Henry F. W. Little.

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

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was plain. So strong a work as Fort Fisher had not
been taken by assault during the war, and I had to guide
me the experience of Port Hudson, with its slaughtered
thousands in the repulsed assault, and the double assault
on Fort Wagner, where thousands were sacrificed in an
attempt to take a work less strong than Fisher, after it
had been subjected to a more continued and fully as
severe fire. And in neither of the instances I have
mentioned had the assaulting force in its rear, as I had,
an army of the enemy, larger than itself. I therefore
ordered that no assault should be made, and that the
troops should re-embark. While superintending the prep-
aration for this, the fire of the navy ceased. Instantly the
guns of the fort were fully manned, and a sharp fire of
musketry, grape, and canister swept the plain over which
the column must have advanced and the skirmish line was
returning. Working with what diligence we could, it was
impossible to get the troops again on board before the sea
ran so high as to render further re-embarkation, or even
the sending of supplies on shore, impossible. I la}' by

New Hampshire Volunteers. 367

the shore until 11 o'clock the next day (Monday, the
26th), when, having made all proper dispositions for
getting the troops on board, I gave orders for the trans-
port fleet, as fast as the}' were ready, to sail for Fortress
Monroe, in obedience to my instructions from the lieuten-

I learned from deserters and prisoners captured that the
supposition upon which the lieutenant-general directed the
expedition, that Wilmington had been denuded of troops
to oppose General Sherman, was correct; that at the time
when the army arrived off Wilmington, there were less
than four hundred men in the garrison of Fort Fisher and
less than one thousand within twenty miles. But the
delay of three days' good weather — the i6th, 17th, and
i8th — waiting for the arrival of the navv, and the further
delay of the terrible storm of the 21st, 22d, and 23d, gave
time for troops to be brought from Richmond, three divi-
sions of which were either there or on the road. The
instructions of the lieutenant-o-eneral to me did not contem-
plate a siege. I had neither siege-trains nor supplies for
such a contingency. The exigency of possible delay, for
which the foresight of the commander of the armies had
provided, had arisen, to wit: the larger reinforcement of
the garrison. This, together with the fact that the navy
had exhausted their supply of ammunition in the bom-
bardment, left me with no alternative but to return with
m}' troops to the Army of the James.

The loss of the opportunit}' of Friday, Saturday, and
Sunda}', the i6th, 17th, and i8th, was the immediate
cause of the failure of the expedition. It is not my prov-
ince even to suggest blame to the navy for their delay of
four days at Beaufort. I know none of the reasons
which do or do not justify it. It is to be presumed they
are sufficient. I am happy to bring to the attention of the
lieutenant-general the excellent behavior of the troops,
both officers and men, which was all that could be desired.
I am under special obligations to Captain Glisson, of
the " Santiaso de Cuba," for the able and efficient manner
in which he covered our landing : to Captain Alden, of the
" Brooklyn," for his prompt assistance and the excellent
gunnery with which the " Brooklyn" cleared the shore of
all opposers at the moment of debarkation. Lieutenant

368 History of the Seventh Regiment

Farquhar, of the navy, having in charge the navy boats
which assisted in the landing, deserves great credit for the
energy and skill with which he managed the boats through
the rolling surf. Especial commendation is due Brigadier-
General Graham and the officers and men of his naval
brigade for the organization of his boats and crews for
landing and the untiring energy and industr}^ with which
they all labored in re-embarking the troops during the
stormy night of the 25th and the da3^s following. For this
and other meritorious services during the campaign since
the ist of Mav, which have heretotbre been brought to
the notice of the lieutenant-general in my official reports,
I w^ould respectfully but earnestly recommend General
Graham for promotion. The number of prisoners cap-
tured by us was three hundred, including twelve officers ;
also two heavy rifled guns, two light guns, and six cais-
sons. The loss of the army was one man drowned, two
men killed, one officer captured, two accidentally w^an-
dered through our pickets, and ten men wounded while
upon the picket line by the shells of the navy. Always
chary of mentioning with commendation the acts of my
own personal stati\ yet I think the troops who saw it will
agree to the cool courage and daring of Lieut. Sydney B.
DeKay, aide-de-camp, in landing on the night of the
25th, and remaining aiding in re-embarkation on the 27th.

