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DUEL BETWEEN IRON-CLADS.
471 The Confederates, with the greatest bravery, pressed up in the face of a murderous fire, and, by desperate work, carried the two outer redoubts, which mounted eight guns, and made prisoners of their garrisons. Then the victors dashed forward to the town, and soon carried it. Meanwhile, Fort Williams was making terrible lanes in the ranks of the assailants with grape and canister shot. It, too, was soon so closely enveloped and enfiladed, that it was compelled to surrender. Thus ended THE BATTLE OF PLYMOUTH, when the post, about sixteen hundred effective men, twenty-five cannon, two thousand small-arms, and valuable stores passed into the possession of the Confedcrates. The Union loss in the siege was about one hundred men. The Confederate loss was about six hundred. The fall of Plymouth was a signal for the evacuation of Little Washington, at the head of Pamlico Sound, then held by General Palmer, for it was untenable. This was done on the 28th," when some of the lawless soldiery dishonored themselves and their flag by plundering and burning some buildings.
From Plymouth, Hoke went to New Berne and demanded its surrender; and, on being refused, he began its siege. The Captain of the Albemarle, elated by his exploits at Plymouth, felt confident that his vessel could navigate the broader waters, and he was preparing to go to the assistance of Hoke, when he was drawn into a severe and disastrous fight with the SasThis was one of Captain Melancthon Smith's blockading squadron in Albemarle Sound, of which the principal vessels were the Mattahessett, Miami, Sassacus, Wyalusing, and Whitehead. The Commodore Hull and Ceres were picket-boats.
The squadron lay off the mouth of the Roanoke River, and early in May, the picket-boats were directed to decoy the ram from under the batteries at Plymouth. They did so, and on the 5th the Albemarle came bearing down upon the squadron with the captive Bombshell, just put into the Confederate service, and the river steamer Cotton Plant, with two hundred sharp-shooters. The latter soon put back. The ram and its tender pushed on, and first encountered the Sassacus. The latter, with the other steamers, more agile than the ram, played around it in search of its most vulnerable point, and in doing so the Sassacus gave the Bombshell a broadside which caused her to surrender and keep quiet.
The Albemarle was heavily armed with Brooks and Whitworth guns. After a brief cannonade, the Sassacus, Lieutenant-Commander F. A. Roe, moving with full force, struck the monster a blow which pushed it partly under water, and nearly sunk it. When it recovered from the shock, the two vessels exchanged 100-pound shots at a distance of a few paces. Most of the bolts of the Sassacus glanced from the mailed sides of her antagonist like hail from granite, but three of them entered one of its ports with destructive effect, at the moment that the Albemarle sent a 100-pound Brooks bolt through one of the boilers of the Sassacus. In its passage it killed three men and wounded six. The vessel was filled with scalding steam, and for a few minutes was unmanageable. When the smoke and vapor passed away, the crippled Albemarle was seen moving off in the direction of Plymouth, firing as she fled. The Sassacus slowly followed, and finally stopped for want of steam. The Mattahessett and Wyalusing engaged in the struggle, but the ram escaped. The victory was won by the Nationals, and their chief
DESTRUCTION OF THE ALBEMARLE
trophy was the recaptured Bombshell, with her valuable guns. Hoke waited in vain for the Albemarle to help him in the siege of New Berne. He soon afterward abandoned that siege in response to a call to hasten to the defense of Richmond, then seriously threatened by the armies of the Potomac and the James.1
For several months after this there was quiet in Albemarle Sound, and all along the coast of North Carolina. The conquests made by Burnside, in 1862, had been in some degree recovered by the Confederates, and very little remained to the Nationals excepting Roanoke Island and New Berne. The Albemarle was a bugbear to the blockading vessels; and finally, late in October, Lieutenant William B. Cushing, one of the most daring of the young officers of the navy, undertook to destroy it. It was then lying at a wharf at Plymouth, behind a barricade of logs thirty feet in width. A small steam launch, equipped as a torpedo boat, was placed in Cushing's charge, and on a dark night he moved, October 27, in her, toward Plymouth, 1864. with a crew of thirteen, officers and men, part of whom had volunteered for the service. The launch had a cutter of the Shamrock in tow. They passed the Southfield, and were within twenty yards of the ram, before the pickets of the latter discovered the danger, when tney sprang their rattles, rang the bell, hailed, and commenced firing at the same instant. Cushing cast off the cutter, and ordered its commander to board the Southfield, while he proceeded in his torpedo boat, in the face of a severe fire of musketry, to attack the Albemarle. He drove his launch far into the barricade of logs, its bow resting on them. Then the torpedo boom was lowered, and driven directly under the overhang of the Albemarle, and the mine was exploded at the moment when one of the guns of the ram hurled a heavy bolt that went crashing through and destroying the launch. The Confederates kept up a fire at fifteen feet range, and called upon Cushing to surrender. He refused, and ordered his men to save themselves as they might. The hero, with the others, leaped into the water, in the gloom, and swam to the middle of the stream without being hit by the Confederate shot. But the most of the party were captured or drowned. Only one, besides Cushing, escaped. The latter managed to reach the shore, and just at daylight, almost exhausted, he crept into a swamp, where he was found and kindly cared for by negroes. He sent one of these to ascertain the fate
WILLIAM B. CUSHING.
