Henry F. W. Little.

The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion online

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read}' to march at 11 o'clock a. m., with five days' rations,
and the orders for our departure stipulated that we should
take only efficient men ; therefore the sick were to be left
behind in our camps. At just 11 o'clock a. m., the regi-
ment quietly fell in, with three hundred and one men, rank
and file, and were marched to Jones's Landing, where
they crossed the James River on the pontoon bridge, and
proceeded to Bermuda Hundred Landing, near which
place they arrived at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, in a
driving snow-storm, and were marched back about a mile
into a piece of woods, where they bivouacked tor the night.


354 History of the Seventh Regiment

The night was very cold and disagreeable, and it snowed
quite hard all night. We now learned that the supposition
was that we were a part of another expedition to Fort
Fisher. During the 4th, the troops began to embark.
We found the expedition consisted of Ames's entire divi-
sion and Abbott's brigade (1,501 men) of Terry's division
of the Twenty-fourth Corps, and Paine's division of the
Twenty-fifth Corps, in all about eight thousand men,
besides the Sixteenth N. Y. Independent Battery, with
four three-inch guns, and Light Batter}^ E, Third U. S.
Artillery, with six light twelve-pounder guns. The trans-
ports did not arrive as soon as expected, and the embarka-
tion of the troops was not completed until the morning of
the 5th, the Seventh being routed out about 2 o'clock to go
aboard the steam transport " General Lyons" ; by 5 o'clock
A. M. the regiment was all aboard, and the " General
Lyons " pulled out into the stream with other loaded
transports, and anchored for a short time in order to give
the transports not yet loaded a chance to get up to the
wharf. On our transport we found the Third New Hamp-
shire of our brigade, which made the journey much more
agreeable. At sunrise the transport upon which the Sev-
enth had embarked weighed anchor, and proceeded with
others down the river, arrived at Fortress Monroe about 5
o'clock p. M., and anchored. Here we lay for about
twelve hours, during which time we noticed great activity
among the assembling fleet of naval vessels. The fleet
was an enormous one, and composed of every kind of a
vessel — large and small, steam and sail, armed and
unarmed, side-wheelers, propellors, and tugs. The expe-
dition was said to have received sealed orders here, to be
opened oft' Cape Henry.

The vessels all put to sea ver}- early on the morning of
the 6th, ours leaving at 4 o'clock a. m., passing Cape
Henry at 7.30 o'clock. The orders being now read,

New Hampshire V^olunteers.


directed that the fleet should rendezvous twenty-live miles
ofl' Beaufort, N. C, and that the object of the expedition
was for a second demonstration against Fort Fisher. On
the morning of the 7th, we found the fleet still heading in
a southerly direction. The weather was very rough in-
deed and continued so until the 9th. A large quantity of
the government stores provided for this expedition had to
be stored on each vessel, and many of the packages broke
loose on board the different vessels, barrels and boxes
being thrown with such violence from side to side as to
break open packages of sugar, coffee, bacon, etc., so that
much of our provisions became lost in this way.

On the morning of the 8th, we arrived off' Beaufort,
N. C, the appointed rendezvous. The sea was so rough
that we found it impossible to anchor, and consequently
were obliged to cruise about, la3'ing off' and on all day,
waitincr for orders. We were close to the naval fleet of
Rear Admiral Porter, but the weather continued so rough
that we could not anchor until the night of the 9th. On
the loth. General Terry ordered the plan of proceeding to
Fort Fisher, and he directed that the transports follow the
naval vessels in the followincr order :


McClellan "

Livingstone "
Verona " .
De Molay "
Thames "
Champion "
Commodore Dupont"
Montauk "'


by the " Euterpe."
" "Atlandc."
" " Prometheus."
" " General Lyons."
" " California."
" " Weybosset."
" " Russia."
" " Blackstone."

356 History of the Seventh Regiment

The "North Point" and " Blackstone"' were hospital
vessels. The gale which had been continuous thus far
now started in afresh ; the transports were obliged to
put to sea for safety, and occupied the time by cruising
about. Indications looked very much like a regular
"norther," as was sometimes the case in this climate dur-
ing the colder months of the year. The sea was so rough
that the " General Lyons," on which were the Third and
Seventh New Hampshire, was obliged to cruise about all
night. During the night one man from the Third New
Hampshire was lost overboard, by a sudden lurching of
the vessel ; the vessel was turned about and a search
made, but under the existing circumstances it was wholly
useless and of no avail. The name of the man was
Charles Brown, a substitute recruit.

