War of the Rebellion: Serial 087 Page 0968 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LIV.

Search Civil War Official Records

and conduct, immediately pushed up his brigade within a few hundred yards of Fort Fisher, capturing the Half-Moon Battery and its men, who were taken off by the boats of the navy. This skirmish line advanced to within seventy-five yards of the fort, protected by the glaces, which had been thrown up in such form as to give cover, the garrison being completely kept in their bomb-proofs by the fire of the navy, which was very rapid and continuous, their shells bursting over the work with very considerable accuracy. At this time we lost 10 men wounded on the skirmish line by the shells from the fleet. Quitting my flag-ship, I went on board the Chamberlain and ran in within a few hundred yards of the fort, so that it was plainly visible. It appeared to be a square bastioned work of very high relief-say fifteen feet-surrounded by a wet ditch some fifteen feet wide. It was protected from being enveloped by an assaulting force by a stockade which extended from the fort to the sea on the one side and from the marshes of Cape Fear River to the salient on the other. No material damage to the fort as a defensive work had been done. Seventeen heavy guns bore up the beach, protected from the fire of the navy by traverses eight or ten feet high, which were undoubtedly bomb-proof shelters for the garrison. With the garrison kept within their bomb-proofs it was easy to maintain this position, but the shells of the navy, which kept the enemy in their bomb-proofs, would keep my troops out. When those ceased falling the parapet was fully manned. Lieutenant Walling,* of the One hundred and forty-second New York, pressed up to the edge of the ditch and captured a flag, which had been cut down by a shell from the navy. It is a mistake, as was at first reported to me, that any soldier entered the fort. An orderly was killed about a third of a mile from the fort and his horse taken. In the meantime the remainder of Ames' division had captured 218 men and 10 commissioned officers of the North Caroline Reserves, and other prisoners. From them I learned that Kirkland's and Hagood's brigades, of Hoke's division, had left the front of the Army of the James near Richmond, and were then within two miles of the rear of my forces and their skirmishers were then actually engaged, and that the remainder of Hoke's division had come the night before to Wilmington and were then on the march, if they had not already arrived. I learned also that these troops had left Richmond on Tuesday, the 20th. Knowing the strength of Hoke's division I found a force opposed to me outside of the works larger than my own. In the meantime the weather assumed a threatening aspect. The surf began to roll in so that the landing became difficult. At this time General Weitzel reported to me that to assault the work, in his judgment and in that of the experienced officers of his command, who had been on the skirmish line, with any prospect of success, was impossible. This opinion coincided with my own, and much as I regretted the necessity of abandoning the attempt, yet the path of duty was plain. No so strong a work as Fort Fisher had been taken by assault during this war, and I had to guide me the experience of Port Hudson, with its slaughtered thousands in the repulsed assault, and the double assault of Fort Wagner, where thousands were sacrificed in an attempt to take a work less strong than Fisher after it had been subjected to a more continued and fully as severe fire; and in neither of the instances I have mentioned had the assaulting force in its rear, as I had, an army of the enemy larger that itself. I therefore ordered that no assault should be made, and that the troops should re-embark. While

---------------

* Awarded a Medal of Honor.

---------------