The bombardment of Fort Fisher was renewed by a portion of the fleet on the morning of the 13th, whilst the transports, under cover of another portion, proceeded to a point some six miles north, and commenced to disembark troops on the sand-spit between the sea and Masonborough Sound. Owing to the intervening swamp and sound, it was impossible for us to attack the enemy at their landing point, even if the heavy metal of the fleet had not securely covered them. Nothing was left but to post our troops to watch their movements, which was judiciously done by Major-General Hoke. A detachment of cavalry was thrown to his right and front, some three miles toward Fort Fisher, by a military causeway leading through the swamp to Battery Anderson, the nearest point accessible to the seabeach. This swamp, which skirts along the sound to its head, near Battery Anderson, there turns nearly due west across the peninsula and terminates in a small stream which conveys it swatters into the rive through a narrow neck of high land about three miles from the fort. Along this narrow ridge runs the only practicable route to the fort west of the seabeach. Works had been ordered and were under construction, to enable a small force to hold the passage along the seabeach to the fort from the secure landing above, but they had not sufficiently progressed to render them useful. Nor is it believed any ordinary work could have been long held against the enormous weight of metal which could be concentrated on it, short range, the water from this point north being deep close in shore.
On the afternoon of the 13th I joined Major-General Hoke's command at his headquarters near Sugar Loaf, and after a free conference, fully approved his disposition. The command could not have been divided with any safety, and to have placed it between the enemy and Fort fisher would have enabled them to seize our entrenched camp, and securely confine our entire force on the southern end of the peninsula, exposed without cover to the fire of the whole fleet, which reached from the sea to the river throughout the whole distance. The troops were ordered to lie upon their arms, and to move promptly and attack, should the enemy attempt to extend his lines toward the fort.
In making a reconnaissance early the next morning, the 14th, toward our right, whilst I was on the left, Major-General Hoke was fired upon by the enemy before reaching the line assigned his cavalry. Upon due between us and the fort, entirely across the peninsula from Battery Anderson on the sea to the river. Putting his command in motion, and promptly reporting what had occurred, he was ordered to move upon the enemy, and dislodge him if practicable. The movement had been made by the enemy, under cover of darkeners, and the cavalry stationed on our flank for the purpose had failed to give any notice. Passing to the front with the troops, I united in another examination of the enemy's line, and concurring in the opinion already expressed to me, I suspended the order for the attack. The enemy largely exceeded us in numbers, and was well entrenched from sea to river, a distance not exceeding one mile. I do not believe this change of position by the enemy could have been prevented with the enormous fleet to cover his movements, though he might have been retarded, if timely information had been received. But its successful accomplishment was not considered as placing the forti much danger, if boldly defended by a vigilant garrison, as our communication with it by water at night could not be interrupted unless the fleet forced a passage into the river.