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‘ [318] yet, and could keep any rebels inside from showing their heads, until an assaulting column was within twenty yards of the works. I wish some more of your gallant fellows had followed the officer who took the flag from the parapet, and the brave fellow who brought the horse from the fort. I think they would have found it an easier conquest than is supposed.’

Butler, nevertheless, remained unshaken in his determination, and, on the night of the 25th, he embarked all his troops except Curtis's command, when the surf became high, and he sailed away, leaving these ashore. ‘They were under cover of the gunboats,’ he said, ‘and I have no doubt they are all safely off.’1 On the 27th, he arrived at Fort Monroe, and on the 28th, had an interview with Grant, after which the general-in-chief telegraphed to the President: ‘The Wilmington expedition has proven a gross and culpable failure. Many of the troops are back here. Delays and free talk of the object of the expedition enabled the enemy to move troops to Wilmington to defeat it. After the expedition started from Fort Monroe, three days of fine weather were squandered, during which the enemy was without a force to protect himself. Who is to blame will, I hope, be known.’

This dispatch was written before Grant had heard from Porter, or from Butler's own subordinates. Subsequently, he was inclined to attribute the failure of the expedition to other causes. Neither military nor naval officers were answerable for the weather, and all the readiness imaginable would not have enabled the transports to sail from Hampton

1 Butler to Grant, December 27.

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