May13, 1864: Bailey’s dam successful, fleet escapes

Bailey's Dam

After a couple of false starts and some reconstruction, the wing dam designed by Col. Bailey succeeded in raising water levels enough to let all the river fleet escape down the Red River. The near-disaster of the Red River campaign was finally over.

From Banks’ report:


Lieutenant William S. Beebe, of the Ordnance Department, U. S. Army, superintended the removal of the heavy naval guns from above the rapids to a point below the dam by land, assisted by officers and soldiers of the army. The army immediately commenced the reconstruction of the dam. Finding it impossible to resist the current of the river entirely, the opening made by the flood was only partially closed, and eight or ten wing-dams were constructed on the right and left bank of the river, in accordance with the original plan, turning the current of water directly upon the channel and raising it at the different points sufficiently to allow the vessels to pass. This new work was completed on the 12th of May, and on the afternoon of that day all the boats passed below the rapids to the dam. At 6 o’clock in the evening the Mound City and Carondelet passed the 13th. The water upon the dam was steadily falling, but at 9 o’clock on the 13th all the boats had safely passed. Preparations had been made for the movement of the army the evening after the passage of the boats below the dam on the 12th, and after all were below on the 13th orders were given for the march.

The construction of the dam was exclusively the work of the army. but little aid or encouragement was rendered by officers of the navy, except by Lieutenant A. R. Langthorne, commanding the Mound City, who assisted in setting the cribs, and was always ready to answer the call of the officers charged with the construction of the work. The soldiers labored sedulously and zealously night and day, in and out of the water, from the 1st to the 13th of May, inclusive, when the passage of the passage of the boats was completed.

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