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Doc. 107. attack upon Fort Fisher.

North Atlantic Squadron, United States flag-ship Malvern, off Wilmington, December 24, 1864.
Sir — I have the honor to inform you that I attacked the forts at the mouth of the Cape Fear [598] river this morning at half-past 12 o'clock, and, after getting the ships in position, silenced it in about an hour and a half, there being no troops here to take possession. I am merely firing at it now to keep up practice. The forts are nearly demolished, and as soon as troops come we can take possession; we have set them on fire; blown some of them up, and all that is wanted now is troops to land to go into them.

I suppose General Butler will be here in the morning. We have had very heavy gales here which tugs, monitors, and all, rode out at their anchors. The transports have gone into Beaufort, North Carolina.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

David D. Porter, Rear-Admiral. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

Report of rear-admiral Porter.1

flag-ship Malvern, off New Inlet, North Carolina, December 26, 1864.
sir — I have the honor to forward with this a somewhat detailed report of the two engagements with Fort Fisher and the surrounding works.

We attacked with the whole fleet on the twenty-fourth instant, and silenced every gun in a very short time.

On the twenty-fifth instant we again took up our position, within a mile of the fort (the iron vessels within twelve hundred (1,200) yards), without a shot being fired at us; shelled it all day, with now and then a shot from the rebels, and stopped firing after sunset.

The army landed and reembarked, considering it impracticable to assault the place.

I shall remain and keep shelling the enemy's works on every occasion, whenever the weather will permit.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

David D. Porter, Rear-Admiral. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

North Atlantic Squadron, U. S. Flag-ship Malvern, at sea, off New Inlet, N. C., December 26, 1864.
sir — I was in hopes I should have been able to present to the nation Fort Fisher and surrounding works as a Christmas offering, but I am sorry to say it has not been taken yet.

I attacked it on the twenty-fourth instant with the Ironsides, Canonicus, Mahopac, Monadnock, Minnesota, Colorado, Mohican, Tuscarora, Wabash, Susquehanna, Brooklyn, Powhatan, Juniata, Seneca, Shenandoah, Pawtuxet, Ticonderoga, Mackinaw, Maumee, Yantic, Kansas, Iosco, Quaker City, Monticello, Rhode Island, Sassacus, Chippewa, Osceola, Tacony, Pontoosuc, Santiago de Cuba, Fort Jackson, and Vanderbilt, having a reserve of small vessels, consisting of the Aries, Howquah, Wilderness, Cherokee, A. D. Vance, Anemone, Aeolus, Gettysburg, Alabama, Keystone State, Banshee, Emma, Lillian, Tristram Shandy, Britannia, Governor Buckingham, and Nansemond.

Previous to making the attack, a torpedo on a large scale, with an amount of powder on board, supposed to be sufficient to explode the powder magazines of the fort, was prepared with great care, and placed under the command of Commander A. C. Rhind, who had associated with him on this perilous service Lieutenant S. W. Preston, Second Assistant Engineer A. T. E. Mullan, of the United States steamer Agawam, and Acting Master's Mate Paul Boyden, and seven men. So much had been said and written about the terrible effects of gunpowder in an explosion that happened lately in England, that great results were expected from this novel mode of making war. Everything that ingenuity could devise was adopted to make the experiment a success.

The vessel was brought around from Norfolk with great care and without accident, in tow of the United States steamer Sassacus, Lieutenant Commander J. L. Davis, who directed his whole attention to the matter in hand, and though he experienced some bad weather and lost one of his rudders, he took her safely into Beaufort, where he filled her up with powder, and perfected all the machinery for blowing her up. General Butler had arrived at the rendezvous before us, and I hastened matters all that I could, so that no unnecessary delay might be laid to my charge.

On the eighteenth instant I sailed from Beaufort with all the monitors, New Ironsides, and small vessels, including the Louisiana, disguised as a blockade-runner, for the rendezvous, twenty miles east of New Inlet, North Carolina, and found all the larger vessels and transports assembled there, the wind lowing light from the north-east. On the twentieth a heavy gale set in from the south-west, and not being able to make a port without scattering all the vessels, I determined to ride it out, which I did, without any accident of any kind, except the loss of a few anchors, the monitors and all behaving beautifully.

Only two vessels went to sea to avoid the gale, and fared no better than those at anchor. The transports, being short of water, put into Beaufort, North Carolina, and were not suitable for riding out at anchor such heavy weather.

After the south-wester the wind chopped around to the westward and gave us a beautiful spell of weather, which I could not afford to lose, and the transports with the troops not making their appearance, I determined to take advantage of it and attack Fort Fisher and its outworks.

On the twenty-third I directed Commander Rhind to proceed and explode the vessel right under the walls of Fort Fisher, Mr. Bradford, of the Coast Survey, having gone in at night and [599] ascertained that we could place a vessel of seven feet draught right on the edge of the beach; Lieutenant R. H. Lamson, commanding Gettysburg, volunteered to go in the Wilderness, Acting Master Henry Arey in command, and tow the Louisiana into position, having assisted in the gale in taking care of the Louisiana after she and the Nansemond (the vessel having her in tow) had lost all their anchors.

At half-past 10 P. M. the powder-vessel started in toward the bar, and was towed by the Wilderness until the embrasures of Fort Fisher were plainly in sight. The Wilderness then cast off, and the Louisiana proceeded under steam until within two hundred yards from the beach and about four hundred from the fort.

Commander Rhind anchored her securely there, and coolly went to work to make all his arrangements to blow her up. This he was enabled to do owing to a blockade-runner going in right ahead of him, the forts making the blockade-runner signals, which they also did to the Louisiana.

The gallant party, after coolly making all their arrangements for the explosion, left the vessel, the last thing they did being to set her on fire under the cabin. Then taking to their boats, they made their escape off to the Wilderness, lying close by. The Wilderness then put off shore with good speed, to avoid any ill effects that might happen from the explosion. At forty-five minutes past one of the morning of the twenty-fourth the explosion took place, and the shock was nothing like so severe as was expected. It shook the vessel some, and broke one or two glasses, but nothing more.

At daylight on the twenty-fourth the fleet got under way and stood in, in. line of battle. At half-past 11 A. M. the signal was made to engage the forts, the Ironsides leading, and the Monadnock, Canonicus, and Mahopac following. The Ironsides took her position in the most beautiful and seamanlike manner, got her spring out, and opened deliberate fire on the fort, which was firing at her with all its guns, which did not seem numerous in the north-east face, though we counted what appeared to be seventeen guns; but four or five of these were fired from that direction, and they were silenced almost as soon as the Ironsides opened her terrific battery.

The Minnesota then took her position in handsome style, and her guns, after getting the range, were fired with rapidity, while the Mohican, Colorado, and the large vessels marked on the plan, got to their stations, all firing to cover themselves while anchoring. By the time the last of the large vessels anchored and got their batteries into play, but one or two guns of the enemy were fired, this feu d'enfer giving them all to their bomb-proofs.

The small gunboats Kansas, Unadilla, Pequot. Seneca, Pontoosuc, Yantic, and Huron took positions to the northward and eastward of the monitors, and enfilading the works.

The Shenandoah, Ticonderoga, Mackinaw, Tacony, and Vanderbilt took effective positions as marked on the chart, and added their fire to that already begun.

The Santiago de Cuba, Fort Jackson, Osceola, Chippewa, Sassacus, Rhode Island, Monticello, Quaker City, and Iosco dropped into position according to order, and the battle became general. In one hour and fifteen minutes after the first shot was fired not a shot came from the fort. Two magazines had been blown up by our shells, and the fort set on fire in several places; and such a torrent of missiles were falling into and bursting over it that it was impossible for anything human to stand it. Finding that the batteries were silenced completely, I directed the ships to keep up a moderate fire in the hopes of attracting the attention of the transports and bringing them in. At sunset General Butler came in, in his flag-ship, with a few transports (the rest not having arrived from Beaufort).

Being too late to do anything more, I signalled the fleet to retire for the night for a safe anchorage, which they did without being molested by the enemy.

There were some mistakes made this day when the vessels went in to take position. My plan of battle being based on accurate calculation, and made from information to be relied on, was placed in the hands of each commander, and it seemed impossible to go astray if it was strictly followed.

I required those vessels that had not followed it closely to get under way and assume their proper positions, which was done promptly and without confusion. The vessels were placed somewhat nearer to the works, and were able to throw in their shell, which were before falling into the waters.

One or two leading vessels having made the mistake of anchoring too far off, caused those coming after them to commit a like error; but when they all got into place, and commenced work in earnest, the shower of shells (one hundred and fifteen per minute) was irresistible. So quickly were the enemy's guns silenced that not an officer or man was injured. I regret, however, to have to report some severe casualties by the bursting of a one-hundred-pound Parrott cannon.

