There exists, I think, much misapprehension in the public mind concerning the first attack on Fort Fisher
, at the mouth of the Cape Fear
by National land and naval forces, late in December, 1864.
I was an eye and ear witness of that event, and several months afterwards I visited the ruined for with a citizen of Wilmington
, who was familiar with the facts on the Confederate
, on the Cape Fear river
, almost thirty miles from the sea, was, for a long time, the chief goal of the British blockade-runners, which brought supplies for the Confederates
These were swift-moving steam-vessels, of medium size, with raking smoke-stacks, and painted a pale gray, or fog-color.
They were almost invisible, even in a slight mist on the ocean, and they continually eluded the vigilance and the power of the active and watchful blockading squadron on the coast of North Carolina
To protect these supply-ships, and to prevent National vessels from entering the Cape Fear river
, forts and batteries had been constructed by the Confederates
on the borders of the sea, at the mouth of that stream.
The chief of these defenses was Fort Fisher
, a formidable earthwork of an irregular quadrilateral trace, with exterior sides, of an average of about two hundred and fifty yards. Its northeastern angle, which was nearest the sea, approached high-water mark within one hundred yards. From that salient to the water was a strong stockade, or wooden palisade.
The land-face of the fort occupied the whole width of the cape, known as Federal Point
It mounted twenty-six guns, nineteen of which were in a position
to sweep the narrow, sandy cape, on which it stood.
These being exposed to an enfilading fire from ships on the sea, were heavily traversed with sand; the tops of the traverses rising full six feet above the general line of the interior crests, and affording bombproof shelters for the garrison.
At a distance, these traverses had the appearance of a series of mounds.
The slopes of the parapet were well secured by blocks of thick marsh-sods.
The quarters of the men were wooden shanties, just outside the works, and to the north of it. All along the land-front of the fort, and across the cape from the ocean to the river, was a stockade, and on the beach, along the sea-front, were the wrecks of several blockade-runners.
Many torpedoes were planted near each front of the fort.
Near the end of Federal Point
was an artificial hill of sand, about fifty feet in height, called Mound Battery.
On this two heavy columbiads were mounted.
Between Fort Fisher
and this lofty battery was a line of intrenchments, on which were mounted sixteen heavy guns.
These intrenchments ran parallel with the beach.
Back of these, and extending across to the Cape Fear river
, was a line of rifle-pits; and on the shore of the stream, across from Mound Battery, was another artificial sand-hill, thirty feet in height, with four cannon upon it, and named Battery Buchanan.
These constituted the defenses on Federal Point
, and commanded the entrance to the Cape Fear river
by New Inlet
About seven miles southwest from Fort Fisher
, at Smithville
, on the right of the old entrance to the Cape Fear
, was Fort Johnson
; and about a mile south of that was Fort Caswell
The latter and Fort Fisher
were the principal guardians of the port of Wilmington
At Baldhead Point, on Smith's Island
, was Battery Holmes.
These were the works which the government proposed to turn or assail after Farragut
had effectually closed the port of Mobile
, in August, 1864.
was then the only refuge for blockade-runners on the Atlantic
and Gulf coasts.
The National Government considered several plans for capturing and holding the city of Wilmington
. One, submitted by Frederic Kidder
, of Boston
, seemed most promising of success.
proposed to have a fleet of flat-bottomed steamers rendezvous at Beaufort
, fifty or sixty miles up the coast, on which should be placed about twelve thousand soldiers under a competent commander.
These were to be suddenly landed on the main at Masonboroa Inlet and marched directly upon Wilmington
At the same time a strong cavalry force should move rapidly from Newbern
, tear up the railway between Wilmington
and Goldsboroa, and, if possible, destroy the bridge over the Cape
Fear river, ten miles above the first-named town.
It was known that no formidable defenses near Wilmington
would oppose a force coming over from the sea. This plan was submitted by Mr. Kidder
, early in 1864, to General Burnside
, who was then recruiting men in New York and New England
to fill up his corps — the Ninth.
That energetic officer was so pleased and interested in the plan that he submitted it to the government, and received from the War Department full permission to carry it out. For that purpose he collected a large force at Annapolis
, and was almost ready to go forward in the execution of the plan, when the campaigns in Virginia
were arranged by General Grant
, and Burnside
and the Ninth Corps were called to the Army of the Potomac.
The expedition against Wilmington
was abandoned, and its capture was postponed for nearly a year.
