Already it cast the ominous shadow of Sherman
's advance up the coast in the coming spring.
In this connection, there now began demonstrations against Wilmington
, which was the last port of the Confederacy
holding out opportunities to blockade runners.
These came in under the protection of Fort Fisher
at the mouth of the river 20 miles below the city.
The fort was a formidable one, mounting 44 guns, and had a garrison of 1400 men under Col. Lamb
A military and naval expedition set out against it on Dec. 13, 1864, under Gen. Butler
and Adm. Porter
in a fleet of 50 war vessels and 100 transports carrying 6500 infantry.
The fleet was the largest ever assembled under the Federal
flag, and it had been specially intended by Grant
that the infantry force should be commanded by Gen. Weitzel
It was never contemplated that Butler
should even accompany it. In the expressive language of modern slang he had not only ‘butted in,’ and had taken the command from Weitzel
, but had devised a new mode of attack upon Fort Fisher
This was to be a disguised blockade runner loaded with 215 tons of gunpowder to be run at night close to Fort Fisher
It was supposed that this would put the whole fort hors de combat
. Gen. Delafield
, chief engineer
, submitted to the War Department a report on destructive effects of explosions of gunpowder in open air, indicating their very limited range.
was notoriously a military charlatan, who had been forced upon Grant
as commander of the Army of the James by political considerations.
During all the summer campaign, he knew and felt his importance, and had been able even successfully to bully Grant
himself, who was already under sharp criticism for his terrible losses in battle, and for the rumors in the army of his intemperance.
Early in July, after some preliminary correspondence, indicating a doubt how Butler
would relish any interference with himself, Halleck
issued an order assigning the troops under him to the command of W. F. Smith
, and sending Butler
to Fortress Monroe
On receipt of this order, he said to his staff, who were near, ‘Gentlemen, this order will be revoked to-morrow.’
The next day, clad in full uniform, he called at Grant
's headquarters, where he found Mr. Dana
, Asst. Sec.
of War. Gen. James