For the details of the landing and the operations, I beg
leave to refer you to the reports of Major-General Weitzel,
commanding the division landed. Trusting my action will
meet with the approval of the lieutenant-general, the
report is respectfully submitted.

Benj. F. Butler,
To Lieut. Gen. U. S. Grant, Major-General.

Commanding Annies of the U. S.

By the official reports of Rear x\dmiral Porter during
these operations against Fort Fisher, it will be readily
seen that he was anything but friendly toward General
Butler, and did not use that courtesy, in speaking of the
part taken by the army, that should have been accorded
a commanding offiicer, and we have failed to see the





New Hampshire Volunteers. 369

hearty cooperation by the naval commander of the expe-
dition that was expected by General Butler. As a sample
of his daily reports, we give the following, which wall
explain the feeling which existed and to which we have
referred :

Flag-Ship " Malvern,"
Off New Inlet, N. C, December 27, 1864.

Sir, — My dispatch of yesterday will give you an ac-
count of our operations, but will scarcel}' give you an idea
of my disappointment at the conduct of the army authori-
ties, in not attempting to take possession of the forts, which
had been so completely silenced by our guns. They were
so blown up, burst up, and torn up, that the people inside
had no intention of fighting any longer. Had the army
made a show of surrounding it, it would have been ours ;
but nothing of the kind w^as done. The men landed,
reconnoitered, and hearing the enemy was massing troops
somewhere, the order was given to re-embark. They
went away as soon as a majority of the troops were on the
transports; and it coming on to blow rather fresh, about
seven hundred were left on shore. They have been there
ever since, without food or water, having landed with
only twenty-four hours' rations. I opened communication
with them this morning, and supplied them with provi-
sions. To show that the rebels have no force here, these
men have been on shore two da3's without being molested.
I am now getting them off, and it has taken half the
squadron, with the loss of many boats, to assist. I can't
conceive what the army expected when they came here.
It certainly did not need seven thousand men to garrison
Fort Fisher. It only requires one thousand to garrison all
these forts, which are entirely under the guns of Fort
Fisher. That taken, the river is open. Could I have
found a channel to be relied on in time, I would have put
the small vessels in, even if I had got a dozen of them
sunk ; but the channel we did find was only wide enough
for one vessel at right antrles, and we were not certain
of soundings. There never was a fort that invited sol-
diers to walk in and take possession more plainly than
Fort Fisher; an officer got on the parapet even, saw no


370 History of the Seventh Regiment

one inside, and brought away the flag we had cut down.
A soldier goes inside, through a sally-port, meets in the
fort, coming out of a bomb-proof, an orderly on horse-
back, shoots the orderly, searches his body, and brings
away with him the horse and communication the orderly
was bearing, to send up field pieces. Another soldier goes
into the fort, and brings out a mule that was stowed awa}^ ;
another soldier, who went inside w^hile our shells were
falling, shot his musket into a bomb-proof, where he saw
some rebels huddled together, and was not molested.
Ten soldiers who went around the fort were wounded by
our shells. All the men wanted was an order to go in.
We have been shown the weakness of this work. It can
be taken any moment in an hour's time, if the right man
is sent with the troops. They should be sent here to stay :
to land with a month's provisions, intrenching tools, guns,
and coehorn mortars. Ten thousand men will hold the
whole country. The rebels have been able to send here,
all told, about four thousand men. Seventy-five of them
gave themselves up to the navy, and two hundred and
eighteen gave themselves up to the reconnoitering party.
If I can't do better, I will land the sailors, and try if we
can't have full credit for what we do. If General Hancock,
with ten thousand men, were sent down here, we could
walk right into the fort.

I am, etc.,

David D. Porter,

_ ^^ ^ ,,, Rear Admiral.

To Hon. Gideon Welles,

Secretary of Navy, Washiiigioii, D. C.

General Whiting, the Confederate commander says he
had, on the iSth of December, six hundred and sixty-
seven men, and on the 23d was reinforced by four hun-
dred and ten men ; that on the 24th the fire of the fleet
disabled five guns, and on the 25th four guns, two of the
latter being on the left, looking up the beach, leaving
nineteen in position. The mines were undisturbed.