In the summer of 1864, General Charles K. Graham
submitted a plan for the seizure of Wilmington
It was suggested by Kidder
It proposed to have a force of cavalry and infantry, a thousand strong, collectively, and a section of artillery, go out from Newbern
(then held by the National
forces) and strike the railway between Wilmington
and Goldsboroa with destructive energy, while two picked squadrons of cavalry and two thousand infantry, with a good battery, should land at Snead
's ferry, at the mouth of New river
, forty-one miles from Wilmington
This force should then march on that city, while another, composed of twenty-five hundred infantry, with ten pieces of artillery, should land at Masonboroa Inlet and push on toward Wilmington
It was believed that the menaces of these several bodies of troops would so distract and divide the Confederates
that the capture of Wilmington
would be an easy task.
Circumstances prevented an attempt to execute General Graham
Meanwhile, arrangements had been made by the government for an attack, by land and water, on the forts at the entrance to Mobile Bay
, which were crowned with success.
Similar arrangements were made to assail the forts at the entrance to the Cape Fear river
So early as August, 1864, armored and unarmored gunboats began to gather in Hampton Roads
Full fifty of these were there in October, under the command of Admiral David D. Porter
, who had performed signal services on the Mississippi
and other inland waters in the Southwest
Among them were several vessels of the “Monitor” class and the “New Ironsides,” a powerful vessel, built at Philadelphia
, having a wooden hull covered with iron plates four inches in thickness, and at her bow an immense wrought iron beak,
constituting her the most formidable “ram” in existence.
She carried sixteen eleven-inch Dahlgren
guns, two two hundred-pound Parrott guns, and four twenty-four-pound howitzers, making her aggregate weight of metal two hundred and eighty-four thousand eight hundred pounds. She was propelled by a screw moved by two horizontal engines, and was furnished with sails and completely bark-rigged.
This was the most formidable vessel in Porter
's fleet, and fought Fort Fisher
gallantly without receiving a wound.
After that she returned to the place of her nativity, where she was dismantled and allowed to repose at League Island, just below Philadelphia
, until accidentally destroyed by fire on Sunday, about the middle of December, 1866.
While this naval armament was gathering in Hampton Roads
, Governor Andrews
, of Massachusetts
, had laid Mr. Kidder
's plan before the government, and it was again approved.
The proponent was sent for, and he accompanied Admiral Porter
from the National Capital
to Hampton Roads
At Fortress Monroe
, they had an interview with Lieutenant General Grant
, who also approved the plan, and agreed to send the bulk of Sheridan
's army, then in the Shenandoah Valley, to execute it. Again the supreme necessities of the service interfered.
The movements of the Confederates
in the Valley
there; and, as no competent force of cavalry could be had to make the co-operating movement from Newbern
with forces at Masonboroa Inlet, the plan was again abandoned.
Then measures for making a direct attack upon the Cape Fear
defenses were pressed with energy.
In September, Generals Godfrey Weitzel
and Charles K. Graham
had made a reconnoissance of Fort Fisher
by means of the blockading squadron.
Rumors of this movement had reached the Confederates
On the fall of the Mobile
forts, they perceived that their only hopes of receiving supplies from the sea rested on their ability to keep open the port of Wilmington
The reconnoissance implied a meditated attempt to close it. Their suspicions were confirmed by the gathering of the formidable naval force in Hampton Roads
Then they hastened to strengthen Fort Fisher
and its dependencies, by erecting new military works and increasing its garrison.
The skilful engineer and judicious commander, General W. H. C. Whiting
, was in charge of the Confederate forces in that region, in the absence of General Braxton Bragg
, who had gone to Georgia
with a greater portion of the Confederate
troops at and around Wilmington
, to oppose General Sherman
's march from Atlanta
to the sea. The fact that General Bragg
had gone to Georgia
with most of the troops in Eastern North Carolina
, was communicated to General Grant
at the close of November, and he considered it important to strike the blow at Fort Fisher
in the absence of that general.
had held a consultation with Admiral Porter
in Hampton Roads
, and it was agreed that the lieutenant general
should provide 6,500 troops from the Army of the James, then under the command of General Benjamin F. Butler
, to co-operate with the fleet.
The immediate command of the troops was given to General Weitzel
Orders were issued for the soldiers and transports to be put in readiness at Bermuda Hundred
(at the junction of the Appomattox
and James rivers
), to move as speedily as possible; and in the instructions given to General Butler
(who accompanied the expedition), on the 6th of December, it was stated that the first object of the effort was to close the port of Wilmington
, and the second was the capture of that city.
