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Doc. 8. the Hatteras expedition.

Report of Gen. Butler.

U. S. Flag ship Minnesota, August 30, 1861.
Major-General John, E. Wool, Commanding Department of Virginia:
General: Agreeably to your orders, I embarked on the transport steamers Adelaide and George Peabody, five hundred of the Twentieth regiment New York Volunteers, Col. Weber commanding; two hundred and twenty of the Ninth regiment New York Volunteers, Col. Hawkins commanding; one hundred of the Union Coast Guard, Capt. Nixon commanding; sixty of the Second United States Artillery, Lieut. Larned commanding, as a force to operate in conjunction with the fleet, under command of Flag Officer Stringham, against the rebel forts at Hatteras Inlet.

We left Fortress Monroe on Monday, at one o'clock P. M. The last ship of our fleet arrived off Hatteras Inlet about four o'clock Tuesday afternoon. Such preparations as were possible for the landing were made in the evening, and at daylight next morning dispositions were made for an attack upon the forts by the fleet, and for the landing of the troops.

Owing to the previous prevalence of southwest gales, a heavy surf was breaking on the beach. Every effort was made to land the troops, and after about three hundred and fifteen were landed, including fifty-five marines from the fleet and the regulars, both the iron boats upon which we depended were swamped in the surf, and both flat-boats stove, and a brave attempt made by Lieut. Crosby, of the U. S. Army, (serving with the army as post-captain at Fortress Monroe,) who had volunteered to come down with the steam-tug Fanny, belonging to the army, to land in a boat from the war steamer Pawnee, resulted in the beaching of the boat, so that she could not be got off. It was impracticable to land more troops because of the rising wind and sea. Fortunately, a twelve-pound rifled boat gun, loaned us by the flag-ship, and a twelve-pound howitzer were landed, the last slightly damaged. Our landing was completely covered by the shells of the Monticello and the Harriet Lane. I was on board the Harriet Lane, directing the disembarkation of the troops, by means of signals, [6] and was about landing with them at the time the boats were stove.

We were induced to desist from further attempts at landing troops by the rising of the wind, and because, in the mean time, the fleet had opened fire upon the nearest fort, which was finally silenced, and its flag struck. No firing had opened upon our troops from the other fort, and its flag was also struck. Supposing this to be a signal of surrender, Col. Weber advanced his troops, already landed, upon the beach. The Harriet Lane, Capt. Faunce, by my direction, tried to cross the bar to get in the smooth water of the inlet, when fire was opened upon the Monticello (which had proceeded in advance of us) from the other fort. Several shots struck her, but without causing any casualties, as I am informed. So well convinced were the officers of both army and navy that the forts had surrendered at this time, that the Susquehanna had towed the frigate Cumberland to an offing. The fire was then reopened — as there was no signal from either — upon both forts. In the mean time, a few men from the Coast Guard had advanced up the beach, with Mr. Wiegel, (who was acting as volunteer aid, and whose gallantry and services I wish to commend,) and took possession of the smaller fort, which was found to have been abandoned by the enemy, and raised the American flag thereon. It had become necessary, owing to the threatening appearance of the weather, that all the ships should make an offing, which was done with reluctance, from necessity, thus leaving the troops upon shore — a part in possession of the small fort, (about seven hundred yards from the larger one,) and the rest bivouacked upon the beach, near the place of landing, about two miles north of the forts. Early the next morning the Harriet Lane ran in shore for the purpose of covering any attack upon the troops. At the same time a large steamer was observed coming down the Sound, inside the land, with reinforcements for the enemy, but she was prevented from landing by Capt. Johnson, of the “Coast Guard,” who had placed the two guns from the ship and a six-pounder captured from the enemy in a small sand battery, and opened fire upon the rebel steamer.

At eight o'clock the fleet opened fire again, the flag ship being anchored as near as the water allowed, and the other ships coming gallantly into action. It was evident, after a few experiments, that our shot fell short. An increased length of fuse was telegraphed, and firing commenced with shells of fifteen seconds fuse. I had sent Mr. Fiske, acting aide-de-camp, on shore, for the purpose of gaining intelligence of the movements of the troops and of the enemy. I then went with the “Fanny,” for the purpose of effecting a landing of the remainder of the troops, when a white flag was run up from the fort. I then went with the “Fanny” over the bar into the inlet. At the same time the troops, under Colonel Weber, marched up the beach, and signal was made from the flag ship to cease firing. As the “Fanny” rounded in over the bar, the rebel steamer “Winslow” went up the channel, having a large number of secession troops on board, which she had not landed. We threw a shot at her from the “Fanny,” but she proved to be out of range. I then sent Lieut. Crosby on shore to demand the meaning of the white flag. The boat soon returned, bringing Mr. Weigel, with the following written communication from Samuel Barron, late captain in the United States Navy:


Fort Hatteras, August 29, 1861.
Flag officer Samuel Barron, C. S. Navy, offers to surrender Fort Hatteras, with all the arms and munitions of war. The officers allowed to go out with side arms, and the men without arms to retire.