In a later report on December 30, speaking of the troops
composing the garrison. General Whiting says he had to

New Hainipshire Volunteers. 371

coax the Junior Reserves, a body of troops of two hun-
dred and fifty men, to come out from the bomb-proofs to
repel a possible assault ; that the heavy weather of Wed-
nesday and Thursday, after the arrival of the fleet, was the
salvation of the fort.

General Weitzel testified before the Congressional Com-
mittee that among the troops he found opposing him were
the Thirty-fourth North Carolina of Kirtland's brigade of
Hoke's division of Longstreet's corps, which the soldiers
from the Army of the James had been fighting in Virginia
since the previous May.

The t'ollowing commvmication from General Butler to
Admiral Porter is interesting :

25 December, 1864.
Upon landing the troops and making a thorough recon-
noissance of Fort Fisher, both General Weitzel and
myself are fully of the opinion that the place could not be
carried by assault, as it was left substantially uninjured,
as a defensive work, by the navy fire. We found seven-
teen guns protected by traverses, tw'o only of which were
dismounted, bearing up the beach, and covering a strip of
land, the only practicable route, not more than wide
enough for one thousand men in line of battle. I shall
therefore sail for Hampton Roads as soon as the transport
fleet can be got in order.

The troops of the first expedition were landed by the
naval brigade, — a well drilled and disciplined body of
sailors under General Graham. The troops composing
the second expedition were not landed by this brigade,
although landed by naval boats and crews.

The northern or land face of the fort, covering four
hundred and eighty yards, had twenty-one guns ; the sea
face, thirteen hundred yards, seventeen guns. The para-
pets were twenty-five feet thick and averaged twenty feet
high ; while the traverses were higher by about ten feet
and sloped back to about eight or twelve feet thick.


History of the Seventh Regiment

There were thirty bomb-proots, ^vith a floor area of four-
teen thousand five hundred feet.

Thus ended the first attack, and the results were quite
discouraging ; the troops were returned to \^irginia, and
Admiral Porter feehngly wrote the Department that he
was very sure the fort could be taken with a force under a
competent officer.

Secretar}- Welles of the Navy Department telegraphed
General Grant on the 29th of December, urging him to
furnish a sufficient force to insure the fall of Fort Fisher,
and says that the telegram " is sent at the suggestion of
the President." And finally says that "if the requisite
force cannot be furnished, the fleet will have to dis-
perse and cannot be again assembled" ; on the same day
Admiral Porter wrote the Navy Department that he had
sent most of his fleet, for deception purposes, to Beaufort,
one or two at a time, to look as if going away for repairs,
and further says that could he depend upon the sailors, he
would ask no army force : but he sa3's a large part of the
crews are green, and that sailors cannot stand the concen-
trated fire of regular troops. He again refers to his origi-
nal proposition for twelve thousand men. In concluding,
he begs that the fleet be not broken up, but permitted to
remain until found impossible to take the fort.

December 31, Secretary Welles informed Admiral Por-
ter that a competent force, properly commanded, was to
be sent immediately by General Grant, and would proba-
bly be ready to leave Hampton Roads the following Mon-
day or Tuesday, which at once signified that a second
attack on this stronghold was about to be made and that
every available means was to be used to make an assault
successful. In this second expedition was Ha\vle}""s bri-
gade, which was the Second Brigade of the First Division
of the Twenty-fourth Army Corps. On this expedidon
this brigade was commanded by Col. Joseph C. x\bbott,
of the Seventh New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Volunteers.



374 History of the Seventh Regiment

The Seventh from the time of its landing, on the 13th,
was fully occupied in skirmishing, doing picket duty and
entrenching until the 15th, on which day, everything
being in readiness, the attack upon Fort Fisher com-
menced by a heav}' bombardment by the fleet about 9
o'clock in the mornincr a desultory tire havinor been
kept up during the night by a portion of the naval vessels.
It had been arranged that the assault should be made at 3
p. M., by both the land forces and the nav}- ; the column
from the na\'y consisted of four hundred marines and six-
teen hundred sailors, and was to assault on the sea face of
the fort, while the troops were to assault from the land
side. The bombardment b}' the navy was terrific, and it
is doubtful if there ever was a naval enfjacrement in which
such a storm of shells were thrown into a tort as were
thrown into Fort Fisher between 9 o'clock a. m. and
3 o'clock p. M., averaging seventy or more per minute,
and at 2 p. m. prepartions were made for the attack. At
3 p. M. the order to assault was given and the column of
marines and sailors moved up the beach in the direction
of the fort, while Curtis's, Pennypacker's and Bell's bri-
gades attacked from the land side in the order named.
The naval column was quickly repulsed, but the troops
approaching from the land side were successful, and about
dark Abbott's brigade, which had been left on the picket
line to prevent reinforcements from reaching the rebel
garrison from the direction of Wilmington, were ordered
into the assaulting column as a support for the troops
already engaged, who had as yet been only partiall}' suc-
cessful, making the fourth brigade engaged in the assault.
The Seventh entered at the gates and openings in the
palisades, and passed around the foot of the mounds
until opposite those which had not yet been captured, and
were then ordered to march by the right flank and begin
to ascend the mounds. A charge quickly drove the rebels

