsin (July 2, 1861);
Major, 4th Wisconsin (May 30, 1863);
Lieutenant Colonel, 4th Wisconsin (July 15, 1863);
Lieutenant Colonel, 4th Wisconsin Cavalry (change of designation August 22, 1863);
Colonel, 4th Wisconsin Cavalry (June 1, 1864);
Brevet Brigadier General U.S. Volunteers. June 7th, 1864 for distinguished and meritorious services in the projecting and constructing dam on Red River, enabling our flotilla to reach the Mississippi in safety;
Commanding Engineer Brigade, 19th Corps, Department of the Gulf (June 10-August 10, 1864);
Commanding District of West Florida, same department (October 20-November 25, 1864);
Brigadier General, USV (November 10, 1864);
Commanding District of Baton Rouge and Port Hudson, same department (December 3-28, 1864);
Commanding Cavalry Division, same department (December 28, 1864-February 9, 1865);
Commanding Northern District of Louisiana, same department (February 9-March I 1, 1865);
Commanding Engineer Brigade, Military Division of West Mississippi (March 11 - May 2,1865);
Brigadier General, USV (April 16, 1865 to rank from November 10, 1864, his original appointment having expired on March 4, 1865).
After taking part in the capture of New Orleans, he soon became acting chief engineer of the city's defenses and as an engineer was distinguished in the capture of Port Hudson. On Banks' Red River Campaign he was the chief engineer; when the joint army-navy expedition failed and many of the vessels were left stranded by low water in an exposed position, it was Bailey who came to their rescue. Utilizing 3,000 troops he was able to construct a dam across the river, and through a spillway the craft made their escape down river on May 12, 1864. For this he received a brevet as brigadier and was given the Thanks of Congress.
Soon appointed a full brigadier general he held various commands and then directed the engineers in the campaign against Mobile for which he was brevetted major general. Resigning on July 7, 1865, he was shot and killed on March 21, 1867, while serving as a Missouri sheriff.