He was instructed to debark the troops between the Cape Fear river
and the sea, north of the north entrance (or New Inlet
) to the river.
Should the landing be effected while the Confederates
still held Fort Fisher
and the batteries guarding the entrance to the river, the troops were to intrench themselves, and, by co-operating with the navy, effect the reduction and capture of these places, when the navy could enter the river, and the port of Wilmington
would be sealed.
was further instructed that, “Should the troops under General Weitzel
fail to effect a landing at or near Fort Fisher
, they will be returned to the armies operating against Richmond
, without delay.”
A part of the plan of the operations against Fort Fisher
was the explosion of a floating mine, containing between two and three hundred tons of gunpowder, so near the works that they might be destroyed, or the garrison be so paralyzed by the shock as to make the conquest an easy task.
had proposed this expedient, having read of the destructive effects, at a considerable distance, of the explosion of a large quantity of gunpowder in England
He made the suggestion to the government, just as he was about to depart for the city of New York
to preserve order during the Presidential election.
It was submitted to experts.
Among these was the late Richard Delafield
, then Chief Engineer
of the Army, who made an elaborate report, in which he showed that experience had taught the impossibility of very serious injury being done, in a lateral direction, by the explosion of unconfined gunpowder.
He fortified his opinion by diagrams, showing the form of Fort Fisher
and the other defenses, and concluded that the experiment would certainly result in failure.
Captain Henry A. Wise
Ordnance Bureau, gave it as his opinion that no serious damage would be done beyond five hundred yards from the point of explosion.
At a consultation of experts, at the house of Captain Wise
, who had been summoned by Mr. Fox
, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy
, the subject was fully discussed, and it was concluded that it would be worth while to try the experiment, with a hope that the explosion might be effectual.
When General Butler
returned from New York, he found that the powder experiment was to be tried, and that preparations for it were being made.
This matter caused some delay in the movements of the navy, and the expedition was not ready to sail before the 13th of December.
At this juncture I arrived at Hampton
, accompanied by two Philadelphia
friends (Ferdinand J. Dreer
and Edward Greble
), on my way to the headquarters of the army at City Point
While breakfasting at a restaurant I beard a person say,. “The general is here.”
,” he answered.
“He is at Fort Monroe
I had a private letter of introduction to General Butler
, and letters from the Secretaries of War
and Navy, and from President Lincoln
, requesting officers of the United States
service, who should read them, to give me every facility consistent with the rules of the service for obtaining historical materials.
We went to the fort; I sent in my credentials to General Butler
, and we were invited to his quarters, where we were introduced to his wife and daughter.
Turning to me the General
asked, “Did you ever see a naval fight?”
I replied in the negative.
“If you will go with me,” he said, “I will show you one of the greatest naval contests on record.”
“Of course, I cannot ask where
it will occur,” I answered; “but I will inquire about how long we shall be gone?”
“A week or ten days,” the General
I guessed the destination to be Fort Fisher
. “I will go,” I said; but, recalling the words, remarked, “I cannot leave these gentlemen, who are traveling with me.”
“Invite them to go along,” said the General
We consulted a few moments, and agreed to go. In the afternoon we accompanied General Butler
on a visit to Admiral Porter
, in his flag-ship, the “Malvern
,” lying in the Roads
On our return we were directed to be on board the Ben Deford
's headquarters' ship, at eight o'clock the next morning.
The vessel did not sail that day, and we visited the battle-field at Bethel
, a few miles up the Virginia Peninsula
, where the gallant son of Mr. Greble
was slain at the beginning of the war.
The troops that composed the expedition against Fort Fisher
were the divisions of Generals Ames
, of the Army of the
Those of the latter were colored troops.
They arrived at Hampton Roads
in transports from Bermuda Hundred
, on the morning of the 9th of December, when General Butler
notified the Admiral
that his troops were in readiness, and his transports were coaled and watered for only ten days. The Admiral
said he would not leave before the 13th, and must go into Beaufort harbor, on the North Carolina
coast, to obtain ammunition for his “monitors.”
The 13th being the day fixed for the departure of the fleet, at three o'clock in the morning of that day General Butler
sent all the transports but his own ship up the Potomac
some distance, where they remained all day. This was to mislead the Confederates
, and divert their attention from his real designs.
At night they returned and anchored under the lee of Cape Charles
On the following morning the Ben Deford
left her moorings at Hampton
, joined the fleet of transports, and all went out to sea. As we moved from the wharf a solitary cannon at Fortress Monroe
fired a parting salute, and ladies on the ramparts, standing near the great Rodman
gun that dwarfed them into dolls, waved an adieu with fluttering white handkerchiefs.
