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[240] forces for this purpose, General Grant having signified his belief that the army could be ready by the 1st of October of that year. Admiral Farragut's health not permitting his assumption of this duty, it was assigned to Admiral Porter.

For the first attempt at the destruction of Fort Fisher there was used the most gigantic torpedo ever employed in warfare. This consisted of an old gunboat, the Louisiana, changed to resemble a blockade-runner and filled with powder. Much doubt as to the value of the experiment was entertained by experienced officers, but it was believed to be worth a trial. On the evening of December 23, 1864, she was towed in almost to the beach, the rest of the fleet keeping well off the coast. Arriving near the beach, she was cast off, and, under her own steam, ran up on the sand three hundred yards from the Fort about 11:30 P. M. The slow fuse was lit, the crew deserted her, and at 1:40 A. M. she blew up. The explosion had not the slightest effect on the works. It was a complete failure.

About 12:40 P. M. that day (the 24th) the largest fleet ever assembled under the flag of the United States up to that time, began the naval bombardment. Admiral Porter had under his command fifty-seven vessels, with a total of six hundred and twenty-seven guns.

The garrison had only a limited amount of ammunition, and its commander, Colonel Lamb, gave orders that each gun should be fired only once every half-hour, except by special instructions, and unless the Federals should attempt to run past the works, in which case each gun-commander was to use his piece to its full capacity. This slow fire caused the admiral to believe that the works had been silenced, and he signaled to keep up only a moderate fire to hold down the activities of the garrison and as a notification to General Butler that he could bring in the transports with the troops.

The landing and attack took place on Christmas Day. The fire from the ships was slow and methodical, as at target practice. Great holes were dug in the parapets by the gigantic

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