[Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.]
Scouts report that the land and naval forces recently operating against this place, under the command of Butler
, were at Morehead City
on Saturday and Sunday last, waiting for orders from Washington
The land force was estimated at twenty thousand men and the flotilla at one hundred and twenty-three sall, including ten iron-clads.
The enemy freely admitted that they were badly beaten at Fort Fisher
, and say they have not seen or heard anything of Butler
since the fight.
It was supposed, however, that he had returned to the Army of the Potomac.--it was not known at Beaufort
, even by the highest officers, whether the expedition would return to Fortress Monroe
, or renew the attack upon Fort Fisher
, or make a descent upon some other point on the coast.
It is hardly probable that another attempt will be made against the defences of this harbor, at least for some time to come.
Even if fresh operations be decided upon, it will require time to refit and patch up and get ready the necessary supplies of food and ammunition.
We know not to what extent the vessels of the armada were damaged; but it is not believed here that many of them were so much disabled that they cannot be repaired for future use. They fired at long range, as I learn from Colonel Lamb
--the monitors about eighteen hundred yards and the wooden hulls about two miles. Two Brooke
guns, upon which much reliance was placed, burst after a few discharges; and the Armstrong
gun, a magnificent piece, occupied a position on the sea face where it could not be brought to bear upon the enemy except at long intervals.
It was fired three times — on the first day, I believe — at three wooden vessels, and at each discharge a vessel was seen to withdraw from the conflict.
was ordered not to waste his ammunition, in the hope that the fleet would come to close quarters, if it did not attempt to pass the fort; and hence, during the two days the battle was waged, only twelve hundred and sixty-two shots were fired by the fort.
I do not know that it has been stated in any of my former letters that Fort Fisher
, or rather the defences of the New inlet
or eastern entrance to the harbor of Wilmington
, consists of two lines of detached batteries nearly at right angles to each other, bearing the one on the bar and channels, and the other on the land approach — the latter a formidable curtain, extending from the sea beach across to the river.
Nowhere except at one or two places are there two guns together, but each gun is separated from its neighbor by a traverse both on the right and the left.
The traverses are sixty feet long, fifty feet wide at the base, and about thirty feet high.
The number and size of the traverses furnish the key to the very small loss sustained by the garrison and the small number of guns dismounted by the enemy's fire.
Indeed, the protection afforded by the traverses against an enfilading fire from the sea is perfect, as was shown on both days of the battle.
There are other features of the fort I should be glad to mention, if it were prudent, which add greatly to the safety and efficiency of the garrison.
The fort has been erected since the beginning of the war principally under the direction of Major-General Whiting
, one of the best engineers in the Confederate army--perhaps in any army.
It is built entirely of sand; the superiority of which over dirt, brick and stone, as a material in the construction of forts, is now generally conceded by experienced engineers, at least in the Confederate army.
A cannon ball or bolt, fired into a bank of earth or soil, will cut a clean, well-defined hole, as through a cake of cheese; whereas sand presents greater resistance and closes up behind the shot; in other words, it stops up its own cracks.
The greater resistance opposed by sand arises from the fact that it is composed of an infinite number of small wedges or angular particles, which are forced together by compression — wedged in, as it were — so that the greater the pressure the greater is the resistance.
The more shot, therefore, there are fired into a work constructed of sand, the firmer, and stronger it becomes.
And hence, too, the profile of Fort Fisher
, notwithstanding the terrible fire to which it was exposed, and the large number of enormous missiles fired into it, remains perfectly intact.
I doubt whether the importance of the victory on the 24th and 25th of December is fully appreciated either in Richmond
or by the country.
I am certain that the conduct of Colonel Lamb
, both before and during the battle, cannot be too highly commended.
A native of Norfolk
, about thirty-four years of age, modest in his bearing, simple in his manners, but full of energy and spirit and unflagging industry, he has for three years given all his energies and all his time to his work with a skill and intelligence that can hardly be surpassed.
He seems to love Fort Fisher
as a man would his wife.
He has fairly won his spurs, and should at once be made a brigadier-general of artillery.