Henry F. W. Little.

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

. (page 30 of 52)
Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 30 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

where their wants were supplied. All the others remained,
until the final sailing of the expedition, some twenty or
twenty-five miles off the land.

The weather continued so unfavorable as to afford no
prospect that we would be able to make a landing on the
open beach of Federal Point until Wednesday, the nth
instant. On that day Admiral Porter proposed to start,
but at high water there was still so much surf on the bar
that the iron-clads and other vessels of heavy draught
could not be gotten over it. Our departure was therefore
delaved till the next dav. On the mornincr tide of the
1 2th, the vessels in the harbor passed out, and the whole
fleet of naval vessels and transports got under way for
this place. As we were leaving, the vessels of General
Abbott's command came in sight, and orders weie sent to
them to follow us. We did not arrive ofl' Federal Point
till nearly nightfall ; consequently, and in accordance
with the decision of the admiral, the disembarkation of the
troops was not commenced until the next morning. Our
subsequent experience full}- justified the delay. It would
have been extremely difficult to land the men at night.

At 4 o'clock A. M. of the 13th, the in-shore division of
the naval vessels stood in close to the beach and to cover
the landing. The transports followed them, and took
position as nearly as possible in a line parallel to and
about two hundred yards outside of them. The iron-clads
moved down to within range of the fort, and opened fire
upon it. Another division was placed to the northward of
the landing, placed so as to protect our men from any
attack from the direction of Masonboro Inlet. At 8
o'clock nearly two hundred boats, besides steam tugs,
were sent from the nav}- to the transports, and the disem-
barkation of men, provisions, tools, and ammunition sim.-
ultaneously commenced. At 3 o'clock p. m. nearly eight
thousand men, with three davs' rations in their haversacks
and lorty rounds of ammunition in their boxes, six days'
supply of hard-bread in bulk, three hundred thousand


History of the Seventh Regiment

additional rounds of small arm ammunition, and a sufficient
number of intrenchino- tools, had been safely landed. The
surf on the beach was still quite high, notwithstanding the
weather had become very pleasant, and owing to it some
of the men had their rations and ammunition ruined by
w^ater. With this exception, no accident of any kind
occurred. As soon as the tro(3ps had commenced land-
ing, pickets were thrown out. They immediately encoun-
tered outposts of the enemy, and shots were exchanged
with them, but no serious engagement occurred. A tew
prisoners were taken, from whom I learned that Hoke's
rebel division, which it was supposed had been sent further
south, was still here, and that it was his outposts which
we were meeting.

The first object I had in view after landing was to throw
a strong defensive line across the peninsula, from the Cape
Fear River to the sea, facing Wilmington, so as to protect
our rear from an attack while we should be engaged in
operating against Fisher. Our maps indicated that a
good position for such a line would be found a short dis-
tance above the head of Myrtle Sound, which is a long,
sh allows piece of water separated from the ocean by a
sand-pit of about one hundred yards in width, and com-
municates with it by Masonboro Inlet. It was supposed
that the right fiank of a line at that point would be pro-
tected by the sound ; and being above its bend, that we
should be able to land supplies in quiet water there. Our
landing-place was selected with reference to this idea.
An examination, made after we landed, showed that the
sound, for a long distance above its bend, was so shallow
as to ofier no obstacle to the passage of troops at low tide ;
and as the further down the peninsula we should go, the
shorter would be our line across it, it was determined to
take up a position where the maps showed a large pond
occupying nearly one third of the width of the peninsula,
at about three miles from the fort. Shortly before 5
o'clock, leaving Abbott's brigade to cover our stores, the
troops were put in motion for the last named point. On
arriving at it, the "pond" was found to be a sand-flat,
sometimes covered with water, giving no assistance to the
defense of a line established behind it. Nevertheless, it
was determined to get a line across at this place, and


New Hampshire Volunteers. 381

Paine's division, followed by two of Ames's brigades,
made their way through. The night was very dark.
Much of the ground was a marsh and illy adapted to the
construction of works, and the distance was found to be
too great to be properly defended by the troops which
could be spared from the direct attack upon the fort. It
was not until 9 o'clock p. m. that Paine succeeded in
reaching the river. The ground still nearer the fort was
then encountered, and found to be much better adapted to
our purposes ; accordingly the troops were withdrawn
from their last position, and established on a line about
two miles from the work. They reached their tinal posi-
tion at 2 o'clock A. M. of the 14th instant. Tools were
immediatel}' brought up, and entrenchments were com-
menced. At 8 o'clock a (jood breastwork, reachingr from
the river to the sea, and partially covered by abattis, had
been constructed, and was in a defensible condition. It
was much improved afterwards, but from this time our
foothold on the peninsula was secured.

