Numbers 24. Report of Major William J. Saunders, C. S. Army, Chief of Artillery, of operations January 13-15.
WILMINGTON, N. C., January 18, 1865.
COLONEL: In obedience to verbal instructions, I have the honor, respectfully, to report that on Friday, the 13th instant, I was ordered by Brigadier-General Hebert to proceed to Fort Fisher, then menaced by a powerful fleet of the enemy. Upon my arrival I reported at once to the post commandant, who requested that I would perform my duties as chief of artillery. The action began at 8 a. m. by the Ironsides and four monitors, one a double turreted and the other three single turreted. Their firing was slow and deliberate and directed upon the land face of the fort, evidently with a view to dismounting our guns and breaking down the palisades in front of the work. Our guns, under my immediate command, replied steadily and with accuracy, but I am unable to state with what effect. In the afternoon several frigates, having formed a second line of battle on our sea face, opened a tremendous bombardment on our works. As soon as the fire of the enemy ceased the troops were taken to the palisade line, upon which I posted (by order of the major-general commanding) six light guns. During the entire night (at intervals of half an hour) I fired from different portions of the land face, as also with my light guns, up the beach, having previously (at dark) opened with all of them upon the woods covering the approach to the fort, to dislodge, if possible, any of the enemy who might seek to throw up works at that point, as also to open the road for the re-enforcements expected from that direction. During the night the Ironsides and monitors occupied their relative positions of the day before, all being quiet in that direction.
One the morning of Saturday, the 14th instant, the enemy again opened from the ironclads, directing their fire as on the day before. A number of sharpshooters had likewise effected a lodgment on the road leading to the fort, and annoyed our gunners at their work. During this day the enemy dismounted all of our guns on the land face, with the exception of one 8-inch columbiad, three 32-pounders (smooth-bores), and one 32-pounder Parrott. These, however, kept a steady fire. During the whole of this night the enemy kept up a steady fire on the fort, rendering it impossible for us to remount the guns, excepting one 10-inch mortar, two 24-pounder Coehorn mortars having been placed in the gun chambers of the land face. The enemy's fire was very effective, killing and wounding many of our men on the palisade line, and still further increasing their already exhausted condition, which, from want of rest and food, was very great.
The troops were withdrawn at daylight and held in readiness to resists the assaulting column, which during the day (Sunday, the 15th instant) were being landed and formed in three lines across the neck of land upon which the works were built, a line of skirmishers being thrown some 400 yards to their front, and at about 1,000 yards from the fort. Meanwhile (from an early hour in the morning) a tremendous fire was kept up from the entire fleet, numbering seventy-two vessels of all classes. From a number of these (I am unable to state how many, but should think a sufficient number to bring 300 guns to bear on the works) a concentrated fire was directed at different portions of the works, which was kept up at intervals of ten and twenty minutes. Its effect was terrible, the works being torn to piece and every gun on the