One burst on board the Ticonderoga, killing six of the crew, and wounding seven others. Another burst on board the Yantic, killing one officer and two men. Another on the Juniata, killing two officers, and wounding and killing ten others. Another on the Mackinaw, killing one officer, and wounding five others (men). Another on the Quaker City, wounding, I believe, two or three.

The bursting of the guns (six in all) much disconcerted the crews of the vessels when the accident happened, and gave one and all a great distrust of the Parrott one-hundred-pounders, and (as subsequent events proved) they were unfit for service, and calculated to kill more of our men than those of the enemy. [600]

Some of the vessels were struck once or twice. The Mackinaw had her boiler perforated with a shell, and ten or twelve persons were badly scalded.

The Osceola was struck with a shell near her magazine, and was at one time in a sinking condition; but her efficient commander stopped up the leak, while the Mackinaw fought out the battle, notwithstanding the damage she received. The Yantic was the only vessel that left the line to report damages.

Commander John Guest, at the east end of the line, showed his usual intelligence in selecting his position and directing his fire. Twice his guns cut down the flagstaff on the Mound battery, and he silenced the guns there in a very short time, the Keystone State and Quaker City cooperating effectively.

Lieutenant Commander J. L. Davis, with both rudders disabled, got his vessel, the Sassacus, into close action, and assisted materially in silencing the works; and the Santiago de Cuba and Fort Jackson took such positions as they could get (owing to other vessels not forming proper lines and throwing them out of place), and fought their guns well. The taking of a new position while under fire, by the Brooklyn and Colorado, was a beautiful sight, and when they got into place both ships delivered a fire that nothing could withstand.

The Brooklyn well sustained her proud name under her present commander, Captain James Alden; and the Colorado gave evidence that her commander, Commodore H. K. Thatcher, fully understood the duties of his position. The Susquehanna was most effective in her fire, and was fortunate enough to obtain the right position, though much bothered by a vessel near her that had not found her right place.

The Mohican went into battle gallantly, and fired rapidly, and with effect; and when the Powhatan, Ticonderoga, and Shenandoah got into their positions they did good service. The Pawtuxet fell handsomely into line, and did good service with the rest, and the Vanderbilt took position near the Minnesota, and threw in a splendid fire. The firing of the monitors was excellent, and when their shells struck, great damage was done, and the little gunboats that covered them kept up a fire sufficient to disconcert the enemy's aim.

The rebels fired no more after the vessels all opened on them, except a few shots from the Mound and upper batteries, which the Iosco and consorts soon silenced.

Our men were at work at the guns five hours, and glad to get a little rest. They came out of action with rather a contempt for rebel batteries, and anxious to renew the battle in the morning.

On the twenty-fifth (Christmas) all the transports had arrived, and General Butler sent General Weitzel to see me, and arrange the programme for the day. It was decided that we should attack the forts again, while the army landed and assaulted them, if possible, under our heavy fire.

I sent seventeen gunboats, under command of Captain O. S. Glisson, to cover the troops and assist with their boats in landing the soldiers. Finding the smaller vessels kept too far from the beach, which was quite bold, I sent in the Brooklyn to set them an example, which that vessel did, relying, as every commander should, on the information I gave him in relation to the soundings. To this number were added all the small vessels that were covering the coast along; and finally I sent some eight or nine vessels that were acting under Commander Guest in endeavoring to find a way across the bar. This gave a hundred small boats to land the troops with. Besides those, the army was already provided with about twenty more.

At seven A. M. on the twenty-fifth I made signal to get under way and form in line of battle, which was quickly done. The order to attack was given, and the Ironsides took position in her usual handsome style, the monitors following close after her. All the vessels followed according to order, and took position without a shot being fired at them, excepting a few shots fired at the four last vessels that got into line.

The firing this day was slow, only sufficient to amuse the enemy while the army landed, which they were doing five miles to the eastward of the fleet.

I suppose about three thousand men had landed when I was notified they were re embarking.

I could see our soldiers near the forts reconnoitring and sharpshooting, and was in hopes an assault was deemed practicable.

General Weitzel in person was making observations about six hundred yards off, and the troops were in and around the works. One gallant officer, whose name I do not know, went on the parapet and brought away the rebel flag we had knocked down. A soldier went into the works and led out a horse, killing the orderly mounted on him, and taking his despatches from the body. Another soldier fired his musket into the bomb-proof among the rebels, and eight or ten others who had ventured near the forts were wounded by our shells.

As the ammunition gave out the vessels retired from action, and the iron-clads and Minnesota, Colorado, and Susquehanna were ordered to open rapidly, which they did with such effect that it seemed to tear the works to pieces. We drew off at sunset, leaving the iron-clads to fire through the night, expecting the troops would attack in the morning, when we would commence again. I received word from General Weitzel informing me that it was impracticable to assault, and I herewith enclose a letter from General Butler assigning his reasons for withdrawing the troops. I also enclose my answer.

In the bombardment of the twenty-fifth the men were engaged firing slowly for seven [601] hours. The rebels kept a couple of guns on the upper batteries firing on the vessels, hitting some. of them several times without doing much damage. The Wabash and Powhatan being within their range, the object seemed mainly to disable them, but a rapid fire soon closed them up. Everything was coolly and systematically done throughout the day, and I witnessed some beautiful practice.

The army commenced landing about two o'clock, Captain Glisson, in the Santiago de Cuba, having shelled Flag-pond battery to ensure a safe landing, and they commenced to re-embark about five o'clock, the weather coming on thick and rainy. About a brigade were left on the beach during the night, covered by the gunboats. As our troops landed, sixty-five rebel soldiers hoisted the white flag and delivered themselves up, and were taken prisoners by the seamen landing the troops, and conveyed to the Santiago de Cuba. Two hundred and eighteen more gave themselves up to the reconnoitring party, all being desirous to quit the war.

I don't pretend to put my opinion in opposition to that of General Weitzel, who is a thorough soldier and an able engineer, and whose business it is to know more of assaulting than I do, but I can't help thinking that it was worth while to make the attempt after coming so far.

About twelve o'clock I sent in a detachment of double-enders, under Commander John Guest, to see if I could effect an entrance through the channel. The great number of wrecks in and about the bar has changed the whole formation, and where the original channel was we found a shallow bar.

I sent Lieutenant W. B. Cushing in to sound and buoy out a channel, if he could find one, with orders to Commander Guest to drag for torpedoes and be ready to run in by the buoys when ordered. The examination was not at all satisfactory. A very narrow and crooked channel was partly made out and buoyed, but running so close to the upper forts that boats could not work there.

Lieutenant Cushing went in in his boat as far as Zeke's Island, but his researches would not justify my attempting the passage with six double-enders, some of which had burst their rifled Parrott guns and injured many of their men.

As it was getting late, and the troops were making slow progress in landing, I withdrew the vessels and boats that were searching for the channel, and sent them to help land the troops, otherwise we might have succeeded in buoying it out, though it was a difficult thing for the boats to work under the fire of the upper batteries.

One boat belonging to the Tacony was sunk by a shell, and a man had his leg cut off. Still they stuck to their work until ordered to withdraw for other duty. In conclusion, allow me to draw your attention to the conduct of Commander Rhind and Lieutenant Preston. They engaged in the most perilous adventure that was, perhaps, ever undertaken, and though no material results have taken place from the effects of the explosion, that we know of, still it was not their fault.

As an incentive to others, I beg leave to recommend them for promotion; also, that of Lieutenant R. H. Lamson, who piloted them in and brought them off. No one in the squadron considered that their lives would be saved, and Commander Rhind and Lieutenant Preston had made an errangement to sacrifice themselves in case the vessel was boarded — a thing likely to happen.

I enclose herewith the report of Commander Rhind, with the names of the gallant fellows who volunteered for this desperate service. Allow me also to mention the name of Mr. Bradford, of the Coast Survey, who went in and sounded out the place where the Louisiana was to go in, and has always patiently performed every duty that he has been called on to carry out.

My thanks are due to Lieutenant Commander K. R. Breeze, fleet captain, for carrying about my orders to the fleet during the action, and for his general usefulness; to Lieutenant Commander H. A. Adams for his promptness in supplying the fleet with ammunition. Lieutenant M. W. Sanders, Signal Officer, whose whole time was occupied in making signals, performed his duty well; and my aids, Lieutenant S. W. Terry and Lieutenant S. W. Preston, afforded me valuable assistance.

I have not yet received a list of the casualties, but believe they were very few from the enemy's guns. We had killed and wounded about forty-five persons by the bursting of the Parrott guns.

I beg leave to suggest that no more be introduced into the service.

There is only one kind of firing (at close quarters) that is effective, and that is from nine, ten, and eleven-inch guns; they cannot be equalled.

Until further orders I shall go on and hammer away at the fort, hoping that in time the people in it will get tired and hand it over to us. It is a one-sided business altogether, and in the course of time we must dismount their guns, if, as General Weitzel says, we cannot “injure it as a defensive work.” The government may also think it of sufficient importance to undertake more serious operations against these works.