2 There were some raids that disturbed the peace of the Confederates in that region during the summer One of the most formidable of these was made by General Wild. from Roanoke Island, with some colored troops. They penetrated into Camden County well up toward the Dismal Swamp, and after destroying much grain and other property, returned with many horses and cattle, and about twenty-five hundred slaves. Wild lost thirteen
PORT OF WILMINGTON TO BE OPENED.
of the Albemarle, and learned, with joy, that she was a hopeless ruin, and had settled down upon the mud at the wharf. On the following night Cushing captured a skiff belong
Macomb, with some prisoners and valuable stores, and the National flag was unfurled over the sunken Albemarle. The Confederate soldiers of that region were then mostly in Virginia, for the defense of Petersburg against the Army of the Potomac.
Events of far greater importance occurred on the coast of North Carolina soon after this, which had a direct connection with and bearing upon Sherman's march through the Carolinas. These were the finally successful efforts of the Government to close the port of Wilmington, on the Cape Fear River, against blockade-runners, and to possess that port and town. We have observed that the Government had determined to close the harbors of Wilmington and Mobile, against those foreign violators of law. When Farragut had effectually sealed the latter, the attention of the Government, and especially of the Navy Department, was turned toward Wilmington, where blockade-runners continually evaded the vigilance and defied the power of the watchers off the entrances of the Cape Fear River. For their protection, and to prevent National vessels entering that stream, forts and batteries were erected at its mouth, on the borders of the sea, almost thirty miles below the city of Wilmington."
Foiled in its efforts to absolutely close that port, the Government considered plans for capturing and holding the city. Among others was one submitted by Frederic Kidder, a citizen of Boston, who had for many years held intimate commercial and social relations with Wilmington, and was well acquainted with the country and the coast far around it. He had found means of communication with Wilmington during the war; and so early as the beginning of 1864, he laid his plan before General Burnside, then recruiting men in New York and New England to fill up his (Ninth) corps. Burn
1 This is from a photograph taken when the flag was raised over the vessel. 3 See page 444.
2 See page 439
4 These defenses consisted of Fort Fisher, on Federal Point, a formidable work, described elsewhere. It mounted twenty-six guns, twenty of which were in position to sweep the narrow sandy cape on which it stood. Nearer the end of Federal Point was Mound Battery, an artificial hill of sand, about fifty feet in height, on which two heavy columbiads were mounted. Between Fort Fisher and Mound Battery, and connecting them, was a line of intrenchments, on which were mounted sixteen guns. These ran parallel with the beach. Back of these, and running across to the Cape Fear River, was a line of rifle-pits. On the shore of the Cape Fear, across from Mound Battery, was another sand-hill, thirty feet in height, with four cannon upon it, named Battery Buchanan. These constituted the defenses on Federal Point, and commanded the entrance to the Cape Fear. by New Inlet. About seven miles southwest from Fort Fisher, at Smithville, on the old entrance to the Cape Fear, was Fort Johnson; and about a mile south of that work was Fort Caswell. The latter and Fort Fisher were the principal works. On Smith's Island, at Baldhead Point, was Battery Holmes.
PLAN FOR CAPTURING WILMINGTON.
side was so pleased with and interested in the plan, that he went with it to Washington, and he received from the War Department full permission to carry it out. He collected a large force at Annapolis for the purpose, and was nearly ready to go forward, when General Grant arranged for the campaigns in Virginia and Georgia, and Burnside and the Ninth Corps were
ordered to join the Army of the Potomac. This put an end to the expedi tion, and postponed the capture of Wilmington.
In the succeeding summer, when preparations were begun for Farragut's attack on the forts at the entrance to Mobile Bay, similar arrangements were made for reducing the forts at the entrance to the Cape Fear River.
1 Mr. Kidder's plan was as follows: Wilmington is thirty miles from the sea, by the Cape Fear River, but only about twelve miles from a navigable Sound east of it, into which, from the ocean, was Masonboro' Inlet, with seven feet of water at high tide. It was proposed to have a fleet of flat steamers rendezvous at Beaufort, fifty or sixty miles up the coast, on which to put 12,000 armed men, under an energetic commander. These were to be suddenly landed on the main, at Masonboro' Inlet, and marched directly on Wilmington. It was known that there were no defenses beyond two miles from the heart of Wilmington (and they not very strong), to oppose the force coming in from the sea. It was proposed to have a strong cavalry force move simultaneously from New Berne, to tear up the railway between Wilmington and Goldsboro', and, if possible, go down and destroy the bridge within ten miles of Wilmington. This force was to co-operate fully with that marching from Masonboro' Inlet.-Written statement to the author, by Mr. Kidder.
