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Com'r Rhind, at 10% P. M. of the 23d; exploding her at 13 next morning, but to very little purpose—the miraculous power which gave efficacy to the assault with rams'-horns on Jericho not having been vouchsafed. Rhind and his crew did their work: following in (unperceived) a blockader whose signals of amity were respected and answered by the fort. When all was ready, they escaped in a tender which had accompanied them on their perilous errand, and which, having attained a considerable distance, was scarcely harmed by the explosion. The fort and its defenders seem to have been nowise disturbed by it—Col. Lamb supposing it to be merely the bursting of one of the great guns of our fleet. Porter had 33 war vessels, several of them iron-clad, beside a reserve of 17 small ones. At 11% A. M., he followed up the abortive explosion by an order to advance and bombard the fort: the Ironsides leading, closely followed by the Monadnock, Canonicus, Mahopac, Minnesota, and nearly all his larger ships; and so terrible was their concentrated fire that the fort was completely silenced by it in 75 minutes; having been set on fire in several places and two of its magazines exploded. The bombardment was continued till sunset, when Gen. Butler arrived in his flagship; his transports being still absent. Com. Porter now drew off for the night. At 7 A. M. next day, the transports and troops having arrived, the bombardment was renewed, and was continued for seven hours: the Rebels responding for a while with two guns only. Some of our vessels drew Off
before the rest, because out of ammunition. The iron-clads were ordered to continue their fire throughout the night. Our land forces had meantime commenced debarking, under the immediate command of Gen. Weitzel, who headed the first or reconnoitering party of 500 men; going himself to within 800 yards of the fort, pushing up a skirmish-line to within 150 yards, and capturing a little out. work called Flag-pond Hill battery, with 65 men. Weitzel’s observations convinced him that the work was exceedingly strong, and that its defensive power had not been essentially injured by Porter's fire. He soon returned, as directed, to Butler, and reported that it would be murder to assault such a fort with our 6,000 men. Butler, disappointed, now ran close up in his vessel, reconnoitered for himself, and reluctantly acquiesced in Weitzel's decision. Our men, of whom about half had been landed, were thereupon réembarked;” and Gen. Butler returned with the land force to the James, leaving the fleet still off Wilmington. Our loss in this bombardment was about fifty killed and wounded— nearly or quite all by the bursting of six of our heavy Parrott guns—the enemy inflicting no injury, because he could not work his guns under our fire. His loss was 3 killed and 55 wounded. Butler reports that we took 300 prisoners. Grant was profoundly dissatisfied. In the first place, he had not intended that Gen. Butler should go, and had at length plainly intimated this; though, as Fort Fisher was in Butler's military department, he did not absolutely forbid it. Still, as Weitzel was his choice, and the decision not to assault was primarily Weitzel’s, he could not object to this. But he did complain, and with reason, that his express order, addressed to Butler for Weitzel, had been violated in the return of the expedition. That order is as follows:
“CITY Point, VA., Dec. 6, 1864.
“GENERAL: The first object of the expedition under Gen. Weitzel is to close to the enemy the port of Wilmington. If successful in this, the second will be to capture Wilmington itself. There are reasonable grounds to hope for success, if advantage can be taken of the absence of the greater part of the enemy's forces now looking after Sherman in Georgia. The directions you have given for the numbers and equipment of the expedition are all right, except in the unimportant matters of where they embark and the annount of intrenching tools, to be taken. The object of the expedition will be gained by effecting a landing on the main land between Cape Fear river and the Atlantic, north of the north entrance to the river. Should such landing be effected whilst the enemy still holds Fort Fisher and the batteries guarding the entrance to the river, then the troops should intrench themselves, and, by cooperating with the navy, effect the reduction and capture of those places. These in our hands, the navy could enter the harbor, and the port of Wilmington would be sealed. Should Fort Fisher and the point of land on which it is built fall into the hands of our troops, immediately on landing, then it will be worth the attempt to capture Wilmington by a forced march and surprise. If time is consumed in gaining the first object of the expedition, the second will become a matter of after consideration.
“The details for execution are intrusted to you and the officer immediately in command of the troops.
“Should the troops under Gen. Weitzel fail to effect a landing at or near Fort Fisher, they will be returned to the armies operating against Richmond without delay.
“ U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
“Major-General B. F. BUTLER,”
Gen. Weitzel had concurred in the propriety of returning, but in entire ignorance of this order. Had it been directed to him, and he placed
in command of the expedition, he would have obeyed it.
Advised by the Navy Department that the fleet was still off Fort Fisher, and ready for a fresh attempt, Grant promptly determined that it should be made. Designating Gen. Alfred H. Terry to command the new expedition, he added a brigade of about 1,500 men and a siege-train (which was not landed), and ordered Gen. Sheridan to send a division to Fortress Monroe, to follow in case of need. Terry's force, therefore, though nominally but a quarter stronger, was really much more so; since all who were under his orders added vigor and confidence to his efforts. Gen. Terry was first apprised of his desti. nation by Gen. Grant, as together they passed down the James.
The new expedition, composed in good part of the old one, minus its two Generals, left Fortress Monroe Jan. 6, 1865; put into Beaufort, N. C., on the 8th; was detained there by bad weather till the 12th; was off Wilmington that night; and com: menced its landing, under cover of a heavy bombardment from Porter's fleet, early next morning; and, by * P. M., nearly 8,000 men, with three days' rations in their haversacks, 40 rounds of ammunition in their boxes, arms, intrenching tools, munitions, &c., complete, had been landed, in spite of a heavy surf; having thrown out pickets which had exchanged shots with those of the enemy. The work assigned them was already well begun.