The Ben Deford
bore Generals Butler
, and their respective staff officers, and Colonel Comstock
of General Grant
's staff, as his representative.
The atmosphere was cloudless and serene; and all the afternoon the white beach and a continuous fringe of an almost unbroken pine forest along the North Carolina
coast was visible.
The transports dotted the sea at wide intervals; and when, at past midnight, we passed “Stormy Cape Hatteras
,” in the light of the waning moon, the heaving bosom of the ocean was as unruffled as a lake on a calm summer's day. On the evening of the 15th, we reached the appointed rendezvous, twenty-five miles at sea east of Fort Fisher
, and out of reach of discovery by the Confederates
on the shore.
The rest of the transports soon gathered around us, and constituted a social community in the watery waste.
There we waited three days for the arrival of the vessels of war, which had gone to sea the day before the departure of the transport-ships.
The weather was delightful.
There was a dreamy repose in the air like that of the delicious Indian summer, and the mercury rose to seventy-five degrees in the shade on the deck of the Ben Deford
This continued until the 18th.
Meanwhile, all eyes had been turned anxiously northward to catch a glimpse of the expected war fleet, but disappointment came with each morning and evening.
Never was the sea more favorable for landing troops on the beach, and executing the details of the expedition, than during those
three calm days.
Delay caused the golden opportunity to be lost.
On Sunday afternoon, the 18th, a chilling breeze came from the southeast, bringing with it a slight mist, the harbinger of an approaching storm.
White-caps soon garnished the bosom of the ocean, and the wind constantly freshened.
Toward sunset, the shadowy forms of vessels appeared on the hazy northern horizon.
They were the heralds of Porter
's magnificent fleet of warriors-the most formidable naval armament ever put afloat on the sea. There were fifty-eight strongly-armed vessels, fully manned, and four of them were “monitors.”
They gathered around us at twilight; and when the night set in, dark and lowering, their numerous lights on deck, and in the rigging, some white, and some colored, gave the pleasing impression of a floating city on the bosom of the great deep; and so it was. Very soon there was brisk signaling, with blazing torches, between the Ben Deford
and the “Malvern
;” and, at eight o'clock, General Butler
departed for the latter in his gig to confer with Admiral Porter
On his return, he announced that it was intended to explode the floating mine, near Fort Fisher
, at one o'clock in the morning, and to land the troops for attack, if possible, soon after the dawn of day.
The floating mine, or powder-ship, was a propeller of two hundred and ninety-five tons burden, named “Louisiana
She was disguised as a blockade-runner, in form and color, with two raking smoke-stacks-one real, the other a sham.
A light deck above the water-line contained two hundred and fifteen tons (four hundred and thirty thousand pounds) of gunpowder, placed first in a row of barrels standing on their ends, the upper ones open, and the remainder in bags, each containing sixty pounds. The latter were stowed in tiers above the barrels.
To communicate fire to the whole mass simultaneously, four separate threads of the Gomez fuse were woven through it, passing through each separate barrel and bag. At the stern, and under the powder-charged deck, was placed a heap of pine wood and other combustible materials, which were to be fired by the crew, when they were to escape in a swift little steamer employed for the purpose.
Clock-work, by which a percussion-cap might be exploded, and ignite the fuse; short spermaceti candles, which would burn down, and fire the fuse, and a slow match, that would work in time with the candles, were all employed.
The plan was to choose a favorable state of the weather for landing troops in launches on the beach, explode the powder-ship after midnight, and debark the troops at dawn, to take advantage of the effects of the explosion on the fort and garrison.
Warned that the explosion would take place in the “small hours” of the morning, we watched on deck until far past midnight, and were disappointed.
The vessels had moved, in the darkness, to a point about twelve miles from Fort Fisher
Ignorant of what might be the effect of the explosion in the air at that distance, the engineers of the vessels caused the steam to be much lowered, to avoid a possible explosion of the boilers, in case of a sudden relief from atmospheric pressure.
But the grand spectacle was not exhibited.
It was evident that the water was too rough for troops to land, and the attack was postponed.
The wind increased in violence the next day, and toward evening assumed the aspects of a gale.
The low-decked “monitors” were frequently submerged, only their revolving turrets being visible.
