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[324] most unfortunate. The admiral was a man not only of brilliant talent, but of extraordinary nerve and force of character, and, though extravagant and inconsiderate in language, written as well as spoken, he understood his profession thoroughly; he was aggressive in his nature, and always favored an attack. He doubtless, in this instance, overrated the results accomplished by the fleet, but that very circumstance would have made his counsels more audacious; and audacity is sometimes a very desirable quality in a commander. If, instead of writing or sending to Porter, and announcing his withdrawal, Butler, who was the senior in rank, had waived his prerogative, and sought and obtained a personal interview, it is possible that he might have been convinced by the arguments, or incited by the spirit of the sailor into remaining ashore. As it was, he sailed off, leaving Porter to pick up the troops he left behind, and, in his dread of encountering disaster, he incurred, what to a soldier is infinitely worse —the imputation of unnecessary failure.

Grant, of course, was greatly disappointed at the miserable result of an expedition from which so much had been expected, but his chagrin was increased when Curtis and several of his officers reported that the troops had nearly reached the parapet before they were recalled, and that Fort Fisher could have been carried without severe loss. Butler, however, had said nothing about the intention of Porter to prepare for another assault, and Grant at first supposed that, when the military force was withdrawn, the admiral also had abandoned the enterprise. But, on the 29th of December, the Secretary of the Navy received a letter from Porter,

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