Of this storm Commissary Sergt. James M. Seavey, in
his diary kept at the time, says :

"January 10, commenced blowing last night at 12
o'clock. Has blowed ever since. Sea runs ver}- high.
Weighed anchor at davlight and stood out to sea. Have
been running south all day. The gale has not abated 3'et
(3 p. :m.). Could not set the table in the cabin to-day.
Had to eat our ' grub' sitting on the floor. The waiter who
brought us our tbod would come from the pantry with a
plate of food for someone, when the ship would give a
sudden lurch, and away would go the waiter — plate,
'grub,' and all — across the cabin floor into someone's lap
or into someone's stateroom, head foremost. One waiter
who was carrying a rice pudding was pitched headlong
into a stateroom in such a manner that the pudding com-
pletely covered his face, and as he picked himself up he
was a ludicrous sight to behold. Potatoes were rolling in
all directions, making it dangerous to step upon one.

" A captain was seen trying to eat his dinner sitting at
the table, when all at once a crash was heard, and upon

New Hampshire Volunteers.


looking in that direction the captain was seen lying on his
back, with his head and shoulders in someone's state-
room and his feet and legs out in the cabin, with his food
spread over his face and body. As I am writing this, I
can hear the dishes and all moveable things about the
cabin going from one side of the ship to the other every
time the vessel makes a lurch, at railroad speed, and it is
death and destruction to all glassware and frail things."

On the morning of the nth, as the storm had somewhat
abated, our vessel ran in near the shore and anchored.
During the afternoon we had three days' rations issued,
and were ordered to be ready to go ashore the next morn-
ing. We were tumbling about on the water in this w^ay
until the 12th, when, the weather having changed and the


water having become smoother, the naval fleet started for
Fort Fisher, the war vessels in advance, and each of the
ten gunboats having its accompan3'ing transport.

It was a grand sight. The leading vessels were out of
sight before ours had started, and still there w^ere others
to follow. It was the best illustration we ever saw of
what we learned in our schoolboy days regarding the
rotundity of the earth, the last thing visible of the more
distant vessels being the tops of the masts just before they
disappeared from view. The next morning the continuous
mounds of Fort Fisher appeared in sight.

At daybreak on the 13th, our gunboats began shelling
the woods and shore north of the fort, in order to clear
those places of rebels, that our troops might effect a land-


History of the Seventh Regiment

ing, which was begun about an hour later. We were in
plain sight of the fort, which presented a sight never
before seen by us. It had the appearance of a long
row of immense hay-cocks, and we wondered sometimes
where so much sand could have been found with which to
construct such great mounds and in such numbers. On
the 13th, the troops commenced to land at 8 o'clock a. m.,
and before night were all landed on the beach above the
fort, in small boats manned by sailors from the fleet, and
many amusing incidents occurred during the landing.
As the boats were rowed up to the beach, the heavy
waves would recede, and for an instant the bow of the
boat would rest upon the sand, when the order would be


given to jump, which order was supposed to be executed
on the instant, in order to be out of and clear of the next
incoming wave. The men being in heavy marching
order, and judging from the size of their knapsacks,
perhaps a little top-heavy, could not all execute the move-
ment promptly at the right moment, and those who were
late in the execution of the command would invariably be
caught by the next big roll, when they would find them-
selves in water perhaps ten feet deep. Man}^ came near
being drowned, and were very fortunate in getting off
with only a thorough drenching. A very broad smile was
caused by those who witnessed the misfortune which befell

New Hampshire Volunteers. 359

an officer, in a brand new uniform, whose foot slipped
just as he was ready to jump, sending him headlong into
the water. The sailors pulled him out by the collar, and
seemed much pleased at the opportunity to lend a hand at
his rescue. The officer did not belong to the Seventh, but
was, we were informed later, a newl}' detailed staff officer.
Again, two company cooks, who had been closely watch-
ing this operation of jumping, were anxiously waiting their
chance to land. They were in charge of quite an accu-
mulation of sugar and coffee belonging to their company,
and resolved to keep it dry if possible ; in order to do
so, one fastened the bag of sugar around his neck, and
the other secured the bag containing the coffee in a like
manner around his own. They jumped just quick enough
to get caught in one of the largest of the incoming waves.
The one having charge of the sugar was fished out just in
time to save his life, while the one having the coffee
came near being drowned, but was finally rescued in an
exhausted condition by one of the sailors belonging to the
boat, but the sugar and coffee were spoiled.

