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[225] had become so efficient that Wilmington was the only entrance left by sea for any considerable amount of supplies. Strenuous efforts had of course been made to seal this harbor, but hitherto with only partial success. The nature of the outlet of Cape Fear river is such that without possession of the land at a point near the mouth, it is impossible to entirely close the port. To secure the possession of this point required the co-operation of a military force; and during the summer of 1864, Grant agreed to furnish a sufficient number of troops for the purpose.

A formidable fleet was accordingly assembled, the command of which was entrusted to Admiral Porter, with whom Grant had served with complete co-operation and success in his Mississippi campaigns. It was originally intended that the expedition should set out in October; but through the imprudence of officers both of the army and the navy, and afterwards of the public press, the exact object of the enterprise became known; and the enemy thus warned, prepared to resist it. This caused a postponement of the expedition; but towards the end of November, the project was revived; and six thousand five hundred men were promised from the army of the James. Grant selected Major-General Weitzel to command the force, and sent him down the coast, to reconnoitre the ground, and procure all the information possible in regard to the character and strength of the forts at the mouth of Cape Fear river. Butler of course was fully informed of the enterprise committed to his subordinate, and had frequent conferences with Grant on the subject.

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