An army of a few thousand men investing it would soon get into it, with the aid of the navy. When smooth water permits I will go to work looking for a channel over the bar, which has not yet been found to my satisfaction.

I must not omit to pay a tribute to the officers and crew of the monitors-riding out heavy gales on an open coast without murmuring or complaining of the want of comfort, which must have been very serious. They have shown a degree of fortitude and perseverance [602] seldom witnessed. Equally brave in battle, they take the closest work with pleasure, and the effect of their shells is terrific.

The following are the names of the commanders, and I hope I shall ever keep them under my command:

Commander E. G. Parrott, commanding Monadnock; Commander E . . Calhoun, commanding Saugus; Lieutenant George E. Belknap, commanding Canonicus; Lieutenant Commander E. E. Potter, commanding Mahopac.

There are about one thousand men left on shore by the army, who have not been got off yet, on account of the surf on the beach. These will be got off in the morning, and the soldiers will then be sent home.

I enclose general order for the attack.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

David D. Porter, Rear-Admiral. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy.

Letter of Major-General Butler.

headquarters Department Virginia and North Carolina, December 25, 1864.
Admiral — Upon landing the troops and making a thorough reconnaissance of Fort Fisher, both General Weitzel and myself are fully of the opinion that the place could not be carried by assault, as it was left substantially uninjured as a defensive work by the navy fire. We found seventeen guns protected by traverses, two only of which were dismounted, bearing up the beach, and covering a strip of land, the only practicable route, not more than wide enough for a thousand men in line of battle.

Having captured Flag-pond Hill battery, the garrison of which, sixty-five men and two commissioned officers, were taken off by the navy, we also captured Half-moon battery and seven officers and two hundred and eighteen men of the Third North Carolina Junior Reserves, including its commander, from whom I learned that a portion of Hoke's division, consisting of Kirkland's and Haygood's brigades, had been sent from the lines before Richmond on Tuesday last, arriving at Wilmington Friday night.

General Weitzel advanced his skirmish line within fifty yards of the fort, while the garrison was kept in their bomb-proofs by the fire of the navy, and so closely that three or four men of the picket line ventured upon the parapet and through the sallyport of the work, capturing a horse, which they brought off, killing the orderly, who was the bearer of a despatch from the Chief of Artillery of General Whiting to bring a light battery within the fort, and also brought away from the parapet the flag of the fort.

This was done while the shells of the navy were falling about the heads of the daring men who entered the work, and it was evident, as soon as the fire of the navy ceased because of the darkness, that the fort was fully manned again and opened with grape and canister on our picket line.

Finding that nothing but the operations of a regular siege, which did not come within my instructions, would reduce the fort, and in view of the threatening aspect of the weather, wind rising from the south-east, rendering it impossible to make further landing through the surf, I caused the troops with their prisoners to re-embark, and see nothing further that can be done by the land forces. I shall, therefore, sail for Hampton Roads as soon as the transport fleet can be got in order.

My engineers and officers report Fort Fisher to me as substantially uninjured as a defensive work.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Benj. F. Butler, Major-General Commanding. Rear-Admiral Porter, Commanding N. A. Blockading Squadron.

Reply of rear-admiral Porter.

North Atlantic Squadron, U. S. Flag-ship Malvern, off New Inlet, December 26, 1864.
General — I beg leave to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this date, the substance of which was communicated to me by General Weitzel last night.

I have ordered the largest vessels to proceed off Beaufort and fill up with ammunition, to be ready for another attack, in case it is decided to proceed with this matter by making other arrangements.

We have not commenced firing rapidly 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 out from the fort. I think they would have found it an easier conquest than is supposed.

I do not, however, pretend to place my opinion in opposition to General Weitzel, whom I know to be an accomplished soldier and engineer, and whose opinion has great weight with me.

I will look out that the troops are all off in safety. We will have a west wind presently, and a smooth beach about three o'clock, when sufficient boats will be sent for them.

The prisoners now on board the Santiago de Cuba will be delivered to the provost marshal at Fortress Monroe, unless you wish to take them on board one of the transports, which would be inconvenient just now.

I remain, General, respectfully, your obedient servant,

David D. Porter, Rear-Admiral Major-General B. F. Butler, Commanding, &c. &c. &c.

Report of Com, H. K. Thatcher.

United States steamer Colorado, off Beaufort, N. C., December 31, 1864.
Admiral — In compliance with your General Order No. 75, under date of thirtieth instant, [603] I have the honor to say that in the actions of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth instant, with Fort Fisher and its dependencies, these works were effectually silenced by the heavy and accurate fire of this fleet for hours at a time, the enemy only replying to our fire when an occasional cessation occurred on our part.

On the twenty-fourth an explosion took place, during a heavy fire from the fleet, within the main fort of the rebels, and immediately after which flames were observed streaming high above the walls, naturally leading to the conclusion that we had fired the barracks and other tenements connected with Fort Fisher. During the continuance of this blaze, which was for hours, not a gun was fired by the enemy (to the best of my recollection), except from the isolated work called the Mound fort.

On the twenty-fifth instant the range was shorter and the firing of the fleet more accurate than on the preceding day. It is my belief that not a shot or shell was fired by the advanced line of ships that did not either penetrate the earthworks of the enemy or explode within them. The crew of this ship were perfectly cool, and fired with deliberation and apparent severe effect upon the enemy, delivering on the first day fifteen hundred and sixty-nine (1,569) projectiles. Near the close of the second day's action we perceived the near approach of the advanced skirmishers of our army force, which had landed late in the day, when our fire ceased for nearly thirty (30) minutes, and was only resumed after we had been hulled several times by a vicious gun which appeared to be fired from the north-east angle of Fort Fisher. We then reopened heavily, but more to the left than we had previously fired, to avoid annoying our own troops, who were seen approaching the fort. The effect of this last heavy fire was apparently severe upon the casemated works to the southward and westward of Fort Fisher. At this time a succession of explosions was heard in the rear of these casemates, followed by the blaze of a large building, which continued to burn during the greater part of Christmas night.

My “impression with regard to the defensibility of the post (battered as it was) against a combined attack of the army and navy” is, that it could have been carried by assault on either of the evenings of the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth instant.

I do not suppose that it was deemed possible entirely to demolish a casemated earthwork like Fort Fisher, but I am satisfied that everything was done that could be done on the part of the navy to render it untenable, the enemy having been again and again driven from their guns (some of which, it appears, were dismounted by our fire), and compelled to seek refuge in the sand-holes.

The shoalness of the water for a mile seaward of the forts constituted their only safety against total destruction, or, at least, the dismounting of every gun, such was the heavy and concentrated fire of those two days bombardment. This ship planted two hundred and thirty (230) shot in the rebel works on the twenty-fifth, and exploded nine hundred and ninety-six (996) shells within them on that day.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. K. Thatcher, Commodore, Commanding 1st Division, N. A. Squadron. Rear-Admiral David D. Porter, Commanding N. A. Squadron, Beaufort, N. C.

Report of Commodore Schenck.

United States steamer Powhatan, off Beaufort, N. C., January 1, 1865.
Admiral — Your General Order, No. 75 did not reach me until this morning, owing to its being sent on board the Colorado. In reply to that part of it requiring me to make a report of the part I took in the actions of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth ultimo, I have to state that at twenty minutes past one P. M. on the twenty-fourth, I took my position in the line, as directed by you, with a kedge upon my port quarter acting as a spring, letting go my port anchor with twenty-five (25) fathoms of chain, which brought my starboard broadside to bear upon the forts. I immediately opened a vigorous fire upon the batteries, paying especial attention to Fort Fisher with my eleven-inch gun, and to the Mound with my two (2) one-hundred-pounder Parrotts, and with my nine-inch guns to the batteries more immediately abreast of us. It is reported and believed on board this ship that one of the shells from our eleven-inch, which exploded in Fort Fisher, set fire to it. At 2:45 P. M., finding that some of my nine-inch shell fell short, and that the Brooklyn, being under way, occasionally interfered with my line of sight, I got under way, continuing the action, and stood into four and a half (4 1/2) fathoms water, from which position every shot told with great effect. From this time the action was continued under way. At 3:10 P. M. the end of our spanker gaff was shot away, and our flag came down with it; hoisted it immediately at the mizzen. About the same time the rebel flag on Fort Fisher was shot away, and was not raised again during the action. At 3:45 P. M. the flag-staff on the Mound was shot away, which shot is claimed by our pivot rifle. At 5:20 P. M. the signal was made to discontinue the action. Hauled off, having sustained no loss of life or injury to the ship.

During this day's action we fired two hundred and thirty-six (236) nine-inch shell, fifty-four (54) eleven-inch shell, and eighty-two (82) one hundred-pounder rifle shell. Not a shell was wasted from the eleven-inch and rifles, and only a few in the early part of the action from the nine-inch guns. The starboard battery only was used in action, viz.: eight (8) nine-inch guns, two (2) one-hundred-pounder Parrott rifles, and one (1) eleven-inch pivot gun.

