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‘ [308] a pity we were not ten or twelve days earlier. I am confident it would have been successful.’ Half an hour later Butler replied: ‘Porter started yesterday. Transport fleet are at Cape Henry. I am just starting.’ On the 13th and 14th of December, the greatest armada ever assembled in American waters sailed.

On the 15th, Butler arrived off New Inlet, but Porter's fleet ran into Beaufort harbor, seventy miles further north, to take in ammunition, for the ironclads were unable to carry heavy supplies, and obliged to load as near as possible to the point of attack. At Beaufort there was another delay in the preparation of the powder boat, which was now altogether in the hands of the navy.

This vessel, the Louisiana, was a gunboat of two hundred and ninety-five tons burden, disguised as a blockade-runner, with a false and real smoke-pipe. The hold was filled with open barrels of gunpowder, standing on end, over which were placed layers of bags, each containing sixty pounds of powder. Altogether, two hundred and fifty tons of gunpowder were aboard. Fuses were wound through this mass in every direction, clock-work was arranged to ignite the fuses, and when all was ready the vessel was to be run ashore and the fuses fired. The result, it was hoped, would be to blow up Fort Fisher, and perhaps the town of Wilmington itself.

On the 18th, Porter came out of Beaufort harbor, and was ready to perform his part in the operations, but the troops had now been ten days aboard the transports, and Butler, in his turn, was obliged to send his vessels into Beaufort for coal and water. At the same time another gale arose, during which

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