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[430] his officers and men are we indebted that our men, stores, tools, and ammunition were safely and expeditiously landed, and that our wounded and prisoners were embarked for transportation to the North; to the great accuracy and power of their fire it is owing that we had not to confront a formidable artillery in the assault; and that we were able, with but little loss to push forward the men, preparatory to it, to a point nearly as favorable for it as the one they would have occupied had siege operations been undertaken and the work systematically approached. The assault of the sailors and marines, although it failed, undoubtedly contributed somewhat to our success, and certainly nothing could surpass the perfect skill with which the fleet was handled by its commander. Every request which I made to Admiral Porter was most cheerfully complied with, and the utmost harmony has existed between us from the outset to the present time.

I forward herewith General Ames' report.

I have the honor to be, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General Comstock's report.

headquarters United States forces, Fort Fisher, North Carolina, January 27, 1865.
sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of engineer operations in connection with the capture of Fort Fisher, together with a sketch of that work and another of the country in the vicinity. Fort Fisher is situated on the peninsula between the Cape Fear river and the Atlantic ocean, about a mile and a half north-east of Federal Point. For five miles north of Federal Point this peninsula is sandy and low, not rising more than fifteen feet above high tide, the interior abounding in fresh-water swamps, often wooded and almost impassable, while much of the dry land, till one gets within half a mile of Fort Fisher, is covered with wood or low undergrowth, except a strip about three hundred yards wide along the sea-shore. The landing of the troops composing the expedition was effected on the sea-beach about five miles north of Fort Fisher, on January twelve, and Paine's division was at once pushed across to Cape Fear river, with instructions to take up a line to be held against any attack from the direction of Wilmington. This line, on the morning of January thirteen, was already defensible, and was further strengthened during the day, while on the fourteenth a second line was laid out and begun under charge of Lieutenant J. H. Price, in rear of its left. Pioneer companies were organized in Ames' and Paine's divisions, and, as during the fourteenth the fire of the rebel gunboat Chickamauga killed and wounded a number of our men, Lieutenant O'Keeffe, with his company of the Fifteenth regiment New York volunteer engineers, was directed to build a battery for two thirty-pounder Parrotts on the bank of the river, to keep her off.

On the afternoon of January fourteenth a reconnoissance was pushed under the direction of the Major-General commanding to within five hundred yards of Fort Fisher, a small advanced work being taken possession of. This was at once turned into a defensive line, to be held against any attempt from Fort Fisher. The reconnoissance showed that the palisading in front of the work had been seriously injured by the navy fire; only nine guns could be seen on the land-front where sixteen had been counted on Christmas day; the steady, though not rapid fire of the navy prevented the enemy from using either artillery or musketry on the reconnoitring party; it seemed probable that troops could be got within two hundred yards of the work without serious loss, and it was a matter of great doubt whether the necessary ammunition could be supplied by the open beach, if regular approaches were determined on. It was decided to assault, and the assault was made on the fifteenth, at three and a half P. M., after three hours of heavy navy fire, by three deployed brigades, following one another at intervals of about three hundred yards, and each making its final rush for the west end of the land-face, from a rough rifle-pit about three hundred yards from the work.

At the point attacked the palisading was less injured than elsewhere, it being partially hidden, and it was necessary to use axes to cut and timbers to batter it down, in order that the troops might pass rapidly through it. Powder-sacks, for blowing these palisades down had been prepared, but were not used.

After seven hours fighting, gaining traverse by traverse, the work was won.

Fort Fisher consists of two fronts — the first, or land-front, running across the peninsula at this point, seven hundred yards wide, is four hundred and eighty yards in length, while the second or sea-front runs from the right of the first parallel to the beach to the mound battery, a distance of thirteen hundred yards. The land-front is intended to resist any attack from the north, the sea-front to prevent any of our naval vessels from running through New Inlet or landing troops on Federal Point.

1. Land-Front.--This front consists of a half bastion on the left or Cape Fear river side, connected by a curtain with a bastion on the ocean side. The parapet is twenty-five feet thick, averages twenty feet in height, with traverses rising ten feet above it, and running back on their tops, which were from eight to twelve feet in thickness, to a distance of from thirty to forty feet from the interior crest. The traverses on the left half bastion were about twenty-five feet in length on top.

The earth for this heavy parapet and the enormous traverses at their inner ends, more than thirty feet in height, was obtained partly from a shallow exterior ditch, but mainly from the interior of the work. Between each pair of

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Charles J. Paine (2)
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