in our hands, the navy could enter the harbor, and the port of Wilmington would be sealed. Should Fort Fisher and the point of land on which it is built fall into the hands of our troops immediately on landing, then it will be worth the attempt to capture Wilmington by a forced march and surprise. If time is consumed in gaining the first object of the expedition, the second will become a mater of after consideration.
The details for execution are intrusted to you and the officer immediately in command of the troops.
Should the troops under General Weitzel fail to effect a landing at or near Fort Fisher, they will be returned to the armies operating against Richmond without delay.
U. S. GRANT,
General Butler commanding the army from which the troops were taken for this enterprise, and the territory within which they were to operate, military courtesy required that all orders and instructions should go through him. They were so sent; but General Weitzel had since officially informed me that he never received the foregoing instructions, nor was he aware of their existence until he read General Butler's published official report of the Fort Fisher failure, with my indorsement and papers accompanying it. I had no idea of General Butler's accompanying the expedition until the evening before it got off from Bermuda Hundred, and then did not dream but the General Weitzel had received all the instructions and would be in command. I rather formed the idea that General Butler was actuated by a desire to witness the effect of the explosion of the powder-boat. The expedition was detained several days at Hampton Roads awaiting the loading of the powder-boat. The importance of getting the Wilmington expedition off without any delay, with or without the powder-boat, had been urged upon General Butler, and he advised to so notify Admiral Porter. The expedition finally got off on the 13th of December, and arrived at the place of rendezvous (off New Inlet, near Fort Fisher) on the evening of the 15th. Admiral Porter arrived on the evening of the 18th, having put in a t Beaufort to get ammunition for the monitors. The sea becoming rough, making it difficult to land troops, and the supply of water and coal being about exhausted, the transport fleet put back to Beaufort to replenish; this, with the state of the weather, delayed the return to the place of rendezvous until the 24th. The powder-boat was exploded on the morning of the 24th before the return of General Butler from Beaufort, but it would seem from the notice taken of it in the Southern newspapers that the enemy were never enlightened as to the object of the explosion until they were informed by the Northern press.
On the 25th a landing was effected without opposition, and a reconnaissance, under Brevet Brigadier-General Curtis, pushed up toward the fort. But before receiving a full report of the result of this reconnaissance, General Butler, in direct violation of the instructions given, ordered the re-embarkation of the troops and the return of the expedition. The re-embarkation was accomplished by the morning of the 27th. On the return of the expedition, officers and men-among them Bvt. Major General (then brevet brigadier-general) N. M. Curtis, First Lieutenant G. W. Ross,---- Regiment Vermont Volunteers [One hundred and seventeenth New York], First Lieutenant William H. Walling, and Second Lieutenant George Simpson, One hundred and forty-second New York Volunteers--voluntarily, reported ot me that when recalled they were nearly into the fort, and, in their opinion, it could have been taken without much loss.*
*Fort subordinate reports of Butler's expedition, see Vol. XLII, Part I.