Early on the morning of the 14th, the landing of the
artillery was commenced, and by sunset all the light guns
were gotten on shore. During the following night they
were placed in the line, most of them near the river, where
the enemy, in case he should attack us, would be the least
exposed to the fire of the gunboats. Curtis's brigade of
Ames's division was moved down toward Fisher durincr
the morning : at noon his skirmishers, after capturing on
their way a small steamer which had come down the river
wdth shells and forage for the garrison of the fort, reached
a small unfinished outwork, in front of the west end of the
land front of the work. General Curtis, Lieutenant-Col-
onel (now Brevet Brigadier-General) Comstock, the chief
engineer of the expedition, and myself, under the protec-
tion of the fire of the fleet, made a caretul reconnoissance
of the work, getting within six hundred yards of it. The
report of General Comstock, which, with its accompan} -
ing map, is appended hereto, gives a full description of it
and its condition at that time. As a result of the recon-
noissance, and in view of the extreme difficulty which
might be expected in landing supplies and the material
for a siege on the open and tempestuous beach, it was
decided to attempt an assault the next day, provided that

382 History of the Seventh Regiment

in the meantime the fire of the navy should so far destroy
the palisades as to make one practicable. This decision
was communicated to Adniiral Porter, who at once placed
a division of his vessels in a position to accomplish this
last named object. It was arranged, in consultation with
him, that a heavy bombardment from all the vessels
should commence early in the morning and continue up to
the moment of the assault ; and that even then it should
not cease, but should be directed from the point of attack
to other parts of the work. It was decided that the assault
should be made at 3 o'clock p. m. : that the army should
attack on the western half of the land face, and that a
column of sailors and marines should assault at the north-
east bastion. The fire of the navy continued during the

At 8 o'clock A. M. of the 15th, all of the vessels, except
a division left to aid in the defense of our northern line,
moved into position ; and a fire, magnificent alike for its
power and accuracy, was opened. Ames's division had
been selected for the assault. Paine was placed in com-
mand of the defensive line, having with him Abbott's
brigade in addition to his own division. Ames's first bri-
gade, (Curtis's), was already at the outwork before men-
tioned and in trenches close around it, his other two
brigades (Pennypacker's and Bell's) were moved at noon
to within supporting distance of him. x\t 2 o'clock p. m.
preparations for the assault were commenced. Sixty
sharpshooters from the Thirteenth Ind. Volunteers, armed
with the Spencer repeating carbine, and Ibrty others, vol-
unteers from Curtis's brigade, the whole number under
command of Lieutenant-Colonel Lent, of the Thirteenth
Ind. Volunteers, were thrown forward at a run to within
one hundred and seventy-tive yards of the work. They
were provided with shovels and soon dug pits for shelter,
and commenced firing at the parapet. As soon as this
movement commenced, the parapet of the fort was
manned, and the enemy's fire, both of musketry and
artillery, opened. As soon as the sharpshooters were in
position, Curtis's brigade was moved forward by regiment
at the double-quick into line at about four hundred and
seventy-five yards from the work. The men there lay
down. This was accomplished under a sharp fire of

New Hampshire Volunteers. 383

musketr}' and artillery, from which, however, they soon
sheltered themselves by digging shallow trenches. When
Curtis moved from the outwork, Pennypacker was brought
up to it. Bell was brought into line two hundred yards in
his rear. Finding that a good cover tor Curtis's men
could be found on the reverse slope of a crest fifty yards
in the rear of the sharpshooters, they were again moved
forward, one regiment at a time, and again covered them-
selves in trenches. Pennypacker followed Curtis, and
occupied the ground vacated by him, and Bell was brought
up to the outwork. It had been proposed to blow up and
cut down the palisades. Bags of powder, with fuses
attached, had been prepared, and a party of volunteer
axemen organized : but the fire of the navy had been so
effective during the preceding night and morning that it
was thought unnecessary to use the powder. The axe-
men, however, were sent in with the leading brigade, and
did good service by making openings in portions of the
palisading which the fire of the navy had been unable to