S. Barron, Commanding Naval Defence, Va. and N. Carolina.

And also a verbal communication stating that he had in the fort six hundred and fifteen men, and a thousand more within an hour's call, but that he was anxious to spare the effusion of blood. To both the written and verbal communications I made the reply which follows, and sent it by Lieut. Crosby:


Benjamin F. Butler, Major-General United States Army, commanding, in reply to the communication of Samuel Barron, commanding forces at Fort Hatteras, cannot admit the terms proposed. The terms offered are these: Full capitulation, the officers and men to be treated as prisoners of war. No other terms admissible.

Commanding officers to meet on board flagship Minnesota, to arrange details.

August 9, 1861.

After waiting three-quarters of an hour Lieut. Crosby returned, bringing with him Capt. Barron, Major Andrews, and Col. Martin, of the rebel forces, who, on being received on board the tug Fanny, informed me that they had accepted the terms proposed in my memorandum, and had come to surrender themselves and their command as prisoners of war. I informed them that, as the expedition was a combined one from the army and navy, the surrender must be made on board the flag-ship to Flag-officer Stringham, as well as to myself. We went on board the Minnesota for that purpose. On arriving there the following articles of capitulation were signed, which I hope will meet your approval. [See Com. Stringham's Report.]

I then landed, and took a formal surrender of the forts, with all the men and munitions of war, inspected the troops, to see that the arms had been properly surrendered, marched them out, and embarked them on board the Adelaide, and marched my own troops into the fort, and raised our flag upon it, amid the cheers of our men and a salute of thirteen guns, which had been shotted by the enemy. The embarkation [7] of the wounded, which was conducted with great care and tenderness from a temporary wharf, erected for the purpose, took so long that night came on, and so dark that it was impossible for the pilots to take the Adelaide over the bar, thereby causing delay. I may mention in this connection that the Adelaide, in carrying in the troops, at the moment that my terms of capitulation were under consideration by the enemy, had grounded upon the bar, but by the active and judicious exertions of Commander Stellwagen, after some delay was got off. At the same time, the Harriet Lane, in attempting to enter the bar, had grounded, and remained fast; both were under the guns of the fort. This, to me, was a moment of the greatest anxiety. By these accidents, a valuable ship of war and a transport steamer, with a large portion of my troops, were within the power of the enemy. I had demanded the strongest terms, which he was considering. He might refuse, and seeing our disadvantage, renew the action. But I determined to abate not a tittle of what I believed to be due to the dignity of the Government; not even to give an official title to the officer in command of the rebels. Besides, my tug was in the inlet, and at least I could carry on the engagement with my two rifled six-pounders, well supplied with Sawyer's shell.

Upon taking possession of Fort Hatteras, I found that it mounted ten guns, with four yet unmounted and one large ten-inch columbiad, all ready for mounting. I append the official muster roll of Col. Martin, furnished by him, of the officers and men captured by us.

The position of the fort is an exceedingly strong one, nearly surrounded on all sides by water, and only to be approached by a marsh of five hundred yards circuitously over a long neck of sand, within half musket range, and over a causeway a few feet only in width, and which was commanded by two thirty-two pound guns, loaded with grape and canister, which were expended in our salute. It had a well-protected magazine and bomb-proof, capable of sheltering some three or four hundred men. The parapet was nearly of octagon form, enclosing about two-thirds of an acre of ground, well covered, with sufficient traverses, and ramparts, and parapets, upon which our shells had made but little impression.

The larger work, nearest this inlet, was known as Fort Hatteras. Fort Clark, which was about seven hundred yards northerly, is a square redoubt, mounting five guns and two six-pounders. The enemy had spiked these guns, but in a very inefficient manner, upon abandoning the fort the day before. I had all the troops on shore at the time of the surrender of the forts, but re-embarked the regulars and marines. Finding it impossible, without a delay of the fleet which could not be justified under the state of facts at Fortress Monroe, and owing to the threatening appearance of the weather, I disembarked the provisions, making, with the provisions captured, about five days rations for the use of the troops.

On consultation with Flag-officer Stringham and Commander Stellwagen, I determined to leave the troops and hold the fort, because of the strength of the fortifications and its importance, and because, if again in the possession of the enemy, with a sufficient armament, the very great difficulty of its capture, until I could get some further instructions from the Government. Commodore Stringham directed the steamers Monticello and Pawnee to remain inside, and these, with the men in the forts, are sufficient to hold the position against any force which is likely, or indeed possible, to be sent against it. The importance of the point cannot be overrated. When the channel is buoyed out, any vessel may carry fifteen feet water over it with ease. Once inside, there is a safe harbor and anchorage in all weathers. From there the whole coast of Virginia and North Carolina, from Norfolk to Cape Lookout, is within our reach, by light draft vessels, which cannot possibly live at sea during the winter months. From it offensive operations may be made upon the whole coast of

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