On the twenty-fifth I took my position as before, although nearer the batteries and further [604] in. The batteries between Fort Fisher and the Mound being abreast of us, my position was an admirable one for engaging these batteries, and my nine-inch guns were principally employed in doing this, as it was only by these we were annoyed, with an occasional shot from the Mound. During this day not a shot fell short, which accounts for my increased expenditure of nine-inch shell. At 2:10 P. M. we opened fire, which was replied to by the batteries abreast of us more vigorously than the day before. I am not aware of having received a single shot from Fort Fisher this day. At 3:30 P. M. a port main shroud was shot away; soon after we were struck three (3) times in pretty rapid succession. One (1) shot struck us under number three port, three (3) feet above the water-line, passing through into a store-room, and depositing itself in a mattress; it is a solid eight-inch shot. Two (2) shot struck under number two port, twenty (20) inches below the water line, one (1) remaining in the side and the other going through and lodging in a beam on the orlop deck, causing the ship to leak badly. A glancing shot struck the stern of the ship, but did no material injury, and some of our running rigging shot away. At 4:10 P. M., having expended all the ammunition for eleven-inch and rifles, and nearly all for my nine-inch guns, made signal, “Ammunition I am short of,” which was replied to “Save some,” and immediately after, “Discontinue the action,” when I weighed my anchor, lifted my kedge, and hauled out of line.

During this day's action we fired four hundred and ninety-four (494) nine-inch shell, fifty-two (52) eleven-inch shell, and seventy-two (72) rifle shell.

In conclusion, I beg leave to state that every officer and man on board this ship, under my command, did his duty nobly, and I have yet to hear of any complaint, either of officer or man, except as to the failure to take advantage of our two (2) days' work. With regard to the “damage apparently done to the works,” I must confess that I was paying more attention to the proper management of my own battery than the general effect; but it appears to me utterly impossible that any works could withstand such a fire and not be terribly damaged; and I am also fully impressed with the belief that by a prompt and vigorous assault late in the afternoon of either day, Fort Fisher might have been taken by a comparatively small force, say one thousand (1,000) resolute men. Fort Fisher was silenced; the Mound firing feebly; the only active firing from the enemy that I witnessed was from the two (2) or three (3) guns that annoyed me, and as long as my ammunition permitted me to fire rapidly I could keep them pretty quiet.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

James Findlay Schenck, Commodore, Commanding U. S. Steamer Powhatan, 3d. Division N. A. Squadron. Rear-Admiral D. D. Porter, Commanding N. A. Squadron.

Report of Commodore S. W. Godon.

United States frigate Susquehanna, off Fort Fisher, N. C., December 28, 1864.
sir — I have the honor to make the following report on the movements of this ship during the engagement of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of December, with Fort Fisher and batteries:

At about meridian of the twenty-fourth instant, in obedience to general signal, I fell into line of battle, and in regular order drew into my station, as per plan of attack, opening fire from my starboard battery of eight (8) nine-inch guns, and two (2) one-hundred-and-fifty-pounders, at two o'clock. I did not, however, get fairly placed with anchors down until three o'clock, when I continued a smart fire until ordered out of action at 5:30 P. M. The firing from Fort Fisher was not sustained, and was often silenced for a considerable time. The distance. however, seemed too great, although the practice was good, and kept the fire of the enemy down.

On the twenty-fifth I did not get into position until twenty minutes past two P. M., when I tried my rifle range at about one thousand seven hundred yards, and anchored within half a ship's length on the starboard bow of the Colorado, as directed by verbal orders, and opened with the nine-inch guns most effectively, using but one division at a time. The enemy's fire, as on the day before, was feeble and not sustained, and was several times silenced for half an hour. Held my position until ordered to withdraw at fifty-five minutes past four, but afterward steamed up to Minnesota's stern and remained there, with a slight renewal of my fire, until ordered to retire from action and reserve ammunition, then growing short, for the assault.

Although fairly exposed, received but few hits, and no damage of the slightest consequence. The enemy's practice was bad on both days, owing, I presume, to the steady and well-directed fire of the large ships and ironclads.

From my position on the wheel-house, overlooking my entire battery, I had every officer and man under my observation, and I have sincere pleasure in testifying to the fine bearing, zeal, and gallantry of the division officers, viz.: Lieutenant Bartlett and Acting Ensign Rhoades of the first division; Lieutenant Brown, commanding second division; Acting Ensign Laycock, commanding third division; Acting Master Porter, commanding fourth division, and First Lieutenant William Wallace, who, with his fine company of marines, handled most effectively two extra nine-inch guns. Lieutenant Commander Blake, my Executive Officer, is all I can desire in battle-cool and collected, calm and intelligent. He is my right-hand man,

I also beg to call special attention to Ensign Preble, the Master of this ship, who, whether under fire or any other circumstances, has proved himself without a superior in intelligence or ability on board the vessel.

My aid, Master's Mate Cooper, was prompt in [605] answering signals, and in his spare moments used the twelve-pounder howitzer on the hurricane-deck with effect.

Thanks to the officers of the powder division, Acting Ensign Burnham, Gunner Waugh, and Sailmaker Holbrook, the ammunition was promptly supplied throughout the engagement.

The engines, under the control of Chief-Engineer Johnson and his able assistants, were at all times ready for duty.

Boatswain Z. Whitmarsh and Carpenter J. E. Miller, stationed in the master's division, not only performed their own duties with intelligence, but gave valuable aid whenever they could.

The subordinate officers of the divisions, the captains of the guns and their spirited crews, have my thanks for their labors those two days.

In short, I have every reason to believe that in action this ship will always be found efficient wherever she may be placed.

If no more satisfactory results were obtained by the fleet from the operations of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth, we must look to the army for the cause. The navy seems to have sustained itself.

I forward herewith the report of injuries to the hull and rigging, as also Gunner's report of expenditure of ammunition.

The reports of the commanding officers in this division will be forwarded as soon as received.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. W. Godon, Commodore, Commanding Susquehanna and Fourth Division North Atlantic Squadron. Rear-Admiral David D. Porter, Commanding North Atlantic Squadron.

Report of Comm. William Radford.

United States steamer New Ironsides, Anchored at sea, Beaufort bearing N. N. W., Distant about five miles from Beaufort, December 31, 1864.
sir — I have the honor to report that, in obedience to your orders, I took position under the guns of Fort Fisher, from thirteen to fifteen hundred yards distant, or as near as the depth of water would permit, the monitors Canonicus, Monadnock, and Mahopac following the new Ironsides in. As soon as I anchored I opened my starboard battery, and continued a well-directed fire for some five (5) hours. Night coming on, I hauled off, in obedience to orders. On the morning of the twenty-fifth the iron-clad division again led in under the guns of Fort Fisher and took the position we occupied the day previous. The Saugus, having arrived the night previous, took her station, and this division, in connection with the others, drove the men from the guns in the fort, they only firing one or two guns, and those at long intervals. All the monitors were handled and fought well. Lieutenant Commander Belknap took the inshore berth, and is reported to have dismounted one or more guns in the fort.

Judging from the immense number of shells which struck the fort, it must have been considerably injured. Several guns were reported to have been dismounted, two explosions took place, and three tires.

The face of the fort was very much ploughed up by the shells from the fleet. If the fort was uninjured (as a defensive work) no artillery known to modern warfare can do it. My impression is, that any considerable number of troops could have stormed and taken the fort immediately after the second day's bombardment, with but little loss.

All the officers and men belonging to the New Ironsides served their guns and country well; and I am greatly indebted to Lieutenant Commander Phythian, the Executive Officer, for his energy and ability in getting the crew and ship in such good fighting order.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

William Radford. Commodore, Commanding Iron-clad Division. Rear-Admiral David D. Porter, Commanding N. A. Squadon, Flag-Ship Malvern,

Report of Captain William R. Taylor.

United States ship Juniata, off Beaufort, N. C., December 30, 1864.
sir — I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your General Order, No. 75, and I rise from my sick-bed to give it an instant reply.

The part that this ship took in the actions of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth instant was as follows: On each day she took the position assigned to her in your plan of battle, and kept up a constant fire upon Fort Fisher from the moment of anchoring until ordered to withdraw. On the twenty-fourth, after having been engaged about an hour, she moved from her first anchorage, in company of several other ships, by your order, to a position nearer to the fort, thus rendering her fire more effective. During the two days she fired six hundred and eighty-one (681) shells, all but seventeen (17) of which were delivered by seven (7) guns. After obtaining the range, the firing appeared to me like target-practice.

The falling of the shells of the fleet was so incessant that the enemy was frequently unable to return our fire for long intervals. Several conflagrations occurred in the fort, and I saw one explosion. It was my impression that we had done much injury to the works, as it is impossible for me to conceive that such a weight of fire, so long continued, and falling so accurately, could have left them “substantially uninjured.”

