enforce the garrison that night, all apprehension was dispelled by the following dispatches, received respectively at 7.30 and 10 p. m.:
FORT FISHER, January 15, 1865.
General BRAXTON BRAGG:
The enemy are assaulting us by land and sea. Their infantry outnumbers us. Can't you help us? I am slightly wounded.
FORT FISHER, January 15, 1865.
We still hold the fort, but are sorely pressed. Can't you assist us from the outside?
Brigadier-General Colquigtt had been ordered to proceed to the fort
and enter upon the immediate command, with special instructions. He reached Battery Buchanan in time only to witness the capture of such portions of the garrison as had retreated to that point. The written statements made by him and his staff officers as to what they saw are herewith inclosed, together with reports which I called for from Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon and Major Saunders, two officers of General Whiting's staff, sent out by him at the last moment, and a topographical map of the country.* From all the information to be obtained it would seem that the enemy's assault on the seabeach by his naval forces was handsomely repulsed with great loss to them, but that whilst ceded by a single regiment, approached along the river and entered the work on that flank almost unopposed; that they were met, after a secure lodgment had been made, by Major-General Whiting and Colonel Lamb with such forces they could collect, and most gallantly, even desperately, resisted, until the superior numbers of the enemy prevailed.
In this severe conflict, in which we were frequently the attacking party, all accounts agree that the courage and devotion of Major-General Whiting and Colonel Lamb were most conspicuous; they both fell pierced by severe wounds, at the head of their men; but the moment the enemy secured the sally-port his superior numbers gave him every advantage.
Without better information than in now possessed, no opinion should be hazarded as to how this misfortune was brought about. During the short and sharp struggle which ensued after the enemy entered the fort, our loss is represented to have been about 500 killed and wounded. The garrison consisted of about 110 commissioned officers and 2,400 or 2,500 men.
The enemy's fleet consisted of some 70 vessels, 5 of which were iron-clads of the heaviest class, and in all carried at least 600 guns.
Upon ascertaining with certainty the fall of Fort Fisher, I directed the evacuation of the forts below it on the other side of the river, which had now become useless.
The withdrawal of the garrison on Smith's Island was barely accomplished before the enemy's gun-boats entered the Cape Fear, through New Inlet, and the force at the other works having been so weakened in re-enforcing Fort Fisher as, under the altered circumstances, to be at the mercy of a few regiments which the enemy might land above Smithwille, necessarily retired to Fort Anderson during the 16th and 17th. With the means of transportation by land at command, it was
*See Plate CXXXII, Map Numbers 1 of the Atlas.