William P. Baily was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1827. Before the war he ran an importing business in New York City and was a corporal in Company C, 7th New York State Militia.
On July 13, 1861 he became the lieutenant colonel of the 2nd Delaware Infantry Regiment . He was promoted to colonel on October 6, 1862, with rank effective to August 22. At the time Baily was in the hospital in Baltimore with severe diarrhea “with typhoid tendencies” only returning to the regiment in October of 1862.
Baily was wounded in the left breast by a shell at the Battle of Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862, leaving his left arm partially paralyzed. He was at the Newton University Hospital in Baltimore before returning to his regiment in April of 11863.
From May 20 until June 12, 1863 he commanded his brigade (4th Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Army Corps) as senior colonel. He commanded the regiment at Gettysburg, where he was wounded for the second time on July 2nd in fighting near the Wheatfield. He temporarily commanded the division’s First Brigade after Gettysburg, and again commanded his own Fourth Brigade from December 29, 1863 until January 10, 1864.
In January Baily requested a leave of absence for personal business, which was extended due to illness. He returned to the regiment in April. Within a few days the regiment fought in the Wilderness, and at the Battle of Spotsylvania its division lead the bloody charge on the Mule Shoe. Casualties were heavy, including the regiment’s Lieutenant Colonel Strickler and Captain John Evens, who were both killed.
Colonel Baily was physically unhurt, but he submitted an “immediate and unconditional” resignation on May 16, 1864. It was seconded by brigade commander Colonel John R. Brooke as being “for the good of the service,” and division commander Major General Francis Barlow added the endorsement, “…request that this resignation be accepted for the good of the service immediately. This officer is a coward.” Colonel Baily was honorably discharged, and he was awarded his pension.
Baily died on Feb. 1, 1883 in North Plainfield, New Jersey. He is buried in Hillside Cemetery in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.