I was very much surprised and disappointed on learning that the troops had re-embarked. I saw no attack by them which looked like an earnest one, and, for a time, I entertained a hope that the fort had proved an easy capture, from the feebleness of the musketry firing, so long as we remained within sight and hearing of it.

I am sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Wm. Rogers Taylor, Captain United States Navy. Rear-Admiral D. D. Porter, U. S. Navy, Com'dg N. A Squadron, Beaufort, N. C.

Report of Captain D. B. Ridgely,

United States steamer Shenandoah, off Beaufort N. C., December 31, 1864.
sir — I have the honor to report the part taken by the Shenandoah in the bombardment of Fort Fisher and the batteries at New Inlet on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth instant.

The Shenandoah was signalled, when in line of battle, to come within hail of the Admiral, and was ordered by him to take a position near the Ironsides and open on the batteries of Fort Fisher. The position was immediately taken, and this ship commenced firing at Fort Fisher with two rifles and two eleven-inch guns, the shells falling inside of Fort Fisher, apparently with good effect.

At two P. M. a large fire broke out within the fort. At ten minutes past three the flag of the fort was shot away by the fleet. At 3:50 P. M. was ordered by the Admiral to go closer in. We steamed in and anchored, head and stern, close to the Ironsides and Monadnock. We fired from the new position with deliberation and good effect. At ten minutes past five P. M. signal was made to retire from action, when this ship withdrew.

The fire from Fort Fisher during the bombardment this day was very slack and feeble. A few shots fell near the monitors and a few went over us.

The conflagration in the fort seemed to be of considerable extent, and continued until after nightfall. The shells of the fleet were exploding on the parapet and inside of the fort so rapidly that it was difficult to make out what guns they were using. One shot carried away our stern ladder during the bombardment of this day.

On the morning of the twenty-fifth instant got under way with the fleet in line of battle. At two P. M. the Admiral signalled to the Shenandoah to await further orders. Twenty minutes afterward we were ordered to take position ahead of the Juniata. We anchored a ship's length ahead of the Juniata, and three ship's lengths outside of a wreck on the bar, and opened deliberate deliberately on a water battery, to the west of Fort Fisher, of four guns. We succeeded in silencing three of the guns, which were not used again during the engagement.

To the westward of this battery was another, of two guns, that seemed to be casemated. They fired very slowly, but in good line. The shells from one of them fell a few yards short of us, and the others just over us.

The firing from the guns on the Mound was very slow, and with so much elevation that they went over the fleet. We succeeded in exploding a one-hundred-and-fifty-pounder rifle-shell near the top of the Mound.

At thirty-five minntes past four P. M. was ordered to withdraw and stand outside of the Minnesota. At forty-five minutes past five P. M. a large fire broke out just in the rear of the batteries, which continued until after night. Between Fort Fisher and the Mound batteries we could discern two guns dismounted by the fire of the fleet. After the second day's bombardment I could see nothing more for the navy to do than to await the assault by the land forces, which did not take place as I expected.

It affords me much gratification to speak of the cool bearing of Lieutenant S. W. Nichols, the Executive Officer, and other officers, and the crew of this ship, during the two days bombardment. I enclose a memorandum of the expenditure of ammunition on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth instant.

I am, very respectfully, &c.,

Daniel B. Ridgely, Captain, United States Navy. Rear-Admiral David D. Porter, Commanding North Atlantic Squadron.

Report of Captain James Alden.

United States steamer Brooklyn, off Beaufort, N. C. December 30, 1864
sir — I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of General Order, No. 75, which not only calls upon commanding officers to give you a report of the part they took in the action of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth instant, but also their impressions as to the damage done to the enemy's works, the effect of our firing, and the defensibility of the fort after we had finished the bombardment.

On the first day, the twenty-fourth, this ship was in line of attack, and opened fire on Fort Fisher at ten minutes to one P. M., being then within good “ten-second” range. The fire was kept up, with occasional intermissions for the men to rest, till fifteen minutes past five (more than four hours), when darkness intervened, and the signal was made to retire. The enemy's fire, during the whole of that time, was much less than that of one of our large ships; an occasional shot was fired from Fort Fisher; a very feeble and desultory reply to our fire was kept up by the forts between the main work and the Mound battery, which latter was heard from but five or six times during the whole afternoon.

In a word, I am satisfied, from past experience, that if this ship, or any one of the larger ones, could have gotten near enough, say within two or three hundred yards, she would not only have silenced their batteries fully and entirely, but would have driven every rebel from the point.

On the second day, the twenty-fifth, this ship was sent to silence some of the enemy's earth-works, which were contiguous to the place fixed upon for the disembarking of the troops, to shell the woods, and to cover their landing. The first troops landed at about two P. M.: sent all our boats to assist. At four o'clock, just two hours after the landing commenced, the General commanding came alongside the ship and said, “It has become necessary to re-embark the troops; will you send your boats to assist?” You can judge of my surprise at the turn affairs [607] had taken, for at that moment everything seemed propitious. The bombardment was at its height, little or no surf on the beach, and no serious indications of bad weather. Still, the order for retiring had gone forth, and our boats were employed till very late (the launch not returning till next morning), in reembarking the troops, the surf not interfering seriously with operations till near midnight, when it became impossible to land with any safety. Much dissatisfaction, I am told, was shown by the soldiers and their officers when they were informed that they were to re-embark, and it was with some difficulty that they could be made to get into the boats. They were loud in their denunciations of the order turning them back, saying that they had gone there to take the fort, and they were going to do it before they left, &c., &c.

The next day, the twenty-sixth, the surf was too high for safe transit from the shore, and this vessel was employed in making a reconnoissance of the enemy's works. Nothing new, however, was discovered, and, after exchanging a few shots with Fort Fisher, we returned to the anchorage for the night. The following day all our boats were sent, and, after some difficulty, the remaining troops were safely embarked.

I have endeavored in the above to give you my ideas of the effect of our fire on the enemy's works, which was to almost silence them. In regard to the damage done, it is, under the circumstances, impossible for any one to tell without a closer inspection, for, as you remember at Forts Jackson and St. Philip, everything on the outside seemed in statu quo, hardly any trace of injury was apparent, but on entering and looking around, the terrible effect of the bombardment was manifest at every turn. So, too, at Fort Morgan, little or no injury could be discovered from without, but. upon close examination, it was found that almost every gun on its carriage was seriously damaged, if not entirely destroyed.

Now, as to the “defensibility” of the fort. The rebels, I am satisfied, considered, from the moment that our troops obtained a footing on the shore, the work (battered as it was), was untenable, and were merely waiting for some one to come and take it.

The General commanding furnishes us with proof of that fact, I think. In his letter to you, informing you of his determination to withdraw, a copy of which you sent me, he says that “three or four men ventured upon the parapet and through the sallyport of the work, capturing a horse, which they brought off; * * * and also brought away from the parapet the flag of the fort.” This was all done in open day and without resistance, if, indeed, there was anybody there who was disposed to question their right to such trophies. From that and other current testimony, I am satisfied that if our troops had not been stopped in their triumphant march toward Fort Fisher, they would have been in it before dark, and in quiet possession without firing a shot.

With great respect, I am your obedient servant,

James Alden, Captain. Rear-Admiral David D. Porter, Commanding North Atlantic Squadron.

Report of Com. J. C. Howell.

United States steamer Nereus, Beaufort, N. C., January 3, 1865.
Admiral — This vessel having been ordered to support the ironclads during the attack on Fort Fisher, on the twenty-fifth day of December, I stood in to three fathoms water, and at 11:8 A. M. opened fire; at 12:40 P. M. was ordered to shell the woods; at 1:12 P. M. ordered to assist in landing troops; at 2:15 P. M. Flag-pond battery, at which this vessel and two or three small gunboats had been firing occasionally, surrendered to the navy. There was no gun in the battery. Some sixty-five or seventy prisoners were taken. At 9:45 one of the Nereus' boats returned, the officer stating that he had been employed embarking troops.

December twenty-sixth, heavy sea on. But one boat, and that in charge of Acting Master E. L. Haines, of this vessel, got off during the day. Engaged shelling woods during the day and night.

December twenty-seventh, boats and men employed in embarking troops; shelling woods. At about twelve M. General Curtis and two officers visited the ship. General Curtis desired to express his acknowledgments to Acting Master E. L. Haines and Ensign G. M. Smith, and the boats' crews of the Nereus, for courage and perseverance in getting off his command. He informed me that if he had not been ordered back, and had been supported by the troops on shore, he could, in his opinion, have carried Fort Fisher. From all the information I have been able to gain on the subject, I think he was correct in his views.

There was no exception to the excellent conduct of officers and men. I am indebted to Lieutenant H. E. Mullan for intelligent services.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant.

J. C. Howell, Commander. Rear-Admiral D. D. Porter, Commanding N. A. Squadron, Beaufort, N. C.

Report of Com. Daniel Ammen.