In the summer of 1864 General Graham submitted a plan for capturing Wilmington. It proposed to have a force, consisting of 500 cavalry, 500 infantry, and a section of artillery, go out from New Berne, or from Newport Barracks, and strike the railway between Wilmington and Goldsboro', while two picked squadrons of cavalry, and 2,000 infantry and a good battery, should land at Snead's Ferry, at the mouth of New River, forty-one miles from Wilmington. This force should march on Wilmington, while another, composed of 2,500 infantry, with ten pieces of artillery, should land at Masonboro' Inlet, and push on toward the city. These several bodies would so distract and divide the Confederates, that the capture of the city might be an easy matter.-Written statement to the author, by General Graham.
2 The New Ironsides was a very powerful vessel, built in Philadelphia. It had a wooden hull covered with iron plates four inches in thickness. She had eight ports on each side, and carried sixteen 11-inch Dahlgren guns, two 200-pounder Parrott guns, and four 24-pounder boat howitzers. Her aggregate weight of guns was 284,800 pounds. She had two horizontal engines, and was propelled by a screw. She was furnished with sails, and was bark-rigged. At her bow was a formidable wrought-iron ram or beak. She first went to sea in August, 1862. We have already met her in Charleston harbor (see page 198). She fought Fort Fisher gallantly and unharmed, and at the close of the war she returned to the Delaware, whence she first set forth. There she was dismantled, and left to repose near League Island, a short distance below Philadelphia, where she was acci dentally set on fire, and was destroyed, on Sunday, the 16th of December, 1866.
3 See page 292.
4 See page 489.
DESIGNS AGAINST FORT FISHER.
So early as August, armored and unarmored gun-boats began to gather in Hampton Roads; and in October full fifty war-vessels were there, under the command of Admiral Porter, including the New Ironsides and several monitors. Meanwhile, Governor Andrew had been to Washington, and laid before the Government" Mr. Kidder's plan, which was again approved. That gentleman was sent for, and went from the National Capital to Fortress Monroe, with Admiral Porter, where he remained about a week. He had an interview with Lieutenant-General Grant, who approved the plan, and agreed to send, for the purpose, the bulk of Sheridan's army, then in the Shenandoah Valley. The movements of the Confederates in that region prevented the execution of that part of the plan; and, as no cavalry could be had to make the co-operating movement from New Berne with forces at Masonboro' Inlet, the plan was again abandoned, and arrangements were made for a direct attack
Fort Fisher and its dependencies at the entrances to the Cape Fear.'
Already a reconnoissance of Fort Fisher, on Federal Point, the main defense of the seaward approach to Wilmington, had been made, by means of the blockading squadron, by Generals Godfrey Weitzel and Charles K. Graham, to determine the strength of that work, and the means necessary to carry it. Rumors of this reached the Confederates. Then, the gathering of a naval force in Hampton Roads attracted their attention, and the discussion of its meaning, in the public prints, pointed so certainly to an expedition against Wilmington, that the Confederates strengthened Fort Fisher, erected new works in its support, and increased the garrison. The skillful engineer and commander, General W. H. C. Whiting, was then in charge of the Confederates in that region, in the absence of Bragg. This caused a
1 Fort Fisher was an earth-work of an irregular quadrilateral trace. The exterior sides would average about 250 yards. Its northeastern salient, which was nearest the sea (indicated in the accompanying sketch, where
THE LAND AND SEA FRONTS OF FORT FISHER.
the white and the shaded part of the picture of the fort divide), approached high-water mark within about 100 yards. From that salient, across the beach to the water, was a strong stockade or wooden palisade, indicated in the sketch, which was taken from near the water. The land face of the fort occupied the whole width of the cape known as Federal Point, and, exposed to an enfilading fire from the ocean, was heavily traversed, by which the twenty guns that commanded that strip of land were well guarded. The tops of these traverses were full six feet above the general line of the interior crests, and afforded bomb-proof shelters for the garrison. At a distance, as seen in the sketch, they had the appearance of a series of mounds. The slopes of the parapet were well secured by marsh sods. The quarters of the men were wooden shanties. They were just outside of the work, and to the north of it. All along the land front of the fort, across to the Cape Fear River, was a stockade, and on the beach, along its sea-front, were the wrecks of several blockade-runners. Many torpedoes were planted in front of the fort.