A Lumberman's Solution


     Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey, one of Banks' engineers, had an idea for getting past the rapids. He suggested building a dam from any materials they could find. Some of the men laughed at Bailey. After all, Bailey was not formally trained as an engineer. How was he to build a dam from scratch? However, Bailey had spent 20 years working as a lumberman on the frontier in Wisconsin. There, he mastered the craft of dam and bridge building.

(Left) Joseph Bailey proposed a plan to build a dam to raise the river level. No one knew if the plan would succeed. The Confederate snipers hiding in the woods even watched in amusement. Tales about the dam traveled fast, no doubt an unusual piece of news in wartime. The dam even caught the interest of the citizens of Alexandria. Courtesy of the National Archives 111-BA-188.

     Without any other options, Banks gave Bailey command of his men. Nearly 3,000 soldiers began cutting down trees. Others searched for the materials that Bailey needed. Some went into the city and began stripping buildings of their wood and bricks. They worked day and night. Soldiers building the dam dodged enemy fire. Bailey was steadfast, though. He had a clear plan in mind and tirelessly directed the soldiers.



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