The precise point of his advent was not known; it was a stormy season of the year, and only reliable ocean steamers could be used, with a proper regard for the lives of the passengers and the property on board.
At this time some 300,000 men, including the armies of Grant and Sherman, were dependent entirely for their supplies upon water transportation. The winter was unusually severe; storms swept the ocean, and ice blocked the bays and rivers. Notwithstanding, the troops were kept well supplied, and stores and forage were sent as far south as Pensacola, and a large number of light-draft river steamers and tugs were sent to Hilton Head, S. C., to be on hand for the navigation of the shoal rivers of the Southern coast, all of which, fortunately, arrived in safety and rendered efficient service after the fall of Savannah and Charleston.
When General Sherman's army left Savannah, in continuation of it victorious march through the Southern States, a part was transported by sea to Beaufort, N. C., while the light fleet of steamers followed along the coast, ready again to meet and co- operate with the army at Wilmington and Morehead City. A large number of canal barges were sent via the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal to carry supplies up the North Carolina rivers.
On the 24th of this month (December), an eventful one in our history, the first attack on Fort Fisher was made, and ocean transportation was provided for the land forces from City Point, Va., and, when the expedition proved unsuccessful, brought the troops back to Fortress Monroe. In January another and successful expedition was sent to the Cape Fear River, resulting in the fall of Fort Fisher and the evacuation of Wilmington, N. C., by the rebels.
The department was much embarrassed at this time by the difficulty of procuring ocean steamers whose draft of water would allow them to enter Cape Fear River, and at Morehead City, which were not safe to attempt with a greater draft then twelve feet. Steamers had to lie at anchor on an open coast in midwinter and discharge their cargoes in small vessels.
In this connection I would state, as worthy or remark, that during the last fiscal year only three vessels in the service of the War Department have been lost at sea. One of them, the North America, was a new, first-class steamer; another, the General Lyon, took fire and was burned; and the third one, the Admiral Du Point, collided with a ship at sea and was sunk. These were all chartered steamers, and the loss of life and property was not great.
From January to the surrender of General Lee, in April, the water transportation department continued faithfully to supply the two great armies of Grant and Sherman, and nearly every ocean steamer of any capacity in the country was employed.
After the surrender of the rebel armies in the Atlantic States, and the virtual close of the war, every exertion was made to reduce the expenses of the department, and vessels belonging to the Government were sold and chartered ones discharged as fast as the service would allow.
Of the first class it is not supposed the Government will realize a sum from their sale in proportion to their original cost. The requirements of the service were such that they were always under a severe strain, and, notwithstanding frequent repairs, the close of the war found most of them in bad condition. Many ships were yet required