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In the meantime, as we have seen, Sherman had proceeded so far into Georgia that the rebels, in order to raise a force against him, had nearly abandoned Wilmington, as well as Fort Fisher, at the mouth of the Cape Fear river. On the 30th of November, Grant notified Butler that Bragg, who had been in command at Wilmington, had set out for Georgia, taking with him most of the forces in North Carolina. ‘It is therefore important,’ he said, ‘that Weitzel should get off during his absence; and if successful in making a landing, he may, by a bold dash, succeed in capturing Wilmington. Make all the arrangements for his departure, so that the navy will not be detained one moment by the army.’ In conjunction with Weitzel's movement, Butler had been ordered to send a force of from three thousand to four thousand men, under General Palmer, to cut the Weldon railroad south of the Roanoke river, and Grant now asked: ‘Did you order Palmer to make the proposed move yesterday? It is important he should do so without delay.’ In answer to this, Butler visited Grant in person at City Point, and received further instructions for Weitzel to move as soon as the fleet was ready. The same day Grant said to Admiral Porter: ‘Southern papers show that Bragg, with a large part of his force, has gone to Georgia. If we can get off during his absence, we will stand a fair chance, not only to carry Fort Fisher, but to take Wilmington. The troops will be ready to start the moment you are ready.’

In connection with this expedition, an experiment had been suggested by Butler, from which that commander hoped important results. His idea was

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