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[427] Porter proposed to start, but at high water there was still so much surf on the bar that the iron-clads and other vessels of heavy draught could not be gotten over it; our departure was therefore delayed till the next day.

On the morning tide of the twelfth the vessels in the harbor passed out, and the whole fleet of naval vessels and transports got under way for this place. As we were leaving, the vessels containing General Abbott's command came in sight; orders were sent to them to follow us.

We did not arrive off Federal Point until nearly night-fall; consequently, and in accordance with the decision of the Admiral, the disembarkation of the troops was not commenced until the next morning. Our subsequent experience fully justified the delay; it would have been extremely difficult to land the men at night.

At four o'clock A. M. of the thirteenth, the inshore division of naval vessels stood in close to the beach to cover the landing. The transports followed them, and took positions as nearly as possible in a line parallel to and about two hundred yards outside of them. The iron-clads moved down to within range of the fort and opened fire upon it. Another division was placed to the northward of the landing-place, so as to protect our men from any attack from the direction of Masonboro Inlet. At eight o'clock nearly two hundred boats, beside steamtugs, were sent from the navy to the transports, and the disembarkation of men, provisions, tools, and ammunition simultaneously commenced.

At three o'clock P. M. nearly eight thousand men, with three days rations in their haversacks, and forty rounds of ammunition in their boxes, six days supply of hard bread in bulk, three hundred thousand additional rounds of small-arm ammunition, and a sufficient number of intrenching tools, had been safely landed. The surf on the beach was still quite high, notwithstanding that the weather, had become very pleasant; and owing to it some of the men had their rations and ammunition ruined by water; with this exception, no accident of any kind occurred.

As soon as the troops had commenced landing pickets were thrown. out; they immediately encountered outposts of the enemy, and shots were exchanged with them, but no serious engagement occurred. A few prisoners were taken, from whom I learned that Hoke's rebel division, which it was supposed had been sent further south, was still here, and that it was his outposts which we were meeting.

The first object which I had in view after landing was to throw a strong defensive line across the peninsula from the Cape Fear river to the sea, facing Wilmington, so as to protect our rear from attack while we should be engaged in operating against Fisher. Our maps indicated that a good position for such a line would be found a short distance above the head of Myrtle Sound, which is a long, shallow piece of water separated from the ocean by a sand-spit of about one hundred yards in width, and communicates with it by Masonboro Inlet.

It was supposed that the right flank of a line at that point would be protected by the sound, and, being above its head, that we should by it control the beach as far up as the inlet, and thus, in case of need, be able to land supplies in quiet water there. Our landing place was selected with reference to this idea. An examination made after we landed showed that the sound for a long distance above its head was so shallow as to offer no obstacle to the passage of troops at low tide, and as the further down the peninsula we should go the shorter would be our line across it, it was determined to take up a position where the maps showed a large pond occupying nearly one third of the width of the peninsula at about three miles from the fort. Shortly before five o'clock, leaving Abbott's brigade to cover our stores, the troops were put in motion for the last-named point. On arriving at it, the “pond” was found to be a sand-flat, sometimes covered with water, giving no assistance to the defence of a line established behind it. Nevertheless, it was determined to get a line across at this place, and Paine's division, followed by two of Ames' brigades, made their way through. The night was very dark, much of the ground was a marsh, and illy adapted to the construction of works, and the distance was found to be too great to be properly defended by the troops which could be spared from the direct attack upon the fort. It was not until nine o'clock P. M. that Paine succeed in reaching the river.

The ground still nearer the fort was then reconnoitred and found to be much better adapted to our purposes; accordingly, the troops were withdrawn from their last position, and established on a line about two miles from the work. They reached this final position at two o'clock A. M. of the fourteenth instant. Tools were immediately brought up and intrenchments were commenced. At eight o'clock a good breastwork, reaching from the river to the sea, and partially covered by abattis, had been constructed and was in a defensible condition. It was much improved afterward, but from this time our foothold on the peninsula was secured.

Early in the morning of the fourteenth, the landing of the artillery was commenced, and by sunset all the light guns were gotten on shore. During the following night they were placed on the line, most of them near the river, where the enemy, in case he should attack us, would be least exposed to the fire of the gunboats.

Curtis' brigade of Ames' division was moved down toward Fisher during the morning, and at noon his skirmishers, after capturing on their way a small steamer which had come down the river with shells and forage for the garrison of the fort, reached a small unfinished outwork in front of the west end of the land-front of the work.

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Charles J. Paine (2)
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