The transports had been coaled and watered, as we have observed, for only ten days, and that time had now been consumed in waiting for warriors and voyaging; and, by the advice of Admiral Porter
, the unarmed fleet went to Beaufort
, seventy miles up the coast, for a new supply.
We were before the furious gale all night, and, with difficulty, threaded .the sinuous channel into Beaufort harbor the next morning, just in time to escape the severest portion of the tempest, the heaviest, our pilot told us, that had been experienced on that coast in thirty years. There we remained until Saturday, the 24th.
On Friday, when the ships were replenished, and the storm had passed by, General Butler
sent one of his aides (Captain Clark
), in an armed tug, to inform Porter
that the transports, with the troops, would be at the rendezvous, off Fort Fisher
, at six o'clock in the evening the next day. Clark
returned at sunrise on Saturday, and reported that Porter
had determined to explode the powder-ship at one o'clock that morning, and begin the attack without waiting for the troops.
could not believe the report to be correct, because the presence of the troops to co-operate in the attack would be essential to the success of the costly experiment of the powder-ship.
We departed for the rendezvous on Saturday morning. Between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, when we were off Masonboroa Inlet, and while standing on the bow of the Ben Deford
with General Weitzel
, I called his attention to small white flacculent clouds that appeared and disappeared at irregular intervals near the southern horizon.
is at work,” he said.
“The “clouds” are the smoke of exploding bombshells.”
Very soon we met an ammunition-box; then a dozen, and then an acre of them, floating in the sea. The testimony of these mute witnesses of a combat was soon confirmed by the sullen roar of artillery that fell upon the ear. We arrived
at the scene of conflict just as it had ceased.
A heavy pall of sulphurous smoke, made blood-red by the setting sun behind it, hung in the still air over Fort Fisher
had, indeed, caused the “Louisiana
,” under the command of the intrepid Captain Rhind
, to follow in the wake of a blockade-runner, at midnight, to within three hundred yards of the northeast salient of Fort Fisher
There she was anchored, and at two o'clock in the morning the powder was exploded without any sensible effect upon the fort or the garrison.
The shock was felt like a slight earthquake at Newbern
, but the garrison of Fort Fisher
thought it was the effect of the bursting of the boiler of a blockade-runner.
Probably not one-tenth of the powder was ignited.
The fort seemed untouched by the explosion, for the edges of the parapet remained as sharply defined as ever.
Ten hours later Admiral Porter
opened his heavy artillery on Fort Fisher
and Mound Battery, and in the course of a few hours he hurled eight thousand shells upon them.
The brief and feeble responses made by the guns of these defenses deceived the Admiral
, and he believed he had disabled them all. At the middle of the afternoon he sent a dispatch to the Secretary of the Navy
, in which he said that in half an hour after getting the ships in position he silenced Fort Fisher
, but there were no troops to take possession
, and he was “merely firing at it to keep up practice.”
“The forts,” he said, “are nearly demolished, and as soon as troops come we can take possession.”
He added: “All that is wanted now is troops to land to go into them.”
How utterly deceived and mistaken the Admiral
was appears from a statement of General Whiting
, who said that no damage was done to Fort Fisher
; that only one man was killed, and three were severely and nineteen were slightly wounded, and that only five gun-carriages were disabled and not a gun was bruised.
The complaint of the absence of troops, by Admiral Porter
, seems disingenuous and ungracious under the circumstances, and was unjust to the army, which, as we have seen, had waited for the motions of the fleet already six days. And had the Admiral
waited a few hours for the troops, which, he, had been informed, would be there that day, he would have had them in full co-operation with him. As it was, he had defeated the intentions of both branches of the service concerning the powder-vessel, by causing it to be exploded when the army, in consequence of waiting for the navy, was, by the advice of the Admiral
, seventy miles from the scene of action.
made arrangements to renew the attack the next morning at eight o'clock. Orders were given for us all to breakfast at six.
Preparations for the next day's serious work were completed at an early hour, and the young staff officers, who generally kept the deck merry with songs and jokes and conundrums until midnight, retired soberly at nine o'clock on that, to them, momentous Christmas eve.
The morning dawned brightly.
It was the Christian Sabbath
and the recurring birthday of the Prince
The fleet was not ready before ten o'clock, when the conflict was begun by light-draft gunboats shelling batteries on the shore, to clear the way for landing troops on the beach.
Very soon the larger vessels began to hurl heavy missiles upon the. main works.
For several hours the bombardment continued without intermission.
At a little past noon the transports were moved within eight hundred yards of the beach.