United States steamer Mohican, off Beaufort, N. C., December 31, 1864.
Admiral — I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your General Order, No. 75, directing commanding officers to make their report in relation to our attack on Fort Fisher and the adjacent earthworks, and also a copy of a communication to you from Major-General Benjamin F. Butler, and in regard to some points touched upon you request an opinion.

At about half-past 11 A. M., of the twenty-fourth [608] the fleet got under way and stood in, in line of battle toward Fort Fisher, bearing about west south-west, and some six or seven miles distant. The Mohican was kept closely in position assigned, following the leading vessel, the frigate Minnesota, and followed by the frigate Colorado, and she successively by the other vessels forming the main line.

At about one P. M., the Minnesota sheered in out of line and took up her position at anchor, opening at once on Fort Fisher, some twenty-one hundred yards distant. As per plan of battle, the Mohican sheered in ahead of her, fired slowly on the fort to get a range and anchored, then opened briskly with the whole battery. The fort had opened on the Minnesota and on the Mohican previous to our anchoring. The Colorado sheered in ahead of us, letting go kedge astern, and then anchored and opened fiercely on the fort. The vessels forming the line then successively, with more or less success, took up their positions and opened.

The ironclads, led by the New Ironsides, had anchored a few minutes preceding the Minnesota, some five or six hundred yards to the northward and westward, and were slowly getting their range when we anchored, and the outer line of vessels moved into position after the main line had anchored and opened on the Mound and several detached casemated guns.

The fire from the fort became weak as the vessels anchored and opened fire. It was soon apparent that they could not work their barbette guns without great loss of life, and the guns' crews, no doubt, retreated under shelter, with a few exceptions, where high traverses and favorable angles gave them great protection.

Different casemated guns, particularly those mounted in detached mounds and toward the Mound, continued to fire slowly and evidently with not much effect, nor would the position of the guns served favor an effective fire. The whole body of Fort Fisher was filled with bursting shells, and only at long intervals, if at all, was a gun fired from the main work. In the meantime, owing to the wind and the set of the tide, I found that the use of the propeller and the helm would no longer enable me to bring the broadside to bear, and was obliged to weigh anchor and manoeuvre under steam, holding our position as nearly as possible, and avoiding interfering with the firing of the other vessels.

After exhausting all the filled nine-inch shells on board ready for use, the Mohican was withdrawn from the line at about ten minutes past four P. M., making signal to you of the cause, and we commenced filling shells without delay. After sunset the fleet withdrew, and the Mohican ran into line and anchored.

At about nine A. M. of the twenty-fifth, signal was made to get under way and form line of battle. The Mohican took her position, and the fleet stood in to the attack. When nearly under fire we were directed verbally from you “not to take position until further orders.” The Minnesota, the leading vessel of the main line, proceeded in and anchored, got under way, and after various attempts obtained a well-chosen position, the main line awaiting her movements. The ironclads having proceeded during this time, were in position, firing slowly and receiving a part of the fire of Fort Fisher. After the position of the Minnesota was satisfactory, I received orders from you about noon to take position close astern of the New Ironsides, which I did without delay, firing slowly until a good range was obtained; then opened briskly on the fort. I was enabled to see, through the absence of smoke, that our fire was very effective, delivered at a short ten-second range. One of the rebel guns was seen to be dismounted by our fire. Half an hour after we had anchored the Colorado passed ahead of the Minnesota and into position, anchoring and delivering a very effective fire. The whole line soon took position and opened very heavily and evidently with great effect, driving the rebels from their guns, with a few exceptions, as those in casemates and other places sheltered and distant. The position of the Mohican enabled me to see well, as I was first at anchor within half a ship's length of the New Ironsides, and finding that anchoring impeded an effective use of the battery, I weighed and in delivering fire drifted one or two hundred yards nearer the fort.

At five minutes past two P. M. the supply of ten-second fuses and the rifle ammunition was exhausted, and the Mohican was withdrawn from action for the purpose of obtaining more, speaking the Malvern for the purpose, and obtaining none. Not being directed to go under fire again, we remained spectators, near the Minnesota until about four P. M., when I received orders to aid in debarking troops, and proceeded to execute, but instead of debarking, aided in bringing off the soldiers that had already reached the shore.

It has not been my lot to witness any operations comparable in force or in effect to the bombardment of Fort Fisher by the fleet, and I feel satisfied that any attempt to keep out of their bomb-proofs or to work their guns would have been attended with great loss of life to the rebels, and would have proven a fruitless attempt.

On the first day we delivered two hundred and seventeen (217) nine-inch shells, fifty-nine (59) one hundred-pound rifle, and eighty-nine (89) thirty-pound rifle shells. On the second day we delivered one hundred and three (103) nine-inch shells, twenty (20) one hundred-pound rifle, and twenty-five (25) thirty-pound rifle shells, making a total of five hundred and thirteen.

Our firing was effective as well as rapid, and I have to express my high appreciation of the ability and zeal of Lieutenant J. D. Marvin, the Executive Officer of this vessel, and of Acting Master William Burditt, whose long and varied professional experience proved useful; Acting [609] Boatswain Josiah B. Aiken, owing to a deficiency of officers, had charge of the one-hundred-pounder rifle and served it admirably. I have to express my satisfaction at the excellent behavior of the officers and crew, and do not doubt that when the occasion arrives when they should do so, they will stand to their guns as long as enough men remain to serve them.

In relation to the effect of the fire of the fleet on the fort, I beg leave to express my congratulations, as I did verbally on meeting you after the action. It did not require a visit to the fort to see that enormous traverses were nearly levelled, as at the south-east angle. The stockade or abatis must have been much shattered, and the debris from the parapets must have filled in the ditch greatly, I feel satisfied that everything was effected that can be by powerful batteries against a sand work, and that we could and can keep the enemy in their bomb-proofs pending an advance of troops to the foot of the parapet.

The official letter of General Butler referred to states that General Weitzel advanced his skirmish line within fifty yards of the fort, while the garrison was kept in their bomb-proofs by the fire of the navy, and so closely that three or four men of the picket line ventured upon the parapet and through the sallyport of the work, is, I think, entirely confirmatory as to the effectiveness of our fire. He adds, “this was done while the shells of the navy were falling about the heads of the daring men who entered the work,” but appears to forget that at any given signal from an assaulting column this fire would cease, and the enemy be found not defending the parapet, but safely stowed away in bomb-proofs.

I do not know what more could be asked of naval guns than to afford a safe approach to the foot of the parapet, with no lines of the enemy drawn up to receive our forces; beyond that, I suppose everything would depend upon the relative forces of the combatants and the vigor of the assault, and although the work might not, in a military sense, be much injured, I would think the likelihood of carrying the work would be greatly increased by such disposition, without loss of life, of the respective forces.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Daniel Ammen, Commander Rear-Admiral D. D Porter, Commanding North Atlantic Squadron.

Report of Commander A. C. Rhind.

North Atlantic Squadron, U. S. Flag-ship Malvern, off Wilmington, December 26, 1864.
Admiral — I have the honor to make the following report of the special service assigned me in connection with your attack on the defences at New Inlet.

In obedience to your order of the twenty-third instant, the powder-boat was taken in the night as near to Fort Fisher as possible, the distance reached being estimated by all officers present at from two hundred and fifty to three hundred yards from the beach.

Owing to the night being perfectly clear, it became necessary to anchor her there to prevent discovery by the enemy and consequent frustration of the plan. Had the night been obscure, she could have reached a point about one hundred and fifty yards nearer.

The vessel, though having steam, was towed in and piloted by the Wilderness to a point within a short distance of her station, when the Wilderness hauled off and remained near to take off the party from the powder-boat. The arrangments and movements of the Wilderness were in charge of Lieutenant R H. Lamson, of the Gettysburg, assisted by Mr. J. S. Bradford, of the coast survey, and Mr. Bowen, bar pilot — the local knowledge and judgment of these gentlemen being of the greatest service to me in perfecting all the arrangements and carrying out the plan successfully. The party on board the Wilderness, commanded by Acting Ensign H. Arey, shared with us whatever of risk or danger attended the enterprise.

Our arrangements being completed, we started in from the station vessel--the Kansas, Lieutenant Commanding Watmough--at about 10:30 P. M. At about 11:30 the Wilderness cast off the powder-boat and anchored, the latter steaming slowly ahead until she reached a point E. by N. 1/2 N. from Fort Fisher and within three hundred yards of the beach. The wind was light off shore, and it was expected the powder-boat would tend to the tide if anchored. The anchor was accordingly let go, the fires hauled as well as possible. and the men put into the boat Lieutenant Preston and I then proceeded to light the fuses and fires. The latter were arranged by Second Assistant Engineer Mullan.

When all was fairly done, we observed that the vessel would not tail in-shore, and therefore I let go another anchor with short scope. We then took to the boat and reached the Wilderness in safety at precisely midnight, slipped her anchor and steamed out at full speed, reaching in less than an hour a point about twelve miles distant from the powder-boat, where we hove to and run our steam down.

