Sometimes, an archaeological site reveals how a powerful idea was put into action. One example in central Louisiana is a Civil War site called Bailey's Dam. Low water in the Red River at Alexandria trapped the Union naval squadron above rocky rapids. At first, all hope of an escape seemed lost.


     Then, Union officer Joseph Bailey designed a dam to raise the level of the river, using materials that were nearby. Remarkably, the dam worked, and the boats passed over the rapids and on to safety. The dam's story is one of teamwork, courage and creativity.

Porter's fleet passing through Colonel Bailey's Dam above Alexandria, May 1864. From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, July 16, 1864. Courtesy of the State Library of Louisiana.

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