New Hampshire Volunteers. 375

from their breastworks, on reaching which we immedi-
ately jumped inside, and soon had the Confederates on
the run for Fort Buchanan, w^iich was situated still farther
down on the peninsula ; those who could not get to Fort
Buchanan took refuge in the many bomb-proofs with
which this fort abounded. The troops in the fort success-
fully charged one mound after another until everything
was in our possession, and the rebels who had taken ref-
uge in the magazines and bomb-proofs surrendered.
Many prisoners were taken, and many deeds of personal
valor were performed by men of the different companies.
It was about 10 o'clock at night when the whole of the fort
was in the possession of our troops. Sergeant-Major
Rand compelled several rebels to surrender to him, and
First Sergeant Curtice, of Company D, captured a rebel
captain of a North Carolina regiment, who very reluc-
tantly surrendered his sword and belt to the sergeant.

The attention of the commanding officer was then turned
toward Fort Buchanan, and the whole of Abbott's brigade
and one colored regiment, the Twenty-se^■enth United
States, were at once ordered outside and south of the fort,
and formed in line of battle facing Fort Buchanan which
was to be the objective point. The men, flushed with
recent victory, hailed with cheers the order of " forward."
The commander of this earthwork finding further conten-
tion useless, quickl}- surrendered, and this fort and its gar-
rison, and all those who had escaped from Fort Fisher,
fell into our hands. This fort mounted two heavy guns.
This completed the surrender to the Union forces of these
immense fortifications, which had been considered impreg-
nable. It was a crushincr blow to the Confederacv, as it
completely closed the Cape Fear River and effectually
closed the port of Wilmington.

Altogether our forces had captured at this second attack
on Fort Fisher, one hundred and twelve commissioned

376 History of the Seventh Regiment

officers, one thousand nine hundred and seventy-one en-
listed men, one hundred and sixty-nine pieces of artillery,
nearly all of which were heavy guns, over two thousand
stand of small arms, full supplies of ammunition, and a
large quantity of commissary stores. The guns were
mostly of English manufacture, and of the very best pat-
tern. Some of them were found boxed just as they had
been imported. Those which had been mounted around
the fort were badlv knocked to pieces, showing the accu-
racy and et^ect of the tire from our fleet. Around one gun
of very heavy calibre lay its entire crew, having been
killed by one of our shells, which was the more noticeable
from the fact that this was a very unusual casualty : some
of these immense guns were literally thrown from the par-
apets down inside the fort, and were broken and otherwise
injured by the shot and shells thrown by our fleet. The
quartermaster's and commissary's buildings had been
knocked into very small pieces of kindling wood.

After the battle was over, and during the night, a mag-
azine was blown up inside the fort, by which many soldiers
lost their lives. The Fourth New Hampshire was a
heavy loser by this explosion, being stationed in its imme-
diate vicinitv- It will probably never be known just how
this explosion happened, although it was thought at the
time that some rebel had caused it for the sake of revenge,
but the writer has always surmised that it might have been
some thirsty " Yank," foraging for whiskey, perhaps, who
accidentally did the mischief.

The news of the capture of Fort Fisher could not reach
those vessels already on the way to run the blockade ; as
we had captured the rebel signal-service men who had
been stationed at Fort Fisher, they were brought forward
and compelled to signal every vessel which appeared, just
as was customary when the fort was in possession of the
rebels. The consequence was that for some days the

New Hampshire Volunteers. 377

blockade-runners continued to come in, and the reader can
imagine for himself the complete surprise of the officers
and crews of those vessels when they found into whose
hands the}- had fallen.

