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BOMBARDMENT OF FORT FISHER.
A careful reconnoissance determined Terry to make a grand assault the
next morning,' and arrangements were accordingly made with Jan. 15, Porter, whose fleet had already been preparing the way for
success. On the morning of the 13th, it had taken its station in three lines, as we have observed. The New Ironsides, Commodore Radford,
leading the monitors Saugus, Canonicus, Monadnoc, and Mahopac, moved toward the fort and received its fire unnoticed until they reached a position
1 In this plan, the general form of Fort Fisher, described in note 4, page 478, is indicated. Fort Buchanan, on the extreme end of Federal Point, was almost due west from Mound Battery, and about once and a half the
a distance from the latter, that Mound Battery was from the northeast salient of Fort Fisher.
FORT FISHER TO BE ASSAULTED.
• Jan. 15,
within a thousand yards of it, when they opened their batteries, and a sharp fight ensued. Then Porter ordered his wooden vessels to engage in the conflict. Line No. 1, in the plan on page 486, was led by the Brooklyn, Captain Alden, and line No. 2 was led by the Colorado, Commodore Thatcher. The bombardment was continuous, but not rapid, until dark, to the severe hurt of the armament of the fort, when the wooden vessels fell back to their anchorage. But the iron-clads fired slowly throughout the night, by which the garrison was worried and fatigued. During the landing of the army ordnance on the 14th,' and the successful movements of Terry on the peninsula, all the vessels carrying 11-inch guns, led by the Brooklyn, joined the monitors in bombarding Fort Fisher, damaging it severely. “By sunset,” says Porter, in his report, “ the fort was reduced to a pulp; every gun was silenced by being injured or covered up with earth, so that they could not work.” ?
In the arrangement for the general attack by land and water, the fleet was to first concentrate its fire on the land face of Fort Fisher, for the purpose of disabling its guns and destroying the palisades upon its wings and front, when the army should make the assault at three o'clock in the afternoon. All night the monitors pounded the fort, and allowed the garrison no rest, nor opportunity to repair damages; and at eight o'clock in the morning,“ the entire naval force, excepting a division left to aid in the defense of Terry's line across the peninsula, moved up to the attack, “and a fire, magnificent alike for its power and accuracy, was opened."3 Meanwhile, fourteen hundred marines and six hundred sailors, armed with revolvers, cutlasses and carbines, were detached from the fleet to assist the land troops in the work of assault; and, digging rifle-trenches in the sand under cover of the fire of the ships, they reached a point within two hundred yards of the sea-front of the fort, where they lay awaiting the order for attack.
Ames's division had been selected for the assault. Paine was placed in command of the defensive line, having with him Abbott's brigade in addition to his own division. Ames's first brigade (N. M. Curtis's) was already at the outwork captured the day before, and in trenches close around it. His other two brigades (G. A. Penny backer's and L. Bell's) were moved, at noon, to within supporting distance of him. At two o'clock, preparations for the assault were commenced. Sixty sharp-shooters from the Thirteenth Indiana, armed with the Spencer repeating carbine, and forty others, volunteers from Curtis's brigade, the whole under the command of Lieutenant Lent, of the Thirteenth Indiana, were thrown forward, at a run, to within less than two hundred yards of the work. They were provided with shovels, and soon dug pits for shelter, and commenced firing at the parapet, which, as the firing of the fleet at this point had ceased, was instantly manned, and a severe storm opened upon the assailants from musketry and cannon.
1 The siege train was there, but was not landed.
? " There was great difference in the position of the ships in the two attacks, and in the nature and effects of the fire. The first was a general bombardment, not calculated to effect particular damage; the second firing had for its definite object the destruction of the land defenses, and the ships were placed accordingly to destroy them by enfilade, and by direct fire. On that front, and the northeast salient, the whole enorinous fire was poured without intermission, until the slope of the northeast salient was practicable for assault. Not a gun remained in position on the approaches; the whole palisado swept away; the mines (or torpedoes] cut off, rendering them useless, and the men unable to stand to the parapets during the fire."-General Whiting's Answer to General Butler's 22d Question. 3 General Terry's Report, January 25, 1865.
4 Terry's Report
ASSAULT ON FORT FISHER.
As soon as the sharp-shooters were in position, the fleet changed the direction of its fire from the land face and the palisades of the fort, to its center and right, and Curtis's brigade moved forward at the double-quick into line less than five hundred yards from the works, and there laid down. The other two brigades were moved forward, Pennybacker's to the outwork left by Curtis, and Bell's to a point two hundred yards in the rear of it. Perceiving a good cover on the reverse of a slope, fifty yards in the rear of the sharp-shooters, Curtis moved his men to it, where they instantly covered themselves in trenches. At the same time, Pennybacker followed Curtis and occupied the ground he had just left, and Bell advanced to the outwork.