A few shells sent from the land batteries exploded near us, and one passed directly through one of the smaller gunboats.
Finally, these batteries were silenced by broadsides from the “Brooklyn
,” whose one hundred-pound guns were effective.
Soon afterward the launches were prepared and filled with a part of Ames
' Division (about one-third of all the troops present) and moved for the shore.
was the first to make the beach.
We saw his tall, commanding figure bear forward the Stars and Stripes and plant them on a deserted battery.
The act was greeted by loud cheers from the transports, and the bands struck up “Yankee Doodle
It was then about three o'clock. The “Malvern
” passed near the Ben Deford
, and Admiral Porter
, standing on the wheel-house, called out to General Butler
, saying: “There is not a rebel within five miles of the fort.
You have nothing to do but march in and take it.”
This was another grave mistake, and led the Admiral
to make most unkind reflections upon the military commander
in his report two days afterward.
At that moment, according to the testimony of General Whiting
, there were two hundred and fifty more men in Fort Fisher
than on the previous day, and behind its uninjured sand walls were nine hundred effective men
, in good spirits, who, secure in their bomb-proofs, kept up a lazy response to the bombardment from the sea-front all day. The guns on the land-front were drawn back behind the traverses, and so excessively enfilading was the fire of the fleet, that not one of the nineteen cannons was seriously injured.
, the immediate commander of the National
troops, accompanied by General Graham
and Colonel Comstock
, pushed a reconnoitering party to within five hundred yards of Fort Fisher
, accepting the surrender, on the way, of the garrison of Flag Pond Hill Battery, consisting of sixty-two men, who were sent to
The skirmishers went within seventy-five yards of the fort, where nearly a dozen were wounded by the bursting of shells from the fleet.
One soldier ran forward to the ditch and captured a flag, which the shells had cut from the parapet; and Lieutenant Walling
, of the One Hundred and Forty-second New York Regiment, seeing a courier leave the sally-port, near the Cape Fear
, rushed forward, shot the messenger, took his pistols from the holsters and a paper from his pocket, and, mounting the dead man's mule, rode back to the lines.
The paper contained an order from Colonel Lamb
, the immediate commander of the fort, for some powder to be sent in.
did not go on shore, but in the tug Chamberlain
he moved to Fort Fisher
, abreast the troops, and kept up communication with Weitzel
Meanwhile, the remainder of Ames
' Division had captured over two hundred North Carolinians, with ten commissioned officers, from whom Butler
learned that Hoke
's Division had been detached from the Confederate army at Petersburg
for the defense of Wilmington
; that two brigades were then within two miles of Fort Fisher
, and that others were pressing on. The weather was now murky, and a heavy surf was beginning to roll in, making it impossible to land any more troops.
, who had thoroughly reconnoitred the fort, reported to Butler
that in his judgment, and that of the officers with him, a successful assault upon it, with the troops at hand, would be impossible, for the moment the fleet should cease firing, the parapets would be fully manned and its nineteen heavy guns would sweep the land.
It was also evident that the Confederate
force outside of Fort Fisher
, and near it, was much larger than that of the Nationals.
Considering all of these things, Butler
ordered the troops to withdraw and re-embark.
While doing so, at twilight, the guns of the navy ceased work, when those of Fort Fisher
sent a storm of grape and canister-shot after the retiring troops.
It was impossible to get them on board that night, and it was thirty-six hours before they were rescued from their perilous position.
On the following day the transports departed for Hampton Roads
, leaving the fleet lying off Fort Fisher
, with its ammunition nearly exhausted.
The National loss, in this attack, was about fifty men killed and wounded, nearly all by the bursting of six heavy Parrott guns of the fleet.
The Confederate loss was three killed, fifty-five wounded, and three hundred made prisoners.
The failure to capture Fort Fisher
produced keen disappointment, and Admiral Porter
's misleading report caused widespread
Experts say, in the light of facts revealed, that the army officers acted wisely in not attacking.
It seems to me that the chief cause of our failure may be found in the lack of co-operation with the land forces at the beginning.
During the delay caused by the first day's waiting for the fleet at the rendezvous, and the succeeding gale, the Confederates
were apprised of the expedition, and took sufficient measures to meet and frustrate it. Wilmington
was denuded of troops, and the army was waiting for the fleet off Fort Fisher
on the middle of December.
At that time the garrison of the fort consisted of only six hundred and sixty-seven men. When Weitzel
stood before it on Christmas day, it was nine hundred strong, and at least seven thousand men were within forty-eight hours march of it.