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Fort Fisher Expedition

  • Time Period: December 24- January 15, 1865
  • Area: Fort Fisher, North Carolina
  • Explanation:?

After removing Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler for failing to attack or beseige Fort Fisher, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant vowed that there would be no repitition of this debacle. He wired Rear Adm. David D. Porter that he would "be back again with an increased force and without the former commander". The new expeditionconsisted of 8,000 men, several light cannon, and a seige train. Its commander was one of Butler's division leaders, Brig. Gen. Alfred H. Terry.

Terry teamed with the navy in a spirit of openess and cordiatily that Butler and Porter never shared. Joining the latter off Beaufort on January 8th, Terry outlined a carefully considered plan of attack. After Porter suggested revisions and additions, the army and navy returned to Confederate Point on the 13th. By 3:00 P.M., under Porter's covering fire, 3 divisions of white soldiers and 1 of colored troops established a beachhead above the fort's land-face. The blacks then built a strong line of works across the upper neck of the peninsula, keeping at bay the Confederates near Sugar Loaf under Gen. Braxton Bragg and Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hoke.

On the next day, porter's 44 ships pounded Col. William Lamb's garrison at closer range. This time, their fire was so heavy and accurate that several of the fort's cannon were disabled, part of its land-face destroyed, wires activating its land mines were severed, and its garrison was badly demoralized.
The land offensive began at 4:00 P.M. with an assault by 1,600 of Porter's sailors and 400 marines against the northeastern salient of the sea-face. The navy suffered heavily but diverted the garrison at a crucial time. Exploiting this opportunity, 3 brigades of infantry under Cols. N. Martin Curtis, Galusha Pennypacker, and Louis H. Bell, scrambled through the palisade and up the parapet of the land-face. All 3 leaders were severely wounded in the assault, Bell mortally. and many of their men fell to Confederate marksmen and cannoneers. Survivors poured through the works and swarmed over the defenders, engaging in some of the fiercest close-quarters fighting of the war.

The outcome hung suspended until early evening, when Terry and his field leader, Brig. Gen. Adelbert Ames, commited Col. Joseph C. Abbott's reserve brigade, which turned the tide. By 9:00 P.M., the garrison had fallen, several hundred defenders were casualties (including Lamb, severely wounded, and his local superior, Maj. Gen. W.H.C. Whiting, wounded mortally), and the Confederacy's only East Coast door to the outside world had been slammed shut.

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