The comrades of our regiment who were with that expe-
dition will never forget the comical attempts they were
compelled to make on the beach on that cold January day
at wringing the salt water from their clothes. The land-
ing of the troops occupied the time and attention of every-
body while it was in process, and the operation was not
completed until about 5 o'clock, after which the gunboats
devoted their undivided attention to the fort, pitching in
their shells until long after dark.

As soon as the whole of Colonel Abbott's brigade was
landed they were formed in line with the troops under
General Paine, when General Ames proceeded to form a
line across the peninsula, about two miles above Fort
Fisher to prevent the rebel troops from reinforcing their
garrisons at Fort Fisher and Fort Buchanan. On this

360 History of the Seventh Regiment

line, which extended from the Atlantic Ocean to Cape
Fear River, earthworks were at once thrown up, facing
outward from the direction of Fort Fisher, and the pickets
in front had some slight skirmishes with a small body of
Confederates, but as yet no considerable force had
appeared from the direction of Wilmington.

The 14th was occupied by the navy in shelling the fort,
and from the transports were landed artiller} - , mules, am-
munition, rations, and other paraphernalia, which betok-
ened siege operations, should the coming attack fail to
give us possession of the stronghold ; and at night General
Terry and Admiral Porter arranged the details of the
battle which was to be participated in on the morrow by
both land and naval forces.

There is so much regarding the taking of Fort Fisher to
be carefully weighed and understood — the matter having
led to many long controversies and even to a congressional
investigation — that it is next to impossible to write about
the capture of this noted earthwork and not include an
account of both attacks, General Butler, General Terr}-,
Admiral Porter and the navy, and the famous powder-
boat. To do this I shall quote from the otiicial reports,
first giving a description of the fort. The lollowing
description is from the Third New Hampshire Regimental
history :

FORT fisher.

"A cursory description of the fort, and its value to the
Confederacy, will first be of interest. It was located on
the southerl}' end of a long and narrow spit of land, lying
on the easterly side of the entrance to Cape Fear River,
the latter being the highway, by water, to Wilmington.
There was a pretence, to be sure, of blockading this port,
but to no purpose. It was notoriously true that blockade-
runners went in and out, almost at will, with the result to
be expected : the rebels traded all they chose, and Wil-
mington was their chief port of entr}'.

New Hampshire Volunteers.


" In general shape, looking at it from a more southerly
point, the fort looked like an immense figure ' 7 ' ; while
a view from the other point — say from the point of attack
— had one been 'up in a balloon,' the appearance would
have been like a huge letter 'L.' The fort was not a
continuous work, but rather a series of works, and a bird's-
eye view resembled a row ( shaped as described ) of
immense hay-cocks. The top of the '7' — or the bottom
of the ' L' — formed the land face, which was the point
of approach and attack, while the longer remaining part
formed the sea face. Along the land front (which practi-


cally extended from Cape Fear River to the sea) was a
strong palisade (some call it a stockade), extending from
water to water, near the centre of which was a sally-port.
At the extreme point of the spit of land was Fort Buchanan,
a strong work; while opposite to it (across the mouth
of the river) lay Fort Caswell, of no mean calibre. At
the extreme southerly point of the fort itself was an extra
large work called the Mound Battery. With this general
description, the reader must for the present be content, as
he will obtain further descriptions in the account itself at
various points of its narration."

362 History of the Seventh Regiment

Althouoii the Seventh was not present at the tirst attack
on Fort Fisher, the official reports of the engagement will be
the more interesting as many reasons have been published
as the cause of the failure of the expedition to accomplish
its purpose, and again for the reason that the second expe-
dition was successful.

The forces composing the first expedition were : First
Brigade, Brevet Brig. Gen. N. M. Curtis ; which was on
the Steamers "C. Thomas" and " Weybosset." About
five hundred of this brigade landed first, and quite precip-
itately, and a little later the remaining portion of this
brigade landed more deliberately. This five hundred con-
sisted of the One Hundred and Forty-second New York,
and about fifty of the One Hundred and Twelfth New
York. It was a portion of this brigade that was left on
shore till the 27th. The place of landing was about three
miles north of Fort Fisher, and was made under the super-
vision of Brigadier-General Graham's Naval Brigade.
The Second Brigade was under command of Col. Galusha
A. Pennypacker, on the steamers " Perrit L. Moore" and
" Idaho," and was landed. The Third Brigade was under
command of Col. Louis Bell, on the steamers ''Baltic"
and " Haze," and was landed. The Sixteenth New York
Battery, Captain Lee, was on the steamer " Starlight."'

The following is the official report of General Butler to
General Grant, of the first attack, and will be found quite
explanatory regarding the result and very interesting :

Headquarters Department of Virginia
AND North Carolina.
Ar:\iy of the James, In the Field, Jan. 3, 1S65.

General, — On the 7th of December last, in obedience to
your orders, I moved a force of six thousand five hundred
efficient men, consisting of General Ames's division of the
Twentv-fourth Corps, and General Paine's division ot the
Twenty-fifth Corps, under command of Major General

New Hampshire Volunteers. 363

Weitzel, to an encampment near Bermuda. On the Sth,
the troops embarked for Fortress Monroe. On the 9th
(Friday), I reported to Rear Admiral Porter that the
army portion of the conjoint expedition directed against
Wihnington was ready to proceed. We waited there till
Saturday, the loth, Sunday, the nth, and Monday, the
1 2th. On the 12th, Rear Admiral Porter informed me
that the naval fleet would sail on the 13th, but would be
obliged to put into Beaufort to take on board ammunition
for the monitors. The expedition having become the sub-
ject of remark, and fearing lest its destination should get
to the enemy, in order to divert from it all attention, on
the morning of Tuesday, the 13th, at 3 o'clock, I ordered
the transport fleet to proceed up the Potomac, during the
day, to Matthias Point, so as to be plainly visible to the
scouts and signal men of the enem}^ on the northern neck,
and to retrace their course at night and anchor under the
lee of Cape Charles.

Having given the navy thirty-six hours' start, at 12
o'clock noon of the 14th, Wednesday, I joined the trans-
port fleet ofl' Cape Henry and put to sea, arriving at the
place of rendezvous ofl' New Inlet, near Fort Fisher, on
the evening of the 15th, Thursday. We then waited for
the navy Friday, the i6th, Saturday, the 17th, and Sun-
day, the iSth, during which days we had the finest pos-
sible weather and the smoothest sea. On the evening of
the i8th. Admiral Porter came from Beaufort to the place
of rendezvous. That evening the sea became rough, and
on Monday, the 19th, the wind sprang up freshly, so that
it was impossible to land troops ; by the advice of Admiral
Porter, communicated to me by letter, I directed the trans-
port fleet to rendezvous at Beaufort. This was a matter of
necessity, because the transport fleet, being coaled and
watered for ten days, had already waited that time, to
wit: from the 9th, the day on which we were ready to
sail, to the 19th.

On the 20th (Tuesday), 21st (Wednesday), 2 2d (Thurs-
day), and 23d (Friday), it blew a gale. I was occupied
in coaling and watering the transport fleet at Beaufort.
The "Baltic," having a larger supply of coal, was enabled
to remain at the place of rendezvous, with a brigade on

364 History of the Seventh Regiment

board of twelve hundred men, and General Ames reported
to Admiral Porter that he would cooperate with him.

On the 23d, I sent Captain Clark, of my staff', from
Beaufort on the fast-sailing, armed steamer "Chamber-
lain," to Admiral Porter, to inform him that on the evening
of the 24th I would again be at the rendezvous with the
transport fleet, for the purpose of commencing the attack,
the weather permitting. At 4 o'clock on the evening of
the 24th, I came in sight of Fort Fisher, and found the
naval fleet engaged in bombarding it, the powder vessel
having been exploded on the morning previous, about
I o'clock. Through General Weitzel I arranged with
Admiral Porter to commence the landing under cover of
the gunboats as early as 8 o'clock the next morning, if
possible, as soon as the Are of the Half Moon and Flag Pond
Hill batteries had been silenced. These are up the shore
some two or three miles above Fort Fisher. Admiral Por-
ter was quite sanguine that he had silenced the guns of Fort
Fisher. He was then urged, if that were so, to run by
the fort into Cape Fear River, and then the troops could
land and hold the beach without liability of being shelled
by the enemy's gunboats, the " Tallahasse " being seen in
the river. It is to be remarked that Admiral Farragut
even had never taken a fort except by running by and
cutting it oft' from all prospect of reinforcement, as at
Fort Johnson and Fort Morgan, and that no casemated
fort had been silenced by naval Are during the war ; that
if the admiral would put his ships in the river, the army
could supply him across the beach, as we had proposed
to do Farragut at Fort St. Philip : that, at least, the
blockade at Wilmington would be thus effectual, even if
we did not capture the fort. To that the admiral replied
that he should probably lose a boat by torpedoes if he
attempted to run b}-. He was reminded that the army
might lose five hundred men by the assault, and that his
boat would not weigh in the balance, even in a money
point of view, for a moment with the lives of the men.
The admiral declined going by, and the expedition was
deprived of that essential element of success.

At 12 o'clock noon of the 25th (Sunday), Captain
Glisson, commanding the covering division of the fleet,

New Hampshire Volunteers. 365

reported the batteries silenced and his vessels in position
to cover our landing. The transport fleet, following my
flag-ship, stood in within eight hundred yards of the
beach, and at once commenced debarking. The landing
was successfully effected. Finding that the reconnoiter-
ing party just landed could hold the shore, I determined
to land a force with which an assault might be attempted.
Brevet Brigadier-General Curtis, who deserves well for
his gallantry, immediately pushed up his brigade within a
few hundred yards of Fort Fisher, capturing the Half
Moon Battery and its men, who were taken ofl^ by the
boats of the navy. This skirmish line advanced to within
seventy-five yards of the fort, protected by the glacis,
which had been thrown up in such form as to give cover,
the garrison being completely kept in their bomb-proofs
by the fire of the navy, which was very rapid and contin-
uous, their shells bursting over the work with very consid-
erable accuracy. At this time we lost ten men, wounded
on the skirmish line by the shells from the fleet. Quitting
my flag-ship, I went on board the "Chamberlain" and
ran in within a few hundred yards of the fort, so that it
w^as plainly visible. It appeared to be a square-bastioned
work of very high relief, say fifteen feet, surrounded by
a wet ditch some fifteen feet wide. It was protected from
being enveloped by an assaulting force by a stockade
which extended from the Ibrt to the sea on one side and
from the marshes of Cape Fear River to the salient on the
other. No material damage to the fort as a defensive
work had been done. Seventeen heavy guns bore up the
beach, protected from the fire of the navy by traverses
eight or ten feet high, which were undoubtedly bomb-
proof shelters for the garrison. With the garrison kept
within their bomb-proofs, it was easy to maintain this
position ; but the shells of the navy, which kept the enemy
in their bomb-proofs, would keep my troops out. When
those ceased falling, the parapet was fully manned.
Lieutenant Walling, One Hundred and Forty-second
New York, pressed up to the edge of the ditch, and cap-
tured a flag which had been cut down by a shell from the
navy. It is a mistake, as was first reported to me, that
any soldier entered the fort. An orderly w^as killed about
a third of a mile from the fort, and his horse taken.

^66 History of the Seventh Regiment

In the meantime the remainder of Ames's division had
captured two hundred and eighteen men and ten commis-
sioned officers of the North Carolina Reserves and otlier
prisoners. From them I learned that Kirkland's and
Hagood's brigades of Hoke's division had left the front of
the Army of the James, near Richmond, and were then
within two miles of the rear of my forces, and their skir-
mishers were then actualh- engaged ; that the remainder
of Hoke's division had come the night before to Wilming-
ton, and were then on the march, if they had not already
arrived. I learned also that these troops had left Rich-
mond on Tuesday, the 20th. Knowing the strength of
Hoke's division, I found a force opposed to me, outside of
the works, larger than m}' own. In the meantime the
weather assumed a threatening aspect. The surf began
to roll in so that the landingr became difficult. At this
time General Weitzel reported to me that to assault the
work, in his judgment and in that of experienced officers
of his command, who had been in the skirmish line, with
any prospect of success was impossible. This opinion
coincided with my own, and much as I regretted the
necessity of abandoning the attempt, yet the path of duty

Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 28 of 52)