At precisely 1:40 A. M. the explosion took place, the shock being hardly felt, and four distinct reports heard. What result was occasioned near the vessel we can only estimate by the feeble fire of the forts next day. My opinion is that, owing to the want of confinement and insufficient fusing of the mass, much of the powder was blown away before ignition, and its effect lost.

The fuses were set by the clocks, to one hour and a half, but the explosion did not occur till twenty-two minutes after that time had elapsed, the after part of the vessel being then enveloped in flames.

The following officers and men manned the powder-boat:

Commander A. C. Rhind; Lieutenant S. W. [610] Preston; Second Assistant Engineer A. T. E. Mullan; Master's Mate Paul Boyden; Frank Lucas, coxswain; William Garvin, captain forecastle; Charles J. Bibber, gunner's mate; John Neil, quarter gunner; Robert Montgomery; captain after-guard; James Roberts, seaman, Charles Hawkins, seaman; Dennis Conlon, seaman; James Sullivan, ordinary seaman; William Hinnegan, second-class fireman; Charles Rice, coal-heaver.

The crew were all volunteers from my own vessel, the Agawam.

The zeal, patience, and endurance of officers and men were unsurpassed, and I believe no officer could have been better supported. To Lieutenant Lamson, Mr Bradford, and the officers and men of the Wilderness, we are indebted for the means of escape; and from the first start from Norfolk, we have received every desired assistance. The vessel was towed to Wilmington bar by the Sassacus, Lieutenant Commander J. L. Davis, who gave us at all times a cordial support. The Tacony, Lieutenant Commander Truxtun, sent us a relief-crew after the gale. Both vessels furnished us a boat.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. C. Rhind, Commander, U. S. N. Rear-Admiral D. D. Porter. Commanding North Atlantic Squadron.

Report of Lieutenant-Commander W. G. Temple.

United States steamer Pontoosuc, off New Inlet, December 28, 1864
sir — I have to submit the following report of the operations of this vessel in the attack upon the rebel works at the mouth of Cape Fear river, from December twenty-fourth to twenty-seventh, inclusively.

At eleven A. M. of the twenty-fourth, after some previous manoeuvring, we got under way in company with the fleet, and stood in (with everything ready for action) in the wake of the four ironclads until Fort Fisher bore southwest by south, when we opened fire at 1:06 P. M. with the hundred-pounder Parrott rifles, at long range, and gradually closed in toward the position occupied by the sternmost monitor, from whence the nine-inch guns became effective, at a range of about one thousand five hundred yards. At 1:16 P. M. the enemy fired their first gun; the Ironsides having commenced the action at 12:50 P. M., which soon became general along the whole line, as the various ships came into position. After having carefully ascertained our range, the guns of this vessel were kept constantly and rapidly playing upon the enemy's works, until the fleet hauled off at about 5:50 P. M. Our firing, so far as it could be distinguished from that of other vessels, seemed to be accurate and effective, particular embrasures being selected for targets, and shells being seen to strike and explode at the points indicated. We fired during the action one hundred and twenty shells from the eleven-inch guns, and ninety two from the one-hundred-pounder rifles. At 2:35 P. M. this vessel was struck just abaft the starboard paddle-box by an elongated (probably percussion) shell, from a six-and-half-inch rifled gun, which projectile passed through the side of the ship, wounding a hanging knee, and barely clearing the main condenser of the engine, through the iron bulkhead of the engine-room and the starboard steerage and mess lockers, through the berth-deck, cutting a beam entirely in two, and into the paymaster's storeroom, where it exploded close to the bulkhead of the shell-room, on striking the skin of the ship, and set the vessel on fire; the fire was soon extinguished, however; not much damage was done and nobody was hurt. Several other shot struck near enough to splash the water on deck, and others passed over us, but none other hit the vessel. The lower plates of both elevating screws (new pattern) to the hundred-pounders were torn loose from the rear transom, by the breaking of their bolts in the first four discharges; but they were lashed securely in place and performed very well during the rest of the action.

The gig, launch, and both cutters were badly shattered by the concussion of the nine-inch guns fired beneath them, although they were six feet above the muzzles; many of the hundred-pounder projectiles “wabbled,” and some of them “tumbled” but a more liberal use of slush upon them seemed to correct this in a great measure.

We were employed during all that night and until ten A. M. the next day in filling and fusing additional shells, having nearly expended all that had been prepared. At 9:30 A. M. of the twenty-fifth, we got under way with the fleet, and proceeded, in company with the Iasco and several other gunboats, off the bar, where we opened a deliberate fire at 12:55 P. M. from the one hundred-pounder rifles, at long range, and continued the practice until 2:30 P. M., when we were ordered to haul off and send the boats in to remove torpedoes from the channel. We expended forty-six rifle shells during this day's engagement, many of which were plainly distinguished to fall within the enemy's works, and meantime the batteries on shore made some good practice at us, dropping their shots quite near, but not hitting the vessel. The boats returned at four P. M., and the gunboats steamed up the coast to where the troops had in the meanwhile been disembarked, and anchored for the night. At nine P. M. we were ordered to send all boats to the beach to assist in re-embarking the troops; but on starting they were found to leak so badly as to be unserviceable, and returned.

We were employed all the next day, the twenty-sixth, in repairing the boats, and just after sunset were sent in to within about six hundred yards of the beach (on the right of our troops, who, owing to the surf, had not succeeded in getting on board their vessels), for the purpose of supplying them with provisions, protecting them from the enemy, and boating them [611] off to their transports. On anchoring, we received two messages from the army authorities, stating that the enemy were massing large forces on the right and front of our troops, and that a momentary attack was expected. As we had taken up our position after dark, and had, therefore, been unable to get the bearing and distance of our own troops, we remained at the guns all night without firing, waiting for the attack to commence, that we might know where to aim; but no attack was made, and no sign of an enemy seen from this vessel. At daylight of the twenty-seventh, our three boats were despatched to the beach with provisions, and with the means prepared for sending them through the surf to the troops on shore; but the provisions were declined and returned, and the boats remained until noon taking the troops off to their vessels.

At one P. M., when the last man had been re-embarked, and the last transport was under way and standing out, we also got under way and anchored with the fleet in the offing, without having seen a single rebel soldier, although another message had been received at 10:30 A. M. that the enemy were massing for an attack.

The officers and men of this vessel behaved admirably throughout the whole four days, and performed their duties at the guns and elsewhere with most commendable coolness and precision, more particularly in view of the short time (only ten days), that they had been on board and under drill; but, where all behaved so well, it would be invidious to particularize any one.


Wm. G. temple, Lieutenant-Commander. Rear-Admiral David D. Porter, Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Report of Lieut.-Com. T. C. Harris.

United States steamship Yantic, Beaufort, N. C., January 2, 1865.
sir — In obedience to General Order, No. 75, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part this vessel took in the attack on Fort Fisher, New Inlet, N. C., on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth December, 1864:

My position on the twenty-fourth was to the northward and eastward of Fort Fisher, distant about two thousand yards, and was doing good execution, when, at three P. M., the one-hundred-pounder rifle burst (having been fired, since the vessel has been in commission, but nineteen times), mortally wounding the officer commanding the division, the captain of the gun, and slightly wounding four of the crew. The vessel being badly shattered, not knowing the extent of the damage, and having lost what was designed to be the most effective gun, I hauled out of fire. Having obtained additional medical assistance from the Fort Jackson, I, at 4:30 P. M., again stood in and opened fire with my only remaining effective guns — the thirty-pounder rifle and nine-inch gun.

On the twenty-fifth I was assigned the duty of assisting to disembark the troops and cover the landing.

Owing to the accident just mentioned, and my non-participation in the attack of the twenty-fifth, I am prevented from giving any decided opinion as to the injury done to the fort as a defensive work. I cannot, however, refrain from giving my testimony as to the accurate and rapid fire of the fleet; no better confirmation could be required that the navy did their work well, than the fact that the enemy, protected as they were by formidable works, could only make a very feeble reply.

At two o'clock P. M., on the twenty-fifth, a portion of the troops were landed amid deafening and encouraging cheers from the men-of-war, and from the troops still on board the transports; cheers which were echoed by the fleet, by a fire that elicited but a feeble response from the fort. The landing of the troops was rapid when fairly commenced, and everything seemed to betoken that the army would soon have possession of the enemy's works; when, to the surprise and mortification of all, General Butler stopped the further disembarkation of the troops, and gave orders to re-embark those already on shore.

I congratulate you, sir, upon the brilliant share the navy took in the attack of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth; the work was well done. Had the army performed their part, the Federal flag would now be flying over the ramparts of Fort Fisher--a fitting Christmas present to be side and side with that of the glorious and gallant Sherman.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

T. C. Harris, Lieutenant-Commander. Rear-Admiral D. D. Porter, Commanding North Atlantic Squadron.

Additional report of rear-admiral Porter.

