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[232] with most of the troops in Eastern North Carolina, was communicated to General Grant at the close of November, and he considered it important to strike the blow at Fort Fisher in the absence of that general. Grant had held a consultation with Admiral Porter in Hampton Roads, and it was agreed that the lieutenant general should provide 6,500 troops from the Army of the James, then under the command of General Benjamin F. Butler, to co-operate with the fleet. The immediate command of the troops was given to General Weitzel. Orders were issued for the soldiers and transports to be put in readiness at Bermuda Hundred (at the junction of the Appomattox and James rivers), to move as speedily as possible; and in the instructions given to General Butler (who accompanied the expedition), on the 6th of December, it was stated that the first object of the effort was to close the port of Wilmington, and the second was the capture of that city. He was instructed to debark the troops between the Cape Fear river and the sea, north of the north entrance (or New Inlet) to the river. Should the landing be effected while the Confederates still held Fort Fisher and the batteries guarding the entrance to the river, the troops were to intrench themselves, and, by co-operating with the navy, effect the reduction and capture of these places, when the navy could enter the river, and the port of Wilmington would be sealed. General Butler was further instructed that, “Should the troops under General Weitzel fail to effect a landing at or near Fort Fisher, they will be returned to the armies operating against Richmond, without delay.”

A part of the plan of the operations against Fort Fisher was the explosion of a floating mine, containing between two and three hundred tons of gunpowder, so near the works that they might be destroyed, or the garrison be so paralyzed by the shock as to make the conquest an easy task. General Butler had proposed this expedient, having read of the destructive effects, at a considerable distance, of the explosion of a large quantity of gunpowder in England. He made the suggestion to the government, just as he was about to depart for the city of New York to preserve order during the Presidential election. It was submitted to experts. Among these was the late Richard Delafield, then Chief Engineer of the Army, who made an elaborate report, in which he showed that experience had taught the impossibility of very serious injury being done, in a lateral direction, by the explosion of unconfined gunpowder. He fortified his opinion by diagrams, showing the form of Fort Fisher and the other defenses, and concluded that the experiment would certainly result in failure. Captain Henry A. Wise, Chief of the

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