Bailey's Dam

Author(s): Steven D. Smith; George J. III Castille

Year: 1986


Major General Nathaniel P Banks, Union commander of the Red River military expedition, found himself in a particularly tight situation in April of 1864. He had been defeated at the Battle of Mansfield while attempting to capture Shreveport, Louisiana, and now he was retreating down the Red River, harassed by Confederate troops at every turn. Throughout the campaign, the river's low water level had been a constant problem to his naval support of gunboats under the command of Rear Admiral David D. Porter. Now, Banks and Porter discovered that the river was so low that the gunboats were trapped above the rapids at Alexandria.

To save the flotilla, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey suggested that the river could be dammed to raise the water level and f1oat the gunboats over the shallow rapids. Despite the doubts and jeers of many, Banks authorized Bailey to begin construction. Through the next two weeks, troops struggled to build the dam which eventually made it possible for the fleet to escape.

In 1976 the archaeological remains of Bailey's Dam were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and through 1986, they could be seen at times of low water. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is constructing a modern lock and dam downstream of this historic site, and the Red River will permanently cover Bailey's Dam. Recognizing the historical and archaeological importance of' the dam, the Corps sponsored archaeological excavations there in 1984.

This booklet relates the history and archaeology of the dam complex, a series of different types of dams collectively called Bailey's Dam. The story combines the rich annals of the 1864 Red River Campaign with the finds of modern archaeological investigations. This combination provides a fascinating glimpse into a desperate period in Louisiana history.

Cite this Record

Bailey's Dam. Steven D. Smith, George J. III Castille. Anthropological Study ,1. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana Archaeological Survey and Antiquities Commission. 1986 ( tDAR id: 117520)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Spatial Coverage

min long: -92.981; min lat: 30.889 ; max long: -92.072; max lat: 31.518 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Sponsor(s): Army Corps of Engineers

Record Identifiers

NADB document id number(s): 4050614

NADB citation id number(s): 000000074689