He made captain in 1855. In July, 1862, he was made Commodore, and in July, 1866, rear-admiral on the retired list. In 1861 Captain Bailey was in command of Colorado, in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. Later he took command of the East Gulf Blockading Squadron.
He was instrumental in developing a primitive "thruster system," the principles of which are still in use today. A pipe could direct water to one side of the ship or another, which caused the ship to be able to move with more agility in the high seas. Today, ships use this principle in thruster systems. 1.
Three ships have been named USS Bailey for him.