At 3.25 o'clock p. M. all the preparations were com-
pleted, the order to move forward was given to Ames, and
a concerted signal was made to Admiral Porter to change
the direction of his fire. Curtis's brigade at once sprang
from their trenches, and dashed forward in line. Its left
was exposed to a severe enfilading fire, and it obliqued to
the right so as to envelope the left of the land front. The
ground on which it moved was marshy and difficult, but it
soon reached the palisades, passed through them, and
effected a lodgement on the parapet. At the same time
the column of sailors and marines, under Fleet-Capt.
K. R. Breeze, advanced up the beach in the most gallant
manner, and attacked the northeast bastion : but exposed
to a murderous fire, they were unable to get up the
parapet. After a severe struggle and a heavy loss of
valuable officers and men, it became apparent that noth-
ing could be effected at that point, and they were with-
drawn. When Curtis moved forward, Ames directed
Pennypacker to move up to the rear of the sharpshooters,
and brought Bell up to Pennypacker's last position ; and as
soon as Curtis got a foothold on the parapet, sent Penny-
packer in to his support. He advanced, overlapping

384 History of the Seventh Regiment

Curtis's right, and drove the enemy from the heavy pali-
sades, which extended from the west end of the land face
to the river, capturing a considerable number of prisoners.
Then pushing forward to their left, the two brigades
together drove the enemy from about one quarter of the
land face. Ames then brought up Bell's brigade, and
moved it between the work and the river. On this side
there was no regular parapet, but there was abundance of
cover at^brded to the enemy b}- cavities from which sand
had been taken for the parapet, the ruins of barracks and
storehouses, the large magazines, and by traverses, behind
which they stubbornly resisted our advance. Hand-to-
hand fighting of the most desperate character ensued, the
huiie traverses of the land face beintr used successively by
the enem}' as breastworks, over the tops of which the con-
tending parties fired in each other's faces. Nine of these
were carried, one after the other, by our men.

When Bell's brigade was ordered into action, I foresaw
that more troops would probably be needed, and sent an
order for Abbott's brigade to move down from the north
line, at the same time requesting Captain Breeze to replace
them with his sailors and marines. I also directed General
Paine to send me one of the strongest regiments of his own
division. These troops arrived at dusk, and reported to
General Ames. At 6 o'clock Abbott's brigade went into the
fort. The regiment from Paine's division — the Twenty-
seventh United States (colored). Brevet Brig. Gen. A. M.
Blackman commanding — was brought up to the rear of
the work, where it remained under fire for some time, and
was then withdrawn.

Until 6 o'clock the fire of the navy continued upon that
portion of the work not occupied by us, after that time it
was directed on the beach to prevent the coming up of
reinforcements, which it was thought might possibly be
thrown over from the right bank of the river to Battery
Buchanan. The fighting for the traverses continued till
nearly 9 o'clock, two more of them being carried. Then
a portion of Abbott's brigade drove the enemy from their
last remaining stronghold, and the occupation of the work
was completed. The same brigade, with General Black-
man's regiment, was immediately pushed down the point
to Battery Buchanan, whither many of the rebels had

GO\'. NATllANll.i. S. I5EKKV.




New Ha:\ipshire Volunteers. 385

retreated. On reaching the battery, all of the enemy who
had not been previously captured were made prisoners.
Amono- them were Major-General Whitino- and Colonel
Lamb, the commandant of the fort. About 4 p. m. Hoke
advanced against our north line, apparently with the
design of attacking it, but if such was his intention, he
abandoned it after a skirmish with our pickets. During
the day Brevet Brig. Gen. H. L. Abbott, chief of artillery,
was busily engaged in landing artillery and ammunition,
so that if the assault failed, siege operations might at once
be commenced. Consequent to the fall of Fort Fisher,
the enemy during the night of the i6th and 17th blew up
Fort Caswell and abandoned both it and their very exten-
sive works on Smith's Island, at Smithville and Reeves
Point, thus placing in our hands all the works erected to
defend the mouth of the Cape Fear River. In all the
works were tbund one hundred and sixty-nine pieces of
artillery, nearly all of which are heavy, over two thousand
stands .of small arms, considerable quantities of commis-
sary stores, and full supplies of ammunition. Our prisoners
numbered one hundred and twelve commissioned officers
and nineteen hundred and seventy-one enlisted men.