It was now about half-past three o'clock in the afternoon. Every thing was in readiness for the assault. The signal was given, when Curtis's brigade sprang from its cover and dashed forward in line, its left exposed to a severe enfilading fire. It obliqued to the right, so as to envelop the left of the land-face of the fort. Preparations had been made for destroying the palisades with powder and axes. But the fleet had done the work effectually. The axmen, however, accompanied Curtis's men. The palisades were soon passed, and a lodgment was made on the parapet, not far from the river. At the same time the sailors and marines, led by Fleet-Captain K. R. Breese, eager to be the first to enter the fort, advanced with great gallantry up the beach, and attacked the northeast bastion. There they were exposed to a murderous fire, and were unable to scale the parapet. After heavy loss of
officers and men, they were withdrawn. But they had done valuable work, for they had occupied a greater portion of the garrison, who thought theirs the main attack, and so helped Curtis to gain his advantage.
With this assault commenced the terrible struggle. Up to this time the National loss had been trifling, for the navy had kept the garrison quiet. Now it was compelled to cease firing at that part of the fort, for its shells would be as hurtful to friends as foes. Instantly the garrison sprang to its guns, and musketeers swarmed upon the parapet. But Curtis held his ground until Pennybacker, sent by Ames, came to his support. The latter advanced rapidly to Curtis's right, drove the Confederates from the strong and almost unharmed palisades, extending from the west end of the land
1 The powder was carried in bags, with fuses attached.
2 This is a view of the interior of Fort Fisher at the point where Curtis's brigade made a lodgment on the parapet, as it appeared when the writer sketched it late in March, 1866. The timber.work shows the general line of the top of the fort, above which the immense traverses of sand, for the protection of the cannon, were made. The Cape Fear River, with a part of the palisades is seen on the left.
CAPTURE OF FORT FISHER.
face of the fort to the river (see sketch on page 488), and captured a number of prisoners. The brigade broke through the palisades and joined Curtis. At the same time Bell's brigade had been sent forward to occupy the
space between that end of the fort and the river; and Terry sent for Abbott's brigade to move down from the north line, while Reese led the sailors and marines up to occupy that position. He also ordered General Paine to send down one of his best regiments, when the Twenty-seventh, negro troops, Brevet Brigadier-General A. M. Blackman, was forwarded. These arrived when the heaviest of the work was done. It had been performed by the troops already there, who fought hand to hand with the garrison, while the fleet kept up its fire further to the southward, to prevent re-enforcements reaching the fort from Mound Battery, or Battery Buchanan.
The Confederates used the huge traverses of the land front for breastworks, and over the tops of these the combatants fired in each other's faces. The struggle was desperate. The Confederates were steadily pushed back, until, at dusk, they had lost nine of these traverses. At that time Blackman reported to Ames. His troops were kept under fire for awhile, when they were withdrawn. At six o'clock Abbott entered the fort with his little brigade, and at nine o'clock, when two more traverses had been carried by the Nationals, the contest ceased. Abbott's brigade drove the garrison from its last stronghold, and the occupation of the work was complete. The Confederates fled toward Battery Buchanan, hotly pursued by Abbott, accompanied by Blackman's regiment; and then the whole of the garrison not already in the hands of Terry, were captured, including Colonel Lamb, the commander of the fort, and General Whiting, who was mortally wounded.
The fall of Fort Fisher rendered all the other works at the mouth of the Cape Fear River untenable, and during the nights of the 16th
• Jan., 1865. and 17th,the Confederates blew up Fort Caswell, on the right bank of the river. They also abandoned Battery Holmes, on Smith’s Island, and their extensive works at Smithville and Reeves's Point, and fed toward Wilmington. The triumph of the army and navy was now complete.'
1 The National loss in the attack was 681 men, of whoin 88 were killed, 501 wounded, and 92 missing. Among the wounded was acting Brigadier-General Bell, mortally, and Generals Curtis and Pennybacker, severely. On the morning after the victory, while the exultant soldiers and sailors were swarming into the fort, its principal inagazine, deep in the earth, at the center of the parade, was (it is supposed) accidentally exploded. Two hundred men were killed, and one bundred more wounded. The fleet lost about 300 men during the action and by the explosion in the fort. It expended in the bombardment about 50,000 shells. During the seven hours' bombardment on the 25th of December, about 18,000 shells were used. The loss of the Confederates was never reported. General Terry captured 2,083 prisoners, and in all the works he found 169 pieces of artillery, nearly all of which were heavy, over 2,000 stand of small-arms, and considerable quantities of aminunition and commissary stores. In all the forts at the mouth of the Cape Fear, were found Armstrong guns (see page 482), bearing the broad arrow of the British Government, and the name of Sir William Armstrong, the patentee, in fuli. As the British Government claimed the exclusive use of the Armstrong gun, and none could be sold without its consent, these seemed to form prima facie evidence of aid being furnished to the insurgents directly from that Government.
