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[238] Preparations for the next day's serious work were completed at an early hour, and the young staff officers, who generally kept the deck merry with songs and jokes and conundrums until midnight, retired soberly at nine o'clock on that, to them, momentous Christmas eve.

The morning dawned brightly. It was the Christian Sabbath and the recurring birthday of the Prince of Peace. The fleet was not ready before ten o'clock, when the conflict was begun by light-draft gunboats shelling batteries on the shore, to clear the way for landing troops on the beach. Very soon the larger vessels began to hurl heavy missiles upon the. main works. For several hours the bombardment continued without intermission. At a little past noon the transports were moved within eight hundred yards of the beach. A few shells sent from the land batteries exploded near us, and one passed directly through one of the smaller gunboats. Finally, these batteries were silenced by broadsides from the “Brooklyn,” whose one hundred-pound guns were effective. Soon afterward the launches were prepared and filled with a part of Ames' Division (about one-third of all the troops present) and moved for the shore. General Curtis was the first to make the beach. We saw his tall, commanding figure bear forward the Stars and Stripes and plant them on a deserted battery. The act was greeted by loud cheers from the transports, and the bands struck up “Yankee Doodle.” It was then about three o'clock. The “Malvern” passed near the Ben Deford, and Admiral Porter, standing on the wheel-house, called out to General Butler, saying: “There is not a rebel within five miles of the fort. You have nothing to do but march in and take it.” This was another grave mistake, and led the Admiral to make most unkind reflections upon the military commander in his report two days afterward. At that moment, according to the testimony of General Whiting, there were two hundred and fifty more men in Fort Fisher than on the previous day, and behind its uninjured sand walls were nine hundred effective men, in good spirits, who, secure in their bomb-proofs, kept up a lazy response to the bombardment from the sea-front all day. The guns on the land-front were drawn back behind the traverses, and so excessively enfilading was the fire of the fleet, that not one of the nineteen cannons was seriously injured.

General Weitzel, the immediate commander of the National troops, accompanied by General Graham and Colonel Comstock, pushed a reconnoitering party to within five hundred yards of Fort Fisher, accepting the surrender, on the way, of the garrison of Flag Pond Hill Battery, consisting of sixty-two men, who were sent to

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