I have no words to do justice to the behavior of both
officers and men on this occasion. All that men could do
they did. Better soldiers never fought. Of General
Ames I have already spoken in a letter recommending his
promotion. He commanded all the troops engaged and
was constantly under lire. His great coolness, good judg-
ment and skill were never more conspicuous than in this
assault. Brigadier-General Curtis and Colonels Penny-
packer, Bell, and Abbott, the brigade commanders, led
them with the utmost gallantry. Curtis was wounded
after fighting in the front rank, rifle in hand. Penny-
packer, while carrying the standard of one of his regi-
ments, was the first man in a charge over the traverses.
Bell was mortally wounded near the palisades. Briga-
dier-General Paine deserves high praise for the zeal and
energy displayed by him in constructing our defensive
line, a work absolutely essential to our success. Brevet
Brigadier-General Blackman deserves mention for the
prompt manner in which he brought his regiment up to the


386 History of the Seventh Regiment

work and afterwards followed up the retreating enemy.
To Brevet Brigadier-General Comstock. aide-de-camp on
the staff of the lieutenant-general, I am under the deep-
est obligations. At every step of our progress I receiv^ed
from him the most valuable assistance. For the final suc-
cess of our part of the operations, the country is more
indebted to him than to me.

Col. George S. Dodge, chief quartermaster, Army of
the James, accompanied me as chief quartermaster of the
forces under my command. His able and energetic per-
formance of his multifarious duties was all that could be
wished for, and reflect the highest honor upon him. Sur-
geon Norman S. Barnes, U. S. Volunteers, medical
director, and Surgeon A. J. H. Buzzell, Third N. H.
Volunteers, medical inspectors of the expedition, dis-
charged their laborious duties on the field and in the hos-
pital in a manner most creditable to their ability and
humanity. I desire to express my highest appreciation of
the services of these officers. I shall have the honor to
submit a supplementary report in reference to those subor-
dinate officers and enlisted men who distinijuished them-
selves on this occasion.

I should signally fail to do my duty were I to omit to
speak in terms of the highest admiration of the part borne
by the navy in our operations. In all ranks, from Admi-
ral Porter to his seamen, there was the utmost desire not
onh' to do their proper work, but to facilitate, in every
possible manner, the operations of the land forces. To
him, and to the untiring efforts of his officers and men, we
are indebted that our men, stores, tools, and ammunition
were safely and expeditiously landed, and that our
wounded and prisoners were embarked for transportation
for the North. To the great accuracy and power of their
fire it is owing that we had not to confront a formidable
artillery in the assault ; that we were able, with but little
loss to push forward the men, preparatory to it, to a point
nearlv as favorable for it as the one they would have occu-
pied had siege operations been undertaken and the work
systematically approached. The assault of the sailors and
marines, although it failed, undoubtedly contributed some-
what to our success ; certainly nothing could surpass the
perfect skill with which the fleet was handled by its com-


New Hampshire Volunteers. 387

mander. Every request which I made to Admiral Porter
was most cheertully compHed with, and the utmost har-
mony has existed between us from the outset to the pres-
ent time.

I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your
obedient servant,

Alfred H. Terry,

JMajor- General.
Brig. Gen. J. A. Rawlins,

Chief of Staf, City Point, Va.

The following are extracts from the landing orders of
the naval column :

" Land out of gunshot of fort. Boats when unloaded to
be pulled off and hung to the stern of the " Nansemond,"
(anchored), Lieutenant Preston to have charge of the
men with shovels : he to run up as near fort as he can
without risking a single man, then rapidly throw up rifle-
pits, three and a half feet deep, same height in front
(seven feet in all ). The marines then go into them in
three squads. Advance again, dig another trench, while
another line of sappers reaches the first line and digs it
deeper ; and so on, alternating. These trenches to flee to
in case of grape and canister by the enemy. No move
forward to assault until army moves to assault. The sail-
ors to go on parapet with a rush, cutlass and revolver in
hand ; marines to follow closely ; and when reach para-
pet, lie down and pick oft' the enemy. The sailors then
to charge the field pieces and kill the gunners. Sailors
to then secure the mouths of the bomb-proofs, giving no
quarter if the enemy fires after they get into the fort.
Flags to be kept rolled up till parapet is reached. If the
Mound Battery fires into Fisher after the sailors get in,
every three men will seize a prisoner, pitch him over the
walls, then get into the bomb-proofs or behind the works
for protection."


