Warned that the explosion would take place in the “small hours” of the morning, we watched on deck until far past midnight, and were disappointed.
The vessels had moved, in the darkness, to a point about twelve miles from Fort Fisher
Ignorant of what might be the effect of the explosion in the air at that distance, the engineers of the vessels caused the steam to be much lowered, to avoid a possible explosion of the boilers, in case of a sudden relief from atmospheric pressure.
But the grand spectacle was not exhibited.
It was evident that the water was too rough for troops to land, and the attack was postponed.
The wind increased in violence the next day, and toward evening assumed the aspects of a gale.
The low-decked “monitors” were frequently submerged, only their revolving turrets being visible.
The transports had been coaled and watered, as we have observed, for only ten days, and that time had now been consumed in waiting for warriors and voyaging; and, by the advice of Admiral Porter
, the unarmed fleet went to Beaufort
, seventy miles up the coast, for a new supply.
We were before the furious gale all night, and, with difficulty, threaded .the sinuous channel into Beaufort harbor the next morning, just in time to escape the severest portion of the tempest, the heaviest, our pilot told us, that had been experienced on that coast in thirty years. There we remained until Saturday, the 24th.
On Friday, when the ships were replenished, and the storm had passed by, General Butler
sent one of his aides (Captain Clark
), in an armed tug, to inform Porter
that the transports, with the troops, would be at the rendezvous, off Fort Fisher
, at six o'clock in the evening the next day. Clark
returned at sunrise on Saturday, and reported that Porter
had determined to explode the powder-ship at one o'clock that morning, and begin the attack without waiting for the troops.
could not believe the report to be correct, because the presence of the troops to co-operate in the attack would be essential to the success of the costly experiment of the powder-ship.
We departed for the rendezvous on Saturday morning. Between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, when we were off Masonboroa Inlet, and while standing on the bow of the Ben Deford
with General Weitzel
, I called his attention to small white flacculent clouds that appeared and disappeared at irregular intervals near the southern horizon.
is at work,” he said.
“The “clouds” are the smoke of exploding bombshells.”
Very soon we met an ammunition-box; then a dozen, and then an acre of them, floating in the sea. The testimony of these mute witnesses of a combat was soon confirmed by the sullen roar of artillery that fell upon the ear. We arrived