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[310] that night. Butler at the same time dispatched an officer to notify Porter that on the 24th he would be at the rendezvous, ready to begin the attack; but their messengers apparently crossed each other, and Porter proceeded with his preparations.

At half-past 10 on the night of the 23rd, the powder vessel started in towards the bar. She was towed by the gunboat Wilderness, until the embrasures of Fort Fisher could be distinctly seen. The Wilderness then cast off, and the Louisiana proceeded, under steam, to a point within three hundred yards of the beach and about five hundred from the fort. Commander Rhind, the officer in charge, was better able to accomplish his task, as a blockade-runner had gone in before him, and the forts made signals both to the blockade-runner and the Louisiana. The night was perfectly clear, and it was therefore necessary to anchor the Louisiana. The fires were hauled as well as possible, the fuses lighted, and the hulk of the vessel set on fire. Then, taking to their boats, the gallant party made their escape to the Wilderness, lying close at hand. That vessel at once put off, to avoid the effects of the explosion.

At fifty-five minutes past one on the morning of the 24th, the explosion took place. The shock was not severe, and was scarcely felt on the Wilderness, while to the watchers in the fleet about twelve miles off the report seemed no louder than the discharge of a piece of light artillery. It was heard at Wilmington, however, and the commander at that point telegraphed to Fort Fisher to inquire the cause. The reply was: ‘Enemy's gunboat blown up.’ No damage of any description was done to the rebel works or forces, and the experiment was an absolute failure.

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