History of the Seventh Regiment

This naval column was made up of small details from
the ditierent war vessels of the fleet. A portion of this
force was supplied with shovels and picks, and was in
command of Lieut. S. W. Preston, of the navy. The
marines who were to act as skirmishers were under com-
mand of Second Lieut. L. E. Fagan, of the U. S. Marine
Corps. The column landed about a mile up the beach,
and marched to the fort along the beach in column by the
left flank, keeping this formation until reaching the pali-
sades, which proved a serious obstruction. During all
this time they were subjected to a terribly effective fire
from the fort, and had lost heavily, both in otficers and
men. Lieutenants Preston and Porter were killed early
in the assault, and the fire from the fort was so heavy that
the column was forced to retreat, with a loss of about
sixty-five killed and two hundred wounded. The lack of
success on the part of this column seems to be largely due
to the fact that their assault was made a little too early, as
the land forces had not yet reached the fort, and probably
to the fact, in part, that the column had no previous organ-
ization and drill as an assaulting column, and owing to
this condition confusion could hardly be avoided, although
there seemed to be no lack of valor.

Towards night the naval column was ordered to relieve
Abbott's brigade, on the right of the line towards Wil-
mington, as that brigade had been ordered into Fort

From Confederate reports and from Colonel Lamb's
statement, we learn that he got about three hundred and
fifty men as reinforcements, January 15, from General
Bragg, these men being trom Colonel Graham's brigade,
and that they arrived via Battery Buchanan, where they
were landed from a steamer. He had about fifteen hun-
dred and fifty before these reinforcements arrived. At 6
o'clock p. M. Friday, the 13th, the rebel losses to that time

New Hampshire Volunteers. 389

had been two killed and forty-one wounded. On the 14th,
the casualties were more than double the previous day,
and more than ten per cent of the garrison had been
killed or wounded by 2 o'clock p. m., Sunday, the 15th.
Colonel Lamb wired General Bragg at 1.30 p. m., Satur-
day, the 14th, that he (Bragg) ought never to have
allow^ed the enemy to extend his lines to the river bank ;
and if permitted to remain there, the reduction of the fort
was only a question of time. Before the assault every
gun, save one ten-inch columbiad, was destroyed, the use
of all but one Napoleon rendered impracticable, every
wire leading to the mines ploughed up, and the palisade
such a wreck as actually to offer a protection to the
assailants. On the 13th, Colonel Lamb says he had twent}'
guns bearing on the beach, supplemented by one mortar
and four Napoleons : a palisade in front, pierced for mus-
ketry and constructed in irregular lines, and numerous
sub-terra mines, capable of blowing up the beach from
river to sea for more than a hundred yards in front of the
works. At 1.25 o'clock p. m. of the 15th, Colonel Col-
quit was assigned to the command of Fort Fisher, but did
not report, as Colonel Lamb says, until after the fort had
been taken ; but he was told that even then the fort could
be retaken if Bragg could land a fresh brigade, as the
enemy was more or less demoralized by the resistance they
had met.

Previous to the attacks by the Union forces, Colonel
Lamb's command extended over a line twenty miles in
length, from New Inlet to Masonboro. He took com-
mand of the works July 4, 1862. When he fell he turned
the command over to Captain Munn. The reinforcements
of the 15th were the Twenty-first and Twenty-fifth South
Carolina, who arrived just previous to the assault. In his
report Colonel Lamb says :

" There were three lines of mines in front of the work,

390 History of the Seventh Regiment

and I intended at the moment of assault to explode one of
them, and thus paralyze the assailants, giving me time to
man the parapet with all my reserves. At the final rush
I gave the signal, but there was no response, the tremen-
dous fire of the fleet having ploughed up all the connecting
wires and rendered the mines harmless. As that was

Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 30 of 52)