The capture of Fort Fisher, accomplished by the combined operations of the army and navy, gave the liveliest satisfaction to the loyal people, for it seemed like a sure prophecy of peace nigh at hand. Adiniral Porter said an electrograph was pickerl up there from General Lee to Colonel Lamb, in which he said, " that if Forts Fisher and Caswell were not held he would have to evacuate Richmond." All the participants in the conquest were regarded with gratitude, and honored everywhere. When the Ticonderoga, Captain C. Steedman, and the Shenandoah, Captain D. B. Ridgley, of Porter's fleet, arrived at Philadelphia, a pleasing incidunt, illustrative of the public feeling, occurred. Some patriotic men and women of the city had established a Soldiers' Reading Room, for the benefit of the sick and wounded defenders of the Union who might be detained there. It was opened in October, 1862, with a dining-room attached, where a comfortable meal was furnished for the small sum of five cents to those who could pay, and gratuitously to those who could not. It was supported entirely by the contributions of the citizens of Philadelphia, and at the end of the first year it had a library of nearly 2,000 bound volumes. The establishment was under the general supervision of a Board
PREPARATIONS TO ATTACK WILMINGTON.
Bragg was in chief command of the Confederates in that region, but seemed to have been paralyzed by the prompt establishment, by Terry, of an intrenched line across the peninsula and the rapid assault by land and water. Hoke, who was near, made some show on the afternoon of the assault, by Bragg's orders, but a peremptory command of the latter for the former to attack, was withdrawn, after the commander-in-chief had reconnoitered for himself.
Although a greater part of the guns of Fort Fisher were dismounted, or otherwise disabled, the work itself was so slightly damaged that it could be readily repaired. But the Nationals had no use for it. The port of Wilmington was closed to blockade-runners; and the town itself was to be the next object of visitation by Terry and Porter. The latter immediately ordered Lieutenant-Commander R. Chandler, commanding the Maumee, to buoy out the channel of New Inlet, when several of the lighter draught vessels went into the Cape Fear River. He also dispatched the gallant Cushing," who was then in command of the Monticello, to ascertain the state of affairs on the right bank of the river. Cushing soon reported success, by raising the National flag over Fort Caswell and Smithville,' when preparations were made for taking up the torpedoes, and asceruing the river in the lighter vessels, the heavier being excluded by the shallowness of the water. General Terry posted his troops at his intrenched line across the peninsula, two or three miles above Fort Fisher, But it was considered imprudent to attempt an advance until the army should be re-enforced, for Hoke was holding Fort Anderson, on the river, about half-way between Fort Fisher and Wilmington, and had cast up a line of intrenchments across the peninsula, from Sugar Loaf Battery, nearly opposite that fort, on the east bank of the Cape Fear, to the ocean, thus strongly confronting Terry. Behind these Hoke had about six thousand men. Fort Anderson was an extensive earth-work, with a large number of guns, which commanded the approaches by land and water. Immediately under cover of its guns was a large wharf; also various obstructions in the channel.
Re-enforcements were not long delayed. General Grant, as we have seen, had ordered General Schofield from Tennessee to the coast of North
Carolina, with the Twenty-third Corps. Schofield received the * January 14, command“ while preparing to obey General Thomas's order to
go into winter-quarters at Eastport, Mississippi. He started the following day, in steamers, down the Tennessee River, and up the Ohio to
of Managers, of which Dr. F. W. Lewis was President, and William P. Cresson was Secretary, but its immediate management was intrusted to the care of Miss McHenry, a lady made well and widely known by her acts of benevolence and patriotism.
When the vessels above named arrived, the officers and crews of both were invited to dine at the Soldiers' Reading Room. They accepted the invitation, An elegantly arranged and sumptuous dinner was prepared, and a military band was in attendance. Charles J. Stillé welcomed the guests. After dinner, one of the seamen of the Shenandoah presented to the ladies two flags, one of which was shot from the mast-head of his ship during the bombardment of Fort Fisher. The eloquent Daniel Dougherty addressed the company. Altogether it was a memorable affair. This was the only public entertainment given to the men of the navy during the war.
1 General Whiting said, “ It was due to the supineness of the Confederate General that it (the attacking force) was not destroyed in the act of assault."- Answer to Butler's 24th question.
? See page 472.
3 Lieutenant Cushing displayed blockade-runner signal-lights, and decoyed two of them under the guns of Fort Caswell, where they were captured. They were laden with arms and other supplies for the Conspirators.
4 See page 429.