North Atlantic Squadron, U. S. Flag-ship Malvern, off New Inlet, December 27, 1864.
sir — My despatch of yesterday will give you an account of our operations, but will scarcely give you an idea of my disappointment at the conduct of the army authorities in not attempting to take possession of the forts which had been so completely silenced by our guns; they were so blown up, burst up, and torn up, that the people inside had no intention of fighting any longer. Had the army made a show of surrounding it, it would have been ours; but nothing of the kind was done.

The men landed, reconnoitred, and hearing that the enemy were massing troops somewhere, the order was given to re-embark.

They went away as soon as the majority of the troops were on the transports, and it coming on to blow rather fresh, about seven hundred were left on shore. They have been there ever since, without food or water, having lauded with only twenty-four hours rations. I [612] opened communication with them this morning, and supplied them with provisions.

To show that the rebels have no force here, these men have been on shore two days without being molested. I am now getting them off, and it has taken half the squadron (with the loss of many boats in the surf) to assist.

I can't conceive what the army expected when they came here; it certainly did not need seven thousand men to garrison Fort Fisher--it only requires one thousand to garrison all these forts, which are entirely under the guns of Fort Fisher; that taken, the river is open. Could I have found a channel to be relied on in time, I would have put the small vessels in, even if I had got a dozen of them sunk; but the channel we did find was only wide enough for one vessel at right angles, and we were not certain of the soundings. There never was a fort that invited soldiers to walk in and take possession more plainly than Fort Fisher; and an officer got on the parapet even, saw no one inside, and brought away the flag we had cut down.

A soldier goes inside, through the sallyport, meets in the fort, coming out of a bomb-proof, an orderly on horseback, shoots the orderly, searches his body, and brings away with him the horse and communication the orderly was bearing to send up field-pieces.

Another soldier goes in the fort and brings out a mule that was stowed away; and another soldier, who went inside while our shells were falling, shot his musket into a bomb-proof, where he saw some rebels assembled together; he was not molested. Ten soldiers, who went around the fort, were wounded by our shells. All the men wanted was the order to go in; but because every gun was not dismounted by our fire, it was thought that the fort “was not injured as a defensive work,” and that it would be to lose men to attack it. It was considered rash to attack the works with wooden ships, and even the officers who have been on the bar a long time (and witnessed the building of the works), thought that half the ships would be destroyed; and it was said that the only hope we could have of silencing the batteries was in case the powder-vessel did the damage expected.

We silenced the guns in one hour's time, and had not one man killed (that I have heard of), except by the bursting of our own guns, in the entire fleet.

We have shown the weakness of this work. It can be taken at any moment, in one hour's time, if the right man is sent with the troops. They should be sent here to stay — to land with a month's provisions, intrenching tools, guns, and Cohorn mortars. Ten thousand men will hold the whole country. The rebels have been able to send here, all told, about four thousand men; seventy-five of them that were sent here to observe us gave themselves up to the navy. Two hundred and eighteen men, sent on the same duty, gave themselves up to our reconnoitring party, and this would have been the case all the way through.

I know what they would do, and I shall send and ask him to let some of his troops come and locate themselves in Fort Fisher. If I can't do better, I will land the sailors, and try if we can't have full credit for what we do.

I trust, sir, you will not think of stopping at this, nor of relaxing your endeavors to obtain the right kind of troops for the business, the right number, and the proper means of taking the place, even if we fail in an assault. Every attack we make we will improve in firing, and if the weather would permit, I could level the works in a week's firing, strong as they are; but it is only one day in six that a vessel can anchor so close. We had a most beautiful time, and the weather for the attack was just what we wanted.

If General Hancock, with ten thousand men, was sent down here, we could walk into the fort.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

David D. Porter, Rear-Admiral Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

Effect of the Exlposion of the powder-boat.

North Atlantic Squadron, U. S. Flag-ship Malvern, off New Inlet, December 28, 1864.
sir — I am enabled, from information gained from prisoners, to tell you what effect the explosion had on the rebels in and about Fort Fisher. It was entirely unexpected, and the troops were mostly asleep at the time, It created a perfect panic, stunned and disabled the men, so that they refused to fight, notwithstanding all the efforts of their officers, and the severe bombardment that followed so completely demoralized them, that two hundred men could have gone into and taken possession of the works.

No injury was done to the forts that I can hear of, nor were any of the wooden huts, about half a mile off, thrown down; but on looking at the massive structures, built of sand-bags, it could scarcely be expected to move them by such a process; that can only be done by continual hammering with shot and shell.

As far as this squadron is concerned, the forts can be silenced at any moment, and taken possession of by a well-organized land force.

I am sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

David D. Porter, Rear-Admiral. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

Confederate reports.

General Whiting's report.

headquarters, Wilmington, December 31, 1864.
Colonel — For the information of the General commanding, I forward the report of Colonel [613] Lamb, commanding Fort Fisher in the action of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth:

On receiving the information at one P. M. on the twenty-fourth that the fleet was moving in to take position, I at once ordered a steamer, and reporting to the headquarters, proceeded to the point of attack, reaching Confederate Point just before the close of the first day's bombardment, which lasted four hours and a half. That of the second day commenced at twenty minutes past ten A. M., and continued, with no intermission or apparent slackening, with great fury, from over fifty ships till dark. During the day the enemy landed a large force, and at half-past 4 advanced a line of skirmishers on the left flank of the sand-curtain, the fleet at the same time making a concentrated and tremendous enfilading fire upon the curtain.

The garrison, however, at the proper moment, when the fire slackened to allow the approach of the enemy's land force, drove them off with grape and musketry; at dark the enemy withdrew. A heavy storm set in, and the garrison were much exposed, as they were under arms all night. At eight A. M., twenty-sixth, a reported advance in boats was opened on with grape and shell. The garrison remained steadily awaiting a renewal of the assault or bombardment until Tuesday morning, when they were relieved by the supports of Major-General Hoke and the embarkation of the enemy.

Colonel Lamb's report, herewith, gives all the details of the action. In an accompanying paper I will give you an account in detail of all matters which fell under my own observation during the action and the three succeeding days, which I beg you will cause to be forwarded for the information of the War Department.

As soon as other business will permit, a report in detail of the construction of the works, capacity of resistance, effect of fire, movements of the enemy, improvements suggested, will be made out and forwarded for the information of the engineer department.

In this it only remains for me to express my grateful sense of the gallantry, endurance, and skill of the garrison and its accomplished commander.

To the latter I have already paid a just tribute of praise, not for this action only, but for his whole course at Fort Fisher, of which this action and its result is but the fruit. His report of the gallantry of individuals I fully confirm from my own observation.

I wish to mention Captain Mann, Lieutenant Latham, Lieutenant Hunter, of the Thirty-sixth; Lieutenant Rankin of the first battalion; Captain Adams of the light artillery, as very active and efficient.

To Colonel Tansill of my staff we owe many thanks. To his skilful judgment and great experience the defence of the land front was committed at the critical moment of assault. Of Major Riley, with his battery of the Tenth Carolina, who served the guns of the land front during the entire action, I have to say he has added another name to the long list of fields on which he has been conspicuous for indomitable pluck and consummate skill. Major Still, chief of my staff, and Major Strong, aid-de-camp, here, as always, actively aided me throughout. The gallant bearing and active labors of Major Saunders, Chief of Artillery to General Herbert, in very exposed positions, attracted my special attention.

I present my acknowledgments to Flag Officer Pinckney, Confederate States navy, who was present during the action, for the welcome and efficient aid sent to Colonel Lamb, the detachment under Lieutenant Roby, which manned the two Brook guns, and the company of marines, under Captain Van Benthuysen, which reinforced the garrison. Lieutenant Chapman, Confederate States navy, commanding battery Buchanan, by his skilful gunnery saved us on our right from a movement of the enemy, which, unless checked, might have resulted in a successful passage.

The navy detachment at the guns, under very trying circumstances, did good work.

No commendations of mine can be too much for the coolness, discipline and skill displayed by officers and men. Their names have not all been furnished to me, but Lieutenants Roby, Doing, Armstrong, and Berrien attracted special attention throughout.

To Passed Midshipman Carey I wish to give personal thanks. Though wounded, he reported after the bursting of his gun, to repel the threatened assault, and actively assisted Colonel Tansill on the land front.

Above all, and before all, we shall be grateful, and I trust all are, for the favor of Almighty God, under and by which a signal deliverance has been achieved.

Very respectfully,

W. H. C. Whiting, Major-General. Lieutenant-Colonel A. Anderson, A. A. and I. G., Headquarters Department of N. C.
P. S.--I wish it to be understood that in no sense did I assume the command of Colonel Lamb. I was a witness simply, confining my action to observation and advice, and to our communications, and it is as a witness that I report.

W. H. C. Whiting, Major-General.

1 see document 76, page 490, ante.

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