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Boatswain Josiah B. Aiken, owing to a deficiency tance reached being estimated by all officers of officers, had charge of the one-hundred-present at from two hundred and fifty to three pounder rifle and served it admirably. I have hundred yards from the beach. 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 congratu lations, 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 upou 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, with- | out 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.
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 pilotthe 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 powderboat 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 opi nion 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. Ç. Rhind; Lieutenant S. W.
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; Wil. liam 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. 8. N.
Rear-Admiral D. D. PORTER.
Commanding North Atlantic Squadron.
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 berthdeck, 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 hundredpounder projectiles "wabbled," and some of them "tumbled" but a more liberal use of slush upon them seemed to correct this in a great
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.
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 We were employed all the next day, the be distinguished from that of other vessels, twenty-sixth, in repairing the boats, and just seemed to be accurate and effective, particular after sunset were sent in to within about six embrasures being selected for targets, and shells hundred yards of the beach (on the right of our being seen to strike and explode at the points troops, who, owing to the surf, had not succeedindicated. We fired during the action one ed in getting on board their vessels), for the hundred and twenty shells from the eleven-inch purpose of supplying them with provisions, proguns, and ninety two from the one-hundred-tecting them from the enemy, and boating them
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.
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 twentyfifth, 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-ofwar, and from the troops still on board the transports: cheers which were echoed by the re-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.
At one P. M., when the last man had been 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. Respectfully,
WM. G. TEMPLE,
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-hundredpounder 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.
I congratulate you, sir, upon the brilliant share the navy took in the attack of the twentyfourth 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,
Rear-Admiral D. D. PORTER,
T. C. HARRIS, Lieutenant-Commander.
Commanding North Atlantic Squadron.
ADDITIONAL REPORT OF REAR-ADMIRAL PORTER.
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 landed with only twenty-four hours' rations. I
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.
noitring 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 ser-
A soldier goes inside, through the sallyport, | vant, 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 Hon. GIDEON WELLES, 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
Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.
EFFECT OF THE EXLPOSION OF THE POWDER-BOAT.
from prisoners, to tell you what effect the ex-
hear of, nor were any of the wooden huts, about No injury was done to the forts that I can 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,
Hon. GIDEON WELLES,
Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.
GENERAL WHITING'S REPORT.
HEADQUARTERS, WILMINGTON, December 31, 1864.
COLONEL-For the information of the General
same duty, gave themselves up to our recon-commanding, I forward the report of Colonel
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 four 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.
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, Dorning, Armstrong, and Berrien attracted special attention throughout.
To Passed Midshipman Carey I wish to give Colonel Lamb's report, herewith, gives all the personal thanks. Though wounded, he reportdetails of the action. In an accompanying pa-ed after the bursting of his gun, to repel the per I will give you an account in detail of all threatened assault, and actively assisted Colonel matters which fell under my own observation Tansill on the land front. 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.
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,
Lieutenant-Colonel A. ANDERSON,
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
To the latter I have already paid a just trib-action to observation and advice, and to our ute of praise, not for this action only, but for communications, and it is as a witness that I 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.
W. H. C. WHITING, Major-General.