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[319] roads between the 9th and the 13th of December, or from Beaufort between the 18th and the 23rd. The delay of the fleet on the 16th and 17th was also sufficiently explained. It was not considered safe to take the entire load of powder aboard the Louisiana at Norfolk; the vessel was deep, and the powder might have been wet on the passage; but, as soon as the additional fifty-five tons were put aboard, the admiral joined the transport fleet off Wilmington.

The various preparations for the powder boat had occasioned weeks of delay, but this was unavoidable, if the experiment was to be made at all; and the attempt had the sanction, not only of the naval authorities and the War Department, but of the President himself.1 It was indeed a fanciful experiment, more likely to commend itself to an unprofessional mind than to a practical soldier; but, having been allowed, no one engaged in the arrangements necessary for complete success could be censured because those arrangements were complicated and elaborate, and subject to vexatious interruptions. In a military history of Grant, however, it should be remembered that he never believed in the success of the plan, and frequently said and wrote so in advance.

But, whatever the delay, and whatever its cause, these made no difference in the result. The troops and the fleet were at the rendezvous, the work was silenced and the landing effected, before any reinforcements reached the fort. On the morning of the 25th, only sixteen hundred men had arrived at Wilmington. This day General Lee telegraphed to Seddon:

1 Lincoln said: ‘We might as well explode the notion with powder as with anything else.’

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