Gen. Terry's first concern was to throw a strong defensive line across the sandy peninsula whereon Fort Fisher stands, so as to isolate it from
all support, and enable him to hold his ground against any relieving force that was likely to be sent down from Wilmington. This was effected, after some hours necessarily given to examinations; the first line being, at 9 P. M., drawn across some three miles above the fort; but a better was finally found a mile nearer; where a position was taken" at 2 A. M., and where a good breastwork, stretching from river to sea, partially covered by abatis, had been constructed by 8 A. M. And now the landing of the lighter guns was commenced, and by sunset completed; the guns being placed in battery before morning, mainly toward the river, where, in case of an attack on us, the enemy would be least exposed to the fire of our gunboats. Curtis's brigade was now thrown forward toward the fort, and a careful reconnoissance made, under cover of the fire of the fleet, to within 600 yards of the wall; as a result of which, it was decided to deliver a determined assault next day.” The iron-clads continued their fire through this, as they had through the preceding night; but, at 9 A.M., the wooden vessels moved up to renew the bombardment; reaching position about 11, and opening fire, with the usual effect of driving the Tebels from their batteries into their bomb-proofs, and thus silencing their guns. Meantime, 2,000 sailors and Imarines, armed with cutlasses, revolvers, and a few carbines, had been detailed from the fleet, and landed to share in the meditated assault, and bad worked their way up, by digging ditches or rifle-pits, under cover of the fire of the fleet, to within 200
yards of the fort, where they lay awaiting the order to assault; which came at 3:25 P.M., or so soon as the landsmen were ready. And now the fleet changed the direction of its fire, so as to cover the approach of our assaulting columns, which vied with each other in their eagerness to be first in the fort; the sailors rushing up by the flank along the beach, while the soldiers charged on the land-side toward the left. Up to this moment, our loss had been trifling; but, when our columns reached the fort, it was no longer possible for the fleet to persist in its fire without doing more harm to them than to the enemy; and at once the parapets swarmed with Rebel musketeers, who—scarcely touched by the aimless, random firing of our 400 marines, who had been left in the rifle-pits to cover, by deadly volleys, the charging sailors—swept down the stormers in winnows, while grape and canister plowed through and through the head of the column. Thus the sailors' assault was signally repulsed with great carnage, after a large number of them had gained the ditch, and some even climbed the parapet. But the sailors, though not successful, had done a good work. They had largely engrossed the attention and efforts of the besieged; thus enabling Curtis's brigade, leading Terry's column of assault, followed by Pennypacker's, and they by Bell's— having already gained, with moderate loss, partial shelter but 475 yards from the fort—to spring forward, under a heavy enfilading fire, over marshy and difficult ground, to and through the palisades, and so to effect a lodgment on the parapet; when Pennypacker, advancing to Curtis's support, overlapped his right, drove the enemy from the heavy palisading that extended from the west end of the land face to the river, taking Some prisoners; and now the two brigades, uniting, drove the enemy, by desperate fighting, from about one-quarter of the land-face. Gen. Ames, commanding the assaulting division, now brought up Bell's brigade, and placed it between the fort and the river, where the hollows whence sand had been dug for the parapet, the ruins of barracks and store-houses, and the large magazine, formed, with the huge traverses of the land-face, a series of rude breastworks, behind which successively the enemy rallied, and over which the combatants fired into each others’ faces. Nine of these traverses were successively carried by our men; while Terry strengthened the assailants by sending down Abbott's brigade from the north, where their place was taken by the discomfited sailors and marines, with the 27th U. S. colored, Brig.-Gen. A. M. Blackman; who entered the fort and reported to Ames at 6 P. M. Still, the defense was obstinately maintained; the fleet now shifting its fire from that portion of the fort not yet gained by our troops to the beach, to prevent the possibility of succor from the Rebel garrison of Battery Buchanan; until, at 9 P. M., two more traverses having been carried, the Rebels were fairly driven by Abbott's men out of their last foothold in the fort, fleeing down the Point to Battery Buchanan; but it was idle to hope to make a successful stand here against their eager pur
* Jan. 14.
* Jan. 15.
suers; and Maj.-Gen. Whiting (mor. tally wounded), Col. Lamb, and their followers, had no choice but to surrender. Terry took 2,083 prisoners; while his material trophies were 169 guns, most of them heavy, over 2,000 small arms, and considerable ammunition, provisions, &c. Before morning, Fort Caswell, across the river, with the extensive works at Smithville and Reeve's point, were abandoned and blown up by the enemy: so that the triumph was complete, Our loss in this desperate assault was 110 killed, 536 wounded; but among these were Col. Bell, mortally, and Gen. N. M. Curtis and Col. G. A. Pennypacker, severely wounded, while leading their brigades in the assault. Gen. Hoke, with a considerable Rebel force, had watched the landing of our troops at a respectful distance inland; but did not venture to annoy them, though expected, and finally ordered, by his superior, Bragg, to do so. The prompt extension of our lines across the peninsula precluded the possibility of success after the first night; so that, when Bragg reiterated his order more peremptorily, he was requested by Hoke to reconnoiter for himself, and did so; when his order was withdrawn. They now resolved to rêenforce the fort; but the rapidity of Terry's and Porter's operations left them no opportunity to do so. It only remained to the two Rebel commanders to look quietly on and see Fort Fisher taken. They were not long compelled to endure their necessarily painful anxiety. Next morning" after the capture, while the fort swarmed with our cur rious, exulting soldiers and sailors,
* Jan. 16.