Those of the latter were colored troops.
They arrived at Hampton Roads
in transports from Bermuda Hundred
, on the morning of the 9th of December, when General Butler
notified the Admiral
that his troops were in readiness, and his transports were coaled and watered for only ten days. The Admiral
said he would not leave before the 13th, and must go into Beaufort harbor, on the North Carolina
coast, to obtain ammunition for his “monitors.”
The 13th being the day fixed for the departure of the fleet, at three o'clock in the morning of that day General Butler
sent all the transports but his own ship up the Potomac
some distance, where they remained all day. This was to mislead the Confederates
, and divert their attention from his real designs.
At night they returned and anchored under the lee of Cape Charles
On the following morning the Ben Deford
left her moorings at Hampton
, joined the fleet of transports, and all went out to sea. As we moved from the wharf a solitary cannon at Fortress Monroe
fired a parting salute, and ladies on the ramparts, standing near the great Rodman
gun that dwarfed them into dolls, waved an adieu with fluttering white handkerchiefs.
The Ben Deford
bore Generals Butler
, and their respective staff officers, and Colonel Comstock
of General Grant
's staff, as his representative.
The atmosphere was cloudless and serene; and all the afternoon the white beach and a continuous fringe of an almost unbroken pine forest along the North Carolina
coast was visible.
The transports dotted the sea at wide intervals; and when, at past midnight, we passed “Stormy Cape Hatteras
,” in the light of the waning moon, the heaving bosom of the ocean was as unruffled as a lake on a calm summer's day. On the evening of the 15th, we reached the appointed rendezvous, twenty-five miles at sea east of Fort Fisher
, and out of reach of discovery by the Confederates
on the shore.
The rest of the transports soon gathered around us, and constituted a social community in the watery waste.
There we waited three days for the arrival of the vessels of war, which had gone to sea the day before the departure of the transport-ships.
The weather was delightful.
There was a dreamy repose in the air like that of the delicious Indian summer, and the mercury rose to seventy-five degrees in the shade on the deck of the Ben Deford
This continued until the 18th.
Meanwhile, all eyes had been turned anxiously northward to catch a glimpse of the expected war fleet, but disappointment came with each morning and evening.
Never was the sea more favorable for landing troops on the beach, and executing the details of the expedition, than during those