As General Terry was entrusted with the immediate
command of the second and successful expedition to cap-
ture Fort Fisher we give his official report, without which
any account ot the taking of this noted stronghold would
be sadly incomplete :

General, — I have the honor to submit the following
detailed report of the operations which resulted in the cap-
ture of Fort Fisher and the recapture of Fort Caswell,
and the other works at the mouth of Cape Fear River.

On the 2d instant, I received from the lieutenant-general,
in person, orders to take command of the troops destined
tor the movement. They were : Thirty-three hundred
picked men from the Second Division of the Twenty-
fourth Army Corps, under Brig. Gen. (now Brevet Maj.
Gen.) Adelbert Ames ; the same number from the Third
Division of the Twenty-lifth Army Corps, under command
of Brig. Gen. Charles J. Paine; fourteen hundred men
from the Second Brigade of the First Division of the
Twenty-tburih x\rmy Corps, under Col. (now Brevet Brig.
Gen.) J. C. Abbott, Seventh N. H. Volunteers; the Six-
teenth N. Y. Independent Battery with four three-inch
guns; and Light Battery E, Third U. S. Artillery with
six light twelve-pounder guns. I was instructed to move
them Irom their positions in the lines on the north side
of the James River to Bermuda Landing, in time to com-
mence their embarkation on transport vessels at sunrise
on the 4th instant. In obedience to these orders the move-
ment commenced at noon of the 3d instant. The troops
arrived at the landincr at sunset, and there bivouacked

r • • •

for the night. The transports did not arrive as soon as
they were expected. The tirst of these made its appear-
ance late in the at"ternoon of the 4th. One of them, the
"Atlantic," was of too heavy draught to come up the
James. Curtis's brigade, of Ames's division, was there-
tore placed on river steamboats and sent down the river


/S History of the Se\'i-:nth Reglmext

to be transferred to her. The embarkation of the re-
mainder of the force commenced at sunset of the 4th,
and was completed at noon of the 5th. Each vessel, as
soon as loaded, was sent to Fortress Monroe, and at 9 p. m.
ot the 5th the whole ileet was collected in Hampton
Roads. The troops were all in hea\'y marching order with
tour days" rations (from the morning of the 4th instant)
in their hax'ersacks and fort\- rounds of ammunition in
their boxes. No horses, wagons, or ambulances were
taken and the caissons of the artillery were left behind,
but in addition to the ammunition in the limber chests,
one hundred and hfty rounds per gun in packing-boxes
were embarked.

I went down the i"i\'er personally with the lieutenant-
general, and on the wa\' recei\"ed from him additional
instructions and the information that orders had been given
tor the embarkation of a siege train to consist of twentv-
lour thirty-pounder Parrotts and twent\' coehorn mortars,
with a detail ot artillerists and company- of engineers, so
that in case siege operations should become necessary, the
men and materials for it might be at hand. These troops,
under command of Brig. Gen. H. L. Abbott, were to tbl-
low me to Beautbrt, X. C. and aw;iit orders. It was not
until this time that I was informed that Fort Fisher was
the point against which I was to operate. During the
evening of the 5th, orders were given for the transports to
proceed to sea at 4 o'clock next morning : and accompany-
ing these orders were sealed letters to be opened when ot^'
Cape Henry, directing them to rendezvous, in case of
separation from the t^ag-ship, at a point twenty-ri\e miles
oti' Beaufort, N. C. The vessels sailed at the appointed
hour. During the 6th instant, a se\'ere storm arose, which
so much impeded our progress that it was not until the
morning of the 8th instant, that my own vessel arrived at the
rendezvous. All the others, excepting the Hag-ship of Gen-
eral Paine, were still behind. Leaving; Briiiadier-General
Paine to assemble tl\e other vessels as thev should arri\'e,
I went to Beaufort Harbor to communicate with Rear
Admiral Porter, commanding the North Atlantic Blockad-
ing Squadron, with whose tieet the forces under my com-
mand were destined to cooperate.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 379

During the 8th instant, nearly all the vessels arrived at
the rendezvous ; some of them required repairs to their
hulls, damaged by the gale : some repairs to their ma-
chinery ; others needed coal or water. These vessels
were brought into the harbor or